Winter Wines for Your Holiday Haute Cuisine

Winter, too, is passion; family and friends; warmth of heart; generosity of spirit. The cold outside prompts us to gather inside among family and friends – especially so during the holiday season – and collectively reflect on the year gone by and the new year to come.

It is also a time to enjoy the fruits of our labor when harvest vegetables and hearty meats form the center of a season of feasts, large and small. For what better way to warm the body and invigorate the soul than with the simple pleasures of a good meal? Yet, no good meal will ever become a great meal without a fine wine to marry the flavors and enliven the senses.

Ernest Hemingway reflected, “We thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food, and also a great river of happiness and well-being and delight…it was as natural as eating, and to me as necessary.” Better still, is not just a wine paired with food, but a unity of the two where the wine literally becomes a part of the food; used as an ingredient to brighten and enrich the meal and provide the perfect companion to drink with the completed dish.

Pairing food and wines, and cooking with wines, can seem daunting. Matching flavors and enhancing the overall character of a meal with wine may quickly become a science, and some particularly insightful, talented cooks elevate the practice to an art form. But the process need not be intimidating. To start, there are, of course, the time-tested classic pairings, like salmon with Pinot Noir.

But the real joy of cooking with wine is to move beyond those comfortable boundaries and into a world of culinary exploration. The most important ingredients are imagination, creativity, some knowledge of your food and wine, and of course, the willingness to test your ideas, via good old trial and error, in the kitchen. There are no true rules that must be followed here, but the following guidelines for common Finger Lakes grape varieties are a good place to start.

White Wines:
• Riesling – Seafood, Chicken, Pork, Asian
• Gewürztraminer – Chicken, Pork, Asian
• Chardonnay – Cheese, Seafood, Grilled Fish, Chicken, Pork
• Sauvignon Blanc – Seafood, Fish, Light Pasta, Chicken

Red Wines:
• Cabernet Sauvignon – Pasta, Beef
• Merlot – Pasta, Beef
•  Pinot Noir – Beef, Pork, Pasta, Salmon

In the spirit of the winter holiday season, we’ve gone into the kitchen ourselves in pursuit of recipes – appetizer, entrée, and dessert – that warm us from the cold and remind us of family gathered ’round the table. Try them in your own kitchen, and use them as a stepping stone to embark on a journey of joyful cooking with wine and food!

“Wine makes a symphony of a good meal,” notes Fernande Garvin, in his book The Art of French Cooking. But don’t be discouraged if your first attempts fail to yield a masterpiece. Remember that an orchestra spends many hours practicing, blending their diverse sounds, before the symphony becomes a grand performance. So it may go in your kitchen – do not be afraid to try and fail, because eventually, the flavors will blend, your meal will be a symphony, and with the help of your favorite Finger Lakes wines, you will have created your very own masterpiece!

Roasted Harvest Vegetable Soup
(Serves: 6 appetizers, 4 entrées)
1 Parsnip
1 Onion
1 Leek
1 Turnip
1 Acorn Squash
2 Carrots
2 Potatoes
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Sprigs Rosemary
1/2 C. Dry White Wine (Pinot Gris)
4 1/2 C. Vegetable Stock
3/4 C. Light Cream
2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

1.    Peel and large dice first seven ingredients. Spread in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper. Roast for 60 minutes in a 400-degree oven.
2.    Remove vegetables from oven and add to a large soup pot. Add vegetable stock. Immediately deglaze the pan with white wine and also add to stock.
3.    Cook vegetables and stock together for five minutes, puree soup (hand or traditional blender).
4.    Stir in cream and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5.    Serve with crusty French bread

Wine suggestion – Pinot Gris

Beef Tenderloin with Cabernet Sauce and Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes (Serves 4)
4 - 4 Oz. Beef tenderloin steaks
1/2 Tsp. Garlic Salt
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooking Spray
1 Tbsp. Butter
1 Tbsp. Flour
1/2 C. Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 C. Beef Stock
1 Shallot, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Recipe Potatoes

1.    Sear beef tenderloin in a deep frying pan. Cook 3-5 minutes on each side, depending upon degree of doneness desired. Remove beef from pan and set aside.
2.    In the same pan, melt butter and stir in flour and shallots. Cook until shallots are soft and lightly browned.
3.    Add the wine and the stock to the shallot mixture and cook until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4.    Serve beef with sauce and potatoes (see recipe in next column)

1 Tbsp. Butter
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Small Sweet Onion, small dice
1 lb. Potatoes
1/4 C. Evaporated Milk
2 Tbsp. Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

1.    Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the garlic and onions, season with salt and pepper. Cook the onions until deep brown and caramelized, approximately 10 minutes.
2.    Peel and boil potatoes in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan until very tender.
3.    Mash the potatoes (potato masher or ricer works best) and mix in caramelized onions, milk, butter, salt and pepper.

Wine Suggestion – Cabernet Sauvignon

Apple Almond Rustic Pie with Late Harvest Wine Sauce
4 Large Apples, sliced
1/3 C. Dried Cherries
3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. Whole Wheat Flour
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp. Nutmeg
7 Oz. Almond Paste
1 C. Late Harvest Riesling
1 Recipe Pie Crust (below)

1.    In a medium bowl mix apples, cherries, sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
2.    Roll out pie crust (recipe below) to about 12 inches in diameter, 1/4-inch thick. Place on a parchment paper-lined jelly roll pan.
3.    Roll out almond paste to a circle, 8 inches in diameter, place in the center of the pie crust.
4.    Arrange apple mixture in crust leaving 2 inches of crust around the outside. Fold up the edges of the crust to form a rustic pie.
5.    Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, until the crust is brown.
6.    Meanwhile, cook 1 cup late harvest Riesling in a small saucepan, reducing volume by half, about 5 minutes, let cool.
7.    Remove apple galette from oven, drizzle wine reduction over the top of the pie. Serve warm or cool, let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.

Pie Crust
1 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour
1/2 C. Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Tsp. Salt
6 Tbsp. Cold Butter, cubed
5 Tbsp. Vegetable Shortening
6-7 Tbsp. Cold Water

1.    Mix flours and salt in a bowl.
2.    Cut butter and shortening into flour until mixture resembles crumbs the size of peas.
3.    Gently mix in cold water until dough forms. DO NOT OVERMIX.
4.    Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Wine Suggestion – Late Harvest Riesling

by Peter and Kelli Bronski
Peter and Kelli Bronski ( enjoy Finger Lakes wines often, whether in a glass or in a meal.

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