When summer turns to fall, we change our wine selections along with our wardrobes. Hyper-seasonal hot-weather fare yields to heartier dishes laden with mushrooms, truffles, and root vegetables. We asked seven leading sommeliers and wine experts what they’re filling their glasses with to toast the change of seasons.
Beverage Director at L’Artusi, New York City
Emidio Pepe 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($125)
This wine is a family affair that has celebrated vintages dating back to 1964 under the thoughtful care of the estate’s namesake, Emidio Pepe. At 86, Emidio is healthy and capable, and though he turned the reins over to his daughter Sofia in 2001, he is still very much a guiding force of this historical, biodynamic-practicing winemaking family. This wine can absolutely cellar for decades, and will evolve gracefully. But if you decide to enjoy now, you’re already in for a delight of pristine ripe red cherries, fragrant rose petals, a slight pleasing sapidity, and perfect balance. It’s perfect for a candlelit dinner paired with venison on a snowy night.
E. Pira e Figli Chiara Boschis 2014 Barolo Mosconi ($95)
When you can’t quite shake the winter doldrums and you’ve resigned to just settle into it, don your finest cashmere turtleneck and curl up with this cozy blanket of a Barolo. Historically, the production of Barolo was unofficially a boys’ club—until Chiara Boschis convinced her family to purchase an additional vineyard, with which she came to truly hone her skill. With her acclaimed debut 1990 vintage, she became the first female winemaker in the Langhe. The Nebbiolo grapes for this particular 2014 Barolo are grown entirely in the Mosconi vineyard of Monforte d’Alba. Aromas of deep black cherries and tobacco entice so seductively right upon opening. This wine is soulful and a little bit brooding, with refined yet muscular tannins. It can easily stand up to hearty stews and pastas, but is equally enjoyable on its own.
Master Sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak at the Four Seasons, Las Vegas
Antão Vaz 2016 Malhadinha Nova Alentejano Portugal ($15)
I am of Portuguese heritage and, recently, I’ve been making an effort to know its wines. The native Portuguese grape Antão Vaz is dubbed the Chardonnay of Portugal. It’s a sturdy grape, like Chardonnay, which can be done in crisp light styles or heavier, full-body styles. Depending on where in Portugal it is grown, it can taste like a Chablis or a Chassagne. The wine I chose has Chablis tendencies. Wines from Antão Vaz grapes grown in the Alentejano are typically light, crisp, and fresh, with a touch of sea spray in the back palate. The Antão Vaz would pair beautifully with a Manhattan lobster clam chowder, enhancing the shellfish and bringing out the aromatics of the dish.
Luís Pato 2001 Quinta do Moinho Beiras Portugal ($45)
[Famed Portuguese winemaker] Luís Pato made this wine from the Baga grape, which was almost lost in Portugal. He dedicated himself to bringing it back to glory. Baga is similar to Nebbiolo, which is my favorite red grape. I was ecstatic the first time I had Baga. Like Nebbiolo, Baga is even better with at least 15 years of age on it. Braised short ribs with beets, sweet potato, and gremolata savory would be a perfect match for this wine.
Master Sommelier, San Francisco
Jean-Marc Burgaud 2016 Morgon Côte du Py Beaujolais Burgundy ($20)
The Gamay grape is all the rage in the sommelier community these days. The fairly priced, delicious wines coming from the Beaujolais region express versatility with bright fruit and acidity. The bounty of autumn includes bitter greens and root veggies, which can clash with many wines. This Morgon has lots of dark berry, kirsch fruits, and beautiful floral notes and spice, which subdues the earthy flavors of fall. The richness of duck confit with sautéed greens and braised beans or brussels sprouts sautéed with bacon provide contrast to the fruit and acidity in this delicious wine.
Pax 2016 Carignan Testa Vineyard Mendocino ($25)
A delicious domestic find to accompany hearty fall dishes, this Rhône traveler by winemaker Pax Mahle boldly is made from old-vine Carignan planted in a Mendocino vineyard in 1912. The savory, gamey red has lots of spice and berry-cherry fruits coupled with bright acidity. Because it is not too complex or tannic, this a perfect wine for root vegetables, roasts, stews, cassoulet, or short-rib pot pie. Dishes with earthy, rich flavors make this wine irresistibly gulpable.
Master Sommelier at Seven Lions and Terra and Vine, Chicago
Peay Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($45)
With the onset of cooler weather, our palates begin to move away from
the light and lean whites of the summer to fuller-bodied whites such
as Chardonnay, which is perfect for pairing with squash and pumpkin dishes such as butternut-squash ravioli or soup. This well-structured Chardonnay features vibrant fresh acidity and notes of toasted hazelnuts, buttered pears, and lemon curd. It’s the perfect white for the fall.
Vietti 2013 Barolo Castiglione Piedmont Italy ($30, half bottle)
The arrival of autumn marks the beginning of white-truffle season in
Piedmont, and there is no better pairing for this culinary delicacy
than the region’s equally prized Barolo wines made from the Nebbiolo
grape. At once powerful and elegant, with aromas of rose petals,
violets, tobacco, and mushrooms, enjoy it with white-truffle-scented
risotto and pasta.
Merry Edwards 2016 Pinot Noir Russian River Sonoma ($50)
As we begin to crave comfort fare such as braised dishes and stews,
we need a red wine with enough structure and bright acidity to cut
through the richness. Pinot Noir fits that bill. Merry Edwards is
one of the leading ladies of winemaking, known for her
brilliant and luscious Pinot Noirs chock-full of enticing aromas of
raspberries, spiced cherries, violets, and earth.
Sommelier at A16 and SPQR, San Francisco
Marisa Cuomo 2016 Fiorduva Furore Bianco Costa d’Amalfi Campania Italy ($70)
There are many reasons this is considered one of Italy’s premiere white wines year after year, but mainly it’s the perfect combination of native grapes like Fenile, Ripoli, and Ginestra with a southern exposure near the town of Furore, a stone’s throw from Ravello. The pergola system [a trellis-like vine-training system] helps protect the grapes from the wind and sun, allowing them to ripen and attain a rich texture. Yet minerality and acidity remains the backbone of the wine.
Stella di Campalto 2011 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Tuscany Italy ($130)
Certified biodynamic since 2005, and longer for organically farmed grapes, the 2011 Brunello Riserva stands out in its medium, with a balanced weight and finessed tannins that give way to an elegant, silky finish. It was aged for 44 months in upright casks in cold cellars three stories under the vineyards, and aged an additional 22 months in the bottle before being released earlier this year.
Master Sommelier at Corkbuzz Wine Studio, New York
Domaine Comte 2014 Abbatucci Faustine Vermentinu Ajaccio Corsica ($35)
I am obsessed with this white wine, and I think it is perfect for fall because it is a richer wine, but it isn’t aged in oak. The concentration, texture, and flavor all come from low yields and precision in the vineyards. It has a medium body with lemon curd and oyster shells with a creamy mouthfeel.
Kir-Yianni 2013 Ramnista Xinomavro Macedonia Greece ($25)
The Kir-Yianni winery, located in Northern Greece, grows the local Xinomavro grape. It always reminds me of both Barolo and great Zinfandel from California. It has a medium body with fresh acidity and firm tannins, and has flavors of raspberries, dried plums, dusty earth, rose petals, and dill, with a slightly jammy finish.