12 Wines to Get You Through the Next Polar Vortex

Craig Perman of Perman Wine Selections in Chicago Huge Galdones
By Megan Krigbaum Posted October 31, 2014

Prepare for all the joys of the polar vortex by filling your cellar with these 12 wines, picked by Chicago wine shop owner and winter vanquisher, Craig Perman.

“'What are your desert island wines?' seems be a routine question posed to those in the wine business,” says Craig Perman, proprietor of Perman Wine Selections. “But in Chicago, as we’re gearing up fro the holidays and winter, it seems more appropriate to ask, ‘what are your Polar Vortex wines?”

At his shop, Perman fills the shelves with only with the wines he likes to drink and has effectively gotten the entire West Loop on board by talking with everyone who walks through the doors. He also hosts excellent classes in the shop. The next one, on November 6th, will cover wines from Piedmont, most certainly wines for cold weather. And when Perman’s not in the shop, he’s running the Portugal-focused wine program for Chicago’s incredibly popular southeast-Asia-meets-Portugal-restaurant Fat Rice.

We asked Perman to give us his list for a case of wines to stock up on before the snow starts falling and the wind start whipping us in the face with ice crystals. Here’s his perfect dozen, all available in his store:

1. NV Emmanuel Brochet Champagne Le Mont Benoit Extra Brut ($69)
“Over the past decade, Champagne has become the most exciting growing region in France. Like Burgundy, you can spend a lifetime learning about all the intricacies in terroir.  Brochet is one of my Champagne heroes. In the tiny village of Villers-aux-Noeuds, he makes around 10,000 bottles per year from the Le Mont Benoit vineyard. Beautiful black cherry aromatics, poached pear, baking spices that all meld together with beautiful purity and freshness. A good match for roasted quail.”

2. 2012 Casal Figueira António Vinho Branco ($29)
“Perched in the hills of Montejunto, a mountain situated in the Lisboa district of Portugal, winemaker Marta Soares is quietly producing one of the country’s best white wines. Vital is the name of the grape and this is bottling the only wine sold commercially made entirely of the varietal. It’s Meursault meets the Mediterranean – medium weight, minerally with a suggestion of mint and other herbs. Pair with the smallest, sweetest clams you can find, cooked simply with a little white wine and herbs.”

3. 2011 Do Ferreiro Albariño Cepas Vellas ($43)
“If I could live anywhere else in the world, it would definitely be Galicia in Spain, and probably right next door to the winery and home of Gerardo Méndez. I’d be that guy that shows up every night for dinner, because nowhere in the world can you eat better seafood and drink a better paired-wine than right there. Made from two-hundred year-old Albariño vines planted on original rootstock, Cepas Vellas is truly one of the great white wines of Spain.”

4. 2013 Pandolfi Orsini Montalfojo Pergola Rosso ($15)
“It could be 20-below and I’ll still be grilling or smoking outside on my Green Egg.  I love grabbing a standing rib roast of pork, coating it in herbs and cooking it at a low temperature on the Egg. This wine is what I crave with it. It’s one of my favorite values from Italy, made from Aleatico di Pergola, an obscure grape from the as-obscure Pergola Rosso DOC of the Marche region. Brothers Andrea and Luca Orsini make spectacular wines, but unfortunately only about 10,000 bottles a year. This is almost Crozes-Hermitage-esque in its aromatic profile, with soft tannins, red fruit, and great freshness on the finish. So many great wines in the Marche that virtually no one is talking about!” 

5. 2012 Burn Cottage Pinot Noir ($62)
“Luckily for me, even in a Polar Vortex I can walk to Publican Quality Meats and grab some of their dry-aged duck breasts. Many are afraid of drinking Pinot Noir (gasp!) too young. I like them at every stage of the game. That’s why you should buy six bottles of your favorites. Burn Cottage is one of the elite Pinot Noirs from New Zealand, made by Ted Lemon of Littorai fame – and it’s a must-try for any serious fan of the varietal. Try one now, save some for down the road.” 

6. 2013 Paolo Scavino Vino Rosso ($15)
“There are no wines on earth that say fall or winter more than the reds of Piedmont. Occasionally, I’ll sneak into my older stash of Barolo, but for an every night wine, I love this blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. It’s super juicy and drinkable with that hint of red fruit and licorice that I love.”   

7. 2011 Domaine La Madura Saint-Chinian Classic Rouge ($18)
“More people are eating cassoulet per capita in the West Loop of Chicago than any other place outside of the Southwest of France during winter. Unofficial poll, of course.  Like cassoulet, very few wines are as comforting as this primarily Grenache and Carignan blend from Saint-Chinian in the Languedoc. Nadia & Cyril Bourgne make incredibly balanced wines that I, for one, can’t stop drinking.” 

8. 2005 Quinta da Bica Dão Tinto Reserva ($29)
“The Dão region of Portugal is such a passion of mine. Both the white and red wines offer a level of concentration with elegance and freshness that few other regions can achieve. Quinta da Bica sits near the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in continental Portugal. Its 2005 Reserva is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Alfrocheiro, all Portuguese varieties. This is a great match for squab.”  

9. 2012 Goodfellow Family Cellars Pinot Noir Durant Vineyard ($40)
“Oregon was home for me for 10 years. When I miss it, it’s always comforting to grab one of the many great Pinot Noirs produced in the Willamette Valley. My friend Marcus Goodfellow of Goodfellow Family Cellars produces a range of Pinot Noir from family-owned and -operated, non-irrigated vineyards in the northern part of the region. The Durant vineyard is an exceptional spot in the Red Hills. There is no doubt that this will go the distance, but I’m game to open a bottle to pair with roasted rack of lamb.”  

10. 2013 Domaine des Champs Fleuris Saumur-Champigny Vieilles Vignes ($20)
“There is something so honest, so rustic, so comforting about Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. I don’t think there is a person in the business that doesn’t love it! Champs Fleuris is a small, under the radar property run by four friends in the village of Tourquant. Their “Vieilles Vignes” or old-vines is a wine that demands food, whether its a simple charcuterie platter or braised short ribs.”  

11. 2010 Celler Pardas Xarel.lo ($28)
“Xarel.lo is a principle blending grape in Spain’s sparkling wine, Cava. Ramon Parera and Jordi Arnan believe that with the terroir of their Can Comas estate and attention to detail in the vineyard, it can produce one of Spain’s most noble white wines. Xarel.lo from Can Comas is a uniquely mineral, coupled with notes of fennel and pineapple. Wonderful with whole roasted sea bream.”  

12. Quinta Vale D. Maria Lote N. 11 Reserva Port ($25)
“When was the last time that you actually drank Port. I mean really sat down with three friends and had the whole bottle? Not only is Port one of the world’s most complex wines, it’s a wine that brings us together for conversation. Quinta Vale D. Maria is one of the great estates of the Douro. This single Quinta produces a Reserve Port from more than 25 different traditional grape varieties. It has impeccable balance, with dried fig, cherry, fennel and spice.”  

Perman Wine Selections is open Monday through Saturday; 802 W. Washington Blvd.; 312-666-4417; permanwine.com.

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