Our Wine of the Week, Enkidu 2010 Russian River Valley Tina Marie Pinot Noir ($45), is a lovely wine for this time of year. With 14.4 percent alcohol, the wine is rich and plush on the palate, with a suggestion of warmth that is welcome during these chilly days.
Flavors swirl like a plume of smoke ascending skyward, carrying black cherry, black raspberry, allspice berry, clove and anise along for the ride, with hints of stone and something resembling dried sage mingling with the other flavors.
The finish reverberates gently until the next sip and the wine's elegant acidity refreshes the palate.
The wine is an ideal match with the comfort foods we crave right now. Toss some crumbled bacon into homemade macaroni-and-cheese and you'll have a feast. Braised short ribs, braised lamb shanks, osso buco, papardelle Bolognese, cotechino with lentils, traditional cassoulet and prime rib with parsnip puree are all flattered by this handsome pinot noir. Coq au vin, a wonderful mid-winter dish, is another great match, as is almost anything with mushrooms — polenta with mushroom ragout, for example, or seared duck breast smothered with sauteed maitakes.
The wine can kick off an evening meal beautifully, and if you'd like to serve it at as an aperitif, pair it with this simple red onion tart. The bacon makes the match soar.
Red Onion and Bacon Tart with Creme Fraiche and Chives
Makes 1 large tart
— Pastry for Savory Tarts (recipe follows)
4 to 6 bacon slices
1 tablespoon butter
3 to 4 medium red onions, very thinly sliced
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, if available
— Course salt, such as fleur de sel, sel gris or Maldon salt flakes
? cup creme fraiche
1 tablespoon fresh snipped chives (use chopped Italian parsley if chives are not available)
Make the pastry, if you have not already done so.
Fry the bacon in a large skillet set over high heat until it is crisp. Transfer the bacon to absorbent paper to drain and pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Return the pan to medium low heat, add the butter and when it is melted, add the onions. Season with salt and saute, turning frequently, until they are very limp and sweet, about 35 to 45 minutes. Do not let the onions brown.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
When the onions are fully cooked, taste them, correct for salt, season generously with black pepper and fold in the thyme leaves. Let cool for a few minutes.
Crumble or chop the bacon.
Remove the pastry from the refrigerator.
Spread the onions evenly over the surface of the pastry dough, leaving a 2-inch margin, and spread the crumbled bacon over the onions.
Fold the edge of the dough up and over the onions, pleating the dough as you fold it. Sprinkle the pleated crust lightly with course salt.
Set the tart on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully transfer to a rack to cool.
While the tart cools, put the creme fraiche into a small bowl, add the chives, season with salt and pepper and stir very well.