4 red wines to get you through the rest of winter (& beyond)

There is one optimistic daffodil fully bloomed by my front steps, but all the rest are still tightly closed, as if they aren't sure it's safe to come out yet. I admire the courage of that one daffodil, but truth be told, it's about to get walloped. Tomorrow, we're getting a Nor'easter. Temperatures are going to drop. There will be heavy rains and wind, perhaps even a little snow.

It's going to be a red wine weekend around here.

If you're still reaching for red wines to take the chill off even though it's the first of March, I have some suggestions for you. Of course, you can drink any of these wines throughout the entire year.

2013 Antigal Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

I love a half bottle for a weeknight when I don't have anyone to share the wine with. I can drink a glass and a half on the first night and again the second night. Then it's done - no third night when the wine starts to lose some quality.

I found this half bottle of Antigal Malbec marked down to $6.99 on a discontinued shelf at a local liquor store, all by itself, looking like it needed a home. Whether the store was discontinuing the half bottle format or making room for the 2014 vintage, I don't know. I do know this wine certainly didn't deserve to end up on the discount shelf.

Full of blueberry and blackberry aromas with a little cedar and vanilla, this 100 percent Malbec has plum and cherries on the palate with a slight hint of smoke. Medium acidity and tannins helped balanced the wine that complemented my Slow Cooker French Dip nicely, which, by the way, is an excellent chilly night dinner.

I'm not sure what the SRP of a full bottle is, but I'm seeing it sell for about $16 on various websites, making my $6.99 half bottle a great value.

2016 Scala Dei Garnatxa, Priorat, Spain

Our favorite framily - Katie, a former student of mine who was my sons' first babysitter, her husband Brian, and their three kids - invited my sons and me over for homemade pizza. I brought the wine and dessert - brownie sundaes. (I know they are so Bennigan's circa 1991, but brownies topped with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream when you have kids ages 6-18 at the table are a winner with every one of them.)

One of my favorite pizza wines is garnacha, also known as garnatxa in some regions of Spain, so I grabbed this media sample to take with me.

Scala Dei is one of the great historical wineries of the Priorat region that can trace its roots back to the 12th century, founded by Carthusian monks who brought grape growing to the region.

Fast forward to the 2000s, and the winery is still important to the region. Among other wines, it produces this 100 percent garnatxa that's unoaked and fresh with flavors of red berries, cranberries and some minerality. Nicely paired with cheese pizza and sweet bell pepper pizza, it also held its own with the mild pepperoni pizza. It definitely needed time to open up, taking about 45 minutes into the meal to truly come alive. Easy drinking once it opened up. Next time I have this bottle, I'll decant it to help it along. SRP: $20.

2015 Artesa Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa, California

I've spent years perfecting my Chicken Pot Pie, yet I'm always tweaking it. When I made it to take my friends Dana & John's for dinner last weekend, I added sautéed mushrooms for the first time (brilliant choice, by the way). I figured the earthiness that the mushrooms would add to the savory pie might pair well with a Pinot Noir, so I took along a media sample of Artesa's Estate Vineyard Pinot.

My call was pretty good. I wouldn't say it's the perfect red wine for the pot pie, but it wasn't a bad pairing. And, on it's own, it's a really good wine. Grown, produced and bottled at the winery, this 100 percent Pinot Noir spent 10 months in 100 percent French oak (50 percent new), the wine has aromas of raspberries, plums, tobacco and barnyard. It's light, fruity and a little spicy on the palate with nice acidity and soft tannins. It continued to open up as the night went on and before we knew it, the bottle was empty. SRP $35.

2014 Thorn Napa Valley Merlot

There's a lot of chatter among my #winestudio group about bringing merlot back. It's not uncommon for different grapes or different wine styles to go in and out of favor with wine drinkers, but no one could have seen merlot's plummet in the United States because of the movie "Sideways" coming. Now almost 15 years later, merlot is regaining its rightful place with wine drinkers, and bottles like The Prisoner Wine Company Thorn are helping it along.

Another media sample, I'll admit I was a little skeptical when I received the email about this wine. It was described as a "cult-status" wine, which in my mind screams overly-oaked, ice cream sundae, hit-you-over-the-head, bold California cab. (Ice cream sundae = wine that's super fruity and has a ton of vanilla and chocolate in it - like a banana split minus the banana.)

This wine is not cab, it's 77 percent merlot with the remaining a blend of malbec and syrah. While it's high in alcohol - 15.2 percent - it neither hit me over the head nor reminded me of an ice cream sundae. The wine has blackberry, cedar, chocolate, and pepper on the nose with smoke/tobacco, cherry, and a woodsy quality on the palate. This full bodied wine with high acidity and satin tannins ends with a medium finish. Allow to open for at least half hour or decant and let sit a while before drinking. SRP $45

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