The first day of autumn arrives this week, and it's time to put away the summer wine list. As harvest begins, what works best to drink with those savory, spicy fall meals? Let’s ask Ashley Hausman Vaughters, Colorado’s only Master of Wine, a designation conferred (appropriately) by the Institute of Masters of Wine. Vaughters, a wine rep for Old World Wine Imports and owner of her own wine education and consulting company, Mistral Wine Co., recently earned this prestigious accreditation after three years of studying viticulture, wine making and bottling, and the overall business of wine. She’s also a level-two certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers.
For fall’s warm days and cool nights, Vaughters recommends borderline wines – fuller whites and lighter reds – that complement the flavors of autumn foods. “While it’s still warm and we have the benefit of really great tomatoes still coming in," she explains, "if you have not embraced dry rosés yet, then I urge you to stop judging and thinking it’s Grandma’s zin.” Rosé is a great wine to serve with food whose flavors fight with wine; it’s perfect to pair with that luscious late-summer tomato.
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Vaughters recommends full-bodied, less-acidic whites to serve with seasonal favorites. Butternut-squash soup, with its sweet and spicy flavors, pairs well with chardonnays from Burgundy or Rhône-style white blends that contain grenache blanc. “Pinot gris from Oregon has some nice heft to it,” she adds.
In terms of red wine, go earthy and rustic: barbera from northern Italy, rioja from Spain, or Tuscan chianti. When aged in an oak barrel, these reds gain a hint of caramel. They are also easy-drinking reds that go down well with or without food.
Beaujolais nouveau is a popular choice in late autumn. Traditionally, this barely aged “new” wine was consumed in celebration of the harvest. Don’t assume that cheap beaujolais nouveau is all the region offers. There are aged beaujolais styles and higher-end vintages (around $20 a bottle) that are complex and elegant wines. Vaughters recommends keeping an open mind. If you’ve been turned off by a type of wine in the past, don’t assume it’s the grape, she says; it could be the style. “There’s an amazing version of everything,” she notes.
Vaughters's enthusiasm for wine is inspiring, matched only by her expertise and delightful down-to-earth demeanor. Her autumn wine recommendations will no doubt make autumn a little tastier. We’ll check in for winter wine recommendations from Colorado’s only Master of Wine in a few months.