As the calendar creeps closer to October, I’m getting all the feels of seasonal change. More than anything, it’s affecting what I’m craving when it comes to food and wine. By the time you read this, those gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and that sugary sweet corn will be gone from farmer’s market. Melons, berries and stone fruit have been done for a few weeks and we’re only now getting nice local apples and root vegetables. But I haven’t dusted off my flannels or pulled my sweaters out of the closet just yet. I’ll be hankering for comfort food sooner than later, but right now I’m thinking lighter fare. So what should we drink in this weird time between the end of summer and the not-quite fall? Here are some wines on Sycamore’s list that fit the bill.
2014 L’Opera des Vins “Fêtembulles” / Chenin Blanc…Pétillant Naturel, Vin de France
Just as we serve rosé year-round at Sycamore, we love to drink sparkling wine in all seasons. This Chenin Blanc from the northern part of France’s Loire Valley is soft, honeyed and lovely from the first whiff. Producer Jean-Pierre Robinot is a standard-bearer in the natural wine world. His wines are remarkably consistent and they never cease to move us. This cuvée is a great introduction to anyone curious about natural wine, or who has been unimpressed by variation in quality or correctness in what they’ve tasted.
2013 Alice et Olivier de Moor / Aligoté…Bourgogne
Wines from Burgundy’s “other” white grape, Aligoté, tend to be great summer bistro picks. Typically, they are snappy, clean, quenching and inexpensive. This husband-wife duo crafts a more serious and elegant expression with this bottling. Grown in Chablis (but not labeled as such because it is not Chardonnay), this wine is as crystalline as good Chablis and has a delicious savory quality that makes it hard to put your glass down. Unfortunately, the de Moors and many of their neighbors lost a tremendous amount of fruit this year due to a late summer hailstorm. Grab a bottle of this now because the 2015s are going to be few and pricey.
2014 Domaine Rietsch “Quand le Chat N’est Pas Là” / Pinot Gris…Alsace
As I write this, the sun is shining and it is almost 70 degrees outside. I still want fresh white wine. I’m not ready for the campfire comfort something big and oaky will offer come colder weather, and many orange wines overwhelm me with intensity. This Pinot Gris hits the spot in that it is focused and juicy but has a bit of body and a playful crunchy texture. Much of the fruit comes from the Grand Cru vineyard Zotzenberg and the grapes spend three weeks fermenting whole, with the skins intact, lending light tannin and a gorgeous pink hue. Never had orange wine? Don’t like it? This one is refreshing enough to keep you reaching for the bottle.
1985 Caves São João “Frei João” / Baga…Bairrada
Word has it that Portuguese wine is the next big thing amongst us geeks. This recent cellar release from the benchmark producer, Caves São João, is just the right blend of classy and rustic. It is musty and structured in the way that old Bordeaux gets, but it drinks lighter and brighter than one might expect from a 30 year-old wine. Bottles this old are hard to come by without breaking the bank. This is a relatively affordable selection for someone trying to hone their palate and see what happens to red wine after a few decades of aging. The balance of fruitiness and earthiness might make this the top pick of the list.
2013 Broc Cellars / Counoise…Eagle Point Ranch, Mendocino
I can’t say much about Chris Brockway’s wines that hasn’t been said in the NY Times, the SF Chronicle or any number of other publications. A modern-style négociant working out of a warehouse in Berkeley, CA, Brockway’s wines show incredibly pure fruit but are far subtler than the vast majority of California stuff at the same price point. This cuvée, made from an old French blending varietal, is no exception. Ripe, herbaceous and a bit spicy on the nose, this wine is so much fun to drink. It does well with a slight chill and pairs well with a number of foods, especially those with a kick of heat, so double down on the Sriracha.