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As fall begins to unfold, wine enthusiasts and connisseurs will begin to put down their summery Pinot Grigio’s – instead craving something with a bit more weight to it. As an enthusiast who turned Certified Sommelier, I find the changing of the seasons a great time to experiment with different wine selections. Part of the adventure for me, begins with understanding the types of wines, their composition and what they pair best with to provide a complete experience with any meal.

In my quest for Fall favorites, I discovered a few standout selections that will tempt you to consider some alternatives from your standard go-to choices. Here are 9 wines to try this Fall to unwind, toast, cheers and celebrate a variety of occasions.

THANKSGIVING NECESSITY

Pinot Noir

Whether you are hosting your family’s Thanksgiving feast or attending as a guest, a great Pinot Noir is a smart choice to pair with the hearty foods of the holiday. This particular Pinot is often richer and fuller bodied than most California Pinots. So, this Thanksgiving, put away the Oaked Chardonnay and reach for a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – Antica Terra is highly recommended, and a personal favorite of mine. Beyond Thanksgiving, pair your pinot Noir with salmon, roasted chicken, pasta dishes, and beef bourguignon.

STEAK CRAVING?

Cabernet Sauvignon

This Fall, consider a Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage or Syrah alternative such as a d’Avola from Sicily to pair with the steak you so desire. This viticulture superhero must be included in the canon of great Italian reds as it manages to produce balanced, elegant wines with fine tannins and a plum and mulberry character. Pairs great with beef, roast veal, pan-roasted pork, and Palermo style tuna.

FALL FEAST FAVORITE

Cote du Rhone

Consider a hearty Cote du Rhone for any Fall Feast. This rich blend is an excellent choice for the decadent staples of many Fall inspired meals. Some of my seasonal favorites (or you may enjoy these classics year round!) to pair a cote du Rhone with include shepard’s pie, kidney pie, and macaroni and cheese.

PESCATARIAN PERFECTION

Albarino

For all of your favorite seafood dishes, consider an Albarino. This white wine has quickly cultivated a global following and is just as easy on the palette with or without a meal – especially on a warm Fall afternoon. Simply put, if it ever sported a fin or shell, it’s perfect to pair with Albarino.

REST, RELAX & REFRESH

Rose

Nothing beats a Rose after a long day at work. Unwind with a glass as you recharge on your deck and watch the view…be it sunset, or children playing in the back yard. Once considered the “red headed stepchild” of the wine world, Rose has come a long way and is a great addition this fall to a variety of dishes. Some signature dishes that a Rose compliments well range from a vegetable linguini, tuna nicoise salad, lemon shrimp pasta, and paella to pulled pork sandwiches.

GO AHEAD… YOU DESERVE IT

Champagne

Promotions, milestone moments, and overall celebrations would not be the same without a great Champagne. Remember…all champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Only sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France can bear the name. Look for a prestige cuvee Champagne (Tete de cuvee).

These wines are sourced from the finest vineyards, the Premier Cru and Grand Cru, and use only the first juice of the press. Additionally, these Champagnes are produced only during the best vintage years and spend more time aging. Consider a 2004 La Grande Dame Veuve Clicquot.

Veuve Clicquot was named for the widow of Francois Clicquot, son of the winery’s founder. After inheriting the winery, she decided to focus on Champagne. The 2004 vintage is composed of eight Grand Crus and displays complex peach and floral aromas that burst onto the palate leaving a crisp and silky finish. The best part? This pairs nicely with just about every dish you can think of.

WE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING…

Riesling

Looking for the perfect wine to drink, while you are thinking about what wine to drink for dinner? Rieslings tend to be sweet, making them an excellent counterpart for spicy food. So, if you are craving a meal with fiery flavors, a Riesling would be an excellent selection to enjoy with strong

TASTE FOR THAI

Torrontes

For those who have a passion for Thai food and are a regular at their local Thai hot spots, consider bringing a bottle of Torrontes along for your next meal. This wine pairs well with the bold flavors of any Thai dish. It is similar to a California Viognier with dominate Meyer lemon, peach, lemon peel, rose and geranium flavors. This distinctive wine pairs well with roast chicken and curried shrimp and cheeses such as feta, gruyere and manchego as well as vegetables like butternut squash or zucchini.

