Our Wine of the Week, Geyser Peak 2005 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) is a classic California cabernet, full of lively forward fruit. It is, in a word, a mouthful: Juicy, intense and complex, with a long finish.
The first bursts of blackberry, black cherry and dark plum give way to clove, allspice and chocolate, which in turn rise above earthy, slightly dusty tannins woven through with vanilla and caramel. Throughout the wine, there are suggestions of dried brambles and twigs.
The wine softens slightly in the glass, as an initial bit of heat from the alcohol -- it's only 13.5 percent but at first seems higher -- blows off and the fruit relaxes a bit, evolving in a pleasant round lushness.
Of course this wine is good with red meat cooked however you like it. Oil-cured black olives, stews with roasted tomatoes and earthy grains are good companions, too.
For today's recipe I have built a meal around the grain farro, which is readily available in most markets these days. I love its earthy, almost dusty quality; served neat, it is a good companion to a cabernet. Add slow-cooked beef and some sturdy greens and you have a wonderful fall meal.
Braised Beef Shanks with Farro, Chard
and Beet Greens
Makes 3 to 4 servings
2? to 3 pounds beef shanks, cut 1? inches thick
-- Kosher salt
-- Black pepper in a mill?
3 tablespoons olive oil?
1 yellow onion, diced
1 shallot, minced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 thyme sprigs
1 teaspoon juniper berries?
2 cups white wine
2 cups beef stock
1 cup semipearled farro
8 cups sliced chard, kale and/or beet greens, see Note below
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season the shanks all over with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a deep, heavy skillet set over medium-high heat and sear the shanks evenly on both sides. Transfer the shanks to a plate.
Add the onion and shallot to the pan and saute over medium-low heat until limp and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes more. Season generously with salt and pepper
Return the shanks to the pot, add the thyme and juniper berries and pour in the white wine and beef stock. Add enough water to cover the shanks and bring to a boil.
Skim off any foam that collects on the surface.
Cover the skillet, transfer it to the oven and and bake for 90 minutes. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes more, or until the shanks are fork tender.
About 45 minutes before you think the shanks will be done, put the farro in a strainer, rinse under cool water and put in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the farro by at least 3 inches. Stir in 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer gently until the farro is tender, about 35 or 40 minutes. Remove from heat and keep hot.
Remove the shanks from the oven, transfer the meat to a platter, cover and keep hot. Return the pan to high heat and reduce the cooking liquid by about two-thirds. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.