Sommelier Roundtable: What’s the Best Wine to Beat Cabin Fever?

12 top sommeliers shared the wines that remind them that winter will (eventually) end

Sommelier Roundtable: What’s the Best Wine to Beat Cabin Fever?
From scintillating sparklers to sunshine-filled reds, these are wine pros' best picks to ward off winter blues (Getty Images)
Feb 24, 2023

Daylight is creeping past 5 p.m., crocuses are peeking out in sunny spots and, just when it seems spring might arrive really early, wham, a cold front hits, temperatures drop below freezing again and the snow starts to fall. If we know anything for certain, it’s that you can’t rely on the weather forecasters (or Punxsutawney Phil, for that matter) to tell us when the winter chill will finally be gone. To help gather our strength and ride out the rest of the season, or until we can comfortably sit on patios again, Wine Spectator asked a dozen leading wine pros what they drink when they feel cabin fever setting in. Read on for the bottles that send them instantly to summertime and sunshine, even when it is 10 degrees outside.

Wine Spectator: What’s the best wine to help beat cabin fever?

Julian Simard-Gillis, head sommelier at Grand Award winner Post Hotel Dining Room, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Riesling, always Riesling. Specifically, some good value German Kabinetts. Electrifying acidity with a touch of tantalizing sweetness— if that doesn’t get you out of bed, nothing will.

 A portrait of Jacob Brown, sniffing a wine glass.
Jacob Brown doesn't experience snow in San Francisco, but that doesn't stop him from dreaming about a Mediterranean vacation. (Courtesy of Lazy Bear)

Jacob Brown, beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Lazy Bear, San Francisco

Grab for an island wine. Open up a bottle from Sicily and watch the new season of White Lotus. Go for a bottle of Passopisciaro Passorosso and look at the beautiful scenery. Or if that show is not your jam, just turn the heat up, put a photo of a volcano on one wall, photos of the Mediterranean on the other and play some Italian pop. That will turn your mood right around.

Alisha Blackwell-Calvert, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Cinder House, St. Louis, Mo.

A bottle of rosé is the best way to help beat cabin fever. Rosé’s range of blushing hues evoke memories of summer poolside fun and laughs on the patio with friends. In the heart of winter, reach for a dark pink offering from Tavel, a Rhône valley sub-region focusing its production on fuller-bodied rosé that can easily stand against typical cold weather fare of braised meats, roasted salmon and duck. Bottlings from E. Guigal or Domaine Lafond are always recommended choices.

Amy Mitchell, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Indian Accent, New York City

In both still and sparkling, rosé for me is an all-day, every-day, all-year-long wine. However, it is a nice reminder of the spring and summer months to come. My current favorite is the 2021 Cabernet Franc from Domaine Guiberteau. It is like fresh red berries in a glass, and it loves to accompany food with an Indian Accent.

 A portrait of Andrea Morris on a white background.
At Essential by Christophe, Andrea Morris serves stunning wines on the Upper West Side. (Courtesy of Essential by Christophe)

Andrea Morris, beverage director at Essential by Christophe, New York City

Champagne! It is refreshing and an instant mood boost and, if you’re not celebrating anything, it’s even better because it feels spontaneous. Bonus: It will be perfect with whatever you might be eating at the moment.

Mike Lee, wine director at Grand Award winner La Toque, in Napa, Calif.

Whichever one makes you forget you’re stuck inside! For me, it’s Pinot Noir from either Sonoma Coast or Burgundy. But to each their own. Everyone has their own palate so crack open what makes you feel good!

Caitlin O’Brien, head sommelier at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, New York City

For escaping cabin fever? I love to have some great coastal whites on hand. A glass from the island of Santorini in Greece or Falanghina from the Amalfi Coast is just the thing to transport me to ... well, anywhere but the place I'm stuck - but yes, preferably a place with rolling ocean waves and bright blue sky. For leaning into cabin fever? A nice plush Southern Rhône red. Something with dark fruit, a little spice and some silky tannins that I can preferably enjoy on a comfy couch with a fireplace. Cru of choice? Gigondas.

Steven McDonald, executive beverage director for Grand Award–winning Pappas Bros. Steakhouses in Dallas and Houston

Champagne! Stock the fridge and share with friends. Tis the season!

 A portrait of Alexandra Thomas in a wine cellar, holding a glass of wine.
In the Windy City, Alexandra Thomas knows that a good bottle of wine can make any blizzard better. (Courtesy of Adalina)

Alexandra Thomas, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Adalina, Chicago

Certainly there are many different interpretations of a location of cabin fever, but I imagine being stranded in a log cabin, out in the woods, in a snowstorm—as someone from the Midwest, this is every winter! Roaring fireplace, bear-skin rug, cozy blankets to huddle under with your significant other … you get the picture!

The wine I would be seductively sipping on is Sagrantino from Umbria, Italy. (Arnaldo Caprai or Cantina Fratelli Pardi are my faves.) Sagrantino has a sensual, gripping and alluring nature. Toasted clove, dried pine, alluring rose on the nose as you swirl your wine and coyly look up from your glass. But my favorite part is the carnal expression of the wines’ sanguine properties that are pervasive on the palate, mixed with dense blackberries, pepper and tobacco. Even if you leave this wine to breathe in the glass for a quick break from making googly eyes in front of the fire, you’ll find it even more generous as it opens.

Jhonel Faelnar, wine director for Naro, Atomix and Atoboy, New York City

Undoubtedly, Champagne. It's hard to beat the invigorating qualities of a glass of bubbly. In particular, A. Margaine Special Club Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 2014 is a great example that can be enjoyed with or without food. The wine is rich and creamy with a shot of acidity that almost reminds me of a lemon custard tart.

Tiana Estremera, head sommelier at Xiquet, Washington, D.C.

I’m a big fan of Sicilian wine. There’s something about being able to sip on a chilled Frappato with sun-kissed fruit and an enticing perfumed bouquet, or a licorice-driven, elegantly structured Nero d’Avola that brings me right to that exotic locale. Or, combine those two varieties and try a Cerasuolo di Vittoria that will absolutely blow your mind. There’s a reason it’s the only DOCG in Sicily; these wines are truly transporting.

Jodi Bronchtein, wine director at Best Award of Excellence winner Audrey and June in Nashville, Tenn.

The one that makes you book the trip to the place you want to visit next. Pair this wine with movies, books and music about said country/region. Really dial this in. You are inside. Book a reservation at a destination restaurant you want to visit. Pull up the menu and make one of the dishes to go with the Brunello/Riesling/Napa Cab/grand cru Champagne/salty coastal white you popped. Look at a wine map of your chosen place. Order a mixed case of wine you have never had and have it sent because it’s cold out. Drink these also. Forget about being inside because now you are about to travel. Pack a suitcase, download your itinerary and request that PTO. You really have to go now because you made that reservation. Bonus points for the dopamine all this will release. Keep it going once you are able to get outside. See how long it takes for your friends to ask you to stop dropping that you are going there in 82 days.

winter Red Wines White Wines Rosé Sparkling Wines Dining Out Restaurant Awards People

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