By Rick Riozza
Since time is flying by at record speeds, we decided to jump right into the fall line-up of new wines for the season. As autumn’s crisp embrace envelops us (let’s hope we get some of that here in the desert), let’s delve into a sample of wines that beautifully capture the essence of fall.
And I’m not the only one who feels an innate feeling of melancholy in the air as the circle of life continues within us and without us. Perhaps that nice glass of wine will assuage us to accept and to console our souls. (Well—I don’t about all that, but a nice glass of wine does sound good.)
Probably the most popular red wine for the fall season is the Pinot Noir. The classic flavor profile of this wine, on a good day, include black and red cherries, (dark) chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, coffee, cola, cranberries, earth, flowers, herbs, leather, mushrooms, plums, raspberries, smoke, spices, strawberries, tobacco, truffles, and violets. One can see why this is the ultimate red for the holidays.
Some folks don’t really like the wine—they find the wines too perfumey; they would prefer a solid Cabernet Sauvignon. For these particular enthusiasts, a full-bodied Pinot Noir from Santa Barbera wine country quite often gets their approval.
Pinot Noir is the red wine from Burgundy France and they are legendary in the wine world. So many experienced wine lovers will confidently declare that no other red wine in the world can beat the complexity, fullness, and style of a great Pinot Noir from the Cote de Nuits—known as part of the “golden slope” in La Bourgogne.
For Pacific Coast Pinot Noir, California produces, as mentioned above, heavy duty hitters from Santa Barbara, beautiful, tasty fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands up near Monterey, and very fine, complex, and exquisite wine from the Russian River and Anderson valleys up north in Sonoma and Mendocino. Oregon Pinots from the Willamette Valley have a “Burgundy feel” but with rounder New World fruit.
A very good buy at around $21, is the Juggernaut Pinor Noir from the Russian River Valley. Both graceful and vigorous, this wine opens with a perfume of white flowers followed by persistent flavors of red cherry and berries. With its silky texture and medium body, this wine offers aromas and flavors of dried earthy notes and black raspberries with a touch of sandalwood and red berries, making it an excellent companion for lighter fall fare such as roasted poultry and mushroom-based dishes.
By the way, the 4th Annual Palm Springs Pinot Noir Festival, “A Passion 4 Pinot” is the premier event on the international wine calendar. It will occur next February 2024—and it sells out fast! This column has continually covered this fantastic wine event, as it is one of the best Pinot tastings in all of Southern California. Hosted in one of the world’s most dramatic and awe-inspiring Hotels, this is a unique opportunity to engage with 75 of the top winery owners and winemakers. Google it and get tickets soon!
Another red wine that evokes the feeling of autumn is the Italian Barbera. For those who’ve not yet tasted this light to medium-bodied wine—well, you’re in for a romantic fling—Italian style.
Barbera hails from the sun-drenched hills of Piedmont Italy, just a little south-east from Torino. Yes—you do recognize that region for the great Barolos and Barberescos. But for the lighter feel, Barbera is wonderful. It’s a great pizza wine, for starters!
The texture can be lush, rich, silky, smooth, and velvety—yet it’s still a light to medium bodied wine. It’s flavor profile, on a buon giornata, includes, black currants/cassis, black pepper, cinnamon, dark chocolate, earth, flowers, herbs, meat, plums, minerals, mushrooms, raisins, smoke, spices, toast, vanilla.
We love having Barbera with appetizers, beef, chicken, game birds, hamburgers, pasta, risotto, seafood and tomato sauce dinner recipes.
G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba Superiore, ($40) is a wine that will take your taste buds on a journey through the rolling hills of piemonte. From the moment you uncork the bottle, you’ll be greeted with the bold and intense aroma of dark fruits, earthy spices, and a hint of oak.
With each sip, your palate will be enveloped in a rich and velvety texture, bursting with flavors of black cherry, blackberry, and licorice. I know it’s a wine that we’re not buying every other day at that price; but should you wish to treat yourself & friends to some culinary memories—this wine is so good. You can always find more reasonably priced delicious Barbera at your wine shop.
For a California Barbera try the Oak Farm Barbera, ($28) This Barbera is a garnet red color with inviting aromas of cherry, hibiscus tea, pomegranate, and mixed spices. This winery produces some really tasty stuff from the Lodi region.
Finally, a wine that I had no intention of writing on for this article, (but I just found it a winner!) is the OZV Old Vine Zinfandel ($9). Hailing from California’s historic Zinfandel vines, this wine pays homage to the past while captivating the present. Brimming with blackberry jam, dark chocolate, and a dash of pepper, the OZV Zinfandel is a robust and flavorful companion. Its velvety mouthfeel and lingering finish are sure to warm your senses on crisp fall evenings, making it an ideal partner for hearty stews and roasted meats. At that price, who can resist.
As usual, we like to consider the symphony of flavors, aromas, and textures of these fall red wines for 2023 as they offer a diverse range of experiences that celebrate the essence of autumn. We may follow this theme for our next column. Who doesn’t like to fall in love!? Cheers!