By Rick Riozza

Just as most desert dwellers predict, come the first week in October, the luxury of resort weather opulence opens our senses to a new season of living well.

Cheers to that comment!—and away we go into our fanciful world of wine exploration and enjoyment.

Already the extreme wine enthusiasts among us are calendaring when and where their quaffing experience will either focus on their favorite wine or varietal of all time. Or, on the other hand, venturing out to try a new, different wine—or perhaps a wine they’ve not enjoyed in a long long time, like a friend you’ve been out of touch with.


Well—you can see where I’m going with this, so please allow me to refresh and remind ourselves of a couple of famed international wines that are a perfect match for our Autumn’s season of arts, food, and romance.

It’s so pleasant to say the wine “Vouvray” [voo-VRAY] that it puts one into a mood immediately to savor the moment.  It is the white wine from France’s Loire Valley that showcases the Chenin Blanc grape to be extraordinary as dry & crisp or a lightly sweet wine, a vivacious sparkler, and a world class dessert wine.

The fact that it is rarely thought of and so underappreciated adds to its sexiness; and should you be serving this wine for brunch, lunch or for appetizers, places you as the most enviable “cool wine” person on your block.

Readers of this column will remember our little jaunt to the Loire, where we took a break from the Roland Garros French Open Tennis Championships to taste the Chenin Blanc varieties in the valley’s area of Vouvray, Savennières, Anjou, Touraine, and Saumur.  There’s nothing like taking a French class in liquid—ooh  là là! Magnifique!

The reason this white wine is sought after by those “in the know” is its natural occurring acidity.  No one tires of the wine because while it frolics with flavors that include flowers, apples, apricots, pears, honey, lemons, peaches, tropical fruits quince and minerals, it is so well balanced with refreshing acidity, you are drawn back for yet another sip.  Whether your Chenin Blanc bottle is bone dry or sweetly succulent, the balanced rousing acidity expresses itself with especial qualities.

Almost every person who claims to dislike “sweet wines” is more than pleasantly shocked by the wine’s tasty and balanced refreshing profile.  And due to its vibrant acidity, this wine pairs with a panoply of dishes: cheeses, chicken, fish, fried foods, lobster, shellfish, pork, veal, and salmon.

Classic Vouvray recommendations include: Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec 2013 at around $28, and the Champalou Vouvray 2012 at $22.  The world class Coteaux du Layon dessert wine for your holiday meals sells around $20 and up.

As for the “unaccustomed” red wine recommendation, my vote is for Barolo [bahr-OHL-oh].  I know we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Tuscan Sangiovese grape in Chianti, and Montalcino, Montipulciano, and the like, and the new found American interest in these wines, but deep in my heart is the love for Barolo—the “King” of Italian wines.

This wine is produced in the Piemonte region in northern Italy.  It is the area that surrounds the city of Torino, that was the home for the 2006 Winter Olympics.  During a family sojourn there, one was either at the games or sucking up deep purple wine at the enoteche tasting rooms around the local vineyards.

Most California wine drinkers think that Barolo is a “big wine” like a Cal Cab.  Sure, Barolo is an intense one, but it is never big.  At a fancy dinner where both Cabernet and Barolo is served, enjoy the Italian first.

The grape for this wine is the Nebbiolo. The Classic flavor profile that Barolo is known for is aromatic and “bitter”—in a good way. The wine carries notes of blackberries, cherries, chocolate, leather, licorice, plums, raspberries, roses, smoke, tobacco and violets.

Anyone who loves Burgundy and/or its California counterpart, Pinot Noir, should love the Piemonte wine.  They are similar and aromatic with Barolo leading the flavor profile with truffles, tar and pencil lead.  When they age, they exhibit like texture and elegance that match and pair with a great array of meals.

Although many Italians don’t like the idea that there is an “old-style” and a “modern” version of the wine, for certain, Barolo for the past 30 years is probably a better product than what was produced many years ago.  And perhaps for those vino lovers back in the day who tried Barolo—they were a bit disappointed with less than stellar producers whose wine showed possible oxidation, volatile acidity, and wayward barnyard smells.  The good stuff however has always been great, and these days, most Barolo is fantastic.

As mentioned, it’s not a particularly heavy wine, but is medium-bodied to full so it doesn’t take you down at dinner time.  Delicious choices of dishes with this wine for the fall season include: beef, cheese, game, lamb, mushrooms, quail, and white truffles.

There are many great and famous Barolo wine producers.  One can never go wrong with wines from Giacomo Conterno, Giuseppe Mascarello, Paolo Scavino, and Bruno Giacosa who sell their wine for around $60 or more.  For wonderful wine at a lower price, look for Vietti and Damilano.

Here’s to the season—Cheers!

Rick is your “somm-about-town” eating and drinking at local venues.  A freelance writer and contributor to Tasting Panel Magazine and a wine reviewer for, he’s also the Brand Ambassador for the historic Galleano Winery. Rick entertains and conducts locally at wine tastings, food & wine events, and fun wine seminars. Contact