ENDLESS SUMMER

Chablis

Summer may be over but thankfully it is warm year round in many places including idyllic Bora Bora. Chablis are frequently described as having citrus and white flower aromas with dry, lean, light bodied of citrus, pear, minerality and salinity. These are a refreshing choice for your next tropical destination as you lounge…perhaps in a hammock or water bungalow in Bora Bora. Or, if you must, stateside, they pair well with unique dishes like chicken tarragon, escargot, clam chowder, and black truffle fricassee over creamy polenta.

[This article was written by Bart and originally appeared in the Nobleman Magazine.]

REDS

1. Nero d’Avola (Sicily)

Looking for a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage or Syrah alterative?  Consider a Nero d’Avola from Sicily.  The largest of Italy’s regions has the largest area under vines.  Nero’s hometown, Avola DOC, is found in the extreme south-east corner where temperatures can often exceed 104 f.  Vineyards planted as high as 1100 meters yield tiny quantities of a pale, fragrant red reminiscent of great Burgundy.  This viticulture superhero must be included in the canon of great Italian reds as it manages, despite the heat, to produce balanced, elegant wines with fine tannins and a plum and mulberry character.

Pairs great with:

  • Beef
  • Roast Veal
  • Pan roasted pork
  • Palermo Style Tuna

 

2. Rioja (Spain)

Rioja is located in Spain and has a long association of viticulture and was the first wine region to gain DOCa status.  The principal city in Rioja is Longrono, on the river Ebro.  Rioja is a region of small growers, most of whom sell their grapes to merchants or to the co-operative cellars.  The primary varietals in a Rioja are Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Mazuelo.  A new style of Rioja began to emerge in the 1970s.  It was still blended but the wines underwent longer maceration times, particularly for Tempranillo, followed by shorter periods of oak aging.  There was a greater emphasis on new oak and French oak.  This gives a more deeply colored, tannic wine with primary fruit with obvious oak characteristics of vanilla, cloves, toast, and smoke.

Pairs great with:

  • Almost any kind of lamb dish
  • Many pork dishes, especially cooked Spanish style with beans.
  • Dishes with red peppers and/or pimenton or paprika
  • Paella
  • Cheese, especially hard sheep’s cheeses such as Manchego

 

3. Cote du Rhone GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) (Southern Rhone, France)

Headed South from Valence, where the last northern Rhone vineyards are located, there is a gap of about 60km before vineyards begin again.  From here the vineyards cover a wide area either side of the Rhone until the river passes through Avignon.  This is an enormous vineyard region producing an equally impressive range of wines from excellent everyday wines to super premium.  Grenache dominates most of the red wine of southern Rhone and is by far the most widely planted.  Grenache can develop very concentrated spiced red fruit flavors.  Syrah and Mouvedre play the most important supporting role to Grenache. Syrah provides blends with extra color and tannin.  Mouvedre on the other hand, is deeply colored and very high in tannins.

Pairs great with:

  • Shepards Pie
  • Kidney Pie
  • Macoroni and Cheese
  • Veggie Bakes
  • Lentil or bean based dishes

 

4. Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Oregon)

Pinot Noir is the classic black grape variety that has it’s origins in Burgundy, France. Pinot Noir is a very old variety that mutates exceptionally easy, with the result that over the centuries many subtly different versions.  Classic Pinot Noir has red fruit flavors (Cherry, raspberry. Strawberry) in youth that evolve into vegetal and savoury, gamey notes as the wine matures.  Levels of tannins and acidity vary from medium to high according to vineyard, producer and the vintage, but tannins are rarely too astringent.

The Willamette Valley lies to the west of the Cascade Mountains and runs from the Colombia River in Portland south through Salem to the Calapooya Mountains outside Eugene.  The valley has cool, wet winters  Most of the rainfall occurs in the winter, rather than during the growing season.  It has warm, dry summers, temperatures are moderated by the cooling influence of the Pacific and during the growing season it enjoys warm days and cool nights.  The high sunny conditions and large diurnal temperature range encourage the wine grapes to develop their flavor and aromatic complexity while retaining their natural acidity.  I find this Pinot Noir to be “richer” and “fuller” than most California Pinots.  This Thanksgiving, put away the Oaked Chardonnay and reach for a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir!

One of my favorites:  Antica Terra

Also pairs well with:

  • Salmon
  • Roasted chicken
  • Pasta dishes
  • Beef Bourguignon

 

WHITES

5. Albarino (Spain)

Rias Baixas is located in the North West corner of Spain along the Galatian coast.  The dominant grape varietal is Albarino.  The gentle handling and temperature control of modern wine making have allowed the emergence of the delicate varietal fruit character.  The most popular modern style takes advantage of the grapes high acidity and is a crisp, refreshing wine best drunk young.  Albarino has become very popular globally and this, combined with the challenging viticulture conditions posed by the maritime climate means these wines are never cheap.  I love to drink this wine with or without food, especially on a warm day on the deck or by the water.

