January is half gone already and winter has set in with snow and arctic temperatures. While some people prefer hot gluehwein at this time of year, I enjoy cold drinks for winter comfort.
A delicious drop I recently enjoyed was from Washington State’s Columbia Valley, Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Chardonnay ($22.99). Washington State has been producing first class wines since 1967. That’s more than 30 years before B.C. began to be serious about wine production. With this head start, it’s no wonder that Washington wines are delicious.
This Chateau Ste. Michelle aims to please! It pleased me and it pleased the wine enthusiast critic who gave it 89 out of 100 points! It's a rich and complex wine. With vineyards in a northerly latitude, the grapes get two more daily hours of sunshine compared with California grapes, ensuring ripeness.
Complexity is achieved in several ways. Accessing fruit from vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley produces complexity. Malolactic fermentation converts the more acidic malic acid into softer creamier flavours. And the Chardonnay isaged sur lie on the yeast for six months in a mix of French and American oak barrels. As a result, it has a delicious toasted hazelnut flavour, reminiscent of premium French white burgundies.
The Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay has a remarkable balance with a fresh fruit (apple, pear, grapefruit) character. This is achieved by adding 42 per cent of unoaked Chardonnay to the final blend. And daily stirring allows both the fruit and the oak to be better integrated.
Enjoy with Cobb Salad, veal in a cream sauce with mushrooms, or buttered popcorn!
But if you feel you need a red to comfort you from the winter chills, I recommend a Escorihuela 1884 Malbec ($17.99) from Argentina. Obviously the wine is not from the 19th century; it’s made from 2017 fruit, grown in high altitude vineyards at the foothills of the Andes.
In the glass, the dark red colour suggests that this is a rich and robust red. It has an appealing cherry and vanilla nose with hints of pencil shavings like a good Bordeaux. On the palate it has a medium body with smooth tannins and a rich cherry and plum flavour.
Enjoy with lamb burgers, osso bucco, or aged cheddar. Consider putting it in the fridge (or outside) for 20 minutes. Reds should be served at cellar temperature, not room temperature.
And if you really want this Malbec to warm the cockles of your heart, try this h to make gluehwein (mulled wine): https://sweetcsdesigns.com/traditional-gluehwein/recipe.
You basically get two bottles of the Malbec, some brandy, some fresh fruit, some sugar, some spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves) and heat it on the stove or in a crockpot. The exact amounts and procedure are on the website. Skol!
Eric Hanson is a Richmond wine journalist