At the end of a cold winter day, there's nothing I look forward to more than a warm, cozy meal with family and a great glass of wine. I'm delighted to tell you that even comforting, casual meals pair easily with a variety of wines that will warm you up to your tippy toes.
-- Pair "Like with like"
Now is the time to open those bigger, bolder wines that can stand up to winter's heartier fare. Choose wines that complement the main flavor and texture of the meal. You wouldn't pair a delicate Sauvignon Blanc with a rich fettuccini alfredo, just as a light Beaujolais would fall flat served with a hearty roast beef.
-- Big beef needs bold wine
For hearty "meat and potatoes" comfort foods, like beef stew, meatloaf or mild chili, uncork bold reds with full body and high acidity, such as Cabernet, Bordeaux or Malbec from Argentina. Three wines I recently discovered: Mountain View Cabernet ($20), Grand Claret de la Grange Clinet Bordeaux ($9), and Viña Las Leñas Malbec ($6).
-- When in Rome....
For classic Italian comfort foods such as lasagna, pizza or ziti, you will never go wrong serving a traditional wine from Italy like a great Chianti Classico, such as Decembrino ($14), or a Sangiovese. For a more daring pairing, try a soft, silky Rioja from Spain, such as El Circulo ($10).
-- Lighter meats call for softer reds, aromatic whites or rosé wines
Fruitier, softer reds, such as a Pinot Noir (try Michel Lelu Pinot Noir, $15) or Heritage du Rhone ($12), a blend of a Grenache and Syrah, are the perfect pairings to a savory roast chicken, chicken pot pie or turkey chili. You can also pair these dishes with a delicate, aromatic white, like Torrontes from Argentina (try Las Lenas, $6), or a crisp, dry Rosé (one of my favorites is Relais de Cavalier, $14).
-- A buttery wine for creamy mac and cheese or mashed potatoes
My two absolute favorite comfort foods are macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes. Both dishes beg for an equally rich, buttery Chardonnay, such as KimberlyRiver from California ($10), or a round, lush Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of tropical fruit, like Laurel Cellars ($13).
-- Never let your food be sweeter than your wine
For comforting desserts like apple pie, bread pudding and cakes, an equally sweet dessert wine is in order. I love the honeyed texture of classic Sauternes with these desserts, as well as a slightly spritzy Moscato d'Asti. My top picks are Le Dauphin Guiraud ($20 for 375ml) and Michele Chiarlo Nivole ($14 for 375ml).
If you are craving home-style comfort foods, rest assured there is a perfect wine awaiting, guaranteed to keep you warm until Spring's first thaw. Happy pairing!