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Return here each Friday to find food, movie, wine and music recommendations that are paired in a theme. Read on for an easy, no-recipe-required fabulous dinner paired with an affordable wine, some music, and a viewing suggestion. We’re here to help you sit back, wine down and chill.

Embracing the sights and smells of Autumn

A new season is upon us. We survived a near-apocalyptic event with Friday the 13th falling on a Harvest Moon. That said, last week was intense for me and this week is doubly so. Gack! I emerged from the dark side of the moon, escaped the wrath of our local werewolf and I hope you fared as well.

I love the Autumn with its crisp air, delightfully showy displays of braggadocious trees who simply can’t help themselves. Pumpkin spice. Ahhh. Wearing fashionable scarves, boots and dresses is my favorite style. And, it’s time to harvest all those juicy grapes to make for numerous occasions to wine down and chill.

Hunt for Harvester

With the summer now behind us, day drinkin’ icy chilled white wines needs to be paused for a few seasons. It’s time for big, juicy reds. Based on the jammy, fruit-forward flavor preference that I have for wines, there is nothing finer than a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Paso Robles region of California.

Hope Family Wines produces today’s selection, Harvester. Not surprisingly, it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon crafted by Austin Hope. They also make another wine that I enjoy, Liberty School. Both have all the flavors of Fall that I crave. Velvety tannins, bold berries and a hint of spice. For $19, this bottle packs a punch of artfully balanced acidity and flavor.

Harvesting juicy goodness to wine down and chill

In columns published earlier this year, I shared some details about the growing region and this varietal, now the most popular in the world. Today, given the season, it makes sense to talk about the process of harvesting grapes. Here, timing is everything. Vintners carefully monitor the sugar levels of grapes, called the Brix. This influences when they should be picked, along with several other factors including grape color, availability of the crushing pad, malic acidity levels and more. This is arguably the most critical step as the timing of the harvest dictates sweetness, acidity, and flavor of the wine to come.

Late harvest grapes are sweeter and those left on the vine until a chilly winter harvest are bursting with sugar. The tricky thing to balance is sweetness and decay. Get it wrong and, well, you can imagine the result. Wildlife is also a critical factor this time of year. Sweet, juicy grapes tempt even the timidest of animals to brave the perils of poaching a vineyard. Most wineries prefer to harvest in small batches versus multiple passes over a period of days to drive consistency in their wines.

There’s much debate in regards to the advantage of machine-picked versus hand-picked fruit. Mechanical harvesting tends to be more aggressive, snips a lot of stems and damages the grapes. Consequently, bruising can impart negative flavors through oxidation and bacterial growth. That said, since their debut in the 1960s, mechanical harvesters have ushered in economical, good quality wines so let’s not be too quick to dismiss their value here. Stems do add flavor but, as is it is the case for most things, too much of anything is rarely a good idea.

Cue music

We are trying to set the stage here for a little romance. It’s autumn. And it’s time to change it up a little. Have a go with today’s CD selection, Autumn by George Winston. You can practically hear the leaves falling in time with the melodic sounds of his piano.

A cornucopia of color

Today’s easy dinner tantalizes our eyes and mimics the unabashed display seen in our forests this time of year. For all you “leafers” out there, it’s a way to bring some color to your dinner plate. Here you are: a roasted treat for your wine down and chill selection.

Five ingredients and five steps

One, select peppers in every color that you can find. Slice off the tops, remove the ribs to hollow out the pepper. Reserve the tops with the stems still on.

Two, prepare some rice. I like to mix brown rice, wild rice, and golden rice to give it some color, flavor and panache. Season with cumin.

Three, pick your protein. You can use any vegetarian sausage crumble mixture, pork or turkey sausage once you remove the contents from the casings. Fry it up!

Four, for the anti-fungus among us, you can skip this step! I like sliced shiitake mushrooms quickly pan-fried in butter.

Five, fry up some onions and garlic in sea salt and butter. Mix everything together into the rice when it’s done. Fill the peppers and roast in a covered tagine (clay pot) or casserole for about 30 min at 325°F. Place the pepper lids on and roast for another 15 min or so.

Pour yourself a glass and settle in. Finally, it’s time to wine down and chill.

Falling Inn Love

Since we are queueing up a little romance, why not indulge in a bit of a fantasy. The Netflix original, Falling Inn Love, is about a San Francisco hot-shot exec who ditches Cali for a quiet town in New Zealand. She’s essentially scammed by a Win-an-Inn lottery but finds a way to make a new life in this RomCom.

As a recovering house restorer, having barely survived a decade-long renovation of a historic home, I can unequivocally say that yes, this movie is a fantasy. That said, Adam Demos is a yummy kiwi and pushes the movie far away from reality into that other realm. Full disclosure: I have a thing for New Zealand accents! Although Austrian accents come in a close second. Wink! And Christina Milian is a total sweetheart.

Raise your glass. Listen to the sounds of the leaves falling. Now cuddle with your cutie to wine down and chill.

 

Cheers!