Fall is here. And beyond the obvious weather changes: frost alerts, foliage color and the end to most farmers’ markets, there are other exciting changes in the lives of wine enthusiasts: Fall marks the start of the red wine drinking season!
Sure we drink red wine in the Summer, but enthusiasm for the darker reds is tempered by the weather, and the kind of red wine experiences that appear easily from a slight chill in the air can at best be forced in the heat of outdoor dining.
But as the leaves start falling and people begin to spend more time indoors, out comes the Le Creuset for stews, Emile Henry for roasts, the cast iron skillets for, well, that restaurant style pan seared rib eye. We all know that wine is made for food – and Fall food is made for red wine.
So, here, in an inaugural ditty on wine in CT Bites, we wanted to share with you not only our unfettered enthusiasm (break out the mandolines – we’re talking the kitchen variety not featured instrument in Rod Stewart’s Maggie) for the high season of food and wine with some recommendations about what to try and buy across the next few months leading up to Winter. (See our local resource guide with recommendations below.)
People always ask me: ‘How do you know so much about wine?’ The answer, of course, is I have drunk a lot of it. (What else are you supposed to say?) But I have also tried a lot of different wines – experimenting, I suppose. As a result – I have been able to pair food and wine across a much wider swath had I not ventured beyond the known and familiar.
For example, the above aforementioned cowboy-style, bone-in rib eye would be equally memorable with a Chateauneuf de Papes, a blend of four grapes from Priorat Spain, a petite sirah from California’s Central Coast or a super Tuscan from central Italy. The point is: you may like and even love the usual array of cabernets and merlots – as they are as good as any meat eating reds – but there are only so many Saturday night dinner parties you go to – and a lot more styles of wine to try.
Below are our suggestions – wines from around the world – that are perfect to try with the foods of Fall. We are including wines locally available here in Connecticut, with a nod to specific wine shops we frequent (where we know they stock them). We have also included tasting notes from those shops.
Let us know how you like these selections, and if you have questions feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2094 Post Rd Fairfield (203) 259-4692
Girard Petite Sirah 2006 $29.99
Hard-core Petite Sirah fans will find plenty of excitement in Girard’s 2006 Petite Sirah. This fairly-priced offering is a 5,400-case blend of 87% Petite Sirah and 13% mixed black varietals. Although surprisingly approachable and soft by Petite Sirah standards, it packs a powerful punch. A dense ruby/purple color is accompanied by massive flavors of blue and black fruits, incense, spring flowers, and truffle-like, earthy undertones. Full-bodied and rich with sweet tannin, it can be drunk now, but should easily last for 15-20 years.
Querceto Super Tuscan 2004 $19.99
This estate bottled wine shows a great deal of classic Sangiovese characteristics. The aromas are of dried cherry fruit and clean garden earth with a touch of vanilla and smoke from aging 6 months in French oak barriques. In the mouth it has lively acidity and substantial tannins that balance the dark fruit and spicy flavors.
Catena Malbec 2007 $19.99
The purple-colored 2007 Catena Malbec spent 12 months in 35% new French and American oak. The nose reveals balsam wood, vanilla, mocha, cassis, and black cherry. Plush on the palate, this medium-bodied Malbec has layered, spicy flavors, with a touch of tobacco and leather making an appearance. Balanced and lengthy, it will evolve for 2-3 years and offer prime drinking from 2011 to 2019.
1053 Boston Post Road, Darien (203) 656-9463
Churchill’s Estate Douro 2007 $19
Founded in 1981 by John Graham and his wife Caroline Churchill, Churchill’s is an independent, family-owned Port Wine House - the first independent port wine house established in more than fifty years. Churchill’s is the only port wine producer who begins with wines produced only from grapes grown in Grade A vineyards. And according to Robert Parker, “Churchill's has established an impeccable reputation for superb quality.” So is this port you’re drinking? No, it’s not. Port goes through a fortification process that this wine does not. However, this wine is produced using the traditional grapes that port is produced with, Touirga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. Think of it as the Cabernet of Portugal. On the nose, there are complex fresh fruit and floral aromas with discreet spice and pepper wood notes. On the palate, good acidity, with rich spicy, red fruit flavors have a balanced character, with soft tannins that help an elegant and long finish. Match with roasts, red meat, pasta in meat sauce, hard cheeses, and grilled beef. Drink now through 2015. Note that this wine has made it a habit of landing on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list. Best to try the wine now and stock up!
720 Branchville Rd, Ridgefield (877)-615-Wine
Vinos Sin Ley 'M-5' Monastrell $13.99
91 Points - Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
"The 2007 M5 is sourced from Yecla. Dark ruby-colored, the nose contains enticing, slightly roasted notes of mineral, pencil lead, and an amalgam of black fruits. On the palate, this meaty effort has excellent density, layered flavors, and a remarkably long finish for a wine of its humble price."~(WA)
"We love the concept (not to mention the taste) of these wines. Taking great wine makers and letting them create the wines that they truly are inspired to make. It is an awesome example of the concept of "Freedom of Expression""~Ancona's Wines
Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Malbec Reserva $19.99
92 Points - Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
"The 2006 Punto Final Reserva contains 99% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc aged for 10 months in French oak. It, too, was sourced from vineyards over 50 years of age but with lower yields. Opaque purple-colored, it offers up a fragrant bouquet of cedar, scorched earth, lavender, and black cherry. Layered, dense, and concentrated, it has tons of savory black fruit, spice notes, and excellent balance. This lengthy effort can be enjoyed now but will evolve in the bottle for 2-3 years."~(WA)
1439 Post Rd E, Westport (203) 259-5948
Carchelo C 2008 $12.99
This wine is a blend of 40%Monastrell, 40%Tempranillo,and 20%Cabernet. It is dark ruby in color with deep aromas of blackberry,cherry, and plum. This is a rich wine that is ready to drink with no rough edges or tannins.
Pascal Granger Julienas Cuvee Speciale 2006 $22.99
This cru Beaujolais shows bright fruit on the nose and big sweet rich fruit on the palate, with ample flesh and a long finish.
Chateau Massiac Minervois 2007 $15.99
Château Massiac's red wine is a blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Carignan. The vines are grown in rocky clay-limestone soil, a geologic composition common to the estate. It is dark in color and rich when young, with dominant flavors of blackcurrant. These primary fruit aromas give way to herb/garrigue characteristics as the wine ages.