Written by: Brian Smith, Chief Wine Officer & Co-Founder of Winc
Depending on where you live, fall is a transitional season. Growing up on the East Coast, I think of fallen leaves, gray skies, and just a hint of woodsmoke in the air. The air is cooling and the winter is coming. Dinner plates are moving from the summer’s harvest to root vegetables and spices. For me, this is the time for my favorite category of wines—light reds. Forget the rosé crazed people… It’s all about light reds. It’s not that these wines are big on flavor. They just tend to have a youthful snap in their step. They are friendly, fun, and filled with interesting flavors that pair perfectly with seasonal dishes.
(Pst, you can shop this beautiful red blend on Club W.)
2015 Restless Earth, Grenache, Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, CA, $16
This is a remote vineyard in the corner of the the famed Ojai Spiritual triangle, produces some really high quality fruit, especially Grenache. Grenache here and in California is typically lighter in color than what you see elsewhere, but it’s a little deceiving. The wine is way more ripe and plush than you would expect.
2015 Folk Machine, Valdiguié, Redwood Valley, CA $25
Kenny Likipkatrong is by far one of my favorite winemakers in California. Here, he takes on a little known grape that has become like catnip for the top independent winemakers in California, This rarity falls halfway between Gamay and Pinot Noir on the style spectrum. Lots of strawberry and spicy rhubarb add to the complexity of this low alcohol wine.
2015 Au-Delà® Aglianico, Paso Robles, CA, launching 9/12 on Winc.com
Aglianico is an Italian varietal with some really nice acid and bright red cherry fruit notes, both reminiscent of our favorite rosés. The grapes for our Au-Delá Aglianico were grown in Paso Robles, but it stays very true to the great examples from Italy.
2015 Objet D’Art Pinot Noir, Kick On Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, $36
Twenty-five percent whole cluster fermentation gives this wine a youthful, punchy quality that I just love. This Pinot Noir has plenty of pop and energy. A perfect wine as we head toward winter.
Blaufränkisch (sometimes compared to Pinot Noir) is a red wine that can benefit from a slight chill—perfect if you are used to drinking chilled rosés and whites all summer and don’t want to switch to the heavy reds yet.
2014 Folly of the Beast, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, $16
Good value in Pinot is hard to find. It’s a challenging and expensive grape to cultivate. Some of the less scrupulous and inexpensive Pinots tend to have smaller amounts of Syrah and other grapes blended in, but when that happens you lose the singular character of the Pinot. This wine is inexpensive and it’s 100% Pinot Noir. Amazing value.
2015 The Bluffer, Valdiguié, Paso Robles, CA, $16
Valdiguié is a funky little grape that is found in only a few vineyards around California. It’s color and style are so much like Pinot that it was often used to top off barrels of Pinot Noir in the cellar. It’s a funky, fresh wine full of strawberry, fruit, leather, rhubarb, and fresh raspberries.
2014 Julien Sunier, Fleurie, Beaujolais, France, Magnum, $55
I absolutely love Beaujolais. These reds are light, snappy, complex, and so delicious that you’re a few glasses in before you know it. I have been popping Magnums of this wine lately and loving it. Magnums are the perfect statement for hosting or attending a dinner party and this one is an absolute steal for the price.
2014 Grosjean Frères, Coralin, Valle D’Aoste, Italy, $21
A little gem from Italy’s smallest appellation, this is a recent discovery for me. It’s an alpine red that has this delicious cherry and spice quality to it. The wine has tons of personality, but keeps it light on body and weight.
2014 Frank Cornelissen, Contadino, Sicily, Italy, $28
The wines from Sicily are incredibly exciting, especially those made from the Nerello Mascalese grape. Frank is one of the pioneers of the natural wine movement in this area. This wine has a wild aroma of roses. It’s fun on the palate, bubbly, and fruity with a bright racy finish of pink grapefruit.
2014 Occhipinti, SP68 Rosso, Sicily, Italy, $25
This wine is vivid in color and in taste. A blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola from one of the area’s rockstar winemakers, this wine is fresh and pure. A lovely floral nose and bright cherry fruit lead to a lengthy finish.