Our Wine of the Week, Pfendler Vineyards 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($45), is lush, dark and lively. Flavors of black fruit — plums, cherries, raspberries — unfold with a rich succulence, with stewed rhubarb and a flourish of English Breakfast tea showing up as flavors devolve into the wine's silky finish.
Fairly exuberant acidity keeps this luxurious wine from turning ponderous. At the core of its darkness, it remains bright -- think of midnight on the coast, above the fog line, the sky filled with stars.
Because of its succulence, this wine will pair beautifully with just about any red meat, especially when it is cooked rare. With alcohol over 14 percent, the wine will welcome the richness of the meat alongside. It is outstanding with leg of lamb, for example, with ribeye, skirt and hanger steaks and with game like wild boar.
The wine is a natural with risotto, too, especially beet, carrot or mushroom risotto. Wild rice with duck and roasted beets is another excellent pairing. Certain heirloom beans will cozy up nicely with this wine, like marrowfats, fresh cranberry beans, Christmas lime beans and a host of others. Add a little bacon or smoked meat and the match will soar. Vegetarians can use Tierra Vegetables' smoked onions to enhance a match.
For today's recipe, I'm using the delicate little bean known as flageolet. It was, until fairly recently, hard to find but, thanks in part to Rancho Gordo, a specialty food company based in Napa, it is readily available in most markets. If you do not want to use lamb, you can use smoked turkey leg, smoked ham hock or a big handful of those smoked onions.
<b>Flageolets with Lamb Shanks</b>
Makes 4 to 6 servings
<i>1 pound dried flageolet beans, preferably Rancho Gordo, soaked in water for at least 6 hours or overnight
2 to 3 lamb shanks (about 2 pounds)
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
— Olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into small dice
2 carrots, peeled and minced
4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
2 or 3 Italian parsley sprigs
1 or 2 fresh thyme sprigs
— Extra virgin olive oil</i>
Drain and rinse the flageolets and set them aside briefly.
Season the shanks all over with salt and pepper.
Set a large heavy pot -- a Dutch oven is perfect -- over medium-high heat. Add just enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan and brown the shanks. Use tongs to transfer to a plate or bowl.
Lower the heat to medium, add the onions and carrots and saute gently until they begin to soften, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, saute another minute and return the shanks to the pot. Add the flageolets, herb sprigs and enough water to cover the beans by about an inch.
Increase the heat to high and when the water reaches a full rolling boil, lower the heat and simmer very gently until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes or a bit longer. Cover the pot and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes.
Use tongs to transfer the shanks to a clean work surface. Remove the meat, cut it into small pieces and return it to the pot. Taste and correct for salt.