Who doesn't love the scent of a stew simmering on the stove? Gray skies, a distinct chill in the air, a mohair throw on the couch means it's time for braises and stews and for the red wines that go with them. But which bottle to use? Save the rest of your rosé for warmer weather and break out the Zins, the Pinots and the Rhone blends for a braised brisket, beef or tripe stew, or Provençal-style daube.
Here's a handful of suggestions, most available — or something very similar — at local wine shops.
2012 Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) About $20
Full and deep in flavor, with notes of plum, spice and chocolate, this Barbera from one of Piedmont's oldest wineries shows elegance and balance. Vivid and food-friendly, the wine is aged in a combination of large oak casks and for the last few months, smaller French oak barrels.
2012 Saldo California Zinfandel (California) From $26 to $30.
An opulent California Zinfandel made by the Prisoner Wine Co. Dark ruby, with concentrated flavors of blackberries and dark cherries, the 2012 Saldo is big and bold, but dialed back just enough to call it elegant. Maybe it's the touch of Petite Sirah and Syrah in the blend. This is a wine that could make you fall in love with Zinfandel again.
2012 Julien Sunier Régnié (Beaujolais, France) About $24.
Gamay makes perfect fall drinking. Look to cru Beaujolais for some of the best. This Régnié from Dijon native (and avid surfer) Julien Sunier is a revelation. A gentler expression of Gamay, it is floral and delicately spicy. And yet it's complex enough that you find something new in every sip. Sunier's Morgon and Fleurie crus, like the Régnié, densely planted old vines farmed biodynamically, are worth seeking out too.
2011 Boekenhoutskloof “The Chocolate Block” (Coastal Region, South Africa). From $28 to $40.
Boekenhoutskloof's "The Chocolate Block" is a red Rhone blend, like a South African version of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Syrah-dominated, but with some Cabernet in the blend. And that chocolate in the name? It's woven into this warm, full-blooded wine, along with notes of coriander, black pepper and dark berries.
2012 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (Sonoma, Calif.) From $50 to $55.
A glorious, full-bodied, velvety Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley that tastes of Santa Rosa plums, sweet spices and a smidgen of earth. The 2012 is a big Pinot, 14.4% alcohol, but it's so well-integrated into the wine, you don't feel it. A beautiful texture and all that bright, juicy fruit only add to its appeal.
2012 Enkidu "E Old Vine Field Blend (Sonoma, Calif.) From $18 to $22.
This old vine field blend is 60% Zinfandel, 24% Carignane, and 8% each Alicante Bouschet and Petite Sirah, a proportion that reflects the way vines were planted in the three different vineyards that go into this appealing rustic blend. The assemblage results in a wonderfully vivid and complex red wine. With its flavors of dark berries and wild herbs, "E" recalls village wines of the southern Rhone.
2012 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France) From $20 to $25.
A deep wine, with some weight to it, made from Gamay vines that are over 50 years old, the 2012 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly tastes of sun-ripened berries. Soft tannins and a long, satisfying finish only add to its appeal.