With summer’s heat behind us and fall’s chill yet to come, we are in that sweet spot where short sleeve-days rest between long sleeve-nights. Finally, we can enjoy dinner and a glass of wine over a soundtrack that includes neither the mind-numbing drone of the AC nor the hiss-hiss-clank of the radiator. Even better since dinners this time of year come together quickly using the last bits of summer and the first of autumn’s. Fleshy yet vibrant white wines are exactly what we crave during this bridge between seasons.
Late season tomatoes (especially romas) are meaty and rich and a natural match with varietals born in Italy’s Campania region, where the prized San Marzano tomatoes grow. Translated to American soil (Healdsburg, California’s to be exact), this Fiano from Ryme Cellars dazzles with flavors of flamed lemon zest, bitter almonds and ripe melon. Throw some pizza dough on the grill and top it with a hand-crushed sauce made from peeled, barely-cooked romas, torn pieces of burrata (oh, that gift of the food gods that is a ball of fresh mozzarella injected with cream), the final leaves of summer basil, sea salt and a generous glug of good olive oil.
Eat, drink, moan, repeat.
When fresh figs arrive at the Greenmarket, we recommend buying obscene amounts and then gorge with abandon. For the few weeks that follow, life revolves around figs and how to improve on their already exquisite beauty. The winner this season? Swaddle them in prosciutto, lightly sauté them until the prosciutto crisps and the figs warm, lay them on a bed of peppery arugula, and add nothing but a drizzle of grassy olive oil, lemon sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a glass of Forlorn Hope Wines’ Verdelho. Exotic and seductive, this California take on one of Portugal’s most aromatic varietals brings out the figs’ musky sweetness and delicate acidity.
Feeling like a Top Chef? Here’s a challenge: Roast a sheet pan of peeled and cubed butternut squash and apples at 400 degrees until soft and brown around the edges. Mash them with salt, pepper and some mascarpone until smooth and spoon the mixture onto sheets of fresh pasta (or use wonton wrappers!) for ravioli. Boil just until tender and toss them in butternut squash seed oil with some wilted chard (the garden that keeps on giving) and roasted pepitas. This dish that unites sweet, salty, earthy, bitter and nutty begs for a wine with ripe tropical fruits like Poco a Poco Chardonnay from Mendocino’s Porter-Bass Winery. Each sip grants density and structure alongside lip-smacking acidity.
It will be time to hibernate with slippers and red wine soon enough, folks. Until then, plan to play summer’s swan song on repeat.