As summer ends, I find my choices in wines starting to change. My palate is starting to look for more depth and body to go with the cooler temperatures and more substantial food of autumn.
Fortunately, there is a plethora of incredible wine available and most of it at sensible prices. The global recession has lowered wine prices to the best levels in many years, so take advantage of it.
2009 Chateau Graville Lacoste ($20) is a white wine from Bordeaux in France, a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The Sauvignon delivers gorgeous lemon-citrus character, and the Semillon adds body and length on the palate. This is wonderful to sip alone but really shines with fish dishes.
2008 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay ($20) comes from the central coast of California and is produced by talented winemaker Jim Clendenen. Beautiful tropical fruit dominates the nose, and pineapple and mango are on display, framed beautifully by subtle vanilla-oak notes, which add richness and depth to the wine. In previous vintages, this wine has often had too much new oak character. Not this year. It is perfect, pure pleasure to drink.
2007 Villa Wolf Pinot Gris ($14) This wine comes from the warm Pfalz region of Germany, and when I first tried it I was amazed. The wine is full-bodied and rich with lovely pineapple and melon character. Rich and dry, it has great length of flavor. Germany is not just about Riesling anymore.
2009 Chateau Trinquevedel Tavel Rose ($18). As the weather cools, many folks forget about Rose, but this can be a mistake. A robust wine such as this jewel from the Tavel region in France is perfect to pair with grilled chicken, rabbit or quail. The intense red fruit and firm structure hold up even when chilled. Surprise your friends and pour this with dinner.
2008 Villa San Juliette Petite Sirah ($15) is a wine that took me by surprise as I generally am not a fan of Petite Sirah. This wine has a deep, rich purple color and tons of wild blackberry and spicy plum fruit. Full-bodied and quite rich, it is very easy to drink as the tannins are incredibly soft and silky. Pair with grilled pork or even burgers.
2008 Domaine de Beaurenard, Rasteau ($18). Rasteau is one of the villages in the Cotes du Rhone area that is allowed to put the village name on the bottle, indicating a higher level of quality than regular Cotes du Rhone. Domaine de Beaurenard is a producer of high-quality Chateauneuf du Pape, but those wines are expensive. In Rasteau, you can taste their style and quality and have enough money left to pay for dinner. This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is like a baby CDP.
2006 Casa Contini Biferno ($14). From the Campania region of Italy, this wine is a blend of Montepulciano and the local Aglianico grape. Aglianico has a tendency to be very tannic, but this blend does away with that problem, leaving us with a robust but silky red wine that begs for grilled meats. Locally, they serve a lot of kid goat, which is the perfect match. Lamb or beef will work as well. If pasta is your style, try it with the fiery Puttanesca sauce they use in this region.
2006 Milbrandt Traditions Merlot ($15) After the movie "Sideways" made Pinot Noir famous, Merlot fell off the radar for a while, finally it is making a well-deserved return and wines like this are leading the way. From Washington State, this is a rich, smooth wine with luscious red and black fruit and hints of coffee and dark chocolate. Several years in the bottle have rounded out this wine, and it is beautiful at present and for the next two to four years.
2007 Mitolo "Jester" Shiraz ($20). Perhaps no country has fallen further from grace during the past several years than Australia. Five years ago, they were everyone's darling, and now no one loves them anymore.
Honestly, they brought it upon themselves by pushing the envelope too far in concentration and alcohol content. For several years, the wines were not fun to drink. Sometimes more is not better.
The smart producers, such as Mitolo, have learned their lesson and are coming back to the market with sleek, balanced wines such as this Shiraz. No more of the syrupy, cough medicine style we saw for a while. This wine begs for a second glass and will work with pretty much any food you throw at it.
So with those ideas I will sign off for now with encouragement for you to enjoy cooking great food and enjoying great wine in the months ahead. Cheers!
Story published Friday, September 3, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 5 )