Pumpkin Spiced Everything, Even Wine!
How does this happen? Pumpkins seem so innocuous. But they start taking over anything and everything in sight by Labor Day each year, and their reign continues well into January. The phenomena of this gourd has even crept into wine notes, which is clever, because ‘pumpkin spice’ notes are really just grape and barrel descriptors (‘cinnamon’, ‘nutmeg’, ‘clove’, ‘ginger’ ‘allspice’ and so on) that can be applied to many different wines and styles of wine.
I set out to find the wines that not only integrated these notes well, but drank well too, given the time of year, the shorter, darker days, and the looming holiday feasts. I’m looking for spices that work in the bright fall sunshine as well as next to the fire on crisp fall nights.
Here is what Winelala recommends for the month of November for the pumpkin spice lover in you!
If you are interested in any of these wines, please order through the links to our affiliate sites, or connect with Winelala and we can order them for you!!
Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2015, Alsace, France: Gewürz is one of those grapes with whom I haven’t fallen in love (meaning I don’t write nice notes to and about it like I do with other wines), but Trimbach makes solid wine, definitely worthy of investigation. This may be the only bottle of Gewurz that I have bought multiples. Find nutmeg and clove on the finish, and in the wine itself, fruits: dried apples, pears, and lychee. this will definitely be a bit of a departure from the norm.
Teeter-Totter Chardonnay 2016, Napa Valley, CA: Don’t get too caught up on skipping past a Chardonnay recommendation. Everyone says they ‘hate’ Chardonnay until they discover how complex and layered it can actually be. We’ve all been to weddings or bars in some large group setting that served Chard that was either super bland or overly buttery, but Teeter-Totter is neither. While it’s rich and oaked, it’s balanced (it’s named Teeter-Tooter, get it?) between bright stonefruit and custard notes, as well as ginger, vanilla, warm apples, and clove. Teeter-Totter is round and full, but a nice acidity keeps it clean, and it pairs well with a variety of non red-meat foods.
Cambria Clone 4 Pinot Noir 2014, Central Coast, CA: This is a solid choice for a wine, regardless of whether you are specifically seeking out pumpkin spice notes, which here, come out as cinnamon and cardamom that lift up red berries and dark blueberries underscored by a slight earthy note. It’s great quality for the value and Robert Parker even liked it (if you’re into his ratings): 91 points from The Wine Advocate.
Parducci Small Lot Blend Merlot 2014, Mendocino, CA: Super fun fact - I use Parducci’s Small Lot Pinot Noir in the Wine 101 classes I teach!! I’m happy to support this producer’s straightforward and clean style. The clove and cinnamon spices are light, the body is medium, and the black fruit is pure and supple. These wines are always satisfying, if not overly complex, but their simple, honest style is refreshing and easy.
Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza 2012, Rioja, Spain: Wait, what? How does a lively Rioja make this list? Well, first of all, it actually is making two lists, because we think it’s definitely, indisputably, one of the best wines under $20 that you should always have on hand. Marques de Caceres Crianza is one of the most versatile, crowd-pleasing wines out there, so it’s no surprise that it can accommodate our pumpkin spice lovers too!! It’s lively and smooth, and you will find vanilla and spice notes in the finish that warm you in the fall and ground you in the summer. (Just writing about Marques makes me want to buy a case, who’s in?!?!)
Warwick Estate Pinotage 2014, South Africa: Warwick Estate’s Pinotage presents its spiciness in two layers - subtle and mingled with vanilla at first, and then as a ‘spice box’ on the back palate (‘spicebox’ is actual term the winemaker uses!). Cinnamon and clove come through in this wine that tastes of dark cheries and plums, and then continue toward licorice and chocolate notes in a true evolution from a pumpkin spice latté into chocolate mocha!! Yes. Keep in mind, this is definitely a food-wine!
Croft Reserve Tawny, Douro, Portugal: I have been so excited to start recommending fortified wines! I’m going to start in a gentle, easy way with Croft’s Reserve Tawny. Tawny ports get very sophisticated and complex (and expensive) very quickly, but fortified wines, especially from this region of Portugal, are super, super interesting. I really say this without hyperbole, despite the use of excited adjectives. Even the winemaker basically says ‘pumpkin pie spice’ in the notes, which include “cardamom, spice, butterscotch and elegant redcurrant, interwoven with attractive nutty aromas.” The dominant top notes here are red berries and nuts, but what we’re interested in along with the spice, is the relative esoteric nature of this style of wine.