Celebrate the bounty of the vineyard with a party centered around a selection of wines from local stores.
Every fall, wineries across the country harvest the bounty of their vines. It’s an exciting time of year that celebrates everything grape-related, from the first crushing to the final bottling. With that in mind, here are four ways to celebrate the grape this season, ranging from a lively tailgate to a cozy dinner. We offer valuable wines and follies for every occasion with suggestions from several local wine merchants.
1. Outdoor cocktails
Fall is a great time to toast outdoors with friends, especially now that it’s a choice, not a pandemic necessity. The air is pleasantly cool, the sun golden and the wine warming. While it is tempting to serve everything in plastic suitable for decks, glass or crystal is preferable. Plastic interferes with the aroma and taste of wine and interferes with the enjoyment of drinking it.
Fancy: As we move from masking and distancing to cuddling and socializing, celebrate the moment with the uber-elegant Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé ($ 99) Made from 100% Pinot Noir and enhanced with flavors of strawberries, raspberries, minerals and sweet almond. Pale gold Laurent Perrier The Cuvée ($ 49.99), composed of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, has hints of biscuit and yellow plum. Accompany the champagne with caviar, Camembert, salted cashews or duck pâté.
For a still wine, Caitlin Frame, co-owner of the SUNNYS natural wine shop in Amesbury, offers Domaine Derain, Burgundy White “La Combe” 2019 ($ 44). “Chardonnay can be polarizing, but I challenge anyone to hate this wine. It’s a stunner and tastes of citrus, green apple, some honey and tons of minerality. Pair it with any fatty fish. Blue fish pie?
Casual: For affordable bubbles, try the 100 percent Pinot Noir Domaine Camille Braun Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé ($ 26) bursting with flavors of fresh cherries and crunchy apples, or the Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut ($ 25) made from Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois and tasting of juicy nectarines and peach. Both go well with fatty snacks, like potato chips.
The choice of frame value is Domaine Les Grandes Vignes, “P’tit Vaillant” 2020 ($ 23), a blend of Groslot and Cabernet Franc grapes aged in buried ceramic vats. “It’s crisp and crisp with flavors of ripe red fruit and tangy cherry. I would mash it with rabbit or duck rillettes, fried artichokes or anything with goat cheese.
2. Dinner with friends
For some people, dinners offer the opportunity to wow guests with multi-course meals and exceptional pourings. Others prefer casual buffets with simple sippers. Below are the two options.
Fancy: Cellar Door in Ipswich is known for offering sustainable wines, “small production wines made by winemakers strongly committed to the environment and the authenticity of the grape itself, as well as the terroir from which they grow,” explains owner Bruce Flynn, who recommends the Stolpman Vineyards “Uni” 2019 ($ 29). “It’s a blend of Roussanne and Chardonnay and goes well with poultry, pork tenderloin and rich fish.”
For red, Flynn suggests Onward Wines, Pinot Noir Hawkeye Ranch 2015 ($ 38). “It’s medium-bodied, sweet and dry, with good acidity and flavors of crisp red fruits, vanilla and leather. It is delicious with poultry or beef.
Casual: A hidden gem for this price is the Pinot Noir Banshee Sonoma County 2018 ($ 20). With flavors of dried cherry, plum, cedar and violet, it is medium bodied, has good acidity and pairs well with grilled salmon, swordfish or roast chicken.
Flynn loves the unfiltered and unrefined Forlorn Hope Queen of the Sierra Red Blend ($ 20), made from Barbera, Tempranillo, Cabernet and Graciano. “It is full-bodied, fruity and well structured. Try it with beef, lamb or veal.
3. Tailgate party
If you own a vehicle, you can hold a tailgate. I used to host them every fall when my Cambridge college football team faced their New Haven rival. Mine were the occasional affair involving easy eats and supermarket wines. But some of my fellow tailgaters have laid out gourmet spreads on white tablecloths with candelabras and buckets of chilled champagne. No matter what type of hatchback you choose to host, you don’t need a football game as an excuse. You can open the back of your vehicle by a river, lake, beach, or even your own driveway.
Fancy: Give your guests the Penner-Ash Willamette Valley Chardonnay, 2018 ($ 45), an unexpected option from a region known for Pinot Noir. Rich and honeyed, this wine has flavors of yellow apple and ripe peach with hints of nutmeg and vanilla. A luxurious lobster salad will go wonderfully well.
For a special red, David Messina of North Andover’s Wine Connexion suggests the 2016 Nick Goldschmidt ‘Game Ranch’ Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($ 59.99). “This wine is large on the attack and mellow without being too fruity and too powerful. With notes of currant and tobacco, it goes exceptionally well with grilled meats.
Casual: Have a big Niçoise and unscrew it 2019 Ferrari-Carano Pinot Grigio, Russian River Valley ($ 22), a crunchy but full-bodied sip with citrus, kiwi and mango.
For red, Messina recommends the 2019 Juan Gil ‘Red Blend’ Spain ($ 13.99), composed of 4% Monastrell, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah. “This wine is big and powerful on the attack but also soft on the tannins, leading to a nice finish. With hints of dark fruits, such as wild berries and black currant, as well as eucalyptus, it pairs well with most tailgate foods.
4. Hostess gift
Whether friends have invited you over to their home for the weekend or for dinner, you want to bring them a bottle (or two) to thank them. Here are several options.
+ Wine lovers will swoon over the complex 2017 Sebastiani Cherryblock Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley ($ 125) filled with smooth tannins and concentrated flavors of blackberry, baking spice, cedar and tobacco. Try with grilled rib eye or braised ribs.
+ Samanta Ettore, founder of Wine-Sense in Andover, suggests the 2012 Rosso, “Tutto Dipende da Dove Vuoi Andare” ($ 34), a mixture of Nebbiolo and Barbera. “It’s a homogeneous wine with tons of ripe fruit and sweet spices, and your palate just feels the integration and the true talent of the winemaker, Gabriele Scaglione. It goes well with mushroom ragú pasta or roast chicken and root vegetables.
+ Ettore also favors Deep blue ($ 32), a biodynamic pinot noir from Day Wines, which donates part of the wine’s revenue to the restoration of the oceans. “The power of this Pinot Noir begins with its seductive aromas, constant acidity and delicate but deep flavors of black fruit. It is produced by Brianne Day, who is focused, talented and driven by her passion. It pairs well with almost everything from veal cutlets to salmon.