The holiday celebrations may be over, but that is no reason to leave wine in the cellar until the next gathering. After all, a good bottle of wine is a great way to unwind after a cold, wintry day. Here at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective, a group of six like-minded producers who focus on the unique terroir of Santa Barbara County, we offer a selection of different varietals with elegance, balance and a sense of place that we recommend for the colder months.
Wine is evolving—spurred by lots of influences and trends, and most importantly, the freestyle ways of the natural-wine world. At the same time, natural lists will proliferate in spots with more diverse cuisines. I took the opportunity to put together a selection of fuller-bodied reds and a Sparkling Blanc de Blancs — the kind of wines that we think are perfect for fireside conversation and comforting, slow-cooked meals.
1) The Hilt Sparkling ‘Blanc de Blancs’
Sat. Rita Hills
I am not sure why so many relegate their Sparkling/Champagne drinking just to New Year’s Eve. It’s light, refreshing, and insanely versatile when it comes to pairing with food Plus, I cannot think of a better way to cure winter blues than with a bit of bubbly. This wine will be a perfect pairing for an array of foods. My favorites are fries, bacon, potato chips, popcorn, potato latkes, cheese, and nuts.
The Gnesa vineyard is a small vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills planted exclusively to Chardonnay. I picked this wine due to its complexity that borders on the taste of that elusive, savory “fifth taste,” umami. Fans of these wines find their individuality and character is unsurpassed and, because of that, they are some of the most fascinating and compelling wines in the world. I would pair this Chardonnay with some typical food pairings such as chicken, lobster, Comté and Gruyère cheese and mushrooms.
3) Fess Parker ‘Bien Nacido’ Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley
Typically, I would not include a Pinot Noir in a list of winter wines, but this Pinot Noir is sourced from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. The wine is one of the first established vineyards in Santa Barbara County and displays a lovely layering of dark raspberry thyme, cherry, anise and dill while showing plenty of earth notes. Expect a big and ripe wine that will stand up to some comfort food. I would choose to pair this with pork roast, rack of lamb or a long-cooked pinot-braised duck with spicy greens.
4) Ca’ Del Grevino Grenache Santa Maria Valley
The Ca’ Del Grevino Estate produces not only produces Santa Barbara County Signature Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they also produce some great Italian and Spanish varietals. This Grenache opens with deep aromas of blackberry, blueberry and pepper. It is finely textured yet not oversized. Licorice and white pepper accents with blueberry and raspberry flavors are discovered through the juicy finish. The perfect pairing would be long-slow roasted pork, lamb, rabbit and based on hearty Spanish or Portuguese cooking. The wine can handle being paired with dishes with a bit of spice, too.
5) Babcock Winery ‘Upper Crust’ Syrah
Sta. Rita Hills
Bryan Babcock was one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the Sta. Rita Hills Appellation. Constant research and discipline are shown in the consistency of his wine portfolio. When I think of winter wines, I always think of Syrah, which is a bit of an undiscovered find. Granted, I prefer the cool-climate version that has a bit more of a spicy character. Best described as big, brooding, Syrah is known for its powerful black fruit flavors and savory undertones. This varietal is not for the faint of heart or palate, but it’ll warm you up in a hurry. Pairings for this wine would include grilled meats, venison and wild boar.
6) Notary Public ‘Happy Canyon’ Cabernet Sauvignon
Santa Ynez Valley
California wine countries both north and south, have seen their share of tragic events this fall and winter…Now more than ever is a time for comfort and community. There is nothing better to help get you through challenging times or this mid-winter weather than a great gathering, a memorable dinner and a fabulous glass of wine.