Pairs well with:

  • Seafood!  (if it ever sported a fin or shell, it’s the right pairing!)

 

6. Torrontes (Argentina)

Torrontes has had a mixed past.  The origin of this grape is not fully understood with some saying that it was brought to the north of Argentina by Spanish Jesuits from Galicia in the seventeenth century.  It is mostly planted in La Rioja, San Juan and the northern province of Salta where it has become the dominant grape variety.  It is now Argentina’s signature white variety and has an intense fruity, floral perfume, with medium body.  Dominate flavors – Meyer lemon, peach, lemon peel, rose petal, geranium.  Think California Viognier.

Pairs well with:

  • Chicken Satay
  • Roast Chicken
  • Curried Shrimp
  • Feta, Gruyere, Swiss and Manchego cheese
  • Cilantro, Thai Basil, Mint, Parsley Cumin
  • Butternut Squash, yam, carrot, zucchini, snap peas, citrus frutis, coconut, mango

 

7. Chablis (France)

Chablis is a Chardonnay making wine region in the northwest corner of Burgundy, France.  Unlike other Chardonnay wines, Chablis rarely uses oak-aging, resulting in a very different style and taste profile.  Wines from Chablis are frequently described as having citrus and white flower aromas with dry, lean, light bodied flavors of citrus, pear, minerality and salinity.  Chablis rarely displays flavors of butter, an indication of oak-aging.  In fact, one of the most desirable traits in quality Chablis is a long, tingy finish of high acidity and flint like minerality.  Much of the lean and elegant taste of Chardonnay from Chablis is attributed to the qualities of the soil, climate and traditions in the region. On a recent trip to France I stepped out of my traditional Chardonnay comfort zone and ordered a local Chablis.  I have not looked back!

Pairs well with:

  • Chicken tarragon
  • Escargot
  • Clam chowder
  • Black truffle fricassee over creamy polenta

 

8. Riesling ( Austria)

Riesling is probably one of the most complex wines to discuss.  The general public know only of the sweet style of wine.  However, Riesling is excellent in the dry and off dry styles.  Riesling is the most famous German variety and is the most widely planted variety in Germany.  And while very good, I will direct you to try a Riesling from Austria, especially in the Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal areas.  They are usually dry and quite full bodied, with ripe, peachy primary fruit.  Most is bottled to reflect the characteristics of a single, named vineyard.  Mineral flavors are common, and these wines can develop great complexity as they age.  Food pairing—think spice.  Because of Rieslings sweetness and acidity, it makes the perfect accompaniment to spicy food.  Strong Indian and Asian spices are a perfect match.  A classic pairing is with spice duck leg.

 

9. Rose (Southern France)

Once considered the “red headed step child” of the wine world (think Sutter Home!), Rose has made a formidable come back.  Heck, I’ll say it.  I drink Rose!  Rose has become popular to produce in Spain, California and Southern France and is made with either Garnacha, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, or Syrah Blend.  While on a recent trip to French Polynesia, Bora Bora, I was served the Whispering Angel Rose from the Provence AOC.  The primary grape is Grenache followed by Vermentino, Cinsault, Merlot, Mouverdre, Syrah and Tibouren.  It has the flavors of White Cherry, White Pepper, Red Pepper Flake, and lime zest.  Needless to say, it became a daily ritual in Bora Bora!  While it needs no food to enjoy, it pairs well with Vegetable Linguine, Tuna Nicoise Salad, Lemon Shrimp pasta, Paella, and Pulled pork sandwiches.

 

Favorite Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner 2016

One of the most frequent wine questions I get this time of year is “What wine should I serve for Thanksgiving dinner?” It’s tough for people to choose a wine for Thanksgiving for a couple of reasons. One, people have different tastes in wine, so it’s hard to please everyone. Two, there are lots of different types of food on the table, so people get confused as to what they should serve.

A lot of people make the mistake of serving Chardonnay. It’s not one of my personal choices, and most wine sommeliers would agree. Mostly because like I said above, there’s so much on the table: herby gravy, tart cranberry sauce, savory dressing, and sweet potatoes (obviously sweet!) Even an oaky Chard can’t stand up to all those flavors.

So, what are my choices?

