I was born and grew up in Southern California. I visited relatives in Vermont and Wisconsin a few times during my youth, but it wasn’t until I spent 12 years in Chicago beginning in 2000 that was introduced to and came to appreciate the concept of “layering.”
For my fellow California natives, “layering” involves amassing a collection of clothing that accommodates all seasons of the year. It is particularly related to fall and winter, when sweaters and jackets of various thicknesses are needed to keep one warm and comfortable when the temperatures begin to dip and fluctuate.
Looking back on my youth and those years in Chicago, I now think about how easy it must be to be a television weather person in Los Angeles or San Diego. True, El Nino may be on the way — and we hope it is if it will help alleviate California’s drought conditions — but in most years, there is no reason for a meteorologist there to have anything other than a sunny disposition.
Even in California, though, temperatures do dip in the fall and winter months, and it can get downright cold in some areas of the state. And when the summer sun gives way to shorter days and crisper air, I find myself reaching for different types of wine.
Those light, bright, refreshing wines that I like to chill down and sip during the summer give way to wines that are fuller in body and possess more robust flavors. Just as the leaves change colors in my mom’s home state of Vermont, the wine colors I embrace change from the golds and pinks of summer to rich reds and purples.
Ironically, the wines of fall, like those featured in this collection from Vinesse, almost always come from areas that are known for their temperate climates — places like California, Australia and Spain.
The warm weather enables the grapes to ripen fully and then be picked at precisely the moment that the winemaker prefers. When the grapes are fully ripened, they possess higher sugar levels, enabling the vintner to make wines that are richer and more robust — not to mention ideal pairing partners for the heartier foods we tend to eat as the temperatures dip.
The wines of fall also are more likely to possess aromas and flavors associated with oak barrel aging. Whereas many lighter styled wines are aged in (neutral) stainless steel tanks, virtually all red wines see at least some time in oak — and that’s where the impressions of smoke and vanilla and spice and other things nice (besides fruit and earth) come from.
The late Marilyn Monroe once observed, “Designers want to dress me like spring, in billowing things. I don’t feel like spring. I feel like a warm red autumn.”
And I feel like opening a warm red wine of autumn.