Our Wine of the Week, Duckhorn Vineyards 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($35), is a dramatic and self-assured wine, one that wants to be the center of attention. My advice is to let it. Give it center stage so that its plush, buttery texture and exuberant fruit flavors can blossom. These qualities should be showcased, not subdued or overshadowed.
Along with the wine’s lush mouthfeel are swirls of fruit flavors, Granny Smith apple, baked apple, Asian pear, Comice pear, dragon fruit and a bit of custardy durian, sans the infamous aroma.
Coursing through these flavors are little threads of butterscotch, caramel and buttered toast with the thinnest slathering of pear butter.
For this wine to show itself at its very best, enjoy it with a simple roasted chicken mopped with apple cider several times as it cooks. By way of a sauce, simply swirl some butter into the pan drippings, adjust for salt and pepper and you’re ready to dig in.
All of the usual suspects that pair with classic California chardonnay work well with this one, too, of course: You won’t go wrong with shrimp, rock shrimp, scallops, wild Pacific king salmon, corn, polenta, eggplant, pork tenderloin, sweet potatoes and coconut. Sweet potato curry, grilled eggplant and creamy polenta with rock shrimp sautéed in butter are all great matches.
Avoid foods with too much acid or spicy heat.
For today’s recipe, I’ve taken inspiration from the Cheddar cauliflower — named for its rich orange color — grown by Ma & Pa’s Garden. It’s paired with an almost-classic fettuccine Alfredo, the flavor of which is deepened by the addition of creamy roasted garlic puree, which ties the cauliflower to the sauce and the wine beautifully.
Fettuccine Alfredo with Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower
Serves 4 to 6
— Kosher salt
1 pound dried fettuccine
2 tablespoons butter
1 small shallot, minced
1¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons roasted garlic puree
¾ cup (3 ounces) grated Vella Dry Jack, Estero Gold or similar cheese— Black pepper in a mill
½ cauliflower (about 1 pound) florets, preferably Cheddar, oven roasted until tender, hot
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley or snipped chives
Fill a large pot two-thirds full with water, season generously with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, cook the fettuccine according to package directions until just done. Drain but do not rinse the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, put the butter into a medium saute pan set over medium heat, add the shallots and saute gently until soft and fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cream, stir and simmer until reduced by about one-third. Whisk in the roasted garlic puree, remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.
Season with several turns of black pepper, taste and correct for salt.
When the pasta is drained, quickly tip it into a warmed shallow bowl and pour all but about 3 tablespoons of the sauce over it. Toss gently but throughly. Put the cauliflower into the pan with the remaining sauce, turn to coat it thoroughly and add the parsley or chives and turn again.
Working quickly, divide the pasta among individual soup plates, top with the cauliflower and serve.