As the threat of snow looms next week in the eastern United States, my wine cravings are turning to heavier reds and richer whites. The conventional wisdom, too, holds that we find lighter, fresher wines appealing in warm weather but move toward richer, heavier wines when there is a chill in the air.
No doubt there is some truth in the notion that the temperature outside influences our wine selection, but I have a different theory. More to the point, what we eat changes with the seasons and we like to choose wines that enhance what we eat.
Autumn and winter are the seasons for roasts and stews, and to some extent game dishes such as duck and rabbit. So the question then becomes: What do you like to drink with meatloaf or beef stew or chicken roasted with winter vegetables?
The answers for most of us are savory reds — Cotes du Rhone, bold cabernet sauvignon, spicy syrah, richer rieslings, aged Bordeaux or Rioja and lightly oaked chardonnay that shows nuances of wood smoke and baking spice — and whites that have weight and depth on the palate to stand up to bolder winter flavors.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Pieropan 2014 Soave Classico, Italy ($20) — When Soave came out of the shadows a couple of decades back, Pieropan was one of the producers leading the charge to lower yields in the vineyard and higher quality in the bottle. The thin, watery Soave of yesteryear has been replaced by wines of substance and character, such as this 2014 Soave Classico from Pieropan. It shows attractive aromas of ripe pear and melon, with a touch of tropical fruit and spice. The balance is superb. Rating: 90.
La Marca Prosecco DOC, Italy ($17) — La Marca's latest release of Prosecco DOC is just what the doctor ordered for a fall picnic or tailgate party: fresh, clean and fruity. It delivers notes of peach and melon, with gentle bubbles and a long, lingering finish. Rating: 88.
Ferrari-Carano 2012 Tresor, Sonoma County ($52) — Tresor is perhaps the most underrated of all the flagship red Bordeaux-style blends produced in California. It's not for want of quality. The 2012 vintage was kind to Ferrari-Carano, and they were able to ripen all five Bordeaux grape varieties that go into the Tresor blend. The result is a spectacular vintage that shows deep notes of black fruits and spice, a fleshy and generous palate, and structure enough to ensure this wine will continue to improve over the next eight to 10 years. It's a gorgeous wine at an attractive price from one of Sonoma County's top producers. Rating: 94.
Freemark Abbey 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($50) — This vintage of Napa Valley cabernet from Freemark Abbey is a bit ungainly, but that's to be expected. Winemaker Ted Edwards builds his cabs for the long haul and this one is no exception. Muscular and bold, it shows deep aromas of black currant and blackberry, with a back-note of cedar and pencil lead. The finish has plenty of grip. This is a cab that will need a good three to five years to begin to reveal its true personality, and then look out! Rating: 92.
Dry Creek Vineyard 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley ($25) — Dry Creek Vineyard's Dry Creek Valley cab from the excellent 2012 vintage is as solid as any $25 cabernet sauvignon you are likely to find. On the value scale it's off the charts. It shows black fruits on the nose with a hint of oak vanillin, while on the palate the wine is rich and complex, with serious dimension and weight without heaviness. The tannins are nicely integrated and supple and the finish is long and satisfying. A steal at the price. Rating: 91.
Ferrari-Carano 2013 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley ($36) — Meaty, with plenty of flesh and savory character, this is a fine effort from Ferrari-Carano. With aromas of raspberry, strawberry and black cherry, it shows a complex flavor palate, including a hint of earthiness and wood smoke lingering in the background. It finishes with a bit of grip that should smooth out after another year or two in bottle. Rating: 90.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.