Food & Culture

Drinking White After Labor Day

Switching to red as the seasons change? Not so fast.

By Aimee Rizzo November 3, 2021


This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Fall is pretty much upon us in Seattle, which means it’s time to play some smooth jazz vinyls, brood in front of a fireplace adorned with decorative gourds and officially make the switch from white wine to red wine. Right?

Wrong. Except for the smooth jazz part. Turn that good stuff up.

There’s no reason to abandon bottles of white in favor of deep, moody reds just because you’re wearing a structured wool cardigan instead of a Mariners tank top. As far as I’m concerned, chillier weather isn’t a valid excuse to autopilot toward Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and pretty much nothing else. Maybe, just maybe, we can press pause on bubbly, watermelony pinks while simultaneously shouting “rosé all day!” from a party barge on Lake Union. At least until next year.

But there are plenty of white wines that can hang when the leaves start to get crunchy. White wines that can pair effortlessly with cozy autumnal dinners, or can refresh during that pocket of sweaty 3 p.m. sun-striped heat when it’s necessary to fling your jacket off only to put it back on an hour later. The truth of the matter is, white wine is at times even more drinkable during fall than the ever-so-predictable dry red. Especially when we’re talking about white wine from Washington state.

Let’s start with Hoquetus Wine Co. This Walla Walla-based winery helmed by Robert and Bri Gomez burst onto the scene last year, producing natural wines from sustainably farmed grapes, and the 2020 Les Collines Riesling ($28) is an absolute force to be reckoned with. It has this electric lime candy zip balanced with wild honeycomb, golden delicious apple and a rinse of sea salt.

Riesling loves to wash down seafood, so drink it during the first half of autumn on a crisp-but-not-cold day alongside raw bar appetizers like oysters on the half-shell and shrimp cocktail, followed by flaky lobster pot pie or creamy curried fish korma as it gets dark. And if you’re in the market for a tart daytime sipper to have with football-viewing snacks, this one would do the trick, too.

For something a little more decadent but not completely over-the-top, like French onion soup, cacio e pepe, or roasted chicken with root vegetables and a glossy pan gravy, you’ll want to go for Grosgrain’s terrific 2019 Skin-Contact Sémillon ($28). With a backbone of syrupy glazed apricots and an applesauce-like stone fruit richness as well as a squeeze of lemon and blanched almond, it would lend itself extremely well for a warm fireside dinner while on the brink of daylight savings time – preferably after completing some kind of corn maze. Not to mention that the brief skin contact the Sémillon goes through (and the concrete/clay/oak/stainless steel aging process) gives the wine a textural earthy kick that just hits better when the current month ends in “ber.”

Then, we have the Washington white of all Washington whites, the one to beat: In the center of the ring, it’s Mark Ryan Winery’s 2020 Viognier ($38). There’s a reason that this one costs nearly two Andrew Jacksons, and that’s because it’s delicious. Think blossoms, a medley of fuzzy late-summer peaches drizzled with citrus juice, ripe honeydew and a kiss of cedar smoke. Save it for extravagantly comforting dishes like sage-laced butternut squash risotto loaded with a blizzard of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto-wrapped halibut with mashed potatoes or even a braised lamb shank.

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