Whiteís OK after Labor Day
Fall, best batch comes from cool climes
John Waters, the auteur
director of schlock, probably never imagined his quirky little movie
Hairspray! would become a hit Broadway musical. Iíve seen most of his
films and Iím shocked too. His films run the gamut from amusing to
disturbing, but one scene from Serial Mom particularly stands out. In
the movie Kathleen Turner plays an over-the-top housewife who resorts to
murder to try to restore a little bit of civility to her neighborhood.
After being acquitted, she accosts and dispatches Patty Hearst for the
crime of wearing white after Labor Day. Hearst tries to reason that
old-fashioned rules no longer apply and itís acceptable to wear white
year round, but to no avail. My only hope is that Ms. Turner is on the
West Coast and wonít take umbrage with this column because itís about
white wines after Labor Day.
Just because the days
are growing shorter doesnít mean itís time to put the whites away.
There are many
autumn-centric wines that pair up well with apple pie and cheese. Wines
that may be too sturdy for the hottest days taste just right on a cool
Indian summer evening.
The key is growing
climate. Wines have a peculiar way of taking on the characteristics of
where theyíre grown. White wines grown in lots of sun tend to be
perfumey and dry with a touch of citrus. Whites grown in Northern
climates taste of melon and honey. And though itís OK to drink a Grillo-
or Albarino-based wine in the fall, the hot climate in which they were
raised lends itself to summertime consumption.
My favorite fall whites
come from the cooler regions. They have a sweetness borne by their low
alcohol content, usually under 11 percent. They pair well with hors
díoeuvres, especially ones in puff pastry shells like mushrooms or crab.
Some may have a slight effervescence reminiscent of hard cider. They
also go great with cream-and custard-based desserts, making them
Riesling is a German
grape that makes a crisp, slightly sweet white that goes with most food.
Avoid chocolate, citrus salads and white gravieswith it. Riesling has a
way of wrapping around the food and bringing out the spicy or creamy
Jakob Demmer makes a
good Riesling from grapes grown in the Pfalz region. It runs $10.99. A
little more upscale is the Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett from the
Rheingau district. This presents a lily-like bouquet with green apple
and melon taste notes. It retails for $16.99.
present just as much flavor but a tad more alcohol, which translates to
a lower sweetness level. Consistently good producers are Washington
Stateís Chateau Ste. Michelle, Firestone (from the Santa Barbara region)
and Dr. Konstantin Frank Johannisberg Riesling from New Yorkís Finger
Lake region. These wines range from $11 a bottle for the Chateau St.
Michelle to $16.99 for the Dr. Frank, which has won numerous wine
awards. Another great thing is that Riesling goes with Asian food from
Korean to Thai, so you can turn a quick takeout meal into something more
with an inexpensive bottle of Riesling.
Vouvray is a region in
Franceís Loire valley that produces a mildly sweet wine from Chenin
Blanc grapes. It goes well with cream sauces, roast pork, chicken and
Itís signature dish is
Trout meuniŤre, a Creole recipe with lemon, butter and a dash of
Worcestershire sauce. Great Vouvray producers are: Marc Bredif, Marquis
de Goulaine and Champalou. Prices average $12.99 a bottle.
Sancerre is a wine made
with Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which are light and crisp. This year-round
wine will pair with autumnal fare like squash, pheasant and veal. Itís
so versatile that it even goes with salads and acidic vegetables like
tomatoes. Jolivet, Domaine Chotard, Patient Cottat and Clos La Perriere
all make a very decent bottle, but the price is close to $20.
For everyday Sauvignon
Blanc, look to California for great wine and bargains. Beringer,
Benziger, Kendall Jackson and Washingtonís Columbia Crest provide great
value for under $10. If you want to go all out try Ferrari Carano,
Matanzas Creek or Grgich Hills (which they label Fume Blanc); these are
all around $20 a bottle.
Six months ago I tried
a bottle of Llano Estacado 2001 Chardonnay. This wine was from Lubbock,
Texas, home of the late great Buddy Holly. The wine was nice but I felt,
as I do about many of the newer wine-growing regions, that thereís a
learning curve to be mastered. After all, Europeís had thousands of
years to get it right. The wine was good, but it didnít show enough
Texas character. I couldnít taste the region and it seemed acidic. But
at least it was an honest wine without flavor enhancers or that
artificial oakiness. Today, Iím more inclined to spend my $14.99 on a
Texas-produced wine. The quality has improved and while itís not Silver
Oak, it is imminently drinkable. Look for the later vintages, í02, í03
and í04. Anyone one who can grow grapes in Lubbock has a lot of heart,
and the wine will show that. Itís that same Texas heart that opened its
doors, coliseums and sports stadiums to the victims of the Hurricane
Katrina disaster before anyone else. And most winemakers will tell you,
their secret ingredient is love. Thank you, Texas!