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Rutherford Ranch 2011 Napa Valley flattering to classic autumn dishes

With the winter holidays coming, you may want to have several quaffable wines on hand that flatter fall food. Our Wine of the Week, Rutherford Ranch 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($16), is one you should consider, as it is an ideal match with many classic flavors of the season.

The wine is so creamy on the palate that it suggests warmth while at the same time being refreshing, with a pleasing acidity. It makes me think of sitting by a fire on a cold night, wrapped in a cozy blanket. The aromas suggest a kitchen filled with the scents of baking apples, cinnamon coffee cake, pear gingerbread and hot spiced apple juice. These aromas are mirrored on the palate, along with ripe apricots, buttery toast, vanilla and just enough citrus to add a bright flash to each sip.

The wine's finish is long and interesting; if you wait long enough, you'll notice suggestions of fresh thyme.

The wine is a flawless match with turkey and cornbread dressing and also perfect with winter-squash soups, souffles and gratins. Fettuccine with a smoked salmon and cream sauce is a happy partner, too, as is a simple roasted chicken, especially with a butter-apple cider glaze. A traditional Comte fondue served with toasted brioche, spears of roasted chicken and steamed sweet-potato wedges is another wonderful and festive match.

For today's recipe, I've chosen a soup I love to serve at this time of year, especially when I have guests. It can easily be made a day before serving it and reheated at the last minute. Just be certain to have the cheese at room temperature, so that it melts as the soup is ladled over it. The thyme in the soup makes the parallel flavor in the wine blossom.

Sweet Potato Soup with Teleme and Thyme

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed

1 medium potato, such as Yukon Gold, scrubbed

3 tablespoons butter


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