There's a chill in the air these days. Yes, even here in California.This time of year certain flavors and foods seem to be more appealing than at other times. Pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla,caramel, ginger, cardamom, anise, clove, sage…all are popular seasonal flavors. And with flavors, there are specific foods which just sound so good these days. Wild mushrooms, hearty stews,apples, roasted meats, nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts), thick soups, rich chocolate, squash, sweet potatoes, strong cheeses, and root vegetables are examples of comforting foods this time of year. Just as certain flavors and foods have a special appeal in the waning months of the year, this is also true of wines.
As these fall and winter flavors start to blossom in our minds and dance on our taste buds, we may not only feel ourselves drawn toward specific wines, such as big bold reds or toasty whites, but also appreciating flavor profiles of wines we may not have noticed in the heat of summer. How's that possible? Let's try some examples.
Riesling wines, (Monterey County produces some excellent examples), may taste bright and floral when you are enjoying them poolside with a light summer salad. However, these wines also often exhibit warming spice and clove characteristics. These flavor profiles may more easily be noticed when paired with winter vegetables such as butternut squash or pumpkin soup.
How about oaked white wines? Unless you're opening a heavily oaked Chardonnay, in warm weather times you may not really notice oak undertones as much. Instead, your palate may focus on flo- ral or light citrus tones in the wine. Now try that oaky Chardonnay with some dry roasted nuts…the oak flavor profile will definitely reveal itself.
And let's not forget red wines, as seasonal change and taste preference variations can impact the perception of red wines as well. A nice bold Cabernet Sauvignon may be overbearing in summer yet delightfully comforting in winter. Furthermore, pairing red wine with more hearty winter fare has more opportunity to achieve a great wine and food match, as a lot of winter dishes scream to be paired with big red wines. And in doing so, instead of noticing that particular Merlot wine's cherry fruit tones as you would in summer with a lighter food match, now with a savory stew the wine's rustic earthy undertones will be more prevalent.
And speaking of wine and food, this is also the time of year to cook with wine. Cooking with wine is not as limited as some may imagine. The most likely recognized cooking-with-wine scenario is probably in the form of some sort of stew. And there's nothing wrong with this, as for red and white wines there are endless amounts of creations one can conjure adding wine to make a dish just right. Bouef Bourguignon (Burgundy beef), Coq au Vin (chicken and wine), Daube de Lapin (rabbit stew), Ci- oppino…all of these famous dishes incorpo- rate wine into their base stock.
Or, red wines can be used to make sauces which are then drizzled over roasted meats or vegetables. And don't think that red wine can never be associated with seafood. Beurre rouge is a sort of butter blended with red wine which is absolutely divine as a glaze for salmon.
And, don't forget about dessert. Full flavored red wines are always popular to pair with chocolate on chilly evenings. But red wines can be used within desserts themselves as an ingredient in cakes or used to poach fresh fruit.
However you wish to incorporate wine into your holiday season, we've got you covered here at A Taste of Monterey.