What's great about the end of summer/beginning of fall, aside from the cooling temperatures, is that, for many, it's once again red wine season.
That's how we feel, at least. Not that we didn't have red wine during the hot, humid summer months; it was just that we were more likely to open up a Chardonnay, or a Riesling.
But with the thermometer dipping to the 50s at night, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Grenache and Syrah are good bets for full-flavored, lighter reds that will fill you up but won't necessarily weigh you down.
Here are some wines we think fit those parameters:
The 2010 Louis Bernard Cotes-du-Rhone is about $12 at Winetree, but don't be discouarged by its low price. This blend of Grenache and Syrah from Maison Louis Bernard, based in Gigondas, France, has some red fruit with an ending black pepper. But what I liked about this the most was its texture, which is really soft and gentle. This is how I'd describe it: If you could bottle a cloud, meaning if you could imitate something delicate yet billowy, then Maison Louis Bernard has accomplished its mission. This is also a good bet for those who don't like acidic wines. This blend with 13 percent alcohol has tannins, meaning it'll dry your tongue a bit, but whatever tannins are there come at the end, and they are very subtle. This would be great with grilled chicken.
Maison Louis Bernard was founded in 1976 in the heart of the southern Rhone Valley, which is in the southeastern part of France. The winery is owned by Boisset Family Estates, which also owns some California wineries you may have heard of such as Lyeth Estate and Raymond Vineyards, as well as some French wineries whose products are sold around here, like J. Moreau & Fils and Bouchard Aine & Fils.
Then there is the 2008 Santa Ema Reserve Merlot, which we bought at Winetree for about $13. We got cocoa and chocolate flavors intermingled within a great, supple body. This 13.5 percent Chilean is produced by a company that was started by an Italian immigrant named Pedro Pavone-Voglino. He acquired the land in the Maipo Valley that became Vina Santa Ema in 1931. Today, Santa Ema wines are exported to more than 30 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia. But the winery's primary market, according to its website, is the United States. This Merlot would also be a good pairing with chicken, or beef.
And finally, here's a not-so-sweet Pinot Noir that offers complex flavors and a full body. The 2008 Fess Parker from Santa Barbara, Calif., contains 14.5 percent alcohol and was for sale for about $20 at Schnucks.This Pinot Noir was a bit bitter at the outset. The nose is cola-ish, but there's red fruit flavor here, too, -- I'd call it cranberry and cherry -- as well as some earth. Those flavors stay with
you long after the glass has left your lips. This wine is also far from thin. It's smooth, concentrated, focused. It'd go great with chicken and also salmon.
In case you were wondering, the Fess Parker we're talking about is the same Fess Parker who portrayed frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 1950s and 1960s. He's passed on now, but Parker was much more than just an actor during his lifetime. He got into the hotel business before purchasing 714 acres of land for a winery in 1987 in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. Now, his family is carrying on the business.