Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wines to Celebrate Harvest

By Liza B. Zimmerman

September is a beautiful month in California, and generally all over the Northern Hemisphere, of the wine world. It is when the bulk of the wine producers are in harvest—give or take a couple of weeks—and truckloads of grapes are rolling into wineries and clogging local roads.

A handful of fantastic, Northern California wineries have local harvest lunches, focused on the last batches of tomatoes, fall squash and locally farmed meat. Two of my favorites include Jordan and Schlumberger, both of which are in Sonoma. If you wanted to recreate them at home, on your porch, couch or in the backyard here are a few ideas to help you celebrate the fall harvest season wherever you live.

Look for New Grapes
Every season brings a new blend and flavors to the bottle. That means that some of your classic Bordeaux or Rhône blend houses—such as Cotes du Rhône—might change up their style year to year. It might also be time to seek out new grape varietals from brands you already love. One of the most esoteric mixes is often the big House White from Bonny Doon on the Central Coast; the current vintage contains some Viognier, Marsanne and Malvasia Bianca.

Your explorations might take you into new territory: such as the classic white blends made in the far Southeastern area of Italy. Apulia, often called the heel of the boot, is home to some classic, and seafood-friendly wines that often include local grapes such as Greco and Malvasia. The beauty of many of these wines is that they are also incredibly food synergized, because they tend to have low alcohol levels and good acidity.

Let Spice Enliven the Fall Season
Tempranillo, which originally hails from Spain and Portugal, has long been a sexy grape with a spicy aftertaste. The grape is as fun to say, as it is to drink, and makes rosés as appealing as reds: particularly from regions such as La Mancha and Navarra. The grape is also the core of classic winemaking in the Rioja region.

Malbec is another dynamic grape, which brings pepper and fun to the table, wether it comes from the Old or New World. Southwestern French Cahors are divine in cooler weather and with big meats, such as Duck Confit. In addition to that, well-balanced Argentine Malbecs are delicious in any season and even slightly chilled as the evening gets cooler. Rutini’s Trumpeter is lovely, as is Bodegas Renacer’s “Punto Final.” Also don’t over look the Beaujolais Crus, as the Southern region of Burgundy presents great value and often very consistent product. Côte du Brouilly is a particularly good micro-region with lots of great choices.

Cleanse Your Palate for the Season Ahead
The gentle fall weather, if you live back East, or the summertime heat in the Bay Area is a great time to enjoy some of the last bright and acidic wines of the season. Sparkling wines from California, the Loire Valley and the rest of the world are great this time of year. So are Sauvignon Blancs from dozens of countries.

Some of the best and least-well known Sauvignon Blancs come from South Africa. Chile remains remarkable for its affordability with brands like Casa Lapostolle, which really reflect the bright acidity of the land where they are made. Errazuriz is also a great Chilean producer.

Don’t hesitate to sample sauvignon Blancs and other refreshing whites throughout the fall, as we are all likely to be headed back to bigger reds and festive sparkling wines in the winter.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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