11 wines for fall comfort foods

Cool weather’s here — albeit in some places, cold is a relative term.

Up north, the first snows are already flying, and leaves are changing color, flying away.

In South Florida, the average high has plummeted from July’s 91 degrees to a snappy 88 in October. We stash the flip-flops, dig out the sneakers.

In warm-weather states, the seasonal shift is marked by subtle changes, like the arrival of pumpkin spice lattes and our annual grumble about the first, far-too-early holiday decorations.

Either way, we can mark the season ourselves by getting out the recipe file and seeing what we can make from the category called comfort food.

You know: macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, cheese-crusted French onion soup, roast pork, veggie casseroles.

Defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “food that is satisfying because it is prepared in a simple or traditional way and reminds you of home, family or friends.”

I would add, “and is not too expensive.”

Of course, with comfort food you need comfort wine. Pretty much the same definition.

Wine writers who in July ran their annual “summer sippers” columns with tasting notes for lean pinot grigio and lightweight Beaujolais can put them away and dig out the weightier varieties.

Still, it’s not quite time for the monster reds, the muscular cabernet sauvignons and powerful barolos, the buttery, toasty heavyweight California chardonnays that we’re saving for the multiflavored holiday meals down the road a few weeks.

Comfort wines are the soft but still hearty reds like merlot, malbec and syrah, and whites like the leaner chardonnays, sauvignon blanc and maybe a nice Spanish verdejo.

Enjoy your comfort wines now. Pretty soon it’ll be time to break out the expensive, luxurious holiday wines and hefty year-ending ports.

Highly Recommended

▪ 2013 Kendall-Jackson “Vintner’s Reserve” Syrah, California (100 percent syrah): aromas and flavors of red plums and spice, soft tannins, smooth; $17.

▪ 2014 Don Miguel Gascón Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (100 percent malbec): aromas and flavors of black plums, spice and mocha, medium body, soft tannins; $14.

▪ 2014 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon (100 percent pinot gris): aromas of white flowers, rich flavors of oranges and white grapefruit, crisp and lively; $16.


▪ 2012 Lo Nuevo “Lunares” Verdejo, Old Vines, Rueda, Spain (100 percent verdejo): lush and full and smooth, with aromas and flavors of ripe apricots, tropical fruits and herbs; $12.

▪ 2014 Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc, Northern California (100 percent sauvignon blanc): crisp, medium body, aromas and flavors of tropical fruits including mangos and limes; $17.

▪ 2014 Stoller Family Estate Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, Oregon: light and crisp, with floral aromas and flavors of ripe, red apples and lemons; $26.

▪ 2013 HandCraft Pinot Noir, “Artisan Collection,” California (pinot noir and sangiovese): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of red plums and dark chocolate, medium body; $12.

▪ 2012 Concrete Wine Co. “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Lodi, California (85 percent zinfandel, 10 percent cabernet franc, 5 percent cabernet sauvignon): hint of oak, hearty aromas and flavors of black raspberries and spice, soft, full-bodied, rich; $20.

▪ 2013 Wente Vineyards “Morning Fog” Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, California (98 percent chardonnay, 2 percent gewürztraminer) hint of oak, aromas and flavors of pears and mangos, lush and crisp, long finish; $15.

▪ 2014 McManis Family Vineyards Merlot, California: aromas and flavors of black cherries and black pepper, crisp and lively, long finish; $10.

▪ 2013 Bridlewood Estate Winery Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California (100 percent pinot noir): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries and espresso, crisp and smooth; $18.

Fred Tasker: