10Best:Great Wines for Fall

The autumn season's perfect pairings

By Chris Sands,

If you’ve read your Ecclesiastes, then you know that “to everything there is a season.” For wine lovers, autumn is the season of the harvest, and thus an excellent time for wine country pilgrimages.

The season also suggests a wealth of purchasing options, from standalone sippers that will warm mind and spirit during cool October evenings, to prospective pairing partners for Thanksgiving staples such as turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

Medium-bodied wines are the best bet this time of year, generally speaking, but the only hard and fast rule is to choose wines that complement your favorite seasonal activities.

Autumn is a wonderful time of year for wine lovers, with seasonal pleasures that range from harvest festivities to food and wine friendly feasts such as Thanksgiving. — Photo courtesy of stokkete/iStock

With that in mind, here are some great wines to enjoy this fall.

Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Rosé Champagne

The genius of Champagne is not that it’s perfect for special events, but that it’s presence turns even the most mundane occasions into special events. Mareuil-sur-Ay based Champagne house Billecart-Salmon is famed for its superb rosés, elegant bubblies that one eloquent reviewer likened to “tiny diamonds exploding on the tongue.” There is no bad time to serve this consistently satisfying sipper– a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes–but it’s autumn ideal is as an apéritif, or a versatile pairing option for Thanksgiving dinners.

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen 2012 “Eroica” Riesling

To truly appreciate the budget and food-friendly artistry of Washington state winery Chateau Ste. Michelle, sample the fruits of its winemaking ventures with esteemed European partners like Germany’s Ernst Loosen. The 2012 “Eroica” Riesling, made in collaboration with Mosel meister Loosen (of Dr. Loosen fame), is a beautifully balanced wine, with a peachy bouquet and racy minerality. It’s perfect for afternoon sipping while admiring the many-hued leaves.

Iron Horse Vineyards 2012 UnOaked Green Valley Chardonnay

Best known for its sparklers, Sonoma County standout Iron Horse Vineyards also excels at still wines, most notably Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from Green Valley, a small, cool climate AVA (American Viticultural Area) located in the southwestern part of the Russian River Valley.

Anyone suffering palate fatigue from too many oaky, buttery Chards can find the antidote in their unoaked 2012 bottling, a crisp, expressive wine that’s a splendid complement to cool fall weather (not to mention a wide variety of salads, seafood, and seasonal dishes).

Veramonte 2012 “Ritual” Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir

No wine variety seems more appropriate to autumn than Pinot Noir. Sometimes earthy, sometimes elegant, it embodies the middle ground between the light, lively sippers of summer and the rich, full-bodied, spirit warming wines of winter.

Burgundy is the grape’s true home, but first-class examples are being produced around the world, from Central Otago in New Zealand to Chile’s Casablanca Valley. Chilean wines, in particular, are a boon for budget-conscious shoppers, and Veramonte’s 2012 “Ritual” is as good as it gets for under $20.

Georges Duboeuf 2011 "Chateau des Capitans" Juliénas Cru Beaujolais

November is the release month for Beaujolais Nouveau, light, fruity, uncomplicated French reds that celebrate the end of the year’s harvest season. It’s also the month of Thanksgiving, and thus an excellent time to pair traditional holiday staples such as turkey and cranberry sauce with a more mature partner: namely, Cru Beaujolais.

Try a bottle of Georges Dubouef’s exceptional 2011 “Chateau des Capitans,”made from Gamay grapes grown in an old-vine estate vineyard in Juliénas, one of the region’s 10 cru appellations. Your relatives will thank you.