Marie Gewirtz

Earlier this week, with smoke finally dispersed by welcome rains, I was driving a carpool of teenagers through Santa Rosa at the break of dawn. The autumn golden light of the rising sun highlighted seasonal colors of surrounding vineyards. Even trees blackened by last year’s fires, moist from recent rains, were glistening.

I thought of the complete and utter devastation of Paradise, as I looked at our land recovering from the firestorms. Once again I felt tremendous gratitude for our vineyards, which served as a firebreak in preserving landscape and our agricultural crops. 
It’s hard to imagine that something far worse than what we experienced last year has taken place in neighboring Paradise. And, now, one year later, I appreciate even more the tightness of our wine community, which continues to reach out in so many ways in rebuilding our towns.
I blurted out to these teenagers, who no doubt thought I was a bit crazy, “I. Love. Wine. I love absolutely everything about wine.”
I love the way the land is blanketed throughout all seasons in colors from spring green to the deep greens of late summer, followed by a sea of brilliant yellows and oranges, eventually turning to rust as vineyard leaves drop preparing the barren vines for the cold and hopefully rainy months of winter.
The vines provide a visual expression of how I feel as the seasons change.  There is a visceral relief I feel when grapes have been harvested and the vines shut down for the season of quiet and hibernation. For me, hibernation means a time of going inward with more hours devoted to reading and writing.
Then my thoughts turned to the holidays and being surrounded by the warmth and love of family and friends. I thought of how much more I enjoy pairing favorite wines with hearty winter meals: A robust zinfandel with slow cooked beef stroganoff, an elegant pinot noir with a rack of lamb. I brought back a Penner-Ash Old Vine Riesling, from a recent trip to McMinnville, Oregon, for our Thanksgiving turkey. It was a perfect match for the diverse seasonings and flavors introduced in a holiday meal.
There is something about the restraint of winter that makes wine taste better. Perhaps it’s that we spend more time inside, and eating becomes a welcome distraction with our palates becoming more astute. Taking the time to crack a fresh walnut and putting a dollop of Valley Ford Creamery “Grazin’ Girl” Gorgonzola cheese on top, then washing it down with a cuvée of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise. It is such a luxury.
One of my favorite winter traditions is popping rich, nutty, heirloom red popcorn from the farmers’ market, pairing it with a Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, snuggling up to a cozy fire, while becoming absorbed in a riveting 600-page book. Doesn’t get much better than this.
This holiday season our family has made a pact to donate to causes and organizations that touch our individual hearts, while giving each other the gift of time in being together. The few material things we might offer will be handmade by friends or purchased locally. Sonoma County wine is at the top of my list, as are baskets of food including colorful persimmons, pomegranates, walnuts, local nut butters and jams, as well as homemade pies and cakes from the Alexander Valley Ladies Aid Bazaar, which will be held Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Alexander Valley Community Church.
We have so very much for which to be grateful. During this month of holiday spirit, remember to smile widely and often, to generously give material gifts to those in need and the gift of love and time to everyone else. Thank your neighboring farmers and vintners, and, if you believe in Santa, next to the glass of milk and cookie, please leave him or her a bottle of your favorite Sonoma County wine.

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