By Vanessa Moore
February’s cold temps and cabin fever can send the Moore family’s appetite into overdrive. Even our four-legged children become ubiquitous as we gather around the winter dinner table. And while this month calls for intimate celebrations with less holiday glitz — save
Mardi Gras — and fewer guests, our craving for highly expressive wine and comfort food is Olympic-gold-game-on. This means there’s no better time to raid the cellar, or more accurately for us, the stack of unsightly boxes in our basement.
In the early years of running our wine shop, I was so focused on building inventory that I proudly wore the badge of the Cobbler’s child. Today, I’m still determined to keep the most prized bottles for our clients, but I’ve loosened up a bit on the everyday stuff, choosing bottles with damaged capsules and missing labels any chance I get. Plus, I’m lucky to have a partner that loves to collect wine and join mailing lists but isn’t an eager consumer. So that gives us a lot more selection on the home front to satisfy our winter moods.
Here are a few examples:
The ‘apres ski’
Honestly, we’ve never been skiing, but I’ll argue that “aprés ski” is a state of mind as much as a post-slope social activity. I’ve many times imagined the perfect snowfall, followed by an injury-free day of exhaustion, concluded with a celebratory glass of Champagne.
And while almost any respectable sparkler would do, this daydreamer prefers the real deal geographically speaking with a million tiny bubbles and a beautifully centered, energetic bead, which costs upwards of $40. I also like the idea of an aged red Bordeaux or chilled Junmai Sake this time of day. Both wines deliver a uniquely mellow relaxation that seems appropriate for the aching muscles of a satisfied skier.
Don’t sweat every ingredient — a chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings is the way to go. Multiple small plates with sommelier selections remind guests that their hunger is anticipated and appreciated, and makes for a more romantic experience overall.
Splurge. While Virginia’s law permits wine corkage, we only bring our own when it’s a special occasion or our bottle is one of multiples offered throughout the evening. We also like to call ahead just to be sure the restaurant’s policy allows for outside bottles.
I’d do this every night below 40 degrees if we could find the energy to build the fire and clean up afterward. This end-of-the-workday treat offers the most flexibility for wine style and price. Select something lush with soft acid for under $15, like Zinfandel, Syrah or Merlot blends if you want to keep it simple and may only get through one glass. Or choose a contemplative and layered wine that may cost upwards of $25, like a Sangiovese-based Tuscan wine if you’re a night owl who needs a little extra time to unwind. You can go dry or sweet, including fortified wines like tawny port, Madeira and Amontillado to sip with salted nuts or honeycomb toffee.
I’m not much of a TV junkie but once I’m invested in a story, it’s over and the next thing I know, six hours and a full bottle of Pinot Noir have disappeared. While Pinots are categorically too wimpy for some red wine drinkers, I find their attractive red fruit, spice and refreshing acidity always quench our collective thirst. The one drawback is that Pinot Noir can be finicky at any price. For value, think Oregon or California Central Coast for under $25 and for a special viewing session treat yourself to a bottle of Pommard or Volnay at $50 and up from Burgundy’s Cote de Beaune region. Opt for a few years of bottle age if possible.
Each year, the last Saturday in February we celebrate “Open that Bottle Night,” a tradition created by Wall Street Journal alums Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecherformer. The couple wrote the column “Tastings” from 1998-2010 and in 2000 asked readers to pop the cork on a symbolically significant bottle, then share their stories in the weeks that followed.
Today, Open that Bottle parties are hosted throughout the country each year in recognition of John and Dottie’s brilliant idea.
Vanessa Moore and her husband Warner are the owners of Unwined, a wine, gourmet and gift shop with locations in Bradlee Shopping Center, 3690-J King St., and Belle View Shopping Center, 1600-A Belle View Blvd.