In compiling a list of recommended wines most writers balance ease of finding wines with simply good wines. In this list, I have done away with such even-handedness. I have compiled a list of excellent and affordable fall wines—ones that, sadly, you will probably never find.
What the heck is the point of making such a tantalizing but impossible list? Well, hopefully I am overstating the difficulty of finding the wines and you can actually find them. But even if you can’t, perhaps you will like the sound of some of the wines and ask for them by name—or a wine in a similar style—at your local store. Or you could always drop me a line if you have a question about similar wines.
For starters on the white side, it’s sauvignon blanc time. What?!, I hear you exclaim? Those are for the deck in the summer! Au contraire mon ami, the food friendliness of these wines make them great all year. In the fall, I especially like sauvignon blanc made with a bit more heft, which can come from some light oak aging or the terroir. A great food pairing for all is a potato-leek soup.
Grochau Cellars, GC, sauvignon blanc, Rogue Valley, Oregon, 2005. $19 find this wine
John Grochau is part of a new wave of American wine makers. He still works in the front of house at Portland’s Higgins restaurant but decided to make a wine. He sourced the first sauvignon fruit from some friends’ vineyard and made the wine at a winery where he also works in making wine. He gave this first SB vintage a little bit of malolactic fermentation and aged it on the lees in three year old barrels—all that giving it a fuller mouthfeel. Yet it has underlying notes of tropical fruits such as guava and melon that make it delicate and appealing. Sadly, limited availability means this is one to watch more than to drink. For more info: gcwines at msn dot com
Woodward Canyon, sauvignon blanc, Walla Walla, 2005. $20 find this wine
This wine sees no time in oak but still has an excellent weight and mouthfeel. I asked the winemaker, Rick Small, why that is and he said it had to do with the warm conditions of the vintage. The wine has a beautiful balance between fruit, acidity, and lushness.
Movia, sauvignon, Brda (Slovenia), 2004. $22. Find this wine
I wrote about this sauvignon blanc earlier but it has a vibrant (bio)dynamism that lives on in memory. I’d love to taste it alongside the others from Pac NW but this one has a hauntingly long finish. Read my other comments about this wine.
Il Corzanello, Paterno e Corzano, 2005. $14. find this wine
The blend of mostly trebbiano and chardonnay is unoaked so it has great purity of fruit. The wine has wonderful concentration, with notes of minerality and crisp acidity, with a rich midpalate and a long finish. Although only 800 cases are produced, some is exported to the US. Try it with hard cheese, such as pecorino.
Albert Mann, Gewurztraminer, Alsace, 2004 $17. find this wine
Gewuztraminer is hard to pronounce but a very rewarding food pairing with spicy foods or even an aperitif wine. This Albert Mann has fabulous tropical fruit aromatics but then a refreshing crispness on the palate followed by faint spice. If you are scrounging for a glass of wine to have with that turkey sandwich on the day after Thanksgiving, pour a glass of gewurz.
Joseph Drouhin, Morgon 2005. $12 Find this wine
When most people think of Beaujolais, they think of Georges Duboeuf. Well, say hello to Joe, Joseph Drouhin that is. This cru Beaujoais bears little resemblance to the nouveau stuff that is airdropped on the world on the third Thursday of November. Instead, it actually has depth. Bold berry notes are followed by a bolt of acidity followed by a pleasant finish with notes of white pepper. This Morgon will make a great pairing with the Thanksgiving meal using the acidity to zap the sweeter dishes and enough heft to enliven the more boring ones. CAUTION: I tried it with trout and it was a disastrous pairing—stick with cheese and turkey day fare. 13% alcohol. Importer Dreyfus-Ashby.
Abad Dom Bueno, Bierzo, 2003 $12. find this wine
Bierzo is an off the beaten path region growing an unheard of grape, mencia. Good luck finding this one! But if you do you will be amply rewarded with a great value. Inky purple in color, it has notes of virbrant red fruit on the palate overlaying a pleasant minerality, and long and well-integrated finish.
Tir Na Nog old vines, McLaren Vale, 2004. $20 find this wine
Grenache is an easy drinking red thanks to a light sweetness and a faint spice on the finish. I thought that this grenache from old vines with an unpronounceable Celtic name was a spoof since the first time I read about it was when fellow wine blogger Winesmith wrote that it was Stephen Colbert’s favorite wine. But lo and behold, I found it and tried it and it is great juice! Sanctus Stevenus is now a wine picking guru! With a crispness that is often lacking in Aussie reds, you’ll never know that this balanced wine with a long finish has 15.5 percent alcohol—at least for the first few sips. Importer: Australian Premium Wine Collection.
Bethel Heights, Casteel Reserve, 2004 $40. Find this wine
Pinot noir and fall go together well. In fact, so well that I am going to do a future post with more pinot picks. Sadly, you tend to have to pay up for pinot more than you with other grape varieties given its relative scarcity and fickle nature. Light in color in the glass, this wine has a beautiful delicacy of rose petals and a pleasant tannic spice on the long finish. It would go great with turkey but could even stand up to other fowl from the season. Made with sustainable vineyard practices.
Crasto Douro, 2004. $17. find this wine
If the Inuit people have dozens of words of for ice, because it is so important for them then Tempranillo must be important too since it has so many names. Known by that name in La Rioja, drifting to the Duero River it becomes known as Tinto del pais and then Tinto roriz once you cross into Portugal. Call it what you will, this luscious red from 50 percent tinto roriz is an absolute steal at $17. The wine sees no oak and possesses a rustic blend of dark fruits, brambles and leather and has juicy, soft tannins. If you are looking to move up the quality ladder of the new wave of dry table wines in the Douro, Crastao is making terrific wines all the way to their top wine—over $100 a bottle! Pairing: mmm, stew.
Whitman Cellars, Narcissa, Walla Walla 2003. $24 find this wine
Walla Walla, Washington may be remote, but the wine prices are running up fast. Fortunately that’s because the quality is on the rise too. This cab-merlot-franc blend has great character and is a reasonable value to taste the terroir de Walla Walla. Try to order it directly from the winery. www.whitmancellars.com
Malamado Mendoza, 2004 $10. find this wine
Jose Antonio Zuccardi loves to experiment. One of the few organic producers in Mendoza, he also makes way more than just malbec, Argentina’s signature red. To wit, this late harvest viognier that is both tasty and very affordable. I poured it after a recent dinner expecting the women to prefer it (as was the case when I was at the winery) but it was enjoyed by men and women alike. Notes of honey, tropical fruit, and white flowers make this an unusual treat. Sadly, I once found it at PJ’s Wine but it is no longer there. Let Zuccardi’s importer (Winesellers, Ltd) know you want it and maybe they’ll bring it back to the US.
“Mourvedre: the next big red?” [Dr. V]