Take time to ‘wine down’ this fall

By Diane Gale Andreassi
Special to Oakland Lakefront Lifestyles

As the trees put on their glorious colors, marking the passing of seasons, so are the changes from the bright white wines we drink in summer, to the rich reds and hearty foods we choose in the fall.

It’s a natural flow, explained Patrick Peterson, certified sommelier for Plum Market in West Bloomfield. “It’s like squirrels in fall collecting nuts to get through winter,” he said. “Humans do the same things. When it’s hot, the red wines are chosen less and rosé and lighter wines are the new normal for the hot season. When it gets cool, people shift back to heavier cabernets and blends.”

Choosing a few best wines is an impossible task given the vast choices available, he said. It all depends on personal preferences.

A Maverick Winery

Bob Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Farms Winery in Highland Township, said, “I like to think drinking wine is like making new friends, one glass of wine at a time.”

His favorite is the Maverick Red, which is dry and the winery’s most popular seller. In fact, the wine was named for Sen. John McCain when Hoffman worked on McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. McCain was called a maverick by the media, “and I had that in the back of mind” when he named the wine.

Hoffman goes with a relaxed, don’t overthink it, instinctual approach as far as his suggestions for pairing certain foods with specific wines.

“Wine goes with what people enjoy it with,” he said.

Hoffman Farms is the largest equestrian facility in Oakland County, specializing in horse boarding. It houses Blackstone Stables, provides hunter/jumper riding lessons, training and sales.

Hoffman Farms Winery opened to the public in October 2016 with a tasting area in an observation room where parents can watch their children during lessons. The winery offers tastings, as well as wine by the glass and bottle.

Michigan all the way

Pinot Noir is the wine that makes Cortney Casey, owner of Michigan By the Bottle Tasting Room in Auburn Hills, Royal Oak and Shelby Township, most think of fall. “Pinot Noir is lighter bodied than, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon, but still heavier than the whites and rosés of summer, so perfect for autumn sipping,” she added. “It often has a nice spice to it, too, that makes it seem appropriate for the season.”

Casey is also the co-founder of MichiganByTheBottle.com, an online community supporting the Michigan wine industry with articles, podcasts, contests, interviews, aggregated wine news from around the web, and more.

Her wine choices are seasonable.

“Personally, I find that my wine cravings begin shifting from whites and rosés, to heavier reds as the weather begins getting cooler,” Casey said. “Instead of crisp and refreshing, I start reaching for wines that are heavier and more warming. What feels right to drink around a bonfire or on the patio is definitely different than what feels right when you’re huddled under a blanket with the fireplace on. We see similar trends among our guests at our tasting rooms.”

Red blends also are excellent for those chilly fall nights, she said.

“Sandhill Crane Vineyards’ Pinot Noir has been in my glass the last few days and they’re available at our MBTB Shelby and Royal Oak locations,” Casey said.

Night of the Living Red or Revenge of the Living Red from Sandhill Crane Vineyards are semi-sweet red wines that are actually pre-spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla and orange peel. The Revenge is also infused with hot peppers.

“Many of our guests come in to buy them as ‘Halloween wine’ to sip as they hand out candy,” Casey said. “If you’re a fan of sweeter wines, they’re great at cellar temp or even warmed up in the crockpot for a mulled effect.”

One of her favorite food pairings for Pinot Noir is “keeping the theme local,” like Manchester cheese from Zingerman’s Creamery, she added. “It is truly one of the most divine matchups I’ve experienced,” Casey said, adding that Pinot Noir is also fantastic with salmon. Although the rule of thumb is white with fish, she never drinks anything but Pinot Noir with salmon.

“The Pinot is light enough not to overpower the salmon, and the salmon is heavy enough to stand up to the Pinot,” she said, adding that red blends are great with heavier meat dishes.

“Another food that makes me think of fall is chili,” Casey said. “If you’re whipping up a chili with significant spice, try pairing it with a red that has a bit of sweetness to it. The sweetness will counteract the spice.”

MBTB focuses on wines produced by partner wineries using their estate-grown and locally sourced grapes.

“We offer a close-to-home way to experience wine from throughout the state in a warm, welcoming environment – not an impersonal bar or a sterile supermarket aisle,” according to MBTB’s website, mbtbtasting.com. “We aim
to make wine fun and accessible to all, whether you’re a causal consumer or an avid aficionado, a seasoned Michigan wine trail traveler or a Michigan wine ‘newbie.’ And our commitment to local extends even beyond the wine; nearly everything here comes from a Michigan- based small business, including the snacks we serve and the artwork on our walls.”

Make room for …

Pumpkin and apples are fall’s premiere flavors, so start looking for the right food to pair with your wine, or the right wine to pair with your food choices.

Offer a viognier for pumpkin stuffed ravioli and a barrel-aged port for a pumpkin pie dessert. If you’ve got apples on your mind, look for a fruity gewürztraminer.

Medium and full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon matches well with hearty dishes like roast lamb and beef. Grenache pairs nicely with roast venison, and Merlot is a good sidekick to turkey, chicken, roast duck and casseroles, according to bbcgoodfood.com.

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