Fall Wine Pairings
One of the daily questions in our household is,”what do you want to eat for dinner?” quickly followed by, “what do you want to drink?” Nights that we aren’t working gives us the opportunity to do a bit of product testing. We cook a nice meal and revisit old friends from Coho Restaurant’s wine list. It gives us real-time feedback how wines on our list are aging. We reacquaint ourselves to wines that we may not have tasted for several months. We are happy to share some of our favorite wines for fall wine pairings.
As the weather has been changing from summer to fall, my responses to the above questions are changing. I hear myself saying, how about a full-bodied Washington syrah or California zinfandel? Just a few weeks ago, I was pairing meals to hot weather favorites including bubbles, rose and crisp patio sipping whites.
Tonight we are preparing black cod. We have a 2013 viognier open from Stephenson’s Cellar, Walla Walla Washington. It has lovely aromatics of peach, mango, and honeysuckle, and a rich full-bodied mouth feel with a perfect ending acidity – an ideal wine to offset the richness of the cod. It is a lovely fall wine pairing for this dish. In summer, I would have paired this meal with a crisp pinot grigio or citrusy sauvignon blanc.
Stephenson’s Cellars is a small boutique producer that makes 1,200 cases of wine a year. Dave, the winemaker of his name sake’s winery, has been making wine in Walla Walla since 2001. He self-distributes his wine so when we need wine we call Dave directly and he ships us a case or two. This makes perfect financial sense for a small production operation like his. Why pay a middle person to distribute or market his wines? The shipping more than offsets the costs of a distribution company. We first met Dave through his brother Pete who was our wine rep for many years for one of the big distributors who serves San Juan Island. We were doing a wine dinner featuring a wine from Pete’s account. The dinner ended and we all hung out drinking and toasting to the amazing dinner we just had. Pete brought out a bottle of his brother’s wine for us to sample. We were smitten by the quality of the wine and loved the story. The rest is history. Dave’s wine has had a place on Coho Restaurant’s list for many years.
Other old friends on the Coho Restaurant wine list are those from Betz Family Cellars. We have several of their wines on our list including the Clos de Betz, Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah La Côte Rousse, and Bésoleil. These wines certainly show their true colors after some cellar time. After release, these wines are well-structured and show well but are young.
This is why our regular product testing is so valuable. Betz Family wines can absolutely be enjoyed after release, but we have learned firsthand that a bit of patience allows their wines to show their very best.
Think braised wild boar with an herbed pappardelle or a cocoa crusted rack of lamb for a mouth-watering fall wine pairings.
Wine is very personal and a lot goes into this answer:
What food are you pairing it with?
What temperature are you serving it?
Are you decanting or aerating the wine prior to serving?
And the most important question, what tastes good to you?
We regularly open a bottle of our cellar dwellers every 3 – 12 months. This helps us see firsthand how it's aging. Then we can offer guests recommendations tableside on the timing of when a wine is optimal to be enjoyed.
We always taste wine straight out of the bottle. If it seems tight or has a lot of astringencies, we decant or aerate a glass. We taste again. Then, we decide to decant or aerate the entire bottle. We want to ensure that the wine is optimal for dinner. The last thing we want is the wine to peak and dinner hasn’t even been served. This is less of a concern with a large party who will drink the bottle at a faster rate than a couple sharing a bottle.
Betz winemakers have a rule of thumb for decanting. If a wine is younger than 5 years from its vintage date, double-decant (pour it out of the bottle and right back in) and wait an hour or two before enjoying. (This is not always possible in a restaurant situation). If a wine is older than 5 years, decant the wine or let the wine breathe in the bottle after opening. If the wine is 10 years or older, do not decant as the bouquet may diminish throughout the course of your meal. Remember to taste, taste and taste again and make the decision that suits your palate. No answer is right or wrong.
Another food-friendly red wine on our go-to list is the juvenile zinfandel from Turley Wine Cellars from Paso Robles California. They are known for their single vineyard designate Zinfandels and Petite Syrahs. By focusing on old vine vineyards, Turley preserves California’s unique winemaking culture. Their vineyards are either certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers or in the process. They use all natural yeasts for fermentation. The photo below is of Rattlesnake vineyard with a dusting of snow.
Though the vast majority of their wines are single vineyard designates, their juvenile zinfandel picked from 6 – 25-year-old vines is composed of a variety of young vines that have been replanted in several of their old vine sites. Deep ruby/purple in color, with black cherry, raspberry, and blackcurrant fruit as well as some pepper and spice, the wine is rounded and full-bodied. This wine has an aging potential for 4-5 years. Consider some smoked baby back ribs or brisket for a couple of great fall wine pairings.
As I reflected back on the wines that we chose to highlight, they have one thing in common. These wineries are families that are following their passion to sustainably farm the land and create world-class wine.
Join us for dinner at Coho Restaurant and ask us what is drinking well, we are looking forward to sharing our wine cellar with you.
Photo Credits: Betz Family Vineyards; Turley Wine Cellars, Stephenson Cellars