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Late-season market offerings merit special wine pairings

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Fickle October typically unfolds sunny and glorious one moment and dark and rainy the next. But unpredictable weather does not deter local farmers from coming to markets each week with an intriguing bounty.

The myriad choices create terrific opportunities for wine pairings. Consider the following:

Most farmers markets offer locally grown versions of pleasingly pungent arugula, a leafy, peppery green. Also known as salad rocket, arugula's origins stretch to the Roman era throughout the Mediterranean rim. The poet Virgil famously suggested arugula's aphrodisiac properties.

Leaving Virgil's proposition aside, today, arugula generally plays a background role in simple mixed green salads. But using a little imagination with arugula bears tasty results, especially paired with sauvignon blanc-based white wines.

For example, combine Comté, a creamy and slightly earthy, yet nutty, aged French cheese made from cow's milk originating in the Jura Mountains, with sliced kalamata olives, mayo and arugula in a grilled sandwich (from www.thekitchn.com). Grill the buttered outsides of the sandwiches to a golden brown so the cheese melts to envelop the greens. The pungent arugula balances the cheese perfectly while the olives and mayo tie it all together.

Pair it with the 2012 Domaine Paul Thomas Sancerre, Chavignol Les Comtesses, France (Luxury 31159; $28.99). All Sancerre whites rely exclusively on sauvignon blanc grapes, but this wine stands out because of the unique soils producing the fruit.

The domaine's vines grow in Chavignol, a subsection of Sancerre where deep, pure Kimmeridgian limestone creates steely, mouth-watering mineral notes. Les Comtesses, a tiny, severely sloped vineyard within Chavignol's Les Mont Damnés section, heightens the traits.

The special location yields fruit with extra layers of racy concentration and complexity. After workers harvest by hand and carry the fruit down the steep slope, fermentation takes place in stainless steel to preserve fresh, intense aromas.

Pleasant, yet arresting, grapefruit, quince and honey aromas waft from the glass. Just a hint of smokiness filters through. Rich, ripe grapefruit and peach flavors layer in crisp acidity with subtle creamy notes. The elegant, dry finish lingers with lovely, seamless balance. Highly recommended.

Tree-ripened peaches may have passed their prime, but Pam Byran of Pucker Brush Farm offers an absolutely delightful peach jam. Bryan has long participated Saturday mornings at the Farmers at the Firehouse Market in the Strip District.

Her chunky peach jam avoids cloying sweetness and, instead, delivers the peaches' sun-ripened essence. Farmer Byran recommends putting the jam on vanilla ice cream. Slathering it on a slice of fresh sourdough bread, also available from Mediterra Bakehouse at the same market, makes a simple and delicious combination.

Pair it with the delightful 2012 Cantine della Marca Collevite, Falerio, Italy (Luxury 33127; Chairman's Selection on sale: $13.99). Located in the rolling hillside vineyards outside of Ascoli Piceno, the capital of Italy's Marche province along the Adriatic coast, this modern winery specializes in traditional regional varieties. This terrific white comes from passerina, trebbiano and pecorino grapes.

The region's two small rivers and mountains on three sides shape the fruit's full ripeness and refreshing acidity. Fermentation in stainless-steel tanks captures the fruit's forward aromas and freshness.

Floral, orange and honey aromas greet the nose. Ripe peach and citrus flavors balance with lovely creaminess and refreshing acidity through the dry finish. Highly recommended.

Both locally foraged and cultivated mushrooms appear at many farmers markets during October. Select earthy and pungent varieties for a simple pasta sauce. Saute chopped mushrooms and several minced cloves of garlic in a little olive oil. Add a dollop or two of creme fraiche and salt, freshly ground pepper and chopped parsley. Serve immediately over hot pasta.

Pair it with 2012 Kermit Lynch Selection Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, France (Luxury 46982; $10.99), a tasty classic southern Rhône red blend dominated by grenache. Recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ddesimone@tribweb.com.

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