When it’s time to bring the sweaters out of storage, we’re ready to relinquish the crisp, light wines of summer. As groceries and farmers markets stock up on the season’s bounty, the heartier dishes of fall are often best paired with red wines. Yet some of us still want to stick with whites. And why shouldn’t we? Mouth-filling, meatier whites can satisfy, too, as we segue into the new season.
So what wines do you pick, and when? The scores of bottles on retailers’ shelves can make your head spin, so discerning palates need helpful advice. Here are some tips on selecting fall wines from Cape and Islands restaurateurs who have sampled a dizzying array of wines to assemble their wine lists this season.
The creamy, buttery flavors and richer bodies of chardonnays make them a good match for heartier foods, says Florence Lowell, owner of the Naked Oyster restaurant in Hyannis, which moved to a great new location on Main Street, right beside Puritan Cape Cod recently. Lowell loves French wines—a natural predilection, since she was born in France—especially the chardonnay-based wines from Burgundy. The top wines from this region, like those from Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, are some of the most expensive, but those from Pouilly Fuisse and Chablis are more reasonably priced and wonderful accompaniments to heavier fishes and creamy cheeses. Lowell’s loyalty to French vintages wanes though when it comes to some California chardonnays, like the lush chardonnay from the Napa Valley winery, Far Niente. “It’s a very complex wine,” Lowell says. “When you drink it, you discover different layers.”
Rick Angelini, manager of the elegant new Starfish Restaurant in Mashpee, says pinot gris vintages from Oregon are among his favorites, especially those from King Estates. The grape is grown in various wine regions, and the ones from Oregon can be creamy and richly fruited. “With a blackened fish, either salmon or swordfish or halibut, it’s beautiful,” says Angelini.
Peter Hyde, the chef and owner of the ever-popular Blue Moon Bistro in Dennis, was bowled over when he tasted a pinot gris from Luxembourg, of all places, where wines are made near the Moselle River bordering Germany. Hyde has traveled through Europe and once worked at a hotel in Switzerland. He was intrigued when a customer, who just returned from Brussels, suggested Hyde seek out this Luxembourg pinot gris. Hyde did some research and discovered the wine, 2007 Clos Des Rochers, Grand Premier Cru, was available. “It was so amazing how nice it tasted,” says Hyde. “It has fruit—but its not too fruity—and finishes off with a buttery palate.”
This wine comes from the Friuli region in northeast Italy, close to Austria and Germany and can be lush with spicy, smoky, and mineral flavors. Felis Barreiro, the wine-savvy owner of Alberto’s Ristorante in Hyannis, says a Friulian tocai can stand up to the garlic and olive oil and big flavors of his southern Italian dishes. “The wines have a little more weight and are a little bossy,” says Barreiro, whose Main Street restaurant has long been known for its extensive wine list. Try one from producers Livio Felluga or Abbazia Di Rosazzo.
This Spanish wine, also the name of the grape, is made in the small region of Rias Baixas in the country’s northwest just above Portugal. The best wines from Spain are red, but very good whites come from the Iberian region as well. Some are lean and crisp and better suited to summer, but others are plumper, heftier with flavors of almonds and peaches, and pair well with bolder autumn foods. John Reed, co-owner of the Chapoquoit Grill in West Falmouth, has tried a lot of wine over the 30 years he has been in the restaurant business. Albariños, he says, are so versatile and stand up to the herbs and spices of his restaurant’s Mediterranean dishes. “An albariño can go with a good spectrum of foods,” says Reed. Look for one from Vina Nora.
The best white wines coming from the Rhône Valley in southeast France can be quite expensive. The white Côtes-du-Rhônes, made from blending three or four grape varieties like viognier, roussanne, and marsanne, are the most affordable, readily available, and delicious. The blend gives the wines good body and earthiness. “They make excellent fall wines,” says Matthew Hayes, wine director at 21 Federal on Nantucket. “They pair well with chicken and veal.” Hayes recommends the producer M. Chapoutier. And he would know: Hayes is a certified sommelier and is working towards the distinction of advanced sommelier.