September in vineyard country is filled with the smells of harvest. Trucks hauling gondolas bursting with grapes drop fruit here and there, and as cars pass over them, the aroma mixes into the air in a rich stew. As we drive along the road, the first smells of fermentation flow out along with elements from the heaps of grape skins waiting to be recycled into the vineyard topsoil.
Everyone’s gardens are filled with eggplants, yellow, green and red peppers hang from over-loaded stems, fig trees are laden with purple globes (or at least whatever the birds have left) and walnut trees are delivering their little prizes to the ground. Roadside vegetable stands overflow with colorful displays, and our neighbors keep trying to unload their extra zucchini. (“Plant less,” we say. “You always have too much!” “I know, I know!” they answer laughing, and go to consult the seed catalogs for next year.)
The weather could change by the end of the month to rain, or it could continue being sunny into October, no one ever knows for certain. There’s a busy, buzzing feeling to the country: in a tradition as old as agriculture, people are racing against the coming cooler weather to bring in the crops.
A wine that melds well with all these summer flavors is Sumner Vineyards Pinot Noir. This wine has rich aromas of ripe black cherries and wild summer berries.…a perfect wine for a barbeque, so let’s have one!
* MENU *
Sumner Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve
Ratatouille with polenta
Charcoal-grilled garlic-herbed chicken
Fresh peaches and almond biscotti
* RECIPE *
Charcoal-Grilled Garlic-Herb Chicken
1 3-pound chicken, cut up
3 heads of garlic
1/2 bottle full-bodied red wine
2-3 sprigs rosemary
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinate the chicken in the wine, the cloves from one head of garlic and rosemary for 4 hours in the refrigerator. About an hour before dinner, remove the chicken from the refrigerator.
Build a charcoal fire. When the flames have died down and there is a nice bed of coals, remove the chicken from the marinade, pat the pieces dry and salt and pepper to taste. Take the remaining two heads of garlic, cut their tops off to reveal the top cloves and make individual aluminum foil “cups” for them. Pour olive oil over the garlic heads liberally, and place on the grill. Cook the chicken on the grill, turning frequently until nicely browned and cooked to the degree that you prefer. When the garlic cloves are softened, take them off the grill and pour the oil into a small bowl. Let the garlic heads cool enough for handling and then pinch the soft cloves out into the bowl. Mash the garlic cloves and oil into a paste, spread it on the chicken pieces and wrap each piece in aluminum foil. Return the chicken to the grill for 5 minutes to heat through. Unwrap and serve with ratatouille and polenta.