Baby, it's cold outside! Warm up these chilly winter nights with a hearty but elegant bottle of red wine. My five picks from Argentina, Spain, Italy, France, and the USA are certain to tastefully thaw you out!
Bodega Norton "Privada" Family Blend 2014 ($26)
The first taste of this beautiful wine transported me back to my 2015 visit to Bodega Norton in Mendoza and each sip carried me further along on that journey. But even if you've never been to Mendoza, this superb vino is an excellent example of the region's commitment to quality winemaking. Privada blends Argentina's signature variety Malbec with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create a wine that is rich and silky with great balance. Luscious with dark berry flavors and an earthy thread of cocoa and coffee, Privada is complex but approachable. Founded in 1895, Bodega Norton has been owned since 1989 by the Austrian family that owns the glittering Swarovski crystal empire. Privada was once reserved for the family's private cellar and I'm thrilled that they opted to share it! And if you're planning a trip to Mendoza, I highly recommend a tour & tasting at Bodega Norton. Be sure to save room for the mouthwatering empanadas at their restaurant La Vid.
Viña Real Rioja Reserva 2013 ($31.99)
Rioja is Spain's most famous wine region but that doesn't mean that the wines are homogenous -- there is a wide range of quality and styles. If you've ever doubted Rioja's ability to express finesse, depth, and personality, Viña Real will convince you. A blend of mostly Tempranillo with kisses of Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo; this fantastic vino strikes that perfect balance between elegance and earthiness. Matured in a mix of American and French oak casks for about 22 months before being bottled, the wine is not overwhelmed by the wood but is beautifully enhanced by this prolonged contact. Alive with luscious berry flavors and impressive minerality, Viña Real evolves eloquently in the glass and is alluring down to the last drop.
Michel Chapoutier "Les Vignes de Bila-Haut" Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2016 ($15)
Who says that a superb French wine has to cost a small fortune? Acclaimed winemaker Michel Chapoutier has an impressive portfolio of wines at all price points but authenticity, quality, and respect for the environment are always the common denominator. Chapoutier is best known for his Rhône wines but his passion for the terroir of Roussillon led him to purchase an abandoned 190-acre estate there in 1999. Chapoutier passionately states that “Roussillon has the potential to be as great as Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhône.” I agree. Just a few months ago I visited this picturesque region in the south of France, between Spain, the Mediterranean Sea, the Pyrenees & the Corbières Mountains; and I was impressed by the quality, diversity, and accessible price points of Roussillon's wines. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, Les Vignes de Bila-Haut is fresh, full, and juicy. Easy-drinking and elegant with a perfect balance of rich plum and berry flavors with sassy dashes of herbs and spices.
Tasca d'Almerita "Lamùri" Nero d'Avola 2014 ($18.99)
It isn't easy to capture the sexiness and sultriness of Sicily in a glass but this elegant red succeeds beautifully. Nero d'Avola is Sicily's signature grape and can produce wines of tremendous power but Lamúri beautifully balances that strength with grace. Rich and silky, Lamúri means love in Sicilian and this wine's seductive tapestry of dark fruit, spice, and herbs is easy to adore.
Mauritson Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2014 ($35.00)
Drink well and do good with this delicious bottle of wine - all proceeds benefit the Sonoma County Resilience Fund to assist those impacted by the wildfires. A softer and more subdued style of Zinfandel, this California beauty has loads of rich berry flavors and Zinfandel's signature hints of black pepper and licorice.