Winter Comfort Food for Those 80 Degree Days (#WinePW)


As I sit writing this post, my friends and family up north are wrapped in blankets, watching inches (feet?) of snow pile up outside their windows.  I’m sure the beastly weather will send many of them to the kitchen, where they will put on a pot of something delicious and heart-warming for later.  I can imagine the aromas wafting from the stove – perhaps it’s chicken and dumplings, or spicy chili.  Or maybe there’s a tray of lasagna in the oven.  One thing is certain:  there will be a lot of comfort food ladled out over the next few days!

As luck would have it, Winter Storm Niko’s arrival coincides perfectly with our February Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) whose theme is – you guessed it – Comfort Food.  Our group of food and wine bloggers has compiled a collection of go-to recipes for those days when you need a little extra TLC.  And, best of all, they’ve paired them with the perfect wines!  (In my opinion, wine qualifies as a comfort food on its own, just sayin’.)  Take a look at the list below to see what goodies we have in store for this Saturday’s chat.  My post follows directly after.

If you’d like to join in the conversation, please follow us on Twitter using the #WinePW.  You can simply observe the chat or jump right in with your own suggestions and ideas – just make sure to add the #WinePW to each Tweet so that we’ll know you’re there!  We go live this Saturday, February 11th at 11 am eastern time.  Hey, if you’re snowed in, this would be a great alternative to shoveling that driveway!


As a preview, the following wine and food bloggers will be sharing their best-loved comfort food and wine pairings.


Winter Comfort Food for Those 80 Degree Days

While I grew up in the Northeast, I’ve lived in South Florida for the past 10 years, so winter comfort food has a different connotation for me now.  Although we might be free from winter’s icy grip, that doesn’t mean we have no need of comfort food!  We might not gravitate toward heavy-duty dishes like cassoulet or boeuf bourgignon, but we still crave heartier fare than usual, especially when the mercury dips below 60 and it’s uncomfortable.  I know what you’re thinking: Spare me your tales of woe.  Ain’t nobody up here feeling sorry for ya.  But seriously, once you’ve been here for a while, a cold spell really gets under your skin.  After your system has adapted to tropical weather year-round, you become a delicate little flower – and the object of ridicule from all your northern friends – especially when you complain about the cold!  Trust me, the struggle is real.

Just last week, I had a visit from two of my best friends, whom I see maybe once a year (usually in mid-winter, but I digress).  We had a few dinners together, went shopping, and mostly just laughed as we reminisced about things we’ve shared over the years.  There’s no better medicine than that for whatever ails you.  When they left I immediately felt their absence.  It was like a cloud had settled into the suddenly quiet apartment, making me feel lonely in a place where I never mind being alone.  It was also windy and chilly outside (on the Florida scale) and, when I went to make dinner, I decided I wanted pasta.  But with all my activities over the previous few days, I hardly had anything on hand.  What to do?

I remembered seeing a recipe in the New York Times cooking section for a simple, lemon pasta requiring only a few ingredients.  I certainly had everything I needed, maybe even some extras to jazz it up a bit.  And, as I looked through the fridge, I saw the almost-empty bottle of Flanagan Viognier my friends and I had shared the night before (well, it was the second bottle.)  Suddenly I was inspired and I got to work.  Here’s the recipe, with my adaptations:


Pasta with Lemon, Mushroom and Artichoke Sauce
(adapted from the original by Pierre Franey)

Yield:  4 servings
Time:  About 20 minutes


2 tablespoons butter
½ white onion, roughly chopped
1 lb mushrooms, sliced thin
¼ cup artichoke hearts, roughly chopped* ()
Zest of 2 lemons; reserve a little for serving
½ pound fresh or dried linguine or other long pasta
4 tablespoons heavy cream
Juice of 2 lemons
¼ cup fresh arugula, chopped
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving (I used Manchego because that’s what I had)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.

Heat the butter in a skillet and add the chopped onion; when soft, add the mushrooms.  Allow to cook until onions are translucent and mushrooms have released their liquid.  Add chopped artichokes and mix in.  Add the lemon juice.  Keep warm.

Drop the linguine into the boiling water.  Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve about ½ cup of the pasta liquid to add to the sauce.  Drain.

