Our Wine of the Week, Chateau St. Jean 2011 Alexander Valley Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay ($25), is a classic grown-up wine, with an admirable subtlety and grace about it.
A halo of fragrant floral aromas emerges from the wine to greet you before your first sip. As the wine unfurls itself on the palate, you'll think first of white peaches and nectarines. Next comes honeydew melon, Galia melon and a mouthfilling richness suggestive of vanilla and smoke.
The acidity is bright and refreshing, enough to pull the wine back from the edge of flabbiness, and there are little bursts of minerals, too. The finish lingers pleasingly.
When it comes to pairing this wine with food, think rich and lush. Butter-poached lobster, large gulf shrimp, scallops, swordfish and wild Pacific King salmon — fresh or smoked — work beautifully with the wine, as does simple roasted chicken, pork loin, root vegetables and all manner of corn. Soon it will be time for salmon and corn chowder and this wine is a perfect match. It is also delicious with pastas with cream sauces, including fettuccine Alfredo.
This wine is also lovely with sweet potatoes, the inspiration for today's column. This dish is inspired by traditional Shepherd's Pie but varies greatly from that dish, which typically includes ground beef or lamb with onions and carrots topped with mashed potatoes. This version is vegetarian but it is not vegan.
<b>Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie</b>
Makes 4 to 6 servings
<i>1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 pound potatoes, such as German Butterball, scrubbed