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Pairing: A lovely sauvignon blanc, a delicious salad


Our Wine of the Week, Rutherford Ranch Winery 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($18), underscores the embarrassment of riches we can so easily take for granted but that wine lovers who live in other parts of the country envy: We are surrounded by outstanding wines - at this point, too many to count.

This lovely wine is one of them. It has the crisp bright quality that announces, on first sip, its food friendliness. There's an engaging swirl of citrus that expresses itself in many ways, from Meyer lemon zest to lime juice, lemongrass and maybe a hint of white grapefruit.

At the wine's core -#8212; the part that unfolds mid-palate and lingers longer than other flavors -#8212; is a lovely minerality, like cool water splashing over river rocks or the scent of rain rising from wet cement.

You may also notice suggestions of tropical fruit -#8212; is that papaya? Maybe it's pomelo, starfruit or mangosteen -#8212; as the wine trips lightly over your palate.

Another pleasing attribute is the wine's modest alcohol, which weighs in at 12.5 percent. Bravo to its makers! Once a wine creeps much higher, the heat of the alcohol begins to influence, negatively, how it pairs with food.

When it comes to the table, the wine's arms open wide. You can enjoy it with a rare steak if that is your inclination, especially if you top that steak with a squeeze of lemon juice. But its classic matches run straight to the sea, for crab, clams, oysters, flounder and sanddabs. It's excellent with raw cabbage, kale, fennel, radishes, grapefruit salads, avocado and green chiles, provided they are not too spicy. When it comes to dairy, young goat cheeses, feta cheese and whole-milk yogurt are the best matches.

The wine also begs to be paired with celery, especially thinly sliced raw celery, the inspiration for today's recipe.

<strong>Celery Salad with Radishes, Chick Peas and Feta Cheese</strong>

<em> Makes 4 to 6 servings</em>

4 to 6 large celery stalks, trimmed

8 to 10 small radishes, preferably French Breakfast radishes, trimmed

-#8212; Handful of small radish leaves, optional, rinsed, trimmed and very thinly sliced

14-ounce can chick peas, drained and rinsed

1 small shallot, minced, or 1 tablespoon minced red onion

-#8212; Kosher salt

2 teaspoons fennel pollen, optional

-#8212; Juice of 1 lemon

2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste

4 ounces feta cheese, broken into small chunks

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

-#8212; Black pepper in a mill

Using a very sharp knife, cut the celery into very thin diagonal slices and put them into a medium bowl. Cut the radishes similarly and add them to the celery, along with the radish leaves, if using. Add the chick peas and shallot, season with salt and add the fennel pollen, if using. Toss gently with a fork.

Add the lemon juice and olive oil, toss, taste and correct for acid balance, adding more olive oil if the salad tastes too tart.

Add the feta cheese and parsley, season with several turns of black pepper, toss, taste and correct for salt.

Serve right away, when flavors are at their brighest.

Variations:

Omit the feta cheese and add 1 to 2 cups freshly picked Dungeness crab meat before dressing the salad.

Omit the feta cheese and add 8 ounces of cooked Oregon baby shrimp.

Use 2 to 3 stalks of celery and 1 medium fennel bulb trimmed and cut into very thin slices.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 -amp; 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>