Since summer is now officially over — as evidenced by the downpour last weekend and the price of corn — I'm doing my best to change into an autumn state of mind. Whenever I see heirloom tomatoes, it's an effort to break the habit of reaching for the most colorful amorphous blob of nightshade and remind myself that it's no longer tomato season, at least so far as the chefs are concerned.
And as far as my fondness for rosé is concerned, the time has come to trade in the various shades of pink for hues resembling Sherwin-Williams' Poinsettia and Benjamin Moore's Tricycle Red.
What is required now, to get us through the fall, is a good stock of light- to moderately-heavy reds that are relatively inexpensive.
With the holidays just around the corner, we're all looking for wines that will not break the bank and still keep our palates happy.
Here are a few that will do the trick.
Unang Cotes du Ventoux, 2009 (Rhone Valley, France): The Cotes du Ventoux is in the southeastern part of the Rhone, and the grapes used are basically the same as Cotes du Rhone, with grenache often dominating the blend. This wine is roughly 60 percent grenache, and the rest is syrah and carignane. The wine is floral with black currants and blackberry tea, and it has just enough of an earthy character to make me think about beets, carrots and sweet potatoes. Suggested retail: $15
Le Carline Refosco dal Peduncolo DOC Lison Pramaggiore, 2011 (Veneto, Italy): What started out as a small family-run operation in 1958 has expanded over time. Yet in spite of its moderate size — 33,000 cases annually — all of the fruit is certified organic. With plums, bittersweet chocolate and a raw-meat aroma on a bed of amiable tannins, it's a natural with many dishes you will begin to see on menus around town. Suggested retail: $18
Poco á Poco Zinfandel, 2011 (Russian River Valley): This is the second time this month that I'm recommending a Poco á Poco wine, and there is a good reason for that: For the money, it's hard to find anything else this good. Made entirely from Russian River Valley grapes, the acidity keeps up with the fruit — a conglomerate of red berries and pomegranate — and provides a satisfying, lush zinfandel experience without crowding your palate. Suggested retail: $19
Reinisch Pinot Noir, 2010 (Thermenregion, Austria): The Thermenregion is home to many of Austria's most eclectic wines. Pinot noir may not be a varietal that falls into the rather banal category of interesting wines you see on wine lists, but Reinisch's version is worthy of your attention. Mineral-laden with cherries, fresh morels and a hint of allspice, it even smells like the fall. Finding pinot this well-made and complex for this price is rare. Suggested retail: $20
These wines can be found through Arlington Wine & Spirits, Northbrae Bottle Shop, Good Earth (Fairfax), Cowgirl Creamery (Point Reyes), Ordinaire, K&L Wine Merchants, Ruby Wine, ACME Fine Wines, Paul Marcus Wines and St. Vincent.
Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.