 

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is my #1 pick. One of the great things about Pinot Noir is that it makes almost anyone happy! Pinot Noir works well with turkey, which is pretty neutral to begin with. A good pinot is complex, which innately gives it an incredible range of food pairings; perfect for the bountiful Thanksgiving table.

Here are some reliable Pinot Noir Choices:

  • Fullerton Five FACES Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR 2014 ($33):

Beautifully balanced and polished with effusive notes of raspberry, warm spices and earth. The wine is a blend of pinot noir from three different vineyards in the Willamette Valley, and the young Alex Fullerton is a winemaker to watch in Oregon.

  • 2013 Melville “Estate” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara, CA ~$30)
  • 2014 R. Stuart & Co. “Love Oregon” Pinot Noir (Willamette, OR $28)

 

Beaujolais

If you’re not a fan of the Pinot Noir price point, but would like a wine with similar qualities, I would recommend a Beaujolais. It’s made with 100% Gamay, but will give you way more bang-for-the-buck. It pairs very well with cranberries, roasted squash and salads, and balances the high sweetness factor of your sweet potatoes or yams and other sweet-leaning dishes on the table.

One note: 2016 was a tough year for Beaujolais, so don’t choose this year’s vintage.

Here are some reliable Beaujolais choices:

  • 2015 Coudert “Cuvée Cristal” Fleurie (Cru Beaujolais ~$20)
  • 2015 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly (Cru Beaujolais ~$23)
  • 2009 Savoye “Vieilles Vignes” Morgon Côte du Py (Cru Beaujolais ~$45 1.5L)

Sparkling

You just can’t go wrong with bubbly! Everyone loves it, it gives the day a festive flair, and it pairs well with just about anything. It’s a great choice for Thanksgiving!

Sparkling wines to try:

  • Mirabelle Brut by Schramsberg, nonvintage(California; $19)

Schramsberg was one of the first sparkling-wine makers in California, and is still one of the best.

  • Ferrari Brut NV Trentodoc ($24)

Awarded “World Champion Blanc de Blancs” and “Best Italian Sparkling Wine” at Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships. Dinner guests will love its decadent bursting bubbles, lemon-cream nose and polished structure.

Wine Barrels in Old Cellar in Mission Viejo, CA

Our culture is gadget crazy these days; like any other industry, the wine industry has a plethora of gadgets for your every need. You don’t need all of them though, so I’ve culled through and listed the ones worth buying right now:

The Kuvée

Kuvee - Smart Wine Bottle Device

The Kuvée is a connected, “smart” wine bottle. I mean, we have smart phones so why not smart wine bottles?? It’s been called the smartest wine bottle in the world and is supposed to keep your wine fresh for up to 30 days. This is definitely cutting edge technology!

You need to order special wine to fit the Kuvée, but they have a pretty good selection of wine, and amazingly the Kuvée will also provide you wine tips and recommendations. You can also order more wine directly from the bottle, since it actually has wifi.

It’s a bit hard to visualize, but if you visit their website you can watch a demo of how it works. Oh, and California is one of only two states where it’s currently available for purchase!

It’s reasonably priced at the moment; you get your Kuvée Smart Bottle and a four wine starter pack for $199, normally a $349 value.

Kim Crawford Wine Gems

These wine gems are basically a stylish reimagining of the “whiskey stone”, but for wine. They look like marbles, but are real, beautiful fluorite stone; keep them in your freezer and pull them out when you forget to chill that bottle of white. These limited-edition wine gems are designed your wine chilled for up to an hour without diluting the flavors. Whatever you do, don’t put ice cubes in your wine!

A package contains six beautiful stones for $76.

Coravin

Coravin Wine Saver System Gadget

The Coravin system is the ultimate wine saver! Their proprietary technology uses a thin wall needle to allow you to pour a glass of wine while leaving the cork in place. Once the needle is withdrawn, the cork naturally reforms a perfectly airtight seal. This protects your wine from oxidation and essentially is like you never even opened the bottle, meaning you can enjoy that bottle for months to come (not that a bottle would ever last that long!) Bye bye corkscrew!

There are several models to choose from, ranging in price from $199.95 to $349.95.

Corkcicle Canteen

This one is not cutting edge technology; in fact, it’s basically a thermos. However, it made my list because it can keep your wine at the perfect temperature for up to 25 hours, according to the company. Which means that it’s perfect for the beach and tailgating! The Corkcicle Canteen is modern, cool looking, and comes in a lot of great colors.

The 25oz size should fit a standard bottle of wine and costs only $32.95.

