With the cooler weather of autumn upon us and winter on the horizon, it's time to recognize the start of what I refer to as, "red wine season."
No, this doesn't mean you have to stop buying white wines until next spring. But if the weather has you feeling cold enough already and you'd prefer a non-chilled wine, then red wines should certainly fit the bill.
Big, bold red wines are especially good to have around this time of year because they pair up well with cool-weather comfort foods including hearty soups and stews or a slow-cooked beef pot roast.
And if you're not doing the full-meal deal, it's also great to have these wines on hand for sipping with a nibble of well-aged cheese, perhaps while enjoying a good book or contemplating your next indoor activity.
If you're normally not a full-bodied red wine drinker keep one thing in mind; these wines are oftentimes characterized by assertive flavors, intense dark fruits, and plenty of tannic structure.
The sagrantino grape, grown in the Montefalco Sagrantino Appellation in Italy's Umbria region produces some super-inky, super-tannic red wines. It's no exaggeration to say these have to be some the most muscular, heavyweight wines I've ever tried. But give them plenty of aeration time to open up and you'll be rewarded with flavorful, food-friendly results.
I recently tasted three selections of 100-percent sagrantino from the 2007 vintage. From Tenuta Castelbuono (about $37) you'll find a wine with incredible blueberry aromatics that carry over to the palate along with an underlying layer of faintly sweet plum. Grippy tannins gradually melt with a touch of leather and tobacco.
From the Scacciadiavoli estate (about $39) comes a blockbuster sagrantino with flavors of red currant, plum and a slightly spicy finish with a hint of dried herb; while the Collepiano (about $59) provides even more complex berry and dried plum fruits, pliable tannins and a whisper of vanilla. Enjoy either of these wines with a big juicy, marbled steak.
The petit verdot grape also produces some huge red wines, and although small in selection, Washington wineries are well on their way to mastering this blending grape as a stand-alone varietal.
Walla Walla provides a couple of excellent selections: the Gifford Hirlinger 2010 Petit Verdot (about $38) with lovely floral aromas and compact flavors of raspberry, anise, and espresso; and the Saviah Cellars 2009 Petit Verdot (about $35) which you may find to be a tad brighter to lead off before finishing with a yummy note of bittersweet chocolate and black cherry.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.