With the time change, it's a good idea to not only check the batteries in your fire alarms, but use the extra hour to rummage through your wine cellar to make sure you're stocked for the winter.
Just like you take your sweaters out of storage, change the tires on your car and adjust your cooking methods to heartier, cold-weather fare, so should you swap out your lighter summer sippers, for more substantive winter wines.
Think about the things you like to eat during these blustery, dark, Canadian evenings. Likely stews, casseroles and roasts top your list of culinary go-to's. Those easy, breezy, refreshing whites aren't going to cut it with robust meals. Here's a few of our winter time wine picks, you are welcome to make them yours, or let us know what your go-to cold weather drink is in the comments below.
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This riesling offers a hint of sweetness, lively acidity and peach, apple, pear and citrus flavours that are natural partners to most appetizers and lighter meat dishes like turkey or ham. The fruity nature of this wine will temper the heat in spicier dishes but feel right at home with the whole range of traditional Thanksgiving fare. <em>Product Info: $13.95, 750 mL bottle</em>
A chardonnay offering a creamy-textured palate, balanced acidity and notes of citrus and ripe apple fruit that will easily deal with the deep flavours and textures of most dishes. The pleasant layer of oak also matches nicely to any smoky flavours originating from roasting or grilling and will stand up to any sauce or gravy. <em>Product Info: $17.95, 750 mL bottle</em>
Made from 100 per cent chardonnay in the Traditional Method, the toasty notes from sur lie bottle aging are magnificent with the roasted flavours of turkey and the smoky flavours of ham. Citrus, apple and peach flavours will complement all the fixings, while the sparkle refreshes the palate with each bite. <em>Product Info: $18.95, 750 mL bottle</em>
This local favourite offers a luscious palate, with lingering flavours of mango, pear, caramel apples and spice. The best of both worlds, it is balanced enough to drink on its own, yet offers enough intensity and rich, sweet flavours to match any dessert. <em>Product Info: $24.95, 375 mL bottle</em>
The beautiful pink colour and dancing bubbles of this Traditional Method sparkling rosé will add a buzz to the holiday festivities. Crisp and elegant, this versatile partner will greet you at the door, stay with you for appetizers, and enhance the dinner whether its roasted turkey or scalloped potatoes. <em>Product Info: $29.95, 750 mL bottle</em>
The bright pink hue and flavours of cherry and red berries in this lively rosé complements turkey the same way that cranberries are a classic match; the herbal notes in the wine pair wonderfully with traditional sage stuffing. <em>Product Info: $11.95, 750 mL bottle</em>
Flavours of blackberry, black cherry, cocoa and spice are the perfect complement for a prime rib roast. Salt in the meat’s seasonings and pan gravy will accentuate the fruit in the wine and act to soften its moderately firm texture. <em>Product Info: $16.95, 750 mL bottle</em>
Pinot noir’s cranberry, cherry, earth and spicy notes enhance lighter meats like pork, or roasted turkey without overpowering. Cave Spring pinot is dry, with a structure and elegance that reflects Ontario terroir. <em>Product Info: $17.95, 750 mL bottle</em>
The black cherry and earthy notes of this gamay meld wonderfully with duck, and mirror the tangy, fruity flavours of the accompanying cherry chutney. Always a classic for traditional Thanksgiving dinner, this is one of the best examples of Ontario gamay which shows poise and depth. <em>Product Info: $17.95, 750 mL bottle</em>
The wild, dark berry fruit flavours of baco noir are underscored with herbal, smoky and earthy notes. Baco has the intensity to stand up to the characteristic gaminess of lamb or dark turkey meat and has a good seam of acidity which cleanses the palate. <em>Product Info: $14.95, 750 mL bottle</em>
Gamay -- We think Gamay, the main grape of Beaujolais, is one of the most under-appreciated grapes out there, and it if you're not drinking it, you're missing out. Juicy and complex with flavours of red berries, plum, earth, smoke and spice, Gamays also have low tannin and nice acidity, making them perfect for food pairing. Ontario makes some stellar examples of superior Gamay, and, because these wines are not exactly riding the popularity train, you can get fantastic bottles for less than $20. We really like 13th Street Gamay Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, ON 2011.
Rioja -- There are good buys to be found in this category, many worth more than they are priced. Riojas are typically medium bodied, lush and rich in texture and deep flavours of black cherry, plum, tobacco leaf, wild savoury herbs, and cocoa/vanilla oaky notes. Being from Spain, it's not surprising they pair really well with spicier dishes like chorizo paella, but also earthier fare like grilled lamb and rosemary. Try Campo Viejo Crianza, Rioja, Spain 2008. Priced well under $20 in most markets, it's a best buy to be sure.
Chianti Classico -- Made from Sangiovese grapes which are known for high acidity, this Tuscan red is a classic pairing for Italian-American dishes like spaghetti & meatballs or pepperoni pizza. But Chianti Classicos can go beyond being a basic "spaghetti wine." With flavours of chocolate covered cherries, black olives and sundried tomatoes with a leather earthiness, think of pairing them with cold-weather dishes like pot roast, beef stew or chicken cacciatore. Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2010 is modern and easy drinking -- perfect for Friday nights at home.
Cabernet Sauvignon -- No winter wine list would be complete without your big-boy cab. Rich, dense and succulent, cabs cry out for steak, but they can also pair nicely with mushroom based dishes, as well as game meats like venison. Because cabs are so hearty and generous, keep your dishes relatively simple. A fantastic value-driven option for lovers of New World Cab Sauv is Chile's Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, which is shows an elegance and complexity beyond its modest price tag.
Rosé -- Now hear us out. Pink wine has acquired a bit of a bad rap as a one-trick pony only good for springtime sipping at baby showers. But in truth, rosé is delicious anytime of year: its elevated acidity and food friendly structure means it goes really well with most holiday feasts, pairing nicely with everything from roast turkey to baked ham. We just added Ontario's Closson Chase Rosé 2011 to our cellars for sipping with cheese plates and festive dinners this winter.
Pinot Gris -- The alter ego of Italy's Pinot Grigio, this grape does exceptionally well in cool climates like Ontario & B.C., but arguably Alsace is the home to Pinot Gris, producing unctuous, honeyed wines that are refreshing without being crisp. Picture the classic, rich foods of Alsace: pork schnitzel, sauerkraut, foie gras, sausage, duck confit... all deliciously decadent, albeit calorie laden, dishes that do well with wines that will cut through the fattiness, and bring out the flavours. It could be our German heritage, but we salivate just thinking about it. One that's worth trying is Pierre Sparr Réserve Pinot Gris 2009.
White Rhône -- Seemingly always in the shadow of its Big Brother Reds, whites coming out of the Rhône are pretty, round and stylish, made from blends of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussane and Grenache Blanc among others. Weighty, oily and rich on the palate with apricot and peach, honeysuckle and jasmine, almonds and hazelnuts, the exact taste will depend what grapes -- and how much of each -- went into the blend. If you're new to this wine, try Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc, an inexpensive (less than $15), yet quality driven, white wine to drink on its own or with rich white meats like pork loin, roast chicken or lobster in cream sauce.
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