Fall is a time of transition. The days get shorter; the weather cools somewhat (though heat waves are still possible).
What’s on the menu is in transition, too — less grilling, fewer summer salads — so your wine choices are likely to change some. It’s not quite time for heavy winter reds, like petite sirah, but something with a little weight and richness is probably in order.
Look for reds with some spicy and/or savory notes and not too much tannin or alcohol. As for whites, I still enjoy those racy whites that I drink in summer, but I’m also drinking wines that are a little fleshier and richer — but not too oaky or high in alcohol. So here are 10 bottles — five red and five white — for $25 or less.
A medium-weight syrah can be a good choice. Qupé makes several syrahs, but for fall I like the reasonably priced 2012 Qupé Central Coast Syrah ($20), a plump, easy wine with dark berry, some spicy notes and a hint of roasted meat. The 2013 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Syrah ($17), made from Santa Barbara County grapes, offers lively blackberry fruit, accented by hints of smoke and lavender.
For me, a lot of zinfandel is too big and ripe at any time of year. But a nicely balanced one for fall is the 2013 Kunde Family Zinfandel ($22), with its lively, ripe berry, spice, hint of tobacco and medium tannins.
When pizza or pasta with red sauce are on the menu, try the 2012 Vino Noceto Sangiovese ($18) from Amador County, with its ripe, soft red cherry, hint of tea and fine tannins.
Sangiovese is the main grape of Chianti, and this California version is very Tuscan in spirit. A good autumn blend is the 2013 Bonny Doon “A Proper Claret” ($16), which is bright and savory, with black cherry, notes of anise and olive, and a smooth finish.
On to white wine drinkers. Semillon is an under-appreciated grape on these shores, but it’s the dominant variety in two very good blends, the 2013 Murrieta’s Well The Whip ($21) from Livermore Valley and the 2013 Buty Semillon-Sauvignon-Muscadelle ($25) from Washington. The Whip is bright and floral with white fruit and a hint of smoke, while the Buty has a little more weight and displays fig and citrus and, like the Whip, some smokiness.
As I anticipate the arrival of Dungeness crab, I’m also looking for good chardonnay. The 2014 Stoller Family Chardonnay ($25) from the Dundee Hills appellation of Oregon brims with fresh apple and pear flavors and has a long finish. For less money, the 2013 Tom Gore California Chardonnay ($15) is a good value: citrusy and creamy, with a kiss of oak.
Pinot gris/grigio ranges from light and citrusy to richer and more serious. The 2014 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris ($16) leans to the richer side of the spectrum. It’s fleshy and floral, with white stone fruit and a hint of dry honey.
Reach Laurie Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pick of the Week
Tangent 2014 Paragon Vineyard Albarino ($17) Here’s an Edna Valley white that’s also a great choice for fall. It’s zippy and fresh, with lemon-lime and white stone fruit flavors, but there’s also some fleshiness and a long finish.