Hints of the coming spring might be on the horizon along the Wasatch Front, but natives know that our winter wonderland is far from over. There’s still plenty of time to curl up by the fire at home or sit down at your favorite restaurant and create winter wine experiences that celebrate bold tastes to counter the chill of Utah’s long, cold nights. Indulge with us as some of Utah’s best wine experts pour out their hearts and souls—sharing their favorite cold-weather bottles.
Wine broker Francis Fecteau, owner of Libation Inc., explains our primal gravitation toward deeper, darker and richer wines during the waning winter months. “It’s as if all of our other senses are deadened and we seek that intensity,” he says. “We want heavier, richer food and stronger flavors to remind us that we are still alive and, yes, we will get through this cold.” Three of his must-haves are:
Jeff Cohn Landy Sweetwater
“It shows superb depth and concentration, and with some air it reveals tremendous aromatics and richness. It parades its elements one by one like a good burlesque stripper would, and then [it’s] just fireworks with loads of black fruit compote, floral notes, [and] baking spices.”
Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Ancient
Vine Field Blend
“This is the first wine in California that told me California could do terroir,” Fecteau says. “The wine has perfume redolent of the place itself.” The blend comes from estate grapes grown in a 12-acre block of vines planted in 1885 and highlights Zinfandel, Grenache, Alicante Bouschet and Peloursin in addition to another 20 grape varietals, which are co-fermented.
Joseph Phelps Napa Valley
This 100 percent estate fruit sipper is an icon for a reason. “This wine is an exercise in what perfectly executed Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon should be,” Fecteau explains. “Even at $70, this is a value—with perfect focus, intensity, depth and concentration. Cassis for days, notes of licorice, coffee and black fruit compote make this wine what Cabernet should be but all too often isn’t.”
LaSalle & Trio Restaurant Group
As beverage director for the LaSalle and Trio restaurant groups, Jim Santangelo has the opportunity to find wines that represent a multitude of tastes and budgets and pair them with cuisines covering both land and sea. He highlights a few winter favorites from restaurants across the valley.
“At Café Niche, my guilty pleasure Chardonnay is the Hahn Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands in the Santa Barbara wine-growing area of California,” Santangelo says. “This wine hits all the right notes for me—medium body, and not too much oak to cover up the delicious orchard fruit on the palate.”
Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage
At Current Fish and Oyster, nothing goes better with oysters than sparkling wine. The Moët and Chandon Grand Vintage Champagne 2008 comes from the same producers as the iconic Dom Pérignon. “This is a vintage Champagne that drinks more expensive than it is … aromatics of hazelnut buttered brioche on the nose, with creamed pear and orchard fruit on the palate,” Santangelo notes.
Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2011
“At Stanza Italian Bistro and Wine Bar, I like to warm up with the most recent vintage of the Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino,” Santangelo says. The winery combines traditional wine-making techniques with a modern outlook—allowing the Sangiovese grape varietal to express itself to the fullest in the Montalcino area of Tuscany. “Big, hearty and full of ripe black fruit, this wine is great under-a-blanket sipping by a fire on its own.”
Sean Palmer might not be a name you recognize yet but you’ll find his wine selections making their way onto the wine list at Park City’s Handle restaurant (including the three listed below). The new sommelier’s love of wine started in Park City at The Farm. “It was there [sommelier] Joey Lopaka unlocked my love for wine, which took me to California for the last four years” where he worked in the beverage program at Spruce restaurant. “Boasting a Michelin star and a Wine Spectator Grand Award wine list, I was thrown into one of the best programs in the country. I’m very excited to share my knowledge with staff and patrons and hope to elevate their dining experience with the ability to pair wine with Chef Briar’s incredible menu.”
Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands
Pinot Noir, 2014
Palmer explains that this blend of three vineyards is a perfect expression of cool climate California Pinot Noir. “Lucia is a very small production operation and a treat for any special occasion. It’s medium bodied with aromas of fresh raspberry, strawberries with a touch of spice and mild tannins.”
Arnot-Roberts Chardonnay, Watson Ranch 2014
Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts grew up together in the Napa Valley area. “Nathan followed in his father’s footsteps and became a cooper, while Duncan found his passion in winemaking. Together they have created some of my favorite Chardonnay from the New World,” Palmer says. The Watson Ranch vineyards sit on a steep hillside at the far southern end of Napa Valley. The soil is comprised mostly of limestone, which gives this wine a lean, citrus-driven profile with hints of subtle oak and a bright acidic finish.
Jean Lallement Et Fils, Champagne NV
“What a gem from such a small Grand Cru producer,” Palmer says. “Sitting on only seven acres in Montange de Reims, Alex Lallement produces a balanced, complex and delicious blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This blend is full of yellow delicious apples, citrus and a beautiful limestone-driven finish.”
Salt Lake’s newest wine bar, Cucina in the Avenues, has significantly upgraded its wine list selections to reflect diners’ expanding palates. Many selections are special-ordered exclusively for the restaurant, while five wine flights allow guests to sample whites, reds, Spanish, French and California choices side by side. Owner Dean Pierose suggests some of his favorite bottles from the extensive wine menu.
Concha Y Toro Reserve Cabernet
An exclusive offering in Utah, this luscious, dark crimson Reserva Privada Cabernet is aged 14 months to produce a rich, smooth palate. Sold under the Casillero Diablo Label, “The legend is that Don Melchor, the founder of Concha Y Toro, found out that some of his vineyard workers were stealing a little wine from time to time,” Pierose recalls. “Knowing that Chilean Catholics were very supers c
Started by Italian wine-making expatriates, this winery is the most decorated from Argentina. “Malbec from Argentina has become very popular in recent years, which is easy to see why by the rich texture and velvety, plush mouthfeel from this Achaval Ferrer offering,” Pierose says.
Rock Wall Sparkling Blanc de Blancs
“I have always liked Rosenblum wines, so when Shauna Rosenblum went out on her own, we took notice.” This blanc de blanc is made primarily from Chardonnay grapes with the most recent vintage including 2 percent muscat canelli grapes. “This wine is so different from your standard Champagne or Prosecco and it is tremendously popular on our wine list as well.”