Autumn is coming again, even if it still feels like the heat will never subside here in the Bay Area! With the endless Back to School and Labor Day sales, we're all getting ready for the leaves to change, the wind to pick up, and the cold-weather clothes to come out of storage.
As I look forward to the brisk days of fall (even as I get sunburnt while wearing shorts and tank tops to walk the dog), my taste in wine shifts away from the crisp white and rose that kept me refreshed through the dry summer days and I get excited to break out those full and complex reds that pair perfectly with fall breezes and autumn dinner parties.
For early fall pairing, you have several routes to take. Football season and weekend cookouts need the bold fruit and spice of Livermore, Lodi, and Paso Robles Zin, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. Red blends are always welcome, too! They don't have to be anything fancy, since you don't generally keep crystal stemware next to your outdoor grill. Just get something that has a big enough body and tannic grip to stand up to the smoky flavors of the burgers, sausages, and ribs with which the wines are served. Daytime wines are all about power.
For the cooler evenings, focus on grapes that show more finesse.
- Salmon and chicken dishes beg for Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast (or Monterey, if you want to go bold).
- When you turn to comfort food, full of carbs and cream, you're going to want the high acidity of that Pinot--though if you have tomato-based sauces, Sangiovese (the main grape in Chianti) can't be beat. Italian and Spanish wines are absolutely killer for their price point, and pair perfectly with late summer vegetables and heartier dishes.
- Garnacha (also known as Grenache) is a personal favorite of mine, and if you can get one from the Priorato region of Spain, it will quickly become one of your favorite go-to wines, too! This wine is versatile enough to go with meat-laden pizza, steaks, and especially lamb. It has a gorgeous bright acidity and tart cherry flavor that is countered by a distinct earthiness to lend depth, but the lower tannin keeps this wine from overpowering the dishes it's paired with. If you haven't hopped on this bandwagon yet, just go to your nearest grocery or wine shop and pick up a bottle of the Las Rocas Garnacha (it's under $15) and you'll see how fantastic this grape is.
Now is the perfect time to start breaking out those bottles that were simply too heavy for the July heat. Stock up on the wines that will take you into the cooler months feeling warm and satisfied, and not only will you be prepared for fall; you'll be excited for it!