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The Perfect Autumn Wine
Here are three Pinot Noirs to crack open when you're not quite ready for a bolder red.

Often when I’m sipping a glass of California or Oregon Pinot Noir, I think the baking spices on the nose, which carry through to the palate, mimic autumnal goings-on in the kitchen, like hearty breads, pumpkin dishes and liberal uses of spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. And as a lighter-bodied red, Pinot Noirs are great transitional wines into fall when you might be letting go of the chilled white wines but are not quite ready for a bold Shiraz, Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here are three Golden State Pinot Noirs to try out this fall (stay tuned for a focus on Oregon Pinot Noirs, which continue to earn gold stars from wine critics).

2011 Hahn Winery Pinot Noir (California, $14) features dark-chocolate notes and dark fruit in a bright, expressive palate also marked by good mouth feel and a soft finish. (www.hahnestates.com)

2010 Hahn Winery Estate SLH Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $35) is luscious, with lots of complex layers that integrate smoke, black cherries, oak and an intriguing flavor of cherry cola before sliding into velvety tannins. (www.hahnestates.com)

2010 McManis Family Vineyards Pinot Noir (California, $12) contains ripe plum notes, a bit of “heat” (black pepper) on the finish along with mocha, strawberry and cherry notes that coast through to the finish. (www.mcmanisfamilyvineyards.com)

WINE DEAL OF THE WEEK

Seasoned wine drinkers know about Discount Liquor, which has two locations: 50th & Oklahoma in Milwaukee and North Barstow Avenue in downtown Waukesha. It’s the place you go for not only a wide selection, but also a rock-bottom deal. During the month of September there are quite a few good deals, actually. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) is going for $12.99, and four varietals from Edna Valley Vineyard (San Luis Obispo, California) are going for $9.99 a bottle. Then there’s the intriguing Jam Jar imported from South Africa, which is Shiraz and Moscato in a bottle, retailing for $9.99 too.

WINE EVENT OF THE WEEK

Forgive me as I shamelessly plug the Lake Country Food & Wine Festival, an annual event sponsored by the Hartland-Lake Country Rotary Club. This year – the eighth annual – it’s happening on Sunday, Oct. 7 at Weissgerber’s Golden Mast Inn on Okauchee Lake. Yours truly will be teaching a seminar in the art of pairing wine and cheese. And I’m thrilled to report I’ll be relying upon Carr Valley Cheese Co.’s fromages. If you know anything about Wisconsin artisan cheese, you know the creamery’s cheesemaker Sid Cook is somewhat of a god in the cheese world, with restaurants all around the country that tout high-end cheese plates very familiar with the fruits (or is that cheeses?) of Sid’s labor. He’s one of the few certified Master Cheesemakers in this country. You should come! There will be two seminars, with the other led by Jeff Cox of Wine Maniacs, and they begin at 12:30 p.m. Tickets cost $60 (there is an extra $10 fee that gets you into both seminars) and includes entrance to a grand tasting from 2-5 p.m. where 100-some wines will be poured. And if, like me, you’re constantly scouring grocers for fun, high-class culinary ingredients such as chocolates and oils, then check out the festival’s Grand Market where vendors such as Atomic Chocolate Co., Sartori Cheese and Oliva di Vita will be sampling their products.

WINE OF THE WEEK

Still grilling out? (I thought so!) The 2010 JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles, California, $26) is smooth on the palate with well-integrated tannins, and a peppery effect towards the front of the palate that extends gracefully through to the long finish. The black-currant and cedar notes would be a nice match with grilled meats, and a fitting way to squeeze in another barbecue before this warm weather is firmly in the past. The wine’s bright cherry notes are a good pairing with a sunny afternoon too. (www.justinwine.com)

Homepage photo by Chris Kessler.





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