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Cheers! Experts Weigh in on Cool Weather Wines

“In the summer months, no one wants a big cabernet with a watermelon and feta salad,” says Fairfielder Robert Bradshaw, wine educator and president and COO of Cape Classics wines. “But as we roll into the fall and start to turn the stovetop and oven back on, I get excited about shifting into red wine. It’s a psychological shift. Red wine feels more comforting in the cooler weather.”

Bradshaw observes that there’s a natural transition from the crisp white wines and roses of summer to medium bodied reds such as Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Grenache when there’s a nip in the air. “The beauty of those grapes is that they have a lower tannin along with freshness and acidity, so they pair well with everything—pan braised chicken legs, homemade pasta sauces, lentil soups, ratatouille.

When it gets even colder and hearty comfort food is back in play, Bradshaw recommends bigger red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and red blends to pair with pot roasts, slow cooker chili, pasta bakes, grass fed beef tenderloin, and whole roasted organic chicken.
If red wine isn’t your thing, but you want something more luxurious for the fall and winter, he suggests you opt for bigger, richer whites such as Crozes Hermitage Blanc or luxurious Chenin Blancs, or splurge on a good white Burgundy.

According to Bradshaw, Champagne and sparkling wines are no longer limited to special occasions. “It’s a golden era of sparkling wine here in the United States. There’s no need to break the bank anymore—Crémant, Prosecco, and Cava are all great choices.”

Recently there’s been a lot of buzz about the high quality wines produced by the South African vineyards. “South Africa has one of the oldest wine histories in the world and has been producing wine at the tip of the continent for 350 years,” Bradshaw explains. “There was never an ice age there, so this is the world’s oldest soil. It has a perfect climate—lots of sun and dry winds so the vines tend not to get sick. It’s a New World environment with Old World wine philosophy and technique.”

Bradshaw believes consumers should not be constrained by other people’s tastes. “What’s key for wine lovers is to know what you like and why. Ask yourself, ‘What am I really tasting? Is it sweet? Dry? What’s the acidity? Is it three out of ten or eight out of ten? Do I like that?’ Personally, I don’t like anything that’s too far one way on any scale. I look for balance.”

Wiltonians and winemakers Steve and Tamara Kalin lead a bi-coastal life, frequently flying west to the Calistoga, CA to oversee their vineyard, which produces Bookmark Cabernet Sauvignon, Billy Ray’s Cabernet Sauvignon, and Underdog Chardonnay.

Their advice to wine enthusiasts? “Trust your palate and experiment,” says Steve, adding,  “Frequent wine shops that have tastings and take advantage of them. Find a grape or region that agrees with your palate and expand from that.”

The couple stresses that price does not necessarily determine the value of a good wine and suggests that budding oenophiles patronize a wine store with an educated sales staff to take advantage of their knowledge.

In terms of what’s new in the wine world, the Kalins agree that packaging is taking center stage right now. “With so much focus on sustainability, the packaging of wine for restaurant purposes is shifting to kegs,” says Steve. “The efficiency of no bottling, corks, capsules, and less expensive transportation costs translate to cost benefits for the wine consumer.

The Kalin’s wine philosophy is straightforward. “It’s all about respecting the land,” says Tamara. “We focus on making the best wine using micro farming techniques specific to our volcanic soil and extreme daily temperature changes.”

In the fall, the couple transitions to more red wines. “We love California Cabernets specifically from Napa Valley,” says Tamara,  “The flavors are bold, fruit forward, and well balanced.”

“We drink a lot of our own Bookmark Cabernet,” Steve adds, “as we have our winemaker cater specifically to our taste buds, but other Napa Cabs that we enjoy are Cameron Fisher and Clos Pegas.”


Robert Bradshaw, wine educator and COO of Cape Classics (2018 Wine Enthusiast Importer of the Year) shares his personal faves.

Medium Body Red Wines
›› Pinot Noir: Erath Pinot Noir Oregon 2016 ($20)
›› Sangiovese: Carpineto Chianti Classico Reserva 2015 ($25)
›› Pinotage:  Kanonkop Kadette 2017 ($17)
›› Grenache: Domaine Réserve d’ O Rouge 2015
›› Languedoc: France ORGANIC ($25)

Bigger Red Wines
›› Cabernet Sauvignon: Glenelly Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($17)
›› Syrah: Layer Cake ($15)
›› Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz ($12.99)

Red Blends
›› Indaba Mosaic 2017 ($12.99)
›› Nebbiolo: Produttori del Barbaresco Paje Riserva 2014 ($65)
›› Fratelli Revello Barolo 2015 ($39.99)

Richer White Wines for Fall
›› DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017 ($39.99)
›› Landmark Overlook Chardonnay (CA) 2017 ($19.99)
›› Domaine Combier Crozes Hermitage Blanc 2017 ($30)
›› ORGANIC, Rhône

Sparkling Wines
›› Domaine Paul Buisse Crémant de Loire ($13.99)
›› Gruet Brut, USA ($16.99)
›› Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore ($20)



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