Cooler-weather dishes demand some robust wines
The return of crisp October days brings rediscovered sensory pleasures aplenty.
Gorgeous displays of crimson, orange and yellow delight the eye at every turn. Outdoor fires waft pungent, smoky aromas in the cool air. Teeming outdoor markets abound with savory treats, such as heirloom garlic bulbs and mushrooms.
Heightened senses whet the thirst for enjoying robust wines — especially when paired with classic cool-weather dishes.
The PLCB's appealing selection includes the following well-priced wines:
2009 Les Vignerons de Tavel Les Hauts d'Acantalys Rouge, Lirac, France (Luxury 29544; $11.99): In southern France near Châteauneuf-du-Pape's famous vineyards, the Les Vignerons de Tavel includes 85 winegrowers who jointly own winery facilities, such as fermentation tanks and cellars, on a cooperative basis. Sharing the capital costs of production and marketing increase profits for the entire group, if all goes as planned.
Under the arrangement, growers sell their crop to the cooperative for a fixed price. The cooperative's winemaker then ferments the entire lot. The cooperative bottles and markets the wines and eventually distributes proceeds to the cooperative owners.
This well-managed and venerable group's Lirac o ffers a classic southern Rhône red with grenache noir (45 percent), syrah (40 percent) and mourvèdre (15 percent). The grapes grow in sun-drenched, stony vineyards on rolling limestone hills. The surrounding garrigue — wild shrubs of rosemary, lavender and thyme — provides bewitching aromas and delightful splashes of color.
The wine opens with spicy black cherry and herbal notes of rosemary and lavender. Ripe black- and red-fruit flavors mix with sweet, black-licorice notes. Fresh acidity and smooth tannins provide balance and structure. Pair it with duck cassoulet or pasta with a red meat sauce.Highly recommended.
2009 Domaine de Paillère et Pied-Gû, Gigondas, France (Luxury 39975; $26.99; available at Penn Circle South and Greensburg premium collection stores): Not far from Lirac in the little, ancient village of Gigondas, time has seemingly stood still since the Roman era. Even with the recent construction of a parking deck in the center of town to accommodate visitors, the town's steepy stone streets and stairways offer some of southern France's most strikingly beautiful and dramatic vistas.
Just outside of town, five generations of the Stehelin family have cultivated vines at the foot of Mt. Gû's jagged, limestone peak leading down to the Paillère chapel. The family's stony, terraced vineyards feature five distinct soil types and various exposures to the sun.
Rugged, old grenache vines yield grapes rife with red-fruit aromas and potent potential alcohol. Additional syrah and mourvèdre vines add complex smokiness and earthiness with enticing herbal nuances and elegant acidity. Hand-harvesting and uncomplicated winemaking allow the fruit to shine through.
The wine opens with spicy black-raspberry and floral aromas. Fresh red-fruit flavors balance with firm, but elegant tannins. Pair it with roast leg of lamb studded with garlic slivers and springs of fresh rosemary. Recommended.
Keeping in mind that not all terrific wines need be red, full-flavored whites with bold personality can also play well as autumn unfolds.
California winemaker Randall Grahm's tasty 2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard Roussanne Beeswax Vineyard Arroyo Seco, California (Luxury 32637; Chairman's Selection: $13.99) fits the bill perfectly.
Grahm has been one of California's steadfast proponents of using classic Rhône varieties such as roussanne. He consistently strives to craft wines of pleasure and proportion.
In this case, the grapes grow in Arroyo Seco, a windswept appellation near the Monterey Bay's frigid waters in northern California. The chilly evenings preserve the fruit's crisp acidity while brilliantly sunny days allow the grapes to ripen fully while developing tempting, mouthwatering flavors.
Roussanne grapes feature subtle, dusky pink-colored skins that carry over in the wine's hue for a suitable fall note. The wine opens with lovely honeysuckle and peach aromas. Deliciously ripe and round citrus, peach and pear flavors balance with intriguing quince notes.
A slightly creamy texture plays beautifully with bright acidity through the refreshing dry finish. Pair it with either pasta with a cream and shrimp sauce or with a green salad with walnuts, lentils, chopped ham and blue Auvergne cheese. Highly recommended.
Dave DeSimone is the wine writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.