Now Playing

Eleven Wine Pairings for Your Fall Feast

Reds and whites that can stand up to autumn’s standbys.


Fall is here and that means comfort foods, hearty flavors, and the bold wines that go with them. And while many assume that big flavors demand red wines, there are plenty of fresh and zesty whites that make ideal matches for the bounty of salads, pastas, and seafood dishes on fall menus. Stock these easily found reds and whites and you’ll have a bottle fit for whatever the season throws your way.

The dish: roasted pork tenderloin
The bottle: pinot noir from Head High
Why it pairs: The juicy red fruits, dark plum, spices, and soft tannins in this pinot noir bring out the savory qualities of the meat. 

The dish: roasted squab with garlic
The bottle: Meritage red blend from Trinchero Napa Valley
Why it pairs: The long finish and notes of white pepper and concentrated flavors of black and red fruit in the wine enhance the earthy flavors of the bird.

The dish: lasagna (especially lamb)
The bottle: cabernet sauvignon from Hall Wines
Why it pairs: Being fruit-forward and slightly savory, this cabernet balances the umami-driven gaminess of ground lamb, tomatoes, and browned cheese. The soft tannins of the cabernet match the richness of lasagna, but have just enough acidity to cut through it.

The dish: chili
The bottle: syrah from Qupe
Why it pairs: Syrah's spicy and dark fruit notes beautifully complement the smoky and herbal components of a meaty chili. Because this syrah comes out of the cool climate region of Santa Barbara County, its silky yet structured texture can hold its own against a bowl of chili.

The dish: pumpkin risotto
The bottle: rioja reserva (tempranillo blend) from Beronia Rioja DOC
Why it pairs: Since tempranillos typically offer higher tannins, they can easily cut through foods higher in fat such as creamy risottos. 

The dish: beet and goat cheese salad
The bottle: pinot gris from Domaine Loew
Why it pairs: This wine is rich in texture and has hints of tropical fruit that complement the earthiness of beets and tang of goat cheese.

The dish: shrimp pasta
The bottle: sauvignon blanc from Cliff Lede Vineyards
Why it pairs: This sauvignon blanc is extremely aromatic, full of florals and a hint of mineral. The citrus notes in shrimp pasta bring out the aromatics in the sauvignon blanc, which stands up to the heavy pasta with its crispness. 

The dish: roast duck
The bottle: champagne from Charles Heidsieck
Why it pairs: Champagne is an ideal pairing for oily meats such as duck. The acidity in champagne cuts through the slick, fatty texture of roast duck while simultaneously cleansing your palate.

The dish: steamed mussels
The bottle: Stainless Steel chardonnay from Chamisal Vineyards
Why it pairs: The bright fruit and crisp acidity make a nice partner for the briny mussels, exposing not only lush tropical flavors but also hidden notes of stone fruit and a striking minerality.

The dish: butternut squash soup
The bottle: grenache blanc from Scheid Vineyards
Why it pairs: The lively acidity and freshness of grenache blanc suits a rich butternut squash soup that doesn’t skimp on cream. The playful aromatics of bright green apple and mandarin orange in the grenache blanc unfold into flavors of citrus and honeysuckle—a terrific balance for one of fall’s sturdiest vegetables.

The dish: boiled lobster and crab
The bottle: Sonoma Brut, NV, from Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
Why it pairs: Sonoma brut is a versatile pinot-based sparkling wine with lively citrus flavors that can stand up to crab’s meatiness and the rich flavors of lobster. 


Have feedback? Email us at
Email Ian White at
Follow us on Twitter @sanfranmag
Follow Ian White on Twitter @InsiderNapa