Autumn in New England, and it has been raining for days. The cool air is resplendent with the scent of wet earth, steeped leaves, burnished fields, and woodsmoke. But there’s an apple-y sweetness to the air, too, that reminds us of harvest and pie and home. We concede that it is at last time to come indoors, to light the hearth, to bake bread and roast meats, to drink inky wines; to fortify ourselves for our winter odyssey.
2012 Poggio Amorelli Chianti Classico DOCG
13.5% abv | $20
The 25-hectare Amorelli estate lies near Castellino, in the heart of Chianti Classico. Unlike many of his neighbors, this winegrower eschews all international grape varieties, focusing instead on making 100% sangiovese wines. Cellar work and use of oak, too, are restrained. The result here is a taut, old-fangled Chianti Classico that hits all the right notes: red plum skin, dusty cherries, bitter almond, and minty herbs. It is a lean, juicy, and uncomplicated wine—a food-lover’s wine—perfect with Northern Italian cuisine.
2010 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rùfina DOCG
13.5% abv | $19 (sample)
Nipozzano derives from “senza pozzo,” meaning “without a well,” and indeed, most of the Chianti Rùfina region northeast of Florence sits high and dry. But the stony, calcareous clay soils are perfect for winegrowing, and this Riserva blends sangiovese with malvasia nera, colorino, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon into a wine with spirited blackberry and black currant fruits. A trace of wet leaves and amber sweetness add dimension, but overall this is a blithe and bright-eyed Chianti, best for weeknight suppers.
2005 R. López de Heredia Viña Cubillo Rioja Crianza DOCa
13.5% abv | $30
Rioja’s 2005 vintage was smooth and even, and these 40-year-old, head-trained tempranillo, mazuelo, and graciano vines were able to be harvested a full 10 days early. After vinification, the wine spent three years in barrel—technically long enough to qualify as Riserva. Additional bottle age has suffused the wine with tawny oxidation, tingeing its flavors of red currant and cherries with touches of bitter almond, cured meat, and oiled mahogany. Still, its body offers crystal clarity, a palate radiant with Kirsch and cassis. Elegant in its restraint, it is possibly at is apogee; drink now or hold for only a few more years. Excellent with pork enchiladas with roasted garlic, chilis, and pimentón.
2011 Dry Creek Vineyard Meritage “The Mariner” Dry Creek Valley AVA
13.5% abv | $45 (sample)
California’s 2011 vintage was utterly unobliging, but that makes this Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and malbec seem even more victorious. Its deep ruby sheen is accented by a scent like evergreen woods on a cool, wet evening. Breezy touches of juniper, eucalyptus, and mint wreath a body of plummy spice and forest-floor, and its supple, ruby-fruited tannins are shot with a cooling hit of coffee-mint and cassis. This wine is at once genial, velvety, and almost glossy, but it’s not without an edge. A lovely Meritage made for steak.
NV Moncontour Crémant de Loire AOC Brut Rosé
12.5% abv | $20
This 100% cabernet franc Brut rosé, exactly—uncannily—mirrors the scent hanging in our autumn air this week, its aromas of macerated strawberries and yellow apple skin mingling with sylvan touches of sage, birch, and sandalwood. The wine’s creamy texture delivers a snap of bitterness mid-palate that keeps it from too-sweetness, and its warm, peachy-onionskin color and strands of tiny bubbles add glimmer to the autumnal effect. If you think Fall’s the time to stop drinking rosé, think again.