Navigating Fall Wines: Sommeliers' Picks

By Linnea Covington  |  August 26, 2013

As fall approaches, restaurants around the U.S. are beginning to think about what wines work best with seasonal fall ingredients. We talked to four sommeliers across the country to find out the best value fall wines (most under $50) that can be found in restaurants (and stores) around the U.S. 

To start with, we headed South to Georgia, where Lara Creasy heads the wine program at Ford Fry’s King + Duke in Atlanta. "For fall, I start looking toward richer whites, but I like to think beyond the typical Chardonnay,” says Creasy, who serves Writer’s Block Roussanne from Steele Wines in Lake County, CA. “All of the servers love and recommend it to our guests at every opportunity,” she said. “The Roussanne is barrel-aged, the lees is stirred, and it goes through complete malolactic fermentation, all of which contribute to the rich texture and full body of this wine.” She added that it also maintains a bright acidity, which makes it a wonderful vino to pair with food.

“I also love Spanish reds in the fall, for their warm and dusty characteristics,” she says, which is why on the red side, Creasy recommends Barco de Piedra Ribero del Duero, a Tempranillo. “Dark berry fruits, purple flowers, licorice notes, strong minerality and a deep meaty character lend this wine perfectly toward pairing with beef or ham, olives, hard cheeses and crusty bread,” she says, adding that both her picks retail for under $20.

In the northern part of the country in Oregon, at Le Pigeon, co-owner and sommelier Andrew Fortgang goes for Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve. “This wine screams fall,” he tells us. “It’s full with rich fruit and immensely savory.” Fortgang suggests serving it with roasted chicken and root vegetables fresh out of the oven.

If you'e craving red meat, especially braised lamb shanks, this sommelier reaches for a bottle of Yves Cuilleron Saint-Joseph L'Amarybelle, an elegant Syrah that he claims is both powerful and delicate with floral and bright fruit notes that “linger in the summer past” and a peppery, gamey side that “hint ast the winter to come.”

At Lincoln Ristorante in New York, Aaron Von Rock’s picks also have bit of a wild side. His choice of Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco, a rich red from Umbria, reminds him of hunting wild boar. “Flavors of underbrush, briar, wild berries and herbs come together, and the wine exhibits some meaty textures and flavors,” he says, adding that it’s great to have this wine handy as truffles begin to arrive.

He also recommends Palari Messina Faro, the ‘Burgundy of Messina,' which “offers generous aromatics of rose petals and volcanic soil [that] jump from the glass as the elegant nose leads into a fleshy palate of harmonized red fruit and earth.” 

Finally, we headed West to Los Angeles to find out what Marisa Brown, Lukshon’s wine director is craving this fall. “Above all, I look for comfort in fall wines,” she says. “Summer is over, the temperatures start dropping and I begin craving heartier meals with richer, more savory flavors.” One wine she's really into right now is the 2010 Kabaj Rebula from Slovenia. “This white wine is so intriguing, complex, and soulful, and the rich amber color is similar to that of autumn leaves,” she waxes poetically. “It’s like drinking a liquid cornucopia with all of its flavors ranging from kumquat marmalade and baked apples to candied almonds, white flowers and green olives.”

When choosing a red, Brown goes for Cru Beaujolais, a wine that changed the assumptions she had about the varietal. She suggests giving the 2011 Charly Thevenet Regnie 'Grain & Granit' a try. “This wine reminds me of things I love about the fall, from the smell of baking spices like clove and cinnamon, to the crunching of fall leaves and eating fruits such as dates and figs,” she says.