Fall arrived in Sonoma County on Monday, or at least it felt like it, finally. It was something in the air, that hard-to-define mix of fleeting sunlight, long shadows and leaves in the breeze. Autumn comes late in Northern California and lingers only until the first serious storm blows in from the Pacific.
For now, we enjoy it. Fall is sweater weather back in the Midwest, but nights here are chilly even in the summer, so we never put away our sweaters.
Grapevines are starting to shut down as winter approaches, and the leaves started changing color weeks ago. There's not much happening in the vineyards now but the wineries remain busy, with fermentations to complete and oak barrels that need tending. It won't be long before we see more 2012 wines on the shelves and even a few 2013s after the holidays. Both vintages show great promise.
My wine drinking is transitioning too. When I cook at home in the summer I grill out most nights, so I tend to drink Cabernet or Merlot when the menu is beef or pork and Sauvignon Blanc, Italian and Spanish whites for the rest.
This time of year, I take up slow cooking: soups and stews, coq au vin or lamb shanks and various roasted and braised beasts.
I drink different wines with those fall and winter foods. The flavors are generally richer, deeper and more multifaceted, so I look for a wine that's similar. A zesty red Rhône blend is often perfect, likewise Syrah and Zinfandel, plus red blends from Italy and Spain.
Below are the sorts of wines I'm looking for. Wine Spectator subscribers can click on the links for full reviews.
Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel 2010 (89 points, $55)
Le Macchiole Bolgheri 2011 (93, $30)
Louis Bernard Crozes-Hermitage 2010 (90, $22)
The Prisoner Napa Valley 2011 (92, $38)
That's just a handful of what's out there. What are some of your go-to wines this time of year?