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Seasonal Wine Pairings: 11 Wines to Try Right Now

By Linnea Covington
September 11, 2013

While we normally think about seasonal dishes, ingredients like fresh produce and hearty game come to mind, but wine has a place in this dialogue as well. What better way to find out what vinos go with end-of-summer tomato salads, refreshing watermelon desserts and sweet corn soup than by going to the experts? “As meals get heavier you want to highlight the secondary flavors,” says Sam Clifton, sommelier of the seasonal Italian restaurant Telepan in New York. He adds that for the fall he likes wines that aren’t too heavy and have a pleasing spice character. In the spirit of the season, we talked to Clifton as well a couple other sommeliers that work at seasonally focused restaurants to find out what they're pairing with September’s bounty.

  • As the weather crisps up, Clifton looks forward to bolder wines, especially Italian reds, to go with rich soups and hearty pastas like the ones they serve at the restaurant. One wine that perfectly imparts these qualities turns out to be a white, a 2011 Gruner Veltliner 'Steinberg' Fritsch from Austria that Clifton marries with a fried eggplant, cherry tomato, and housemade mozzarella dish that they just debuted. “It’s a really fun wine with classic pepper notes that almost season the dish,” he says. “The acidity also balances the tomatoes in the dish wonderfully.”

  • When pairing wine with fall dishes, Clifton says, “I try to use wines that are little more complex, and you want to have things with more earthiness and spice notes.” This is why he picks the Sella & Mosca 2009 Cannonau di Sardegna Reserva, otherwise known as Grenache, from Sardegna, Italy, to go with chef and owner Bill Telepan’s Burrata Mezzaluna, a stuffed pasta with veal meatballs and oven-dried tomatoes in a Parmesan broth. “It’s an earthy red so the wine itself has a little meatiness to it and a nice dried fruit character.”

  • Telepan also offers a 2011 Furmint, which is a wine from Hungry made by the Royal Tokaji Company and is indigenous to Turkey. It was started by the wine writer Robert Johnson in the late 1980s as a way to try and bring back Turkish wines. This particular one, said Clifton, is a medium-bodied white with nutty notes and bright acidity. “It has nice secondary flavors that work great with fall dishes like squash,” he adds. Right now, they have a tomato bean soup on the menu that compliments the nuttiness of the wine.

  • Another white Clifton recommends is the 2011 Cotes-du-Rhone-Village-Sablet by Domaine Les Goubert, which he suggests with chef Telepan’s latest chanterelle dish, which comes with creamy grits and poached egg. “It’s a granche blanc and it’s more rich with a golden fruit note that is nice with that egg in the dish,” he says. “It also has an earthy undertone that brings out the mushrooms well.”

    Photo by Jenny Lee Silver via Flickr

  • Photo by: Linnea Covington

    In Chicago at the market-driven restaurant North Pond, sommelier Natalie Labun also considers the season when picking wines. “Wines that I love for September are Gamay from Beaujolais-Fleurie in particular, and complex whites like Savagnin or Chenin Blanc and elegant Austrian Riesling,” she explains. “I also love enjoying the range of rose on these fleeting warm nights of summer.” It’s for that very reason she chooses Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose to go with chef Bruce Sherman’s sweet corn soup that comes with fried cornmeal dusted smelt, charred corn kernels and Melrose peppers.

  • Photo by: Bruce Sherman

    Labun also recommends getting a bottle of Domaine Huet Demi-Sec Vouvray, which at the restaurant she couples with the seasonal dish of grilled lobster, heirloom tomato gazpacho, avocado and black olive tapenade. For Sherman’s luscious duck dish, she thinks the 2005 Rioja Alta Gran Reserva goes well. As for fish, Labun matches the grilled Black Bass, with romesco sauce, charred eggplant, golden raisin caponata and green figs with Weingut Fred Loimer Seeberg Riesling.

  • Over on the West Coast, in Beverly Hills at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, sommelier Chris Miller also has thing for fall wine and food pairings, which are, he said, some of his favorites. “They have a lot of really earthy flavors but you are still getting great fresh produce,” he says. “I’d also argue that there’s a broader spectrum of wine styles to choose from this time of year than the others, owing to that, fall is for me, the most transitional season.” On that note, he chose the 2012 Massican Annia, a blend of Ribolla Gialla, Tocai Friulano, and Chardonnay from Napa Valley to pair with chef Lee Hefter’s Wild Oregon Matsutake Mushroom Salad that comes with sautéed langoustine and yuzu. “I found this wine at a friend’s restaurant earlier this year and just fell in love with it immediately,” he gushes. “The Ribolla Gialla provides body and a blanched almond note for the mushrooms, and the Tocai provides a bright, mixed citrus tone and over all, it’s very light, disarming, and just extremely well put together.”

  • Anthor seasonal favorite of Miller’s is the dry and crisp 2010 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe Iphofer Kronsberg matched with roasted kabocha and butternut squash soup. “For soup, I really prefer pairing wines like this one that have some texture to them,” said Miller. “This one is peachy and fresh, but definitively earthy in that Franconian style.” For a main dish, Miller goes for the 2010 Sadie Family “Soldaat” Grenache from South Africa and suggests it with Spago’s grilled rack of veal with roasted Brussels sprouts. “This Grenache is incredible, so fruity, so balanced, and almost ethereally light but still packing tons of flavor and personality,” he said, adding that he likes to treat veal like pork when picking wines to go with it.

  • For the chef’s savory “pumpkin-amaretto cookie,” which is actually stuffed agnolotti with white truffles, Miller goes in for a glass of 2005 Mamete Prevostini Valtellina Sforazato “Albareda” from Lombardy, Italy. “I’m a big fan of Nebbiolo with truffled agnolotti and the stuffing here provides an interesting twist,” he said. “It’s soft and rounded and very earthy, with hints of sweetness without really going there.” However, you should go there, or any of the other places mentioned and give these wine and food combinations a spin.

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