As the weather in the Midwest shifts from the stupidly hot and humid fog that has hung around all summer to bright days, crisp evenings and a more candidly fresh feel I am reminded of all the things I really like: sleeping through the night without waking up in a torrential sweat; pulling on a favorite sweater and taking a walk in the brisk night air; eating hearty foods that remind me just as much of home as they do of the impending winter.
And the wines that come to mind are no different. My liquid lustings change from vibrant whites and tasty roses to wines of more substance, more style and certainly more body. I feel confident that I can make it all the way through a glass of a big and broad red wine without breaking into a sweat from the tannins. I am drawn towards wines of depth and weight instead of those that are simply light and lively. Ultimately it is this time of year that I want something that is going to wow me, really knock my socks off. I have been enjoying crisp and clean, and now I want rich and powerful.
So with this in mind I feel it is time to fall into a few Fall Favorites: wines that represent a fermented experience that is second to none, and wines that will leave me feeling sated and satisfied so that I fear not the coming cold and gloom of winter.
Let’s begin with the 2008 Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese from the Niederhauser Hermannshohle vineyard in the Nahe region of Germany. That is certainly quite a name, but for many the wines of Donnhoff are every bit as long as the vineyard names they are sourced from. And who said genius should be easy to understand or better yet pronounce? This slate and volcanic masterpiece of a vineyard sits on the North side of the Nahe and provides an excellent home for Riesling. Often Riesling is thought of as an also ran in the world of wine, a wine to obtain cheap sweet thrills from and not a wine to ponder and pursue. Think Jenna Jameson instead of Audrey Hepburn. But true wine fans know differently, they know that a classic bottle of Riesling can be a work of art, and few are more storied than those from Donnhoff.
This wine begins with a crescendo of fruit, flowers and spice on the nose, the elements drifting in and out of glass as if drawn by a siren song sung by Bacchus himself. The palate begins with intense tropical notes of guava, peaches and papaya before settling back into a more citrus laden mid-palate. The finish is such a beautiful and harmonious mix of the sweet and the tart elements that make a profound Riesling famous that it is hard to say which side of the soul you like better: the good Ash who just wants to bring lots of fruit and play nicely or the bad Ash who blasts your tongue with nervy acidity. Who cares as they all play well together?
The 2007 Kongsgaard Chardonnay is further proof that John Kongsgaard is one of the best in the business. This triumph in Napa Valley fruit is not without controversy, as there are quite the multitude of Burgundy lovers who would defend to their dying breath that this monster, this behemoth, this titan of wines couldn’t possibly be Chardonnay! But Chardonnay it is.
And a masterful performance at that. This is a wine that offers more in the way of honey, white flowers, toast, orange marmalade and peach blossom notes than anything else around. Think “these go to eleven” style of Chardonnay. But unbelievably it is a balanced, sophisticated and elegant expression of the grape, there is just more of it than ever thought possible. You say you like big, buttery, oaky chards? Well this is the biggest. The oak is restrained but present, the butter refined but tactile, the bigness, well, big, but not without a certain dexterity. Remember when Warren Sapp was kicking butt and taking names on Dancing with the Stars? “How can a man that big move so well?” was the general consensus. This wine reminds me of that. Power and weight with dexterity and charm. Booyah.
And finally the 2007 Martinelli Vineyards Moonshine Ranch Pinot Noir is juxtaposition in winemaking: concentration and transparency, richness and elegance, tangible and ethereal. The wine moves from fairy-like perfumes of violets, cherry-blossom and blackberries to a palate that is full, fleshy and silky smooth. To me the hallmark of a well-made pinot noir is always the texture, a wine that glides across the palate with the greatest of ease. The Martinelli is certainly no different as even though it reads like a lighter wine in the glass once on the palate it is enveloping, it spreads across everything and lingers for a lasting moment as if to say "I am here, I am not beer, get used to it." The finish seems to go on forever.
Each of these wines will provide a wonderful experience: at home, with friends, by yourself in a closet because you don’t want to share- it doesn’t seem to matter. Some wines will bring the party no matter where they go. So get out the cool weather gear and grab an opener, because these wines and this season were just made for each other.