With evening lows dipping into the 70s again, it means only one thing: Party on the patio. Yes, it’s our favorite time of year again, when dinner migrates outdoors and we can finally entertain al fresco.
Wine choices reflect the season as well, as we dry-dock the Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc en lieu of food-friendly reds like Pinot Noir, Shiraz-Syrah and King Cab. We recently slow-cooked some pork for carnitas and paired it with a $20 pinot from California and found the marriage spot-on and delicious.
Here are a few more bottles I pulled out of the cellar for our first fall fiesta. All are widely available at beverage retailers like Total Wine and BevMo. Cheers!
• Cellar No. 8 2009 “Eight,” Sonoma, California. I’m not the only one who worships the pig. Asti Winery, producers of Eight, host a pulled pork feast to celebrate a new vintage. This is the wine they served with it. Eight classic red varieties go into this epic, affordable and tasty blend. At a mere $10, it’s a real crowd-pleaser. I raise my glass to Eight.
• Lynmar Estate 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, California. OK, high roller, spend a few extra dollars for this bottle. This outstanding Pinot Noir experience gives an immediate impression of depth and concentration in the glass, with a notably brilliant, bold garnet hue. Aromas are clearly dominated by red fruit tones – strawberry, and cherry pie punctuated by light cranberry notes. This wine I want to drink by itself, or maybe with a piece of salmon. Delicious. $40.
• Santa Julia 2010 Malbec, Argentina. Good complexity in the nose with typical Malbec aromas of ripe plums, fig and berries, along with some coffee, chocolate and tobacco notes. It’s a full bodied wine that will stand up to beefy dishes. Good value, too. $10.
• Toad Hollow 2009 Pinot Noir Goldie’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California. Winery owner Frankie Williams says that the growing season created grapes with “intense flavors and great acidity,” perfect for food. The wine was aged in both American and French oak for 15 months, which added to the rich fruit flavor and silky mouth-feel. Grill some salmon with this beauty. $19.
• Quivira 2009 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California. We can’t talk about grilling, the outdoors and having fun without Zinfandel. They’re all one in the same. I’m glad this variety is finally getting the respect it deserves since it’s uniquely American, and great with grilled meats of all kinds. This one in particular shows ripe, wonderful dark fruit flavor that makes it well-suited to barbecue or pork chops. Throw a couple racks of baby backs on the grill and open this wine. $20.
• Tormaresca 2009 Neprica Puglia, Italy. Don’t be intimated by all the exotic words on the label, this wine is a winner. The name “Neprica” doesn’t come from a grape variety, rather the first letters of each grape variety: NEgroamaro (40 percent), PRImitivo (30 percent) and CAbernet Sauvignon (30 percent). This robust red is fruit-centric and food friendly. Will work with a wide variety of dishes, but how about grilling some Italian sausages and peppers outdoors? Yes! $12.
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