As the weather turns cooler wine drinkers usually shift gears, moving away from the crisp whites and rosés of summer to the lighter bodied reds of fall. But the change of seasons is no reason to completely abandon white wine--all that's needed is a change in style. When the high temp hovers around 50 degrees, look for richer wines with a little grip to them. They hold up better against the chill outside and are a good match for the heartier foods typical this time of year.
Karen McMillin from Idaho Wine Merchant, Brandon Bruins from the Red Feather and I tasted through a number of bottles to find three that fit the bill:
2003 L'Ecole No 41 Semillon, Columbia Valley, $12.99
Semillon is not a variety one typically associates with cool weather sipping--this barrel-fermented beauty from Washington is the exception. The aromas and flavors are all bright--melon, apple, pear and lime, but it has a nice viscosity in the mouth, giving it the richness you want in an autumn white. With a subtle touch of spice throughout and a long, creamy finish, the L'Ecole would go great with baked squash and hearty soups.
2002 Spann Vineyards Chardonnay-Viognier, $14.99
If you're a fan of big, oaky California Chardonnays, this is the perfect time of year to bring them out. And while this Sonoma County blend has a nice kiss of oak, that's not what made it one of our top picks. The Viognier really comes through on the nose with honeysuckle, peach and apricot. The stone fruit flavors backed by vanilla and spice are rich enough to work well with autumn fare. But, the Spann is beautifully balanced with layers of flavor, a style we preferred over the other, bigger Chards.
2003 Williamson Vineyard Viognier, $14.99
This new Idaho winery is one to watch. Their inaugural release of Viognier is beautifully made with honeyed peach and melon aromas and rich apricot and tropical fruit flavors. While the aromas make you think of spring, the wine has the depth of flavor to comfort you through the winter months. Great structure and balance carry the viscous flavors well, with a finish that goes on and on. Look for both their Syrah and Cabernet as well--they're every bit as good as this impressive wine. :