Master Sommelier James Tidwell
Shares Expert Wine Tasting Notes
James Tidwell, MS, CWE, is Master Sommelier at Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas. He’s also a sommelier representative on the core wine committee of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and is on the corporate beverage committee. In 2003, Tidwell passed the Certified Wine Educator Exam on his first attempt, earning the highest score out of the hundreds of candidates that year. Then in 2009, he passed the prestigious Master Sommelier examination. Tidwell is also the co-founder of TEXSOM, North America’s preeminent wine educational conference. Here, Tidwell gives his curated recommendations for the best wines to complement the comfort food dishes typically associated with cold weather.
Expert Wine Tasting Notes from Master Sommelier James Tidwell
With my wines, I like to make the transition from the lighter, leaner varietals of warm seasons to the richer, heartier styles for chillier weather. Many classic wines work with heavier cuisine, but I recommend venturing to rarer areas for real treats that offer a sense of discovery and experimentation.
Braised dishes are my favourites. The slow cooking process and savoury aromas of pot roasts, Osso Bucco and stews permeate the house. A big, heady wine is a great match for these bold flavours. Think the expressive fruit flavours and full body of classics: Napa or Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, Zinfandels from Dry Creek Valley or Australian Shiraz. The gripping tannins that can make these wines rough become smooth and supple when paired with braised meats.
For lesser-known areas, try one of these:
- A deep, complex South African red blend, such as A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines Red Blend Coastal Region South Africa 2008.
- A big, traditional Greek wine, such as Domaine Karydas Naoussa Greece 2007.
- A Douro red wine with the power, but not the sweetness of Porto, such as Post Scriptum de Chryseia Douro Portugal 2007.
Roasted beef, lamb, pork and vegetable dishes have crisp caramelization, succulent richness and a hint of earthiness. The simple preparation belies the complex flavours but, for even more depth, add a mushroom and herb stuffing to roasted meats. This combination works best with medium- to full-bodied reds that have elegance and finesse. Pinot Noir from California’s Central Coast, Australian Grenache or red Bordeaux are the usual suspects. For a different take on classics, try a label from Italy or Spain:
- The big, bold flavours of Brunello stand up to roasted dishes. A benchmark producer is Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Italy 2007.
- The tannic nature of the Nebbiolo grape sees its greatest expression in Barolo and Barbaresco, such as Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco DOCG Italy 2007.
- The earthy, dried qualities of stuffing mirror the flavours of traditional Rioja , such as La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza 2004.
Baked dishes, particularly vegetables, but even some meat dishes, can favour rich white wines. Waxy texture and toasty oak notes add the weight necessary for white wines to match with roasted dishes, while slightly sweet wines can be a foil for earthy dishes.
- For an oaked wine in the classic style of white Bordeaux, try Mendel Semillon Mendoza Argentina 2011.
- One of the world’s best examples of slightly sweet and textured white wines is Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Vouvray Demi-Sec, Loire Valley France 2007.
- Southern Italian white wines have weight, vibrant acidity, floral aromatics and earth notes, and an excellent example is Cantina del Taburno Greco, Campania Italy 2010.