’Tis the Season

Umpqua Valley wines pair with seasonal bounty for a fresh, Festive Feast

By Nancy Rodriguez, The Chef in Wine Country

The colors in the nearby Umpqua Valley vineyards may have faded and the days turned colder, but a trip to my local farmers market brings color and warmth back to life with an abundance of ingredients. Rows of root vegetables display their muted earthtones next to vibrant shades of purple eggplant along with pomegranates, from rose to ruby.  Showcase your favorite seasonal produce with local wine to create a truly fresh and festive meal.

The harvest is the harbinger of the change of seasons. The leaves on the vines in the vineyards turn from vibrate greens, to yellow-gold  and soft shades of amber before leaving them bare. The season of  celebrations begins and we gather round the table to take refuge from the cold outside. The glow from candles illuminates the moment and memories, old or new, transcend time.

The colors in the vineyard may have faded and the days are cold but a trip to the Farmer’s Market brings color and warmth back to life with an array of produce in abundance. Rows of root vegetables show their muted earth tones next to vibrant shades of purple eggplant and pomegranates from rose to ruby. Seasonal and regional produce and products help create an identity for the food we make as do the wines take their character from the region. The meal for the holiday table is determined by this and each choice is like a gift for the giving.

The figs and hazelnuts are married, bound together by a balsamic vinegar with a hint of honey. This is finished off with a toss of Gorgonzola that adds the element of the unexpected flavor. The Anindor Gewurztraminer plays with the layers of the succulent fruit laced with honey, the toastiness of the hazelnuts and the richness of  the cheese, bringing it all together with a crisp finish.

In the market are also the leeks and fennel with their hues of variegated greens, a bouquet of heady aromas that blend as they slow roast together. The goat cheese is the layer in between a flaky pastry and gives the greens a creamy bite. The Girardet Chardonnay with its pale, golden straw color glows from the glass, lemongrass lingers on the palette and leads to light mineral finish.

The first gift of Christmas given to me by a friend was a leg of lamb. Encrusted with a trio of herbs, a pesto of oregano, mint and rosemary, it was cooked to pink perfection in a long, slow oven. The herbaceousness of the lamb speaks to the Triple Oak Tempranillo with its dark fruit and soft tannins. The Tuscan Grape Bread was served in the time of the Etruscans to celebrate Vendemmia, the harvest of the grapes. Incorporated into the baking of the bread are roasted grapes so as the bread is broken it reveals the fruit.

The meal is ended with the pears and apples piled on a delicate crust and drizzled with a classic caramel sauce enhanced with a sprinkle of cinnamon. This little hint of spice brings us back around to the beginning with an homage to the Gewurztraminer and introducing the way for the Glaser Muscat. This wine opens with a light waft of honeysuckle and bathes the pears and apples with its scent. In the balance of sweetness it gives it to the crostata.

The meal from beginning to end is a journey through the senses, seasons and vintages. The changing seasons take us through the year leading us to the time that brings us together in this ancient ritual by which we follow and celebrate at the holiday table.

Read full Oregon Wine Press article and recipes