The onset of Autumn inspires paradoxical feelings of regret for the end of summer juxtaposed against joyous anticipation of holidays, beautiful displays of colorful foliage, and the celebration of the harvest. The onset of fall provides the perfect opportunity for exploration of new wines. Here are a few of my favorite wines to enjoy on brisk fall evenings.
Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
Sheltered from harsh Pacific winds by high elevation and rocky ridges, the vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands are among the most prestigious in California’s Monterey County. Chardonnay from this appellation exhibits flavors of ripe yellow apples, meyer lemons, and white flowers that mesh beautifully with roasted butternut squash on brisk fall evenings.
The autumn season wouldn’t be complete without pumpkin pie, which can be further enhanced by a glass of dessert wine. Sauternes, from the Bordeaux region in France, is made from a blend of white grapes affected by a special fungus called “botrytis,” or “noble rot,” which removes moisture from the fruit, concentrating the sugar and adding new flavors. Some Sauternes producers maintain a place among the world’s most prestigious and expensive wines, but bargains can be found that will enhance your fall celebrations and renew your love of homemade pumpkin pie.
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
The sizable Sonoma Coast area in California benefits from the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean and produces vibrant Pinot Noir with notes of blackberry, pepper, and cherry cola. Try pairing one of these fruity, complex Pinots with grilled turkey and roasted apples for an impressive autumn feast that will impress your dinner guests and illuminate your fall nights.
Gran Selezione Chianti
The Chianti region in Tuscany produces Sangiovese-dominant red blends with bright red fruit flavors and a distinctive earthiness. In recent years, a new designation has emerged for the best Chianti called Gran Selezione (“gran sel-et-zee-OH-nay”). These wines are only now beginning to find the recognition they deserve, so prices remain relatively low. Keep an eye out, and you might find a great deal that will pair beautifully alongside beef pot roast with root vegetables.
The southern Rhône Valley in France is home to a wide variety of red wine blends – many of which are based on the Grenache grape. Gigondas is a sub-region recognized for wines of high quality and unique characteristics, including fullness of body, excellent balance, and earthy richness. Pair a bottle of Gigondas with hearty stew made from root vegetables and squash.
The Navarra region in Spain lies just to the east of Rioja and produces wines of similar quality and style. The dominant grape in the area – as in much of Spain – is Tempranillo producing medium-bodied wines with intense flavors and great potential with food. Navarra’s relative lack of prestige in comparison with Rioja means that great deals can be found that will pair well with dishes like lamb with sauteed mushrooms.
The changing of the season brings with it a reminder to enjoy the variety of life and its pleasures. Use this autumn to seek out new wines and foods that will enhance your enjoyment of the season for years to come.