They say even a broken clock is right twice a day. So, when it came to a late-season daylight saving time change who knew they would get it exactly right? One day it was warm and summery and the next it was autumnal and raining. Somewhere, somehow someone is high-fiving someone else.
I don’t know about you, but warm weather makes the enjoyment of red wine sometimes problematic. There are many restaurants that don’t seem to know the difference between room temperature and proper serving temperature. Or they just don’t care. Nothing makes red wine less enjoyable than it coming to you just under body temperature. But fall fixes a lot of that for us. And after this particularly humid and prolonged summer, I, for one, am really ready for some red wine, whatever the temperature. But when it comes to the switch from white wine to red wine, sometimes it is best to lean into it slowly. For that reason, I have assembled a few “lighter”-styled local-ish red wines that go equally well with swimming trunks or light sweaters — oh, and probably food, too.
These wines all come from the Petaluma Gap AVA, which extends from Sonoma County into Marin and all the way over to San Pablo Bay. Some of the winemakers live in Marin, and some started in Marin. And some of the wineries have Sonoma addresses while technically being in Marin, proving that man-made boundaries can sometimes be as arbitrary as man-made time changes.
• Parum Leo Estate Pinot Noir, 2021, $45
Grown adjacent to Highway 101 on the old Kastania Winery grounds (now Parum Leo), this wine demonstrates how hardship can benefit pinot noir in particular. Pinot noir is a finicky grape and 2021 was a pretty severe drought year (amongst other things), so the Old World clones on this property produced small flavor-packed bunches in limited amounts. That stressed fruit yielded a smaller production wine practically bursting with blackberry and Bing cherry that finishes big with hints of both white and black pepper. Who says stress is bad?
Go to parumleowine.com.
• Brooks Note GSM (60% grenache, 20% syrah, 20% mourvèdre) red blend, 2021, $42
Typically, California red Rhône varietal blends tend to lean towards big, dark flavors. That’s not the case with Garry Brooks’ GSM. Brooks used to make his wine in Novato but has since moved production to Petaluma and opened a tasting room there as well. His GSM is full of red cherry lushness and lemon balm, which certainly reminds one of French southern Rhône blends, but the hint of roses and gentian on the finish and bigger tannins hammers home the fact that this wine is still all California.
Go to brooksnotewinery.com.
• McEvoy Ranch, Red Piano Syrah, 2021, $55
Sourced from the La Cruz Vineyard, which grows along Lakeville Highway, it’s technically still in the Petaluma Gap AVA. This wine has all the petrichor loamy goodness one expects in a California syrah. Is that bell pepper and fresh olive? Maybe. Cherry? Chipotle? Maybe. There is also pepper, violet and firm yet fresh tannins. Positively delicious. It’s named for a red piano once owned by Elton John, which is still on the family’s Marin-Sonoma straddling property. There’s only 40 cases (less than 500 bottles), which means get it while you can.
Go to mcevoyranch.com.
• Pleiades XXX Old Vines, red blend, non-vintage, $26.99
The late legendary Bolinas winemaker Sean Thackrey may no longer be with us, but his memory lives on in this delightful new version of his classic Pleiades. Thackrey loved to use a white varietal in his red blend a la the phenomenal wines of the Côte-Rôtie. Here that varietal is the classic Rhône grape viognier, but in combination with sangiovese (Italy), tempranillo (Spain), pinot noir (Burgundy) and petite sirah. Long live iconoclasm! The result is silky soft wine with bright acidity that exudes freshness and baking spice. You’ve probably heard the saying, “red wine with meat and white wine with fish.” This wine goes with both! And it is far less expensive than a Côte-Rôtie, or even your typical Cotes du Rhône.
Go to pleiadeswinecompany.com.