Chilly temperatures and short days can make the first several months of the year a challenging time. For oenophiles, the winter season presents a perfect opportunity to seek out bottles that can warm their bodies and souls, can pair beautifully with hearty dishes, and- in some cases- can remind them that warmer climes and sunnier days aren’t too far away. With that last quality in mind, we decided to collect some fun and flavorful winter wine suggestions from a skilled sommelier who lives in the forever-mild weather conditions of Los Angeles: Coly Den Haan, the owner of Vinovore wine shops in Silver Lake and Eagle Rock, which specialize in wines produced by female winemakers.
Coly’s love of wine comes from her years of experience in the hospitality industry: “I kind of fell into wine. I was bartending at a restaurant that was going to host the Italian Sommelier course for the first time in English. At the time, I was very much into the ‘cocktail revolution’ and was even thinking about opening my own bar, but wine really wasn’t on my radar. I thought it was too pretentious, stuffy, not edgy enough… basically, not for me. When my then-boss offered to sponsor me to take the sommelier course, however, there was really no reason to say no. From day one of learning, I was hooked! My mind exploded with how wrong I had been about wine and the world I thought it represented. Yes, there was still this culture of old rich white people talking about points and scores, but that was not what real winemaking was about. Needless to say, my cocktail bar concept soon turned into a wine bar. I wanted to expand other peoples’ preconceived notions about wine and showcase how fascinating, fun, and cool it could be. Even now, many years later, making wine approachable is still my favorite part of my career.”
Read on to learn about Coly’s favorite winter wines and how they’ll help you bring a bit of California-style sunshine into even the iciest February days and nights.
Favorite Winter Wine of All Time: Ross & Bee Maloof Beckenridge Gewürtzaminer ($27)
When many people think about “winter wines”, they imagine robust, full-bodied reds with high tannins. However, Coly tells us that her favorite wine for the winter season is an “orange” Gewürtzaminer (“orange” wines are made from white grapes partially aged with their skins still on, which gives the wine a darker hue and a richer flavor) made in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. “This orange wine is the perfect ‘winter white’, so to speak. It ages for 22 days on its skins and, being that Gewürtzaminer is an aromatic grape, it really throws out a ton of personality. It’s a dark, funky color, but don’t let that scare you! Although it’s unusual, I find it highly drinkable. It’s dry and crunchy, yet rich like a sweet potato pastry with an almost Scotch-like finish,” Coly explains.
Favorite Value/Budget Bottle For Dreary Days: Château d’Oupia Les Hérétiques ($12)
Splurgy bottles are a treat that many wine enthusiasts indulge in during the holiday season, but in the early months of the new year, wines that pack appealing flavors while remaining easy on the wallet make for a refreshing change. When it comes to Château d’Oupia Les Hérétiques, a medium-bodied red wine made in the Languedoc region of France, Coly says that “It’s so hard to find really great budget wines that are both natural and made by a woman, but this one checks all the boxes. This wine boasts some brambly fruit notes with an earthy kick and reminds me of that easy, sexy guy/gal at the party who everyone wants to sleep with.”
Favorite Bottle To Bring To A Winter Gathering: Domaine Marcel Lapierre Château Cambon Beaujolais ($20)
Even when the holidays are firmly in the rear view mirror, cooler temperatures can urge us to continue drinking wines that feel cozy, lively, and even a bit festive. For Coly, a wine that falls into this category is Domaine Marcel Lapierre Château Cambon Beaujolais, a rich and earthy red wine bursting with red fruit flavors. “This carbonic stunner from 50-year-old vines is like an earthy forest fairy with fruit, leather, and hibiscus kisses,” Coly insists.
Favorite Bottle To Pair With Winter Meals: Cantina Della Volta Lambrusco ($18)
For a red wine with plenty of bold, winter-ready flavors but a light, zingy, and playful texture, look to Lambrusco, the sparkling red style native to Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Coly says that Lambrusco is “not a style of wine everyone always understands or gravitates to but it’s such a versatile option with food and picky drinkers.” Specifically, she recommends Cantina Della Volta Lambrusco, a “classic and dry Brüt red sparkler that’s packed with [notes like] sour cherries dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled in sea salt, with racy acidity and smooth curves like an Italian sports car. From starters to dessert, she’s up for the task.”
Favorite Bottle To Remind You Of Sunny Days And Warm Temperatures: Tresomm Touriga Nationale ($34)
It may be common to think of “warm weather wines” as lightweight whites and fruity rosés, but a full-bodied red made in a hot climate that pairs brilliantly with summery dishes can also fit into that category (and makes perfect sense in the red-wine-heavy winter season). At least, that’s what Coly insists, and her favorite summer-in-the-winter wine is Tresomm Touriga Nationale, a flavorful and unctuous red from the Valle de Guadalupe region of Mexico with hints of cocoa, black pepper, and dark red fruits. “I love to visit Valle de Guadalupe in the summer and eat all the tacos I can get my hands on, and this wine takes me there. This particular Baja expression is slick and oily like a wine slip n’ slide, with a nutty, salty sea spray splashing against boysenberries on ocean cliffs,” Coly says.
Taylor Tobin is a Brooklyn-based food, beverage, and lifestyle journalist with bylines at HuffPost, Insider, Wine Enthusiast, Observer, and Chilled Magazine, among others. When she isn’t eating, drinking, or writing, she enjoys riding her bike, hanging out with her dog Marty, and watching reality shows (the sillier, the better!). Twitter: @teetobes. Instagram: @tee_tobes