What to Drink with Dinner: Eclectic Wines for fall

Over the past few months I have had the pleasure to attend various wine events, visit different wine regions and sample some truly amazing bottles! Since I tasted so many great wines, I thought I would share my notes and let you in on my favorites. These wines offer up the perfect pairing for the cool nights and hearty foods of the fall season.

Typically like to start all events with a glass of bubbly, so I thought the Lanson Black Label Champagne would be fitting to begin with! This non-vintage wine was balanced with notes of floral, honey, citrus and plum. The light effervescence resembled tiny ballet dancers tip-toeing on my tongue in an orchestrated manner. It is a blend of 35% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier. It would pair great with a delicate quiche or a buttery Halibut. I was introduced to this Champagne at the 2009 New York Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting, where it stood out amongst the sea of beverages and definitely sparked (or should I say sparkled) my interest! And with renowned French chef Alain Ducasse backing them as their global ambassador, I think they are worth checking out!

If you haven’t tried Grüner Veltliner, I urge you to try this crisp white wine from Austria. It is a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, very food friendly and frankly is pretty fun to say! I recently tried the 2007 Loimer Grüner Veltliner Langelois Terrassen and was pleasantly surprised! It was a refreshing wine layered with notes of apricot, grass, vanilla, lemon, honey and damp stone with balanced acids. Since this wine has nice minerality and high acids, it works really well with green vegetables which are often hard to pair with. Try it with roasted Brussels Sprouts or Artichoke Gratin!

Pinot Noir has come a long way since the “Sideways” movement, but I often have a hard time finding a really great bottle. So when I stumbled upon the 2007 Antica Terra Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, I made a note to remember this delicious wine! It has aromas of cherry, chocolate, espresso, lavender, mint and leather. It is elegant and velvety with smooth tannins and great acidity! Winemaker Maggie Harrison has her work cut out for her as the vineyard is planted on a rugged parcel of land that is almost solid rock on a sloping hillside, a very unique property! But as they say in the movie Sideways, “Pinot Noir is a hard grape to grow; it’s thin-skinned, temperamental and ripens early. It needs constant care and attention, only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression,” so Maggie must know what she is doing, because this wine is at the top of my list! This wine would be great for a Thanksgiving turkey and all the accoutrements.

A few months ago I was lucky enough to spend some time in South America, from the mountains of Peru to the beaches of Uruguay to the wonderful wine country in Argentina. I absolutely fell in love with Mendoza and the beautiful wines they are producing down there. The indigenous grapes in Argentina are; Torrentes (White wine) and Malbec (Red wine) which are both interesting wines. After a week of touring around and trying several different Malbec’s, I was feeling pretty good about this wine. I had a hard time choosing my favorite, but I think it the 2006 Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Reserva was quite exquisite. It had a deep red color with shades of violet, and aromas of cherry, cinnamon, chocolate and anise with toasty notes from the French oak barrel. A perfect pair with a Grilled Ribeye Steak or Herb Roasted Rack of Lamb.

While I was strolling around at a wine event in NYC a few weeks ago, I came across an interesting wine that I have never heard of: Charbono. I was curious so I went in for a taste of the 2007 Summers Estate Napa Valley Charbono. It was great! It was a medium bodied wine that had earthy aromas with hints of blueberry and dried fruit. Owner Jim Summers explained that it is a rare varietal thought to have originated between the borders of Southeastern France and Northwestern Italy, brought over by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s. It was mistaken for Barbera (even bottled by Inglenook Winery and labeled Barbera) but after DNA testing by UC Davis, they proved it was the Charbono varietal. Today it’s only found growing in about 80 acres of California, half of that in Calistoga (North Napa County), where the grape thrives best. This wine would be great with Mushroom Ravioli or Duck confit!

During a visit with my friends from Wines from Spain, I was introduced to an interesting and special grape called Vidadillo do Almonacid, also known as Crepiello, from the Cariñena region of Spain. Bodegas y Viñedos Pablo winery took a chance on this nearly extinct grape and started producing a truly lovely unfiltered wine called Pulchrum, which ages for 16 months in French and American oak before bottling. This medium body wine has notes of red fruit, balsamic, violet, licorice, vanilla and mocha. The tannins are fine grained, yet persistent through the finish. A great pair for an aged Manchego cheese or a Pork Tenderloin.

The last wine I am going to share with you is from Paso Robles, close to where I went to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Russell From, also a Cal Poly Alum, started Herman Story Wines a few years ago and is making some kick-ass juice! The 2007 “Nuts & Bolts” Syrah is a full-bodied, deep, chewy wine with aromas of chocolate, blackberry, tobacco and floral notes. Would go great with a Juicy Blue Cheese and Bacon Burger or a messy Tri-Tip Sandwich.

I hope this comes in handy when pairing dishes this holiday season! Also, I just got word that I will be the new Manhattan Wine & Food Pairing Expert on, so please check me out when you get a chance:

From Grape to Glass, Happy Drinking!

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