Wines for the fall

By Lou Phillips · 


Insert your favorite lengthy autumn word-picture here. I’m saving my space allotment to talk about wines that brighten our change of season.

With the whites, we could go to rice-aged Chardonnays and spicy Gewurztraminers, but let’s save those for winter. We are going to look at – and drink – Viogniers, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blancs.

Viognier is the signature white grape of the Northern Rhone of France, where they make wonderful, if pricey, wines. For our journey, we are going to look at regions that offer Viogniers at every-man prices.

Southeastern Australia (a region that fancies itself a Southern Hemisphere Rhone; think Shiraz/Syrah) has been kicking out Viognier for decades. These are typically full-bodied and offer generous aromas and flavors of peaches and honeysuckle.

A reliably yummy option is Yalumba Y Series at about $12 a bottle. Pinot Gris from Oregon or Alsace, France, are full-bodied wines that deliver rich, spicy stone-fruit flavors. Always a crowd pleaser, King Estate from Oregon brings lush fruit while remaining fresh ($12 by the bottle). Alsatian PGs tend to be $20 per bottle and more, but are typically from old vines with extra dimensions of minerality and complexity.

Wines made from Pinot Blanc bright aromatics and flavors of tree and stone fruits. Chalone makes one of the best Pinot Blancs you will find anywhere in the new world for $25 by the bottle from the Pinnacles AVA in Monterey. Due to oak influence and aging on the lees (yeast), it gains wonderful and unique characteristics of smoke, fresh-baked biscuits and tropical fruits.

On to the reds. Tempranillo is Spain’s signature grape and the 2012 Yaso from the Toro region is a great value at $10 a bottle. Decant this wine (Lou’s column on decanting may be found at for about 30 minutes and then let the musky plum, mineral and spice beauty flow forth.


Beaujolais (France), especially Grand Cru (look for village names such as Morgon on the label), is another legend of the fall. Grown in granite soils, the Gamay grape from this southern Burgundy region creates fresh, medium-bodied wines with dried strawberry and spicy white flower flavors. Perfect to transition from a warm afternoon to a cool autumn evening. Beaujolais is the only place in France where Grand Cru quality wines can be had for less than $20.

The change of seasons is a perfect time to get out of your wine box and try these off-the-beaten-path varietals. Cheers.


Lou Phillips is a Level 3 (Advanced) Sommelier and wine educator specializing in advising private collectors and businesses. He may be reached at (775) 544-3435 or [email protected]