October 15, 2018

Autumn in Sonoma

Autumn has arrived in Sonoma County. The grapes are almost entirely harvested, and the vines are beginning their winter dormancy. Their leaves are turning rich yellow and red and starting to fall. The forest trees that surround my home ranch are starting to show signs that autumn has arrived for them as well. The maples are making themselves known as pops of amber amongst all the green firs and redwoods. And the sunlight has that crystalline quality that we only see this time of year. At sundown everything is glowing, and it reminds us that the season of celebration has come again. Summer’s wonderful.

We spend it outside feasting and laughing until the sun goes down-and usually well after. This time of year brings in more introspective sorts of celebration. It’s dark earlier, the mornings and evenings are much cooler, and the season for long braises and fires in the hearth has arrived. And with it comes all the celebrations of the autumn harvest.

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair celebrates its 44th anniversary the first weekend of October.  And Joe and I have probably attended most of those. From the time we were small and loved the pumpkin bowling (yep pumpkin bowling) and Easy Bake Pumpkin Pie contests (yes, that’s real too, and they still let us participate. I don’t think either of us has ever won…) to the events we came to love as adults, wine-tasting and sampling the amazing foods created by our friends, the Harvest Fair is an annual milestone. It’s a wonderful celebration of what makes our county and community unique and so very special.

My kids will tell you that I’m sort of a grinch about Halloween. I can’t get excited about ghouls, spiders and the “Switch Witch” but give me a truck bed load of pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks and hay bales- oh and a mum or 50 and I’m off to the races. Farmhouse, and my home are bedecked- and turning a corner and finding piles of hay and fall’s bounty artfully arranged, never fails to make me smile.

As we creep into November (really doesn’t it feel like we are racing?), we get to look forward to A Wine and Food Affair– a sophisticated, weekend-long event showcasing seasonal foods paired with the fabulous wines of the region. This one is particularly near and dear to my heart- this is the 20th anniversary, which astounds me, because I was part of its creation back in my winery days. I have to say, it gets better every year!

Crab season opens in November. And we celebrate my brother’s November birthday with a feast of our family’s traditional Cioppino, a sort of seafood stew filled with local Dungeness crab.  The kids all love it served in locally made sourdough bread bowls (confession: I still do too). It’s messy and fun and best served with lots of pinot noir. Some of our own, and some that come from our friends’ vineyards and wineries.

Joe’s flock of turkeys is maturing and will be ready in time for Thanksgiving.  Joe will talk all things turkey in his November blog post. The tree lightings begin (yes, the kids and I attend every one we possibly can) and preparations begin for December- my favorite month of the year. But Joe will tell you I say that about every month… Brothers!

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