The leaves are yellow, the air is crisp, and the water is cool. It’s not quite snow season yet, so what’s the next best thing to skiing? That’s right, cozying up with a good bottle of wine in front of a warm fire. But don’t drink on an empty stomach! There’s nothing tastier than combining the perfect glass of wine with some scrumptious food to bring out the flavors and complement each other. To celebrate harvest season and the arrival of fall, we asked three local wine experts about their favorite Northern California wine and food pairings. Salute!

Kali Kopley  |  Uncorked Carrie Bendick appreciates the long history of winemaking and uses traditional winemaking techniques, choosing not to over-manipulate the grapes. In this way, the varietal flavor of each grape comes through in the finished wine. Bendick’s Holly’s Hill Grenache Noir 2011 ($22) can be characterized as a pretty wine with earthy strawberry and cherry fruit. Floral qualities and a certain sweet/tart aroma finds a big finish from such an otherwise light wine. In France, Grenache is called many things, including the “poor man’s pinot.” The Holly’s Hill Grenache is grown in the Sierra foothills and drinks more like a pinot, light in style. The bright strawberry flavors and warm herbaceous floral notes pair well with hearty foods like cumin lamb meatballs; the cumin spice highlights the earth tones.

Christa Finn  |  The Pour House I am really feeling the seasonal wine shift and have been all about reds lately. And cozy food. So I went classic and chose the 2011 Fort Ross Sea Slopes Pinot Noir ($31.99) from Fort Ross-Seaview on the Sonoma Coast. I would pair it with another fall classic, roasted chicken. Rub that bird with mustard and butter and garlic, crisp it up, and pour yourself a glass. The Fort Ross is made in a lighter, elegant style, which matches the mildness of the chicken, but also complements the pop of mustard — a perfect, simple autumn meal. Or as the late epicurean and wine writer André Simon liked to say, “Food without wine is a corpse. Wine without food is a ghost. United and well matched they are as body and soul, living partners.”

Russ Jones  |  Truckee River Winery My pick is the Truckee River Winery’s 2010 Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45), made from grapes from Monterey County. This time of the year the seasons change and the days are getting colder. It’s nice to sit around the fire and drink a big hardy red wine. The pinot noir’s full body still has plenty of tannins and plenty of fruit, with dark cherry and berry flavors. It goes great with an entrée item like pork tenderloin with caramelized onions and chutney. As an appetizer, I really like it with crostini with goat cheese, a little bit of fig, and balsamic vinegar. The flavors are a really good match. The tannins of the wine offset the fat in the pork loins and goat cheese so they melt in your mouth.

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