Wine: Autumn Harvest

Sommeliers weigh in with favorites for slightly heavier wines during cooler temps

> AS SUMMER SLIDES INTO AUTUMN, chefs begin thinking about the wonderful things they’ll do with the bounty of the harvest.

Sommeliers are no different. The whites and rosés of hot summer evenings are put aside for richer reds and more assertive whites to team with the heartier dishes that will soon be on tables.“Change of seasons is a big deal,” says master sommelier Claudia Tyagi, who oversees the wine lists at the Rattlesnake Club and Forest Grill. “As the weather cools, our guests want more warming wines, especially those smooth velvety reds or rich whites … that create a cozy glow.”

Of such seasonal changes, Jeffery Kramar, wine steward at The Hill in Grosse Pointe Farms, says, “Autumn excites me the most.”

Weather has a significant effect on what people drink, area wine experts believe. Heather Dean, sommelier at Joe Muer Seafood, certainly does, although she adds that no matter the temperature, “I have my tried-and-true Napa Valley ‘cab’ drinkers.” She notes that crisp whites were hugely popular during this year’s hot weather. Now, she’s stocking more reds, including some favorite rustic reds from the Rhône Valley, as well as three pinot noirs.

Regardless of season, “to a degree, people drink what they want to drink,” says Madeline Triffon, who runs the wine program at Plum Market, “although in extreme weather like we’ve had, even die-hard red-wine drinkers lighten up. This time of year is somewhat of a transition, where they slide back into their red-wine drinking habits.”

To tide them over into colder weather, she recommends medium-bodied reds, such as sangiovese, that have softer tannins and crispy acidity, “so you have a wine that’s dry but on the soft side, and accommodates a broad range of food. It’s nice to have a wine that can wrap itself around pretty much anything,” she says.

Claudia Tyagi suggests:

> 2009 Racemi “Anarkos” (Malvasia Nera, Primitivo, Negramaro) Apuglia Italy, about $11.50. A harmonious blend of malvasia nera, primitivo, and negramaro. There are no sharp edges here with luscious and intensely vivid berry flavors. Mouthwateringly juicy, packed with bursting ripe blueberries and Bing cherries with a generous helping of black-raspberry compote.
> 2010 Owen Roe “Sinister Hand” Grenache Blend, Columbia Valley 2010, about $35. The blend (71% grenache, 24% syrah, 5% mourvèdre) contains Washington-grown fruit made in an Oregon winery. A small crop of intensely flavored fruit in 2010 means fewer bottles than usual of an especially “big” Sinister Hand. Dark, juicy, jammy and spicy. Syrah adds pepper; grenache adds raspberry jam. Big, meaty, dark.

Madeline Triffon suggests:

> Moris Farms Morellino di Scansano 2010 Tuscany (Italy), $13-$15. Medium-bodied red wine for the family table and a wide range of foods. Gently drying tannins and crisp acidity make it refreshing; lovely dark-red berry fruit. A kiss of minerality is the stamp of Italy. Morellino (sangiovese) is grown very successfully in the commune of Scansano, located in Maremma on Tuscany’s coast.
> Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 California, $15-$18. An easy cabernet, with classic dark fruit but softer tannins than blockbuster versions. The price reflects the accessibility of this deliciously useful cab for the gentle transition between hot weather and autumn.

Heather Dean suggests:

> 2009 Domaine Arnoux Savigny Les Beaune, Burgundy 2009, $35. This elegant pinot noir begins with ripe cherry, cassis, raspberry, and strawberry on the nose, and follows with a structured yet feminine finish.
> 2009 Osel Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato, Piedmont 2009, $15. A floral and spicy red from Piedmont, Italy. A harmony of black cherries and earth with a lingering finish. Light to medium bodied, it’s the perfect accompaniment to grilled pork, black truffles, and any food that’s rich in taste and aroma.

Jeffery Kramar suggests:

> 2010 Semillon by L’Ecole from Columbia Valley, $14-$16. A rich, complex white with well-pronounced notes of Key limes and honey. Goes well with seafood.
> 2008 Domaine de la Font du Loup Châteauneuf-du-Pape, $38-$40. A sultry medium-bodied blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, and cinsault. This deep-ruby gem is juicy and lush with blackberry, and cassis. The silky tannins help the wine finish quite elegantly.