Here is what our editors and contributors were drinking last week…

David Flaherty: Smuttynose Brewing Company Winter Ale

Smuttynose Winter Ale Now is the time of year to snuggle up by the fire and crack open a hearty, winter ale. Wait, does anyone even have a fireplace?  Hmm…perhaps I'm so jaded by living in the city, I've forgotten that millions of people can have open flames inside their homes. I'm scarily close to becoming the sad sap that actually pays for the TV channel that plays a virtual, frickin fireplace 24 hours a day. Come to think of it–where can I get that?! But I digress.

Last week, I tried the Smuttynose Brewing Company Winter Ale. I approached hesitantly, fully expecting to be disappointed. And don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Smuttynose Brewery. In fact, I think they're one of the best breweries doing seasonal ales in the country (their Pumpkin and Summer seasonals are fantastic). 

Last year, I thought the Winter Ale was a train-wreck. I bought it for the restaurant without tasting it, and was burned. The staff turned their back on it and I found it tasted like Earl Grey tea filtered through a sock stuffed with grandpa's half-smoked cigars. 

But this year, ah, this year, my friends, they're on the money (I love how each breweries seasonal beers are slightly different; this ain't like making Crystal Light, folks!)  A nice, balanced complexity between some darker fruit and the earthier, rustic flavors you're looking for this time of year. And drinkable. That is always the key. 

Now, if I can just find me a fireplace…

Bryan Calandrelli: Creekside Winery 2004 Lost Barrel Red

Creekside’s 2004 Lost Barrel Red was poured for me and my coworkers after a long day of pouring wine not too long ago. I’m a big fan of the winery as their wines tend to favor balance and value.

This particular wine is not your average Creekside release though. It was made from barrel tippings otherwise known as the sediment sludge at the bottom of a barrel. Sediment from each red barrel was collected and put into a few barrels to clarify over a few years yielding this $55 red.

It revealed tons of black fruit and spicy oak on the nose.On the palate, it was full, rich and tannic with what Mr. Vaynerchuck would describe as a bit of the “Oak Monster”.

Not exactly my cup of tea but I’m sure there’s plenty of new world “oak for oak’s sake” fans out there that would buy this up even with its hefty price tag.

I’d sooner drink Creekside’s whites, their $20-$30 reds or their amazing Shiraz any day of the week.

Bandol Evan Dawson: Chateau de Pibarnon 2004 Bandol

I always find it easier to drink Bandol when it is selected by a Frenchman and, even better, a southern Frenchman — a Bandolier, if you like. They have a better feel for which producers make the better bottlings. Some Bandol can be thick, tarry, dirty — like drinking raw anger.

But the best Bandol is, for me, just like this one.

Big and chewy but with more muscle than fat, this wine reminds us why it's silly to attempt to judge some wines in their youth.

At six years old it's only beginning to soften around the edges. I'd prefer to see it in another five or ten years, but for now it's got that majestic Mourvedre character of tar, brooding dark fruit, and loam, with a texture approaching tree bark.

It was awesome with a cut of lamb. Just awesome.

BillsLenn Thompson: Sixpoint Craft Ales Sweet Action and Allagash Brewing Company White Ale

Over the weekend, we took our son into Manhattan for the first time. He had a great time, but after a long train ride followed by a people-filled walk to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree, mom and dad were hungry — and in need of a drink.

Just around the corner from the tree is Bill's Bar and Burger, which I learned about via former NYCR contributor Andy Freedman. Extremely kid friendly — both in menu and in ambiance — it was the perfect post-tree lunch spot with solid food, a Jackson-approved vanilla milkshake and a terrific beer list.

Anyone who knows my wife Nena knows that she's not a beer drinker. She has several renditions of "the beer face." But, I can usually get her to choke down a hefeweizen or other white ale on occasion.

This occasion, in Manhattan, having an amazing day with our little family, eating a truffled mushroom sandwich on a cold, windy day, she had not one, but two Allagash White Ales. Enjoying a day like that one with my wife and my son made the Sixpoint Sweet Action I was drinking all the sweeter. A sweet reminder that who with, what with and where we drink is often just as important as what we drink.