Hippo Manchester
October 20, 2005

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The wines of fall

Drink them by the fire, at the game, on the lake

By Tim Protzman   tprotzman@hotmail.com 

Fall is a great time of year to enjoy wine. Itís warm enough to allow you to appreciate a chilled glass of your favorite white, and the evenings are nippy enough to settle in front of a fire and uncork a deep, rich red. Whichever you choose thereís a great wine waiting for you that will accompany any autumn activity.

The great thing about outdoor activities this time of year is that there are no bugs. And itís cooler so, if you are a sweathog like me, you donít get so damp. Some fall activities require a bit of physical exertion, like mountain biking for instance, and that doesnít mix too well with alcohol. So wait until after to pull the cork.

This weekend I took a three-mile hike around a neighborhood lake. The leaves were still green but there were other signs of fall. Geese honked overhead. A lone osprey, on its way south, circled the shallows looking for fish. I wondered if it liked trout or bass. I had to be careful where I stepped because a host of newts and salamanders were heading down from the mountain and into the lake. They were very colorful: brilliant and shiny brown and burnt orange.

They made me think of two good wines for this time of year; both of which have cute little lizards on the labels.

Shingleback McLaren Vale Shiraz is a spicy brooding wine thatís full of power and taste.

This deep red is perfect with roasts and chili and has hints of persimmon, plum and a bit of a fireball aftertaste. The McLaren Vale is a rich wine region with more than 80 vineyards clustered in a valley between the Lofty Mountains and the ocean, south of Adelaide, South Australia. DíArenberg and Rosemount also have holdings there. Shingleback Shiraz isnít cheap. Itís become a hit and now it runs about $24.99 a bottle, but it will make an after-hiking party special. Itís great for taking the chill off.

More affordable but equally good is Thirsty Lizard, which offers a chardonnay, a shiraz and a white shiraz for $8.99 a bottle. The chardonnay is beefy enough to stand up to tomato sauces, but I like the white shiraz (which is actually a blush) for light fall afternoon drinking. It has hints of raspberry and lemon verbena in a slightly effervescent texture. My only complaint is the lizard got a makeover and now looks a little too buff for me.

This year we Red Sox fans got back to normal. Since there wonít be a championship again this year, Iíll have to make do with soccer, football and cricket.

Two perfect wines for tailgating parties are merlot and sauvignon blanc. Theyíre light and fresh and go well with finger foods, which is all I can pull together for a pre-kickoff party. And, yes, I know some of the tailgating set really go all out but Iím there for the game, not a five-course dinner.

For a Saturday afternoon game Iíd go with a Washington State Merlot. Structured, a bit dry, but with generous fruit. Itís just the right sophistication level to go with fancy hors díoeuvres or a bologna sandwich.

Covey Run Barrel Select Merlot, $9.99, is a nice middle-of-the-road wine that tastes of quince, currants and Concord grapes with a nice bouquet that has a touch of pencil shavings to it.

A higher-end, more Pomerol-like Washington merlot, with the price to go with it, is Leonetti 2003 Merlot. This blended French-style wine (Merlot 82 percent, Cabernet Sauvignon 7 percent, Cabernet Franc 4 percent, Carmenere 4 percent, Sangiovese 3 percent) will be the hit of any gathering and set you back about $55, if you can find it. The beauty of this wine is the way it reveals its flavor layers, from first sip to finish. Itís from the ultra hot Walla Walla Appellation in the eastern part of the state.

For a light white, go with Kendall Jackson Vintnerís Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. Itís good, itís cheap and the other 11 million people who buy it canít be wrong. Cost is $7.99 with hints of citrus and a refreshing flavor.

This hasnít been a great year for boating. Gas prices have put a damper on cruising but you can still get out there and paddle. This is my favorite time of year for kayaking and canoeing, and since these vessels are people-powered you can use the savings to pick up some wine.

Picture a quiet morning on a glass-still lake. The sun coming over the trees and the chalky fog slowly turning transparent and then vanishing. That must be how it feels to be a grape in Napa, where the sea breezes gently enshroud the vines with mist and fog until the bright Californian sun pushes through. So for fall boating, look to California for an exciting aprŤs-boating refresher. Here are a few whites thatíll make you want to shout ďLand Ho.Ē

Ferrari- Carano Fume Blanc, $17.99. Full-bodied with watercress, lemon and pineapple fruit and a lightly puckery finish that makes it the perfect thirst quencher.

Estancia Pinot Grigio, $13.49. Great with food. Estanciaís a consistent quality vineyard located in the Monterey area. Reliable, cost-effective and sometimes exciting. Their Pinot Grigio comes alive with melon, cheese and un-sauced meats.

De Loach Gewurztraminer Early Harvest, $12.99. Gewurztraminer probably wonít be Americaís wine sweetheart anytime soon. Itís a little sweet and it needs the right food. But if youíre doing a turkey or even a turkey sandwich this wine will cozy right up and provide a Wow! experience. Peaches and cream with a hint of honey and a dried apple finish.