We are heading into one of my favorite times of the year: Leaf Peeping Season, otherwise known as autumn.
This is not a recently acquired interest or hobby. My Mom was born in Vermont, where some of this country’s best leaf peeping takes place each year.
Although the forests may not be as thick nor the hues quite as intense, there are plenty of leaf-peeping opportunities available in California Wine Country — especially during and just after the fall harvest season.
Those red leaves serve as a vivid reminder that it’s time to make the transition from drinking (mostly) white wines to drinking (mostly) red wines. The red wines of autumn tend to range from medium-bodied to full-bodied, and almost without exception make wonderful food companions.
Here are just four of the red wines I’m stocking up on to take me through autumn to winter…
* Merlot— This could become your go-to autumn sipping wine. Its tannins are much milder than those found in Cabernet Sauvignon, which explains why the most common adjective used in association with Merlot is “mellow.”
* Malbec— Most New World Malbecs are medium-bodied, and I can’t think of a better pairing partner than a burger — preferably grilled over oak chips. The end of summer is not the end of the grilling season. It just means it’s time to switch from refreshing rosés to reds.
* Zinfandel— Speaking of grilling, if you’re more of a steak person, the char of the grill and the combined fruity/spicy character of Zinfandel is a culinary combination made in heaven.
* Pinot Noir— Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, and the red wine that pairs nicely with more main courses and fixin’s than any other is Pinot Noir. Whether you’re serving a turkey, a ham or a veggie casserole, Pinot will taste great with it, as well as with corn bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and even candied yams.
I’ll definitely be drinking some Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends this autumn, but I’m saving most of those wines for when the last of the autumn leaves have fallen.