Fall is my favorite time of year. For just a few months, the relentless heat of Southern California’s summer surrenders. Suddenly it becomes sensory overload—the sight and sound of fallen leaves crunching beneath your feet, and the subtle white noise of falling rain. In addition, the flavors of this season bring an almost spiritual experience to the dinner table: the aroma of slow-roasted meats stewing on the stove that welcome you as you walk through your door, and the freshly picked apples from local farms, and cherished pomegranates that find that perfect medium of tart and sweet. These flavors, sights and sounds are only amplified when paired with a great wine. Below are two of my favorites and I’ll be drinking them all season.
Although a relatively difficult wine to find, Kongsgaard is a must-try for those who love a rich, buttery style chardonnay. With the color of deep-golden straw, this wine is full of concentration. The fruit brings to mind baked golden delicious apples, quince, and lemon blossoms. The aromas are enhanced with fresh coconut cream and French vanilla coming from the new oak barrels. Kongsgaard holds onto your palate, coating it and leaving you time to imagine how it will improve with age. Pair this wine with heavy cream dishes, or fresh crab legs served with warm drawn butter.
Red rioja consists of a blend of grapes, mainly garnacha (grenache) and tempranillo. These wines are labeled by their age, Crianza (youngest), Reserva (older) and Gran Reserva (oldest). The Gran Reserva examples are only made in exceptional years, and are aged for a minimum of five years. R. López de Heredia goes above and beyond standard aging requirements, allowing their wines to slumber for a much longer period. This added time allows the wine to slowly develop complex flavors reminiscent of worn leather, a smoldering beachside campfire, and fresh black summer truffles. Pair this Rioja with gamey, braised or herb-dusted proteins.
Look for R. López de Heredia’s single vineyard Viña Tondonia, at Irvine’s Bacchus Bar and Bistro. Try this spectacular rioja while indulging on the bistro’s seasonal small plates, especially the veal and fontina-stuffed meatballs.