Red wine is for Fall

Fall Wine and Food Pairings: Matt’s Picks

A short history of the last 25 years… I moved to Saratoga Springs in the fall of 1997 and in 2000 moved to San Diego. In 2003 I moved back (this is all predicated on first being in the Navy, and later to my wife being in the Navy). Soon thereafter I began my journey with The Saratoga Wine Exchange. In 2006, as a new father, the Navy moved us back to San Diego where I transitioned to the ‘web’ side of the company. I can say with complete confidence that San Diego is my favorite city in the US, however at the risk of sounding like a cliche, I found myself actually missing seasons. At least that was the simple way of putting it. What I really missed was the changing of the seasons and all the little things you don’t even notice until they are gone. The sound of Saturday morning lawn mowers in mid-April, enjoying an early spring bonfire, the aroma of wet fallen leaves in October, and even the sharp, clean bite of a clear freezing day in December conspired to bring me back to upstate NY in 2015 and I don’t regret one minute of any of it. But of all the seasons, Fall is easily my favorite. There is something about the shortening days, the cool mornings, Indian Summer, and eeking out the last of grilling season that I just find endlessly romantic every year.

All the things that I enjoy about Fall, put me in mind of transitioning to red wine. Why is that I wonder? I start thinking about what I love about Fall…

Fallen leaves – Everyone knows the smell (unless you live in San Diego), now open a nice, earthy Oregon Pinot Noir and take a whiff…forest floor, mulched leaves. Bingo.

Shorter days/cooler evenings – Does that cry out for a crisp Italian white? I think not. Now a beautiful lighter-style Super Tuscan, perfeco.

Fall BBQ’s – Sure, you can do white, and I do. But a grilled chicken breast and a nice medium bodied Rioja…yes please.

I make fewer salads as the season changes, and more hearty stews and chili’s to ward off the brisk nights. Hold the Chardonnay, pass the Cabernet.

For food pairing, beyond the obvious matching of flavors…match texture! A beefy Bolognese will simply slap around a snappy Sauvignon Blanc. But a robust Brunello has the nerve to stand up to that Italian bully. Fresh grilled steelhead salmon will make the cardamom and strawberry notes in a beautiful Pinot Noir much more pronounced, while the acid of the wine will cut through the fattiness of the fish like a liquid knife. Sauce braised ribs handle the high alcohol of a spicy, fruit forward Zinfandel with ease while the spice notes of the sauce and the wine play together like old friends.

Below are a few of my favorites, and a few dishes that really brought out the best:

El Enemigo Malbec

El Enemigo Malbec

Smoked “burnt ends”, a MEATY, smoky dish that can overwhelm most wines works so well with the broad shouldered, almost jammy El Enemigo. And just a hint of black pepper plays off of the dry-rub.

Cristom Pinot Noir Mt. Jefferson Cuvee

Cristom Pinot Noir Mt. Jefferson Cuvee

Risotto with Chanterelles and Pancetta, mushroom notes in the wine compliment the Chanterelle, while the nice acidity cuts through the creamy rice grains perfectly.

Marietta Old Vine Red Lot #74

Marietta Old Vine Lot

Grilled sausage hoagies with beer braised onions and fennel. Sure, a nice IPA works, but the spice notes in this wine just work so well against the fennel and onion topping. A simple Dolcetto would also be glorious.

Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon

Keenan Family Cabernet Sauvignon

Standing rib roast rubbed with rosemary. Rosemary and Cab are a marriage made in heaven, and the richness of this mountain Cabernet demands a succulent cut of steak.

Ciacci Piccolomini D'aragona Brunello Di Montalcino Pianrosso

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino Pianrosso

Slow cooked Osso Buco. Fall-apart veal with a super rich sauce (made with a cup of Brunello if you want a real pro move) needs a high acid red, with lots of earthiness, Brunello is my first and last choice.

Summer is winding down, enjoy your refreshing whites now. Then join me around a roaring fire, with a sweater handy, and a gorgeous glass of your favorite red as we roll into the romance that is Autumn in the northeast…my favorite months of the year.



Fine Wine Specialist, General Problem Solver, Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). Matt previously managed Tango Wine Bar (San Diego) and taught weekly wine courses to groups of 20–30. He has participated in many Premiere Napa Valley events, including multiple expert level tasting courses at The CIA at Greystone, one of the world’s most recognized schools for food and wine education. Throughout his career, he has built personal relationships with more than 50 of Napa's best winery/winemakers and has an extensive knowledge of exclusive west coast wineries. In addition to his wine expertise, Matt has extensive experience with high-end Bourbon, including Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Blanton's, W.L. Weller, and Orphan Barrel to name a few.