Crisp Fall Pairs

Somms offer picks for seasonal wine matches

Autumnal flavors, like the season, represent a midpoint between summer and winter.

“Fall is the perfect ‘Goldilocks’ level,” says Mitchell Malnati, sommelier at the Meatpacking District location of New York-based Mediterranean restaurant Fig & Olive. “There’s a balance of weight in fall dishes. They’re not as light as summer, and not as heavy as winter.”

Photo 1 Micah Clark Credit Lanewood Studio (2433x3650)

“Rioja is a traditional Thanksgiving pairing because it goes well with the entire spread.” —Micah Clark, sommelier/general manager of Steak & Whisky

Being in the middle promotes diversity among fall dishes. Chefs have more leeway to lean heavy or light, within a wide range of flavors.

“There’s an abundance of ingredients available in fall, such as heartier vegetables, or root vegetables like gourds,” says Andrey Ivanov, advanced sommelier/beverage birector at Reeds American Table in St. Louis.

With such variety on menus, sommeliers enjoy a cornucopia of options for pairing wines.

“This time of year, there are so many more wine-friendly foods out there,” says Micah Clark, sommelier/general manager of Steak & Whisky, a new 50-seat steakhouse in Hermosa Beach, CA. Fall brings more fat, sugar and savory flavors, he notes.

“Think of your typical fall meal—maybe heavy on game meats or something rich like lamb or duck,” he adds. “All that accompanied by vegetables that have a higher natural sugar content, like roasted squash, sweet potatoes, beets or turnips.”

Rich With Rosé

Just as autumn is midway between seasonal extremes, rosé is also at a midpoint along the spectrum of weight, between lighter white and heavier red wines. That’s why many sommeliers recommend rosé with fall dishes.

Maz Naba, wine director of Nico, a 44-seat restaurant in San Francisco, is a fan of the Antica Terra Rosé Erratica 2011.

“It’s an atypical rosé, but still very much a crowd-pleaser,” Naba says. “It has an extended maceration period, building on the skins until right before it goes directly to press.

The wine, which Nico sells for $58 a bottle, is Burgundian: “It pours out darker. It’s more of an old-school rosé.”

He recommends the Rosé Erratica with Nico’s pork shoulder chop, served with chantelle mushrooms, polenta and turnips. “Something on the savory side, very earthy,” Naba says.

“We might try to incorporate turnips, with cherry vinegar and lighter, Chinese pork siu,” he adds. “That pairs well with the Rosé Erratica.”

Nico offers three- and five-course pairing dinners for $35 or $45, respectively. These menus change every night, and the price includes wine by the glass.

Paul Chevalier, national fine wine director for Shaw-Ross International Importers expects rosé to be popular for the holiday season. “One of the hottest pairings this year will be rosé with turkey and savory stuffing,” he says.

Shaw-Ross imports Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé. The company recently rebranded its estate-bottled namesake rosé as Rock Angel Rosé for better alignment with its sister brand.

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