Casual wine drinkers, aficionados, and beginners alike: Each month we expose you to new things, educating and diversifying your palate with a lineup of our monthly wine picks. It's February, so we've in part continued our January theme of wines that we want to drink watching the snow fall (Edelzwicker), in a wine bar with friends after trudging through that snow (Ben Marco Malbec), by the fire (Quevedo LBV), with those great winter meals you eat long after the sun has set (San Román), or (in a slight departure from our January themes) with your Valentine's Day dinner (sparkling, of course). Enjoy!
2015 Meyer-Fonné Edelzwicker (Alsace, France)
Why we chose it: Always interesting, an Edelzwicker is a blend of any white grapes from France's Alsace AOC (that's "Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée", a recognized wine region in France). This one, in particular, is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Chasselas, and Riesling. More dry than a Alsace's signature Gewürztraminer (indeed, there is no Gewurtz here whatsoever), we enjoyed the nose of citrus, stone, and a little lemon grass. The palate effervesces with candied citrus, a little petrol, and those sophisticated slate qualities that we think really make Alsatians shine. It nicely balances dryness and sweetness -- a little sharp sweetness we'd say -- with good sprightly characteristics that give this wine a lot of character.
What to look for: Most wine shops are not exactly known for their expansive selection of Alsatian wines, but any respectable merchant will have a few (usually Riesling or Gewürztraminer. Ask them to order you an Edelzwicker, but otherwise settle for a Gewurtz (Alsatian Gewurtz is one of our favorite wines).
2011 Dominio del Plata Malbec BenMarco (Mendoza, Argentina)
Why we chose it: We've cellared this reasonable mid-market Malbec for a couple of years. Nose is great with strong cocoa and vanilla bean elements, and a little cigar smoke component that develops later. It's full and creamy on the tongue, slightly tannic as it develops. The chocolate and vanilla bean drive this not terribly fruity wine that warms you the whole way down as a good winter wine should.
What to look for: Malbec was all the rage in the United States a few years ago, but has definitely leveled off in demand. This one should not be hard to find or order, but otherwise look for a $20ish bottle from Mendoza, the most famous of Argentina's Malbec regions.
2012 Bodegas y Viñedos Maurodos Toro Viña San Román (Toro, Spain)
Why we chose it: We covered this splendid -- ok one of our favorite wines right now -- bottle in our recent visit to the San Román winery in Spain, so we had to share it again in our best of lineup... The flagship San Román has been a market winner for Toro, taking in a well-deserved 95 point rating at #26 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of 2016. You know this wine is big, bold, and beautiful from the very first brush. We found there to be rather alcoholic hot weather fruit notes in the nose, cherry, and just a touch smoky. Tongue coating tannins give way to velvety cherry, with a richly warm sense of cedar and smoke. Made exclusively from the Tinta de Toro grape (the local name for Tempranillo), this is one of the finest examples of wine from Toro that we have found. It's robust personality meeting Old World styling, the perfect cross over wine for those who enjoy the big New World reds. We recommend drinking San Román with food, particularly something cedar or hickory smoked. We paired this wine with one of the most incredible lunches we've ever had at a restaurant called El Chivo, just down the street from the winery in the town of Morales de Toro. It was brilliant with the chickpeas and calamari of the first course, and particularly with the traditionally prepared lamb in the main course.
What to look for: San Román is exported and distributed worldwide, but we can give you specific recommendations in our neck of the woods. If you live in the Washington, DC / Northern Virginia area, proceed immediately to The Vineyard of McLean (1445 Laughlin Ave, McLean, VA) where you can get this bottle (and its little brother, Prima) for 10% off if you show this post on Wine:Thirty Flight. It's also available by the bottle at SER Restaurant in Ballston. Find it at Penn Wines in Penn Station in Manhattan, or Blanchard's in the Boston area (see our original post for caveats about this). It's otherwise available at La Tienda in store (1325 Jamestown Rd, Williamsburg, VA) or shipped via www.tienda.com.
2011 Quevedo LBV Port (Douro, Portugal)
Why we chose it: Another winner from our recent Iberian wine tour, we highlighted the LBV in our recent visit to the Quevedo Winery in Portugal's Douro region. This ruby port was bottled in 2015. Your port education here is that port designated ruby ages one to two years in the barrel before aging in bottle. Different barrels will produce different aromas. This one was more playful, with cherry vanilla and fruit aromas that gave way to a tart red cherry and a little bit of cranberry.
What to look for: Exported worldwide, but if you live in the eastern United States it will be tougher to find. That said, we included some specific Quevedo shopping ideas in our recent post. Here's the deal, though... winter is a delightful time to drink a glass of port after dinner. Drink it with friends. Drink it with your significant other. Drink it with your mother. Drink it alone. This is port season, and we want you to enjoy it. Pick up a ruby (like this one) and a tawny to compare against one another, and further your wine education.
2010 Weingut Steininger Grüner Veltliner Sekt (Kamptal, Austria)
We are reaching back into the archive to Valentine's Day last year to pull out a nice recommendation for a romantic dinner the middle of this month. Of course, we accept you might not be able to find this bottle in this vintage, but we think you'll know what to do with our year-old tasting note below.