Say goodbye to the chilled Sauvignon Blanc, denim short-shorts, and light summer reading. It’s time to break out the Merlot, corduroy, and Bronte hardcovers (the broodier, the better). It may not be exactly “chilly” here on the Central Coast just yet—but by my calculations—it is indeed officially fall, the season of hearty flavors and velvety red wines!
So, wrap a fuzzy scarf around your neck and get ready to celebrate this magical time of year peppered with harvest festivities, pumpkins, and long, cozy nights with those you love. Of course, this calls for a hearty, satisfying meal that reflects the changing vines, which have turned from green to golden. With a little help from yours truly, you’re bound to fall for an enchanting new autumn flavor pairing that crackles like oak leaves underfoot.
1. First Chill of Fall: Beef Stew & Petite Sirah
You just noticed that first gust of nippiness and it’s got you in a whirl of pumpkin spice bliss (Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice pancake mix? Pumpkin spice Oreos? I’ll take ‘em all!). However, the days are still on the longer side, so won’t want to spend those precious twilight hours toiling in the kitchen. Yes—it’s the perfect time to drag that dusty crockpot out from the nether regions of your cupboard for your first stew of the season paired with an inky Petite Sirah. It’s ridiculously easy to come home to a fabulous home-cooked meal—and your entire house will smell like the inside of a Marie Calendars potpie. Tip: Just throw some garlic, bay leaves, broth, and veggies into your slow cooker with a few pounds of cubed stewing beef and hit the “on” button (cook for 4-6 hours on high or 10-12 hours on low). If you time it just right, you’ll be eating mere moments after you waltz through the door, and you’ll only have one pot to clean when you’re done. Honey, I’m home!
Wine Pick: Clavo Cellars – 2010 Petite Sirah Dreamer: Dark chocolate, black currant, blackberry, and blueberry come together with a soft and open tannin, round texture and bright acidity. Beef stew, meet your love match!
2. Carve the Turkey: Grenache & Garlic Mashed Potatoes
The bird is great and all, but it’s really all about those creamy, garlicky, buttery mashed potatoes paired with a crowd-pleasing Grenache. You know you are going to go for thirds of this flavor combo, no matter what your inner Weight Watchers coach says…so just embrace the food coma, ok? These garlic mashed red potatoes are delish with or without gravy, but we recommend the gravy (go big or go home), of course. Why are we thankful for this particular Grenache? It’s light enough not to overpower a delicate slice of white meat turkey, and its appealing, tangy cherry vibe will go gangbusters with grandma’s cranberry sauce. You have enough to argue with your family—the wine you’re drinking should not be one of them.
Wine Pick: Hug Cellars – 2010 el Maestro Grenache: With toasty hints of spice box, boysenberry, and cherry, this silken wine—made with 10 percent Mourvedre and 10 percent Syrah—is perfect for appeasing a range of tastes and won’t overpower the turkey, either.
3. Holiday Party Perfection: Zinfandel & Short Ribs
As the holidays approach, gatherings gather steam! Christmas parties, Hanukah celebrations, and a whole host of winter get-togethers are closer than you think. Dazzle and delight your guests with a wine as exciting and dynamic as the season. This smoky, zingy zinfandel pairs nicely with the meaty texture and layers of savory richness found in fall-off-the-bone short ribs.
Braise these delectable morsels in an extra splash of zin (why not buy a wholecase?) and you’ll be sure to make eyes roll back in their heads. Get ready for a whole lot of “Mmmms” and maybe even some living room dancing.
Wine Pick: For dinner: Arroyo Robles – 2009 Zinfandel, layered with tobacco, leather, and baking spice. Tip: For dessert, go with Cayucos Cellars – 2005 Dessert style Zinfandel aged 10 years in the barrel!
4. Santa Has Arrived: Cabernet Sauvignon and Lamb
When it comes to big, unforgettable flavor, Cab is king. Bold, smooth, powerful and always elegant, pair it with an equally flavorful dish bursting with complex layers of savory meatiness. Herbaceous mustard-and-rosemary-crusted lamb feels so special and cozy for the big day, even if the weather is far from frosty. Tip: Make sure to purchase quality meat from a butcher shop or deli counter and invest in a delicious local olive oil to go along with it (Pasolivo makes a great rosemary EVOO great for drizzling and gift-giving). This is sure to be the best holiday gift yet. You just can’t re-gift classic flavor.
5. Toast to A New Year: Sparkling & Cambozola
Let’s get festive! Forget the crazy glasses and sparkly hats. The easiest way to get ready for 2016 is only as only far as your local cheese shop. (Tip: Whether you stop at a small gourmet operation like Vivant Fine Cheese or belly up to the case at Whole Foods, be sure to ask the friendly folks at the counter what they recommend. It’s their job and their passion). I like to pair playful bubbles with Cambozola for a surprising bite that is as far away from “predictable” as last year’s resolutions. Sometimes called “blue brie,” this cheese is mildly spicy and a little funky, yet totally creamy and easy to spread on just about anything (try green apple slices or rustic baguette). When the ball drops, you may have to pop a breath mint. But hey, it will be totally worth it!
Wine Pick: HammerSky – Naughty Princess “Detained” Brut: Handcuff your senses and dive into dry, sparkling fun. Tip: Drink responsibly, lest you be “detained” by the authorities this upcoming NYE.