At last the endless, steamy summer subsides. Cooler weather comes. In the South, it means temperatures in the 70s, down a full 10 degrees from that cruelest month of August. In northern climes, leaves turn, fall, and the eagerly anticipated snow appears.
This is the good time. Time for hearty meals and hearty wines. No more low-alcohol whites or nouveau reds with ice cubes slipped in when nobody was looking. No more sugary, fruit-laced sangrias.
No more microwaved meals and tuna-salad dinners because we couldn’t take the heat and so got out of the kitchen. We look forward now to beef roasts and stews, with gravy, briskets braised forever, macaroni and cheese with truffle oil or chunks of lobster, thick salmon chowders, habanero-laced chili, made with real ground beef, none of that turkey.
With this we want our white wines opulent, lush and hearty, like Cambria’s chardonnay, concentrated and scented from 12 months of aging in expensive new French oak barrels. We want honeyed, almost viscous whites like Cline Cellars Rhone-Valley-style blend of marsanne and roussanne.
In our reds we want power and concentration. We want “Carnivor” winery’s hefty cabernet sauvignon, with petite sirah added for extra backbone and merlot added to smooth rough edges.
We want McKinley Springs syrah, so muscular they add a bit of zaftig white viognier grapes to soften its grip.
We want body-and-heart-warming cold-weather wines. Even if, in some parts of the country, we have to turn the AC down all the way to drink them.
• 2011 Cambria Estate Winery Chardonnay, “Bench Mark Vineyard,” Santa Maria Valley, Calif.: toasty oak aroma, flavors of ripe pineapples and peaches, full-bodied and lush; $32.
• 2010 McKinley Springs Winery “Confluence” White Wine, Horse Heaven Hills, Wash. (61 percent chenin blanc, 39 percent viognier): rich, full-bodied and lush, with aromas and flavors of ripe pineapples and a tart-lime finish; $14.
• 2010 Judd’s Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (76 percent cabernet sauvignon, 11 percent merlot, 8 percent cabernet franc, 5 percent petite verdot): oak aromas, big and concentrated, with flavors of black plums and bittersweet chocolate, opulent, with big, ripe tannins; $50.
• 2010 McKinley Springs Syrah, McKinley Springs Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Wash. (89 percent syrah, 6 percent mourvèdre: 5 percent viognier): dark color, hearty black cherry and bittersweet chocolate flavors, smooth, big, ripe tannins; $26.
• 2012 Martin & Weyrich “Allegro” Riesling: lightly sweet, with aromas and flavors of ripe apricots and spice; $12.
• 2011 “Carnivor” Cabernet Sauvignon, Calif. (cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, merlot): deep, dark color, hearty and powerful, with black cherry and espresso aromas and flavors; $12.
• 2011 Cline Marsanne/Roussanne White Wine, Sonoma Coast (71 percent marsanne, 29 percent roussanne): lush and rich, with flavors of honey, spice and minerals; $16.
• 2011 Veramonte “Ritual” Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile: rich, full-bodied and crisp, with pink grapefruit and mineral flavors; $20.
• 2010 Fattoria La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy: deep red, with aromas and flavors of black cherries, boysenberries and licorice, big, ripe tannins; $14.
• 2012 Freemark Abbey Viognier, Napa Valley: pale yellow color, rich, with aromas and flavors of vanilla, apricots and tangerines, $32.
• 2012 Gnarly Head “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Lodi (86 percent zinfandel, 14 percent petite sirah): aromas and flavors of dark cherries and dark chocolate, hearty, rich and mellow; $12.