White may be winter’s preferred palatte, but indoors it’s all about the color red: merlots imparting cherry aromas, cabernets that conjure blackcurrants and syrahs and zins hinting at black pepper and spices. Sample some of the area’s best wine bars and tastiest reds; after all, even if the weather outside is frightful, you’ll find plenty of places to sip something delightful.
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE
Apres Wine Company
To those who the definition of “heavenly” means tree skiing during the day and sipping vino into the evening, there could not be a more appropriately named wine bar. Apres Wine Company at the Ski Run Center delivers with more than 50 wines available to taste daily. Apres also hosts Tasting Tuesdays to give guests an opportunity to try new wines, as well as live music every Saturday.
Award-winning Picchetti wines cannot be found in stores, restaurants or anywhere, for that matter, beyond the Cupertino winery and South Lake Tahoe tasting room. Customers line up at the long bar; $5 buys a create-your-own five-wine flight of the list’s 14 to 18 selections, says manager Brock Thomas. All wines are bottle-aged, and most are limited production—between 100 and 400 cases. Thomas enjoys the Tahoe Red, a merlot-estate cabernet blend that “softens up nice and tastes great.”
NORTH LAKE TAHOE
Uncorked Tahoe Ctiy
This snazzy, modern wine bar in Tahoe City’s Cobblestone Center specializes in small, boutique bottles such as the Redemption pinot noir or the Venge Vineyard’s Scout’s Honor zinfandel. Be sure to check the calendar for weekend winemaker events, as well as special events throughout the winter like Mimosa Madness on Sundays and Ladies’ Nights on Wednesdays.
Jack Rabbit Moon Wine Bar
This chic, Incline Village wine bar, opened by Amy Simpson, offers wines from the world as well as a delicious, eclectic menu of American cuisine (all nice on the palate and conducive to wine, says Simpson). Try the Peachy Canyon zinfandel, a full, flavorful wine that hits the spot after coming off the slopes.
Uncorked at Squaw Valley
After a day spent tackling KTs black diamonds, there are few better ways to unwind than at Uncorked. Ski bunnies and boarder-bros alike gather at the beautiful, hand-carved bar as owner Kali Kopley pours about 15 daily samplings from her stock of 750 labels. She recommends the Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley Cabernet. “It’s from exceptional vineyards in Napa Valley,” she says, “and contains beautiful black cherry, mocha and black tea notes. It’s great after a long day of skiing.”
The Pour House
Racks and racks of bottles line the walls the Pour House, a small shop and tasting area that exudes the familiar, comforting feel of a wine cellar. Although owner Dean Schaecher spends much of the winter backcountry skiing (he suggests taking along a tawny port, which, he says, doesn’t change its flavor in the cold and pairs well with trail mix), he can also be found behind the counter, pouring tastes of several reds and whites daily. As for apres ski, he recommends a fairly well-bodied wine like a zinfandel from the Truckee River Winery, which “has a little bit of spiciness that warms you up.”
Bacchus & Venus
An art gallery and tasting bar in one, this must-stop wine shop is in the heart of downtown Truckee’s Commercial Row. Patrons linger at the long, custom-carved cedar bar (as close as possible to the indoor fireplace) to try wines by the glass, or to order one of the four daily flights. Retail manager Jessica Norris suggests either a cabernet or merlot from Duckhorn Vineyards, which she says is “a great winter wine—elegant, smooth and perfect with a hearty meal.”
Grapes + Grounds & Earthly Delights
The Village at Northstar is home to two wonderful wine bars. Grapes + Grounds resides somewhat obscurely in the village’s high-end gear shop, True North. Customers can enjoy sipping while shopping, and Saturday afternoons during the high season, the shop pours complimentary tastings. Selections change every other month.
A gourmet deli, cheese and wine shop, Earthly Delights also sports a wine bar. Employees here recommend a pinot noir from Truckee River Winery, which they can perfectly pair with house-made hors d’oeuvres. While the wine bar is open daily, tastings are held Saturday afternoons.
L’Uva Bella Wine Gallery
Located in Reno’s The Summit, L’Uva pours glasses and sells accessories to happy shoppers. Tastings are offered daily; Thursday evenings, owner Debby Bullentini features five wines paired with appetizers. As for her favorite? “My go-to is Runquist Petite Sirah,” she says. “It’s really nice, thick, rich and well layered, with a leathery thread that runs through it.”
Vintage, A Wine Shop
Possibly the area’s most modern tasting bar, Vintage pours 44 wines-by-the-ounce from its card-operated stainless steel machines, which preserve taste and quality, as well as another 11 wines by the glass, says manager Rick Shamhart. The intimate 40-seat shop stocks 500 labels, about 80 percent from California, and offers complimentary cheeses and Truckee sourdough bread. For cold weather, Shamhart recommends the rich, barrel-aged tastes of the Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a “fruit-forward wine.”
Tahoe Ridge Winery
The picturesque wine tasting room and marketplace of the Tahoe Ridge Winery sits in the heart of historic Genoa, Nevada’s first settlement. Customers can enjoy complimentary pours of 12 different varietals, ten of which are served beyond the winery, two that are exclusive, says owner-winemaker Rick Halbardier. He recommends the Reserve Zinfandel for apres ski. “It’s a serve-by-the-fireplace kind of wine,” he says. “Big and hearty—people tend to enjoy that.”
D’Vine Wine Tasting & Bistro
Famous for five-wine flights and gourmet cheese boards, D’Vine patrons can sit at the bar, at tables or in a private room to enjoy one of 75 wines and American-style tapas. Owner Kim Donner (you wouldn’t be the first to ask if there’s a relation) suggests a Rombauer Zinfandel. “It’s smooth and fruity with a little pepper,” she says, “and would be great for cold weather and sitting beside a fireplace.”
Orchards, ranches and vineyards dot the beautiful Apple Hill scenery, about an hour west of South Lake Tahoe and a perfec detour to or from the slopes. Six family-run area wineries allow tourists to sample the Foothill flavors while traveling from tasting to tasting; don’t miss the well-rounded fruit tastes of the Boeger Winery Barbera and the oak-aged cabernet sauvignon from Madrona Vineyards.