The rain this week and slightly cooler temps makes it feel like fall is finally here. With that I often turn towards drinking bolder, more robust wines, reds in particular. Here are a few reds perfect for pairing with Autumn soups and stews, or sipping with your favorite grilled steaks or roasted lamb chops. A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.
I am a big fan of Lasseter Wines, created by Pixar founder John Lasseter and his wife Nancy, who founded their eco-friendly, sustainably farmed Sonoma Valley winery in 2002. They just released their 2010 Amoureux Bordeaux style blend, this year made up predominantly by Malbec, not common for California Bordeaux style blends, but the Lasseters love the variety and find it is perfect in this blend enhanced by leather and spice filled Cabernet Sauvignon, lush Merlot and floral Cabernet Franc. Aged 18 months in oak the wine is filled with ripe blue and black fruit – blueberry/blackberry/black cherry, sweet baking spice, toasted oak and dark chocolate. The small production wine (about 200 cases) retails for around $54 available via their website.
Of the thousands of red varieties for wine one of the best for warming up a cool night is a muscular, well-structured, tannic Petite Sirah, and Stag’s Leap Winery produces one of the best from old vines on their Stag’s Leap AVA estate. Big, full-bodied and powerful blending spiced plum notes with fresh herbs, white pepper and oak. A wine that balances acidity and tannin, with a touch of astringency when it is young from the firm tannins, this is a wine that ages beautifully softening the tannins with a bit of time to reveal a lush, velvety wine that maintains its acidity and freshness throughout the palate, unlike some Petite Sirah, and making food pairing, particularly with bold, meaty flavors, a breeze. The wine retails for around $45 and is available at Dallas Fine Wine or via their website.
Another blend comes from Ravenswood with a limited production wine that is slightly unusual for the producer known for Zinfandel. 2012 Ravenswood Besieged is a limited production blend of varieties from some of oldest vines of the Sonoma region with 75% coming from 80+ year old vines (almost half of the fruit coming from 100+ year old vines). The blend is unusual, and interesting, starting with 35% Carignane at the base, followed by 20% intense and tannic Petite Sirah, 18% peppery Zinfandel, 13% Mourvedre, a touch of Alicante Bouschet and Barbera. The wine is filled with dried fruit notes of black cherry, prune and blackberry mingling with layers of white pepper and dried herbs. Warm and inviting with luscious texture and a long finish, the wine is available via their website for $22.
For those who love a good Cabernet Sauvignon, Beringer has long been known for producing distinct and delicious Cabernet, particularly their Knights Valley Reserve and Napa Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. They added their 2010 Beringer Quantum Bordeaux blend not long ago that tells the story of Napa Valley through its wine. With a base of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon giving the wine great character and style winemaker Laurie Hook blends Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a touch of bold Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot to make this balanced, expressive and refined wine from the sustainably farmed Beringer vineyards located throughout Napa Valley. Filled with blackberry and blueberry pie enhanced with layers of mocha, leather and toasted cedar the wine will pair beautifully with hearty roasts or grilled beef. The wine retails for $60 available via their website.
I have been a fan of Chateau Montelena for years and though they lost their founder Jim Barrett last year his son, CEO Bo Barrett, and winemaker, Cameron Parry carry on the legacy this iconic winery started with the Judgment of Paris in the 1970’s. Representative of the 2010 season their 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is not as fruit forward as some vintages in Napa Valley can be, mainly due to the very cool growing season and a late harvest as some winemakers struggled to get their fruit ripe. Bo and Cameron, however, like this Old-World style with more acidity and freshness in the wine instead of big, overwhelming, fruit-forward palates. With alcohol kept in check and good acidity the wines pair nicely with food, yet still maintain the strength and character expected from a quality Cabernet. The wine retails for $50 and is widely available at fine wine stores throughout Dallas.
Vineyard 29 is known not only for their powerful reds but also for their state of the art, gravity flow wine production, though Keith Emerson, Director of Winemaking, notes that “It’s all about making wine in the vineyard,” and the tools in the winery just ensure they can accurately express what the vineyards have given them. Their 2011 Cru Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 18 months in partially new French oak, shows what Keith means beautifully with distinct and elegant flavors that show why Napa Valley is ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. Black and ripe red cherry notes are enhanced by aromas dried rose petals, black licorice, chocolate and tobacco. With a nice balance of acid and tannin this wine has the ability to age nicely or be enjoyed now with rich meaty dishes. The wine retails for $54, available via their website or at Spec’s stores throughout Dallas.
I love the interesting Rhone style wines Austin Hope and his Hope Family Wines team is producing in Paso Robles. His 2011 Austin Hope Syrah is the perfect cool weather wine filled with spice, structure and sophistication, emulating his much loved Rhone Cote Rotie wines. Grown on his SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certified estate vineyards the wine is delicious on its own, filled with earthy blackberry and licorice notes, or paired with grilled salmon , charred octopus , roasted winter squash or hearty grilled rib-eye steaks. A few older vintages of the Syrah are available locally at Spec’s and Total Wine for about $35 or you can find the current release on his website.
Another area embracing Rhone varieties is Washington State. Syrah from the state, particularly Eastern Washington, displays muscular, mineral filled character from the rich soils which benefit from the history of having both high volcanic activity and soil deposits left by the Missoula Floods thousands of years ago. Other Rhone varieties, like Grenache, Viognier and Mourvedre also shine throughout the state, particularly in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, an AVA within an AVA, a part of the Columbia Valley AVA in southeastern Washington. Robert Ramsay Cellars has a McKinley Springs Vineyard Mourvedre from Horse Heaven Hills. The dense, well structured red blends sweet baking spices – clove/nutmeg, with toasted oak, ripe red cherry, cranberry and plum, and a touch of toffee on the finish. Very small production, only about 294 cases made, the wine retails for $35 available via their website.