In summer, I’ll flirt with a glass of Chablis. In fall, I’ll step out with a negroni. But wintertime calls for my true (cocktail) love, red wine. There’s nothing as romantic or relaxing as pouring a glass of this scarlet-hued nectar into a goblet and sitting in front of the fire.

Red wine is the classic pairing for classic wintertime dishes — think beef bourguignon, roast chicken, spaghetti Bolognese, coq au vin — even chili, as long as it’s not too spicy.

For roasted meats, try a meaty syrah. A rich, Italian tomato sauce? Primitivo or zinfandel come to mind. Pinot noir is perfect with an herb-rubbed roast chicken or any dish starring mushrooms. Typically, if a food and wine come from the same region, they’ll pair well.

Two studies

Also, red wine supposedly is good for you — in moderation, of course. The good-for-you aspect comes from the grape skins, which contain resveratrol, a compound naturally found in grapes, some other berries and in peanuts.

According to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, “the presence of resveratrol in red wine was initially thought to be responsible for red wine’s beneficial cardiovascular effects.”

Two trials reported that one-year consumption of a grape supplement containing 8 milligrams a day of resveratrol improved inflammatory and atherogenic (fat in arteries) status in people at risk for cardiovascular disease or with established coronary heart disease.

Sipping anyway

Still, the Institute concludes, “while preliminary human studies suggest that resveratrol may have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, there is currently no convincing evidence that these effects can be achieved in the amounts present in one to two glasses of red wine.”

That said, I’ll imbibe even if red wine won’t save me from death or disease. You should, too.

Some of my favorites

  • Pinot noirs from the houses of Domaine Drouhin, Goldeneye, Merry Edwards, Papapietro Perry and Penner-Ash
  • Burgundies from France
  • Cabernet franc from Darioush and the Bordeaux regions of St.-Émilion and Pomerol and
  • Syrahs and Rhône wines like Côtes du Rhône and those from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.

Make sure to check out

  • Craft Wine & Beer (22 Martin St.)
  • Fine Vines Cheese & Wines (6300 Mae Anne Ave.)
  • MidTown Winebar (1527 S. Virginia St.)
  • Napa-Sonoma (550 W. Plumb Lane and 7671 S. Virginia St.)
  • Swill Coffee & Wine (3366 Lakeside Court)
  • Total Wine & More (6671 S. Virginia St.)
  • We Olive & Wine Bar of Reno (4991 S. Virginia St.)
  • West Street Wine Bar (148 West St.) and
  • Whispering Vine Wine Co. (85 Foothill Road and 4201 W. Fourth St.)


Cooks’ notes: I usually drink red wine poured straight from the bottle, but mulled wine is to winter as butternut squash is to fall. Purchase cardamom pods at Spice Rack Market, 4135 S. Virginia St., across from the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups water

4 cinnamon sticks, each approximately 3 inches long

10 green cardamom pods

6 black peppercorns

8 whole cloves

2 bottles of dry red wine

2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise

1 orange, cut into quarters

In a large pot set over high heat, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, peppercorns and cloves, then the wine, and then the vanilla beans and the orange. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes. Do not allow to boil.

Recipe from “Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well” by Sam Sifton (Random House, 2012)

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