Christmas is coming, and that often means meals that are richer, more bold and more comforting — and this calls for red wines.
During the holiday season, there are more opportunities to meet with friends and family during get-togethers, parties and dinners. The food served is often heartier, including roasted meats and vegetables, stews, casseroles, lasagna, ham and venison.
The flavors and textures associated with such dishes mean wines with bigger flavors and more structure. Protein and fats are great at taming bold, tannic wines, and this can mean a glorious food-pairing opportunity.
Here are a few big red wines we've tasted in recent weeks that should pair well with what you're likely to be eating not only through the end of 2014, but also well into the winter months. Any also would make a terrific Christmas gift.
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Ask for these at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Barnard Griffin 2010 Malbec, Columbia Valley, $35: Owner/winemaker Rob Griffin barrel-aged this Malbec a little longer than usual, which allowed it to be more fully mature upon release. Aromas of dark chocolate, blueberry, poached plums, cherry cola and allspice lead to rich flavors of fruit compote with blackberry, black cherry and a dusting of cocoa powder. (14.25 percent alcohol)
Milbrandt Vineyards 2011 Northridge Vineyard Sentinel, Wahluke Slope, $55: This Meritage-style blend is winemaker Josh Maloney's top-shelf bottling. Beautiful aromas of black currant, blueberry and lilac are surrounded by vanilla, cocoa and allspice. The drink is luscious with flavors of black cherry and boysenberry, which come upon rounded tannins and ample acidity. (13 percent alcohol)
Nefarious Cellars 2012 Defiance Vineyard Malbec, Lake Chelan, $35: Lake Chelan winemakers Dean and Heather Neff have developed a cult following. While they’ve made headlines with their work from their estate with Riesling and Rhône varieties — Dean does the reds, Heather hones the whites — their estate Defiance Vineyard again proves itself with Malbec. Its hallmark is the theme of ripe Marionberry and black cherry, and while there’s black licorice concentration on the midpalate, its lithe tannin structure allows for the delicious lingering of blueberry acidity to become the focus. (14.6 percent alcohol)
Amavi Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $32: This is the sister winery to famed Pepper Bridge in Walla Walla. Aromas of sweet oak, blueberry, lilac and lavender lead to rich and smooth flavors of black currant, blueberry and chocolate. There’s some juiciness with pomegranate alongside firm plum skin tannins. Suggested pairings include a T-bone alongside grilled portobello mushroom and cassoulet. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Waterbrook Winery 2011 Reserve Malbec, Columbia Valley, $25: This youthful expression with one of the Northwest’s hottest varieties leads with aromas of Marionberry and blueberry with vanilla, black pepper and fresh dill. The drink is rich, smooth and spicy with blackberry, blueberry and cocoa flavors, supported by sandy yet sturdy tannins and cranberry acidity in the finish. (13.9 percent alcohol)
Maryhill Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $22: This spicy, chocolaty and dark Cabernet Sauvignon is made by New Zealand native Richard Batchelor. Fun aromas of gingersnap cookie and cocoa powder lead to notes of blackberry, dark raspberry and crushed herbs. Flavors run the gamut of black currant, boysenberry, Western serviceberry and brown sugar, while the structure is balanced with a long finish of mocha, vanilla bean and black licorice. (13.7 percent alcohol)
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2012 Petite Sirah, Washington, $34: This young winery in Lewiston, Idaho, is off to a superb start, and this bold red variety is exceptional. It opens with aromas of ripe plum, black currant, dark chocolate and pencil shavings. Inside, it’s massive, dense and delicious with those same dark tones, intense flavors and focused tannins that provide length as well as depth. (14.1 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.