In 2004, Jim Morgan of Chardon received wine classes from the then-Cleveland Wine School as a Christmas present from his wife Katrinka. He was hooked. He took more classes, at the renamed American Wine School, and expanded his wine knowledge and taste.
Now Morgan has his favorite wines – mostly Old World burgundies– but, when entertaining, he adapts to the season and the food he’s cooking.
“For me choosing a wine is about trying to match the weight and body of the wine to the food,” he says. “The transition to fall brings pot roasts, stews and casseroles. These call for bigger wines like Barolo, Rhone blends and Brunello.”
While many people like only red or white any time of year, others go seasonal. “Some people prefer a cooler white wine in the warm weather and bolder red to fend off the winter cold,” says Jeff Harrod, general manager at Red, Wine and Brew in Chesterland. Harrod has worked in retail wine sales for more than 25 years. He currently curates a collection of 6,000-plus wines at Red, Wine and Brew.
“Warmer weather usually brings lighter meals and a lighter wine complements them while cold weather brings hearty meals and a red wine works better with those types.”
“As the weather starts to get cooler this fall a heavier white can still be enjoyable, for example a California Chardonnay like Duckhorn or French Cote du Rhone like Guigal,” says Harrod. “As for a red in the slightly cooler season I suggest a French Beaujolais from Louis Latour or perhaps an Italian Chianti from Banfi. Both are still light enough to drink on a fairly warmish fall day.”
As we get closer to Thanksgiving, Harrod suggests wine based on the main course. “For turkey (or ham) I suggest a La Crema Pinot Noir as the red or a French Alsatian white like Trimbach Gewurztraminer. They are dry wines with enough body to stand up to the variety of side dishes that come with a holiday meal.”
Winner of Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, the 950-plus selections at Cru Uncorked in Moreland Hills are heavily French-focused, with the addition of European and New World wines. When it comes to seasonal pairings Cru’s president and wine expert Chris Oppewall is down to earth. “I still have rose in my fridge. We live in Ohio and you never know if it’s going to be 90 F in November.”
“I like Frog’s Leap Pink La Grenouille Rouganté (2019), because of it has wild strawberry and rhubarb hints that lead to an elegant, long finish,’ he says of the California wine. “Many roses will do, but the best are fresh. The 2018 or 2019 are preferred vintages. A 2017 is OK, if you must, but a 2016 is a ‘no’ in most cases.”
Weather aside, he says, “As soon as I get into fall flavors I think about stewed meats, squash and baking spices. Then, I wind up in the Rhone and South France with selections like Grenache, Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
“In fall, I also love to get into a Bordeaux with a little age; something about 10 years old,” he says. “Perhaps a moderately priced Bordeaux or a second label from a classified vineyard. A wine like that is memorable independently, it doesn’t take a perfect food pairing to shine.
He cautions, “To get Bordeaux with eight to 10 years age is difficult outside of the restaurant space. But, if you’ve collected and are patient, wines like the 2010 Arômes de Pavie [on the Cru wine list] really are exciting.  A second label from the 1er Grand Cru Classe wine, Chateau Pavie, it shows great maturity already and is exactly the kind of wine to sit by a fire and think about.”
Those looking for the full winery experience can enjoy a scattering of fire bowls on the main terrace at Sapphire Creek Winery in Chagrin Falls. “We offer luxurious faux fur blankets as well as overhead radiant heaters to keep our guests warm and cozy,” says Kathleen Birkel Dangelo, president and owner.
As weather chills and menus grow heartier, she recommends the winery’s Napa Valley Cabernet which features flavors of hazelnut, vanilla and cocoa nibs.  “Another wine to pair with fall flavors is our Anderson Valley Pinot Noir,” she says describing the palate experience as deep and savory with flavors of cranberry, dark cherry and currant with pleasant hints of tobacco.”