Warm Weather Wines
Last week, I opened a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to drink with grilled chicken. I never thought it was possible but I was too hot to drink a glass of wine. I know. Me! I knew something was terribly wrong. The brutal southern California heat wave was definitely getting the best of me.
So after recovering from my shock, I decided I would chill this white wine to a temperature of about 45°. I tried another sip after it was chilled and did manage to finish the glass. But this got me thinking.
Checking the calendar, I saw that fall was arriving and hoped it would bring fall-like temperatures. The warm weather may return given the shift in climate change, but I envision weather, during the next few months that will have me reaching for more red wines.
Over the past week, I have been on a mission to uncover red wines light enough to enjoy in the early evening as the day’s heat dissipates. But I also want something elegant that can be enjoyed with a great dinner. And Cabernet Sauvignon was not an option for two reasons. First, it’s an obvious choice and kind of a cop out. Second, it’s still too freaking hot to drink Cab! These three wines for fall were my top choices of the bottles I sampled. And yes, it was arduous!
As you probably know, Santa Barbara County vintners make some outstanding wines. Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards is one of a stars of this region. Their Unbridled Pinot Noir has grapes that were grown in the northernmost part of the appellation, Santa Maria Valley. This part of the Central Coast has a cool climate that sweeps in from an unusual east-west running traverse that brings in ocean breezes. These winds are followed by afternoon coastal fog that lingers throughout the night. This distinctive characteristic helps make for a long growing season, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly, in addition to increasing the hang time on the vine.
This 2012 drinks nicely. The tannins have softened already and the fruit isn’t too jammy given the high 14.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). There were slight floral notes on the nose, as well as black cherry. I tasted ripe cherry and baked plum tart. This wine is worthy as a dinner companion.
Two Oceans Converge
The quality of South African wines has improved dramatically. The Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir is an excellent example of the pride and investment that is leading the charge for quality wines throughout the country. Their 2012 Pinot Noir is produced in the Hermel-en-Aarde area, which is part of the Hermanus wine route. Click to see the map of the Hermanus Wine Route Along the southern tip of Africa, the cold Atlantic Ocean waters converge with the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The ocean breezes help to create a perfect environment for growing Pinot Noir, as well as Chardonnay.
The garnet color along with the raspberry and red cherry aromas signal classic Pinot Noir. This bottle is an excellent choice to bring to a dinner party, especially if the hosts are red wine snobs. The reason? It is no typical New World Pinot Noir.
Upon tasting, I got a wonderful earthiness typically found in an aged, red Burgundian. I also tasted dark cherry and raspberry, the usual New World flavors; but there was also cranberry and a hint of spice. Given its youth, this Pinot had unexpected mellowed tannins. It is an age worthy wine with an elegant structure, retailing for $38. (The price at Vintage Wines in San Diego.)
I was surprised to see the alcohol by volume (ABV) was a whopping 14% given its production area, along the cool-climate Walker Bay region. However, the wine did not present any pronounced alcohol heat.
Who Wants Italian?
When you think about wines for fall you have to give a nod to Italian wines, as the two go hand-in-hand. I am not a huge Italian wine fan but I enjoyed the 2011 Valpolicella Ripasso Monte Vozo. Located in the Veneto wine region, a ripasso wine is a blend of indigenous grapes Corvina (70%), Rondinella (20%) and Molinara (10%).
The ripasso wine-making process reuses the partially dried grape skins and sediment of Amarone wine. It then undergoes a secondary fermentation that brings in more flavor, body and structure.
The reason I don’t care for a lot of Italian wines is I find many of them to be ordinary, especially in the lower-end price point. These inexpensive wines usually lack structure and taste like watered down grape juice. (Of course, I’m not referring to the outstanding Barolo, Montepulciano or Sangiovese wines.) I firmly believe time in the bottle has helped this wine to develop more concentration in flavor. A bit of age has improved its fruit flavor by adding a bit of depth.
You should treat this wine as you would a rosé, meaning serve it chilled. Doing so will help bring out more of the almond and dried cherry fruit flavors.
This is a backyard wine to serve as an icebreaker when entertaining friends in the afternoon. It coss around $19. I drank it with various hard and soft cheeses, salamis, dried fruit, and nuts.