Add the cream and lemon zest to the vegetable mixture.  Add the pasta and stir until just heated through.  Add the Parmesan and arugula and toss.  Serve with additional Parmesan and lemon zest on the side.


* I found fresh, seasoned artichoke hearts in the Whole Foods produce section – I use them for everything!

flanagan-viognier-frontThe Wine

As I mentioned, the wine I paired with this pasta was a Viognier we had enjoyed at dinner the previous night.  Good as it was, we weren’t quite able to finish the second bottle, so I asked our server to pack it up to go.  (Florida law allows you to take home any unfinished bottles of wine, as long as they are securely closed and you have a receipt from the restaurant.)  While Viognier is one of my favorite varieties, I have to admit, most of the California versions I’ve tried have left me craving the beauties of the Northern Rhone, where cooler climates serve as a check on over-ripeness and alcohol, by preserving freshness and acidity.  When I ordered this bottle, I wondered how it would stack up.

At first, it was nothing at all like a Condrieu; in fact the nose had only the slightest floral component to it.  But it did have effusive notes of peach and apricot that were so fresh and bright.  I wondered how it would taste: would it be heavy and full-bodied, without the requisite acidity to balance the alcohol?   Not to worry!  On the palate, I tasted ripe peaches, tart apricots, and lemon zest.  And the wine definitely had body and weight, but not too much.  If I had to choose just one word to describe it, I’d say “fresh.”  In fact, if I’d been tasting it blind, I’d likely have pegged it as a full-bodied Albariño rather than a Viognier.

The verdict:  If I could sing a song about this wine, I would.  Here was a California Viognier with beautiful varietal character – all those apricots! – and medium+ body that was interwoven with a ribbon of crisp acidity.  For me, the holy grail of American Viognier!  It was an outstanding partner to the fresh local fish we enjoyed for our dinner, never overwhelming the food or becoming cloying on the palate.  And the next night, I enjoyed it immensely with the lemon and artichoke pasta dish.  I might have to stalk this wine! (With only 144 cases produced, that might be easier said than done.)


2014 Flanagan Wines Viognier Bennett Valley (SRP $54.99; 14.1% ABV)

The 2014 Viognier is Flanagan’s first foray into producing this Rhône variety, and I certainly hope it won’t be their last.  They sourced the grapes from vineyards situated at 1,200 feet on the south- and southwest-facing slopes of Bennett Ridge in Sonoma County, where soils are rocky, volcanic cobbles with excellent drainage.  The vines were planted in 2001 and 2002, and benefit from significant maritime influence:  San Pablo Bay lies just to the south, and the Petaluma Gap to the west.  The result is a warm vineyard site nestled within a cool climate, meaning bud break is early, but harvest is late.  The extra hang time for the grapes, along with the low yields and the hillside aspect, culminate in wines of intensity, with complex and beautiful flavors.

According to winemaker Cabell Coursey, deciding when to pick the grapes is the most critical factor in crafting high-quality Viognier.  There is a narrow window during which the grape has developed the rich flavors typical of Viognier, but retains the bright acidity that makes the wine lively and attractive.  In 2014, they definitely nailed it!  With all that beautiful fruit and acidity, it would be a shame to overdo it in the winery.  As such, oak influence is minimal, coming mostly from second-use barrels, the goal being textural development rather than flavor enhancement.

To boil all this down to its essence:  here’s what the folks at Flanagan have to say about their Viognier:

We make this wine for one reason only:  because it is awesome.  

There is absolutely nothing more to say – they’ve accurately identified the problem with so many California Viogniers, and set out to create one that defies expectations.  Well done, Flanagan Wines, well done!


  1. And all the more awesome because it was shared with friends…and with us!

    I’ve had some yummy Viognier from Monticello AVA in Virginia. I’m interested in this one from “warm vineyard site nestled within a cool climate”…something very special.

    The food looks yummy too… fun all around. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this. Pasta is a great comfort food no matter the temperature outside. This winter has been our warmest on record. I don’t like it one bit. However, sometimes even on the coldest winter nights I love a light and citrus meal with a crisp white wine. It somehow makes a long, cold winter more tolerable. Great selection and pairing!

    Liked by 1 person

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