DaCor Discovery WineStation

DaCor Discovery WineStation Automated Wine Dispensing & Preservation System

Okay, this one may not be in everyone’s budget, but it’s awesome. The Discovery WineStation is the first automated, temperature controlled, four-bottle wine dispensing and preservation system for the home.

Whether you just want a taste, a half glass, or a full glass – you choose and the WineStation dispenses. Plus, the WineStation keeps your wines fresh for up to 60 days without any loss of flavor!

The Discovery WineStation costs about $5,500.

Hope you enjoyed the list and found a gadget you can’t live without!

Houses & Coastline of Santa Barbara, CA

If you’re looking for a wonderful weekend getaway, I highly recommend Santa Barbara and the Urban Wine Trail. Whether you’re a serious wine aficionado or merely a weekend sipper, you can sip your way through Santa Barbara County without leaving the quaintness of downtown Santa Barbara.

The Urban Wine Trail is a collection of more than 25 tasting rooms from wineries located in Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria. There are two distinct neighborhoods on the Urban Wine Trail, not too far from the beach.

Most of the wines you will taste on the Urban Wine Trail are from boutique producers; varietal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines are superb, while others like Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier Grenache Blanc, and Syrah wines are all enjoyable too.

Here are my recommendations for where to sip, eat, and stay while in Santa Barbara:

Sip

Margerum Wine Company in Santa Barbara, CA

Photo: Margerum Wine Company

Margerum Wine Company

Excellent Rhone wines and a great location in the historic El Paseo!

Riverbench

If bubbles are your thing, you’ll definitely want to make Riverbench one of your stops. Try the Blanc de Blanc and the Blanc de Noir, in addition to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs!

Kunin

Hop on a bike and head over to Kunin for a taste of the Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier. It’s a fun little side excursion from downtown.

Deep Sea Wine Tasting Room

Some people come for the view, some people come for the wine! Either way, don’t miss the Deep Sea Wine Tasting Room on Stearns Wharf! Grab a tasting flight or share a bottle of wine with your favorite people and watch the incredible sunset.

 

Eat

The Lark Restaurant in Santa Barbara, CA

Photo via The Lark Instagram page

The Lark

One of the most talked about restaurants since it opened, The Lark serves up artisanal, seasonal creations served family-style and meant for sharing. It’s made Open Table’s list for the Hottest Restaurants in America for 2016. Much of the restaurant is a beautiful outdoor patio, lined with succulents and strings of lights. Definitely order the Brussel sprouts! I also recommend the House Made Gnocchi and Dungeness Crab and the Harissa and Honey Glazed Jidori Chicken (the half is enough for two people!)

Bouchon

This is wine country cuisine; Californian French cuisine made with organic farm-fresh ingredients & paired with local wines. Since their menu is seasonal, it changes depending on what foods are in season, but you’re always guaranteed an amazing meal here. Right now, try the Pan Seared Foie Gras, Maple Glazed Duck Breast, and Grilled Snake River Wagyu Center-Cut Ribeye.

Finch & Fork

A chic restaurant (think Restoration Hardware magazine) that offers comfort food with a twist. It’s located in the Kimpton Canary Hotel, but is definitely not your average hotel restaurant! Try the Carmelized Cauliflower, Rainbow Trout or the Sea Scallops.

 

Stay

Simpson House Inn in Santa Barbara, CA

Photo: Simpson House Inn

Kimpton Canary Hotel

A gorgeous hotel with an authentic Santa Barbara feel. It’s right in the middle of town and has a great on-site restaurant, The Finch and Fork. The rooftop area offers amazing sea and mountain views and has a pool, fire pits, and a lounging area and is superb for relaxing at the end of your wine tasting day!

Simpson House Inn

If you like more of a B&B feel, the Simpson House Inn is private and secluded while still walking distance from the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. The breakfasts are delicious and the whole experience here is just a really great one.

Spanish Garden Inn

The Spanish Garden Inn is also small and quiet, a peaceful oasis right in town and only about 3 blocks from State Street. Most of the rooms are gorgeous, open and airy, and there is a small pool on property as well.

 

Enjoy your weekend in Santa Barbara! Let me know what your favorites were – I’d love to hear about your trip!

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Bart A Zandbergen, CFP® is a Registered Investment Advisor with Optivest, Inc and a Registered Representative with Gramercy Securities, Inc. Investment advisory services are offered by Optivest, Inc. under SEC Registration and securities are offered through Gramercy Securities, Inc., member FINRA & SIPC, 3949 Old Post Road, Charlestown, RI, 02813, 800-333-7450.

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