Now Playing

Wine Pairings for Fall Faves Like Butternut Squash, Risotto, and Even Chili

Eleven wines 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.

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

Dish: roasted squab with garlic
Wine:  Meritage red blend
Winery: 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.

Dish: lasagna (especially lamb)
Wine: cabernet sauvignon
Winery: 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.

Dish: chili
Wine: syrah
Winery: 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.

Dish: pumpkin risotto
Wine: rioja reserva (tempranillo blend)
Winery: 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. 

Dish: beet and goat cheese salad
Wine: pinot grigio
Winery: 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.

Dish: shrimp pasta
Wine: sauvignon blanc
Winery: 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. 

Dish: roast duck
Wine: champagne
Winery: 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.

Dish: steamed mussels
Wine: Stainless Steel Chardonnay
Winery: 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.

Dish: butternut squash soup
Wine: grenache blanc
Winery: 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.

Dish: boiled lobster and crab
Wine:  Sonoma Brut, NV
Winery: 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.