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Column: Welcome to the Enchanting Wines of Autumn

Rich reds and fresh whites to pair with hearty homecooked meals.

Yesterday marked the beginning of the colourful season of Autumn. And with it comes cooler weather and the bounty of the harvest. Instead of the barbecue, home cooks will be in the kitchen preparing hearty roasts, stews and baked veggies.

Today’s choices reflect the need for rich red wines and fresh whites. May I recommend the 2019 Bleasdale Vineyards Wild Plum Cabernet Merlot from South Australia ($19.99; 88 points, Very Good). This tasty red is produced by the 170-year-old winery in Langhorne Creek, a small region south of South Australia’s capital, Adelaide.

The name Wild Plum was chosen when a wild plum tree appeared near the Cabernet and Merlot vineyards. Planted on a floodplain, the old vineyards share the land with wild fruit trees grown from seeds that wash in from upstream.

The dark red colour in the glass suggests a rich and full flavoured wine is waiting to be savoured. There’s a generous nose of cassis, plum and violets in this blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot.

Rich round flavours of blackberries greet your palate with plums, cigar box, licorice and herbs along with medium tannins and minerality that end on a spicy dry finish.

Pair with grilled loin pork chops, roast leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary, or Stilton, Gorgonzola, or Cheddar. I even enjoyed it with fried pink salmon, which surprised me, as you’d expect the wine to overpower the mild fish. Not so.

The Bleasdale Wild Plum Cabernet Merlot is available at all three Richmond BC Liquor Stores.

For a change of pace, I suggest the 2021 Stoneboat Pinot Gris ($18.99; 90 points, Outstanding.) Oliver’s Stoneboat Vineyards on the Black Sage bench was launched in 1979 and operated by the Martiniuk family until last year.

A Stoneboat is a flat sledge for carrying stones. It was originally used to clear their vineyard of its abundant river rock. On its wine labels, Stoneboat is known as Pinot House because its portfolio has a majority of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinotage wines. The Pinots thrive in the rocky calcareous soils of the three estate vineyards. These characteristics are unique to the Black Sage Bench. Similar soils are found in Burgundy, France’s famous Pinot region.

The stones retain the heat of the day and radiate it towards the plants during the night. At this time of year, radiation is important in the desert climate, which has warm days and cool nights.

In June 2021, Stoneboat Vineyard was sold to the Verhoeff Group of Companies. Led by husband-wife duo Rudy Verhoeff and Kyla Richey who earlier opened the Valley Commons winery in Langley, the new owners will keep the Stoneboat Vineyard name and are eager to build upon the legacy of the Martiniuks.

The Stoneboat 2021 Pinot Gris displays the characteristic pale orange and onionskin colour. The nose reveals a generous stone fruit, tree fruit and citrus aroma. Taking a sip you get flavours of ripe peach, grapefruit, pear, and apple with a dash of spiciness for contrast.

There’s a good measure of minerality, which is a hallmark of Stoneboat wines. And of course, expect fresh tangy acidity that makes this dry white so refreshing to serve with the heavier foods of autumn. 

Pinot Gris is a very versatile wine, enjoyable as a sipper and well suited as a partner with a variety of food. Enjoy with steamed clams as the high acidity of Pinot Gris lifts up the clam flavours.

Or pair with grilled chicken skewers. The skewers have multiple layers of flavours such as the charred flavours of the chicken, and then the baked chicken meat. The high acidity of the Pinot Gris will go well with any vegetables on your skewers such as green peppers, red onion, or cherry tomatoes.

A timely pairing is salmon and Pinot Gris. Again the wine’s acidity balances the oily richness of the fish. Pinot Gris’ multiple flavours (pear, apple, lemon, minerals, grapefruit) and minerals complement the salmon without overwhelming those rich flavours.

You can buy Stoneboat Pinot Gris at select private liquor stores and at Ironwood’s Save-on Foods VQA store.