The evocative aromas of autumn are part of what makes the season so special. Think of fallen leaves, a fireplace, peppery spice, baking spice, caramel and cranberries. Such sensory delights are wonderful on their own, and even better with the right “fall-flavored” wine!
The Northern Rhone region of France is the epicenter of world class Syrah, with a great variety of styles represented, depending on vineyard location and producer. The spiciest examples come from Saint Joseph, a long, narrow region that runs along the west side of the Rhone. Saint Joseph Syrahs show off black pepper and olive flavors, making them perfect matches for fall fare.
Spanish Grenache – Garnacha en Español – packs a punch that gives many Priorat wines their somewhat spicy character. Insanely low-yielding old vines, grown on steep slate slopes, produce wines of tremendous concentration. Though often blended with Syrah, Cabernet or Merlot, you'll instantly recognize the cinnamon, licorice and cherry smells and flavors that are Grenache hallmarks.
“America’s grape” is also its spiciest! Benchmark examples of this crowd-pleasing red hail from the Dry Creek and Russian River AVAs in Sonoma County. Styles can range from lighter-bodied and fruity to full-bodied and rich, with jammy spice jumping from the glass. Great Zin pairings include favorites like saucy barbecue or spicy curry.
Red Burgundy, which is 100% Pinot Noir, is known for red fruit notes like strawberry, cherry and pomegranate. But these renowned wines also offer flavors that are deeper, earthier and quite site-specific. These nuances may be described as fallen leaves, forest floor, fresh earth, mushroom and truffle. Burgundies can be quite a departure from the bold fruit of California Pinot, but their thought-provoking complexity can lure you in like few other wines will.
This varietal is famous for offering apple aromas and flavors, in particular a Macintosh apple dipped in honey, which makes it a great match for fall! Apples, after all, are autumn essentials, whether enjoyed fresh and crisp on their own, baked in a pie, or used to enhance dishes like pork loin or sausage stuffing. Chenin Blanc is equally versatile, ranging from dry to lusciously sweet, and from still to sparkling.
Chardonnay is also a versatile grape that can be still or sparkling, unoaked or oaked, rich and full or lean and crisp. To match with the essence of autumn, however, our focus will be on oaked versions from Sonoma. When these Chards spend time in oak, particularly French oak, they pick up delightful baking spice nuances that especially resonate in the fall.
This type of Port sees slow, oxidative aging in barrel – sometimes for decades. As a result these fortified sweeties develop fascinating characteristics including dried fruits, nuts, brown sugar and caramel. In other words, they are perfect for autumn and the holidays!
As mentioned above when we discussed Burgundy, Pinot Noir carries plenty of red fruits like cherry, strawberry and raspberry. When it’s grown in the Central Coast, the combination of warm sunlight and cooling breezes often lends a zesty cranberry note. That, together with the medium body and crisp acidity of these wines, makes Central Coast Pinot a sure winner with fall foods, and especially on the Thanksgiving table.
Syrah has lots of personality no matter where it’s grown, and Northern Rhone versions are especially bold. These are packed with aromas and flavors of blue and black fruits, violets, white pepper and a savory, meaty aspect that sometimes evokes bacon fat. They also boast an intriguing smoky quality that gives extra appeal to enjoying a glass by the fireplace.