When the weather's cold and the food is hearty, there's still a cozy place at the table for white wine. Big-boned chardonnay, spicy gewürztraminer, pear-kissed pinot blanc and icy riesling all have their purpose, from pairing with winter halibut to roast chicken, duck and turkey, deep-dish quiches, pastas in cream sauces, pureed parsnips and much more. These wines often offer astoundingly good value, too.
Equally indulgent this time of year is a late-harvest white wine made from riesling, gewürztraminer, semillon or Muscat blanc. With just the right balance of sweetness and acidity, they accent the end of the meal, pairing deliciously alongside fruit-based desserts, strong cheeses or chocolate, or enjoyed all alone.
Castello di Amorosa 2011 Anderson Valley Late Harvest Gewürztraminer ($35): From the eccentric Napa Valley castle comes this, a favored dessert wine that's rich and bright in acidity and honey, apricot and rose, a perfect example of dessert in a glass, entirely enjoyable all on its own. castellodiamarosa.com.
CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs 2011 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($25): Paul Hobbs makes a handful of exceptional, single-vineyard chardonnays from Ritchie Vineyard to Cuvée Agustina, a special wine from Sonoma Mountain's Richard Dinner Vineyard named for Hobbs' daughter. CrossBarn is the way into this world, a more approachable, affordable tier of Hobbs wines made with the same eye to quality. It makes for a delicious pairing with winery chef Anne Sibbaluca's winter halibut dish with pureed parsnip and wilted baby spinach. To add to the match, Sibbaluca tops the dish with a chardonnay saffron sauce. crossbarnwinery.com.
Gundlach Bundschu 2011 Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Gewürztraminer ($22): Sonoma Valley-based Gundlach Bundschu maintains a 150-year-old vineyard high within the Sonoma Coast appellation that produces this lovely, lilting gewürztraminer, dry and without a trace of oak. Aromatically true to its grape, it's like biting into an Asian pear followed by a lime chaser, and its acidity is perfect to pair with any dish that includes buttery lobster or shrimp. gunbun.com.