Our Wine of the Week, Bella 2010 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($25), has a dark sensuality to it, a lushness that evokes moonless summer nights, when the Milky Way pulses overhead and the air is as warm as an embrace.
The wine spills over the palate with a delightful juiciness and none of the alcoholic heat that many zinfandels have these days; it weighs in at under 14 percent, which warrants a high five with the winemaker. Can we all shout "thank you!" together?
There's plenty of Dry Creek Valley's classic red raspberry flavor in this wine, along with delightful flourishes of Santa Rosa plum, which adds a profound "yum" factor. Little threads of white pepper, black pepper and sweet spices are stitched throughout the fruit foundation and linger pleasantly on the wine's pretty finish.
At the table, it is hard to go wrong. Summer tomatoes, almost anything from the grill, all manner of pizza, creamy polenta, grilled tuna and roasted sweet peppers are all perfect companions for this quaffer. Tomato-based gazpachos, tomato soups and classic spaghetti with meat sauce work beautifully, too.
For today's recipe, I keep thinking of the wine's dark sensuality, which in turn takes me back to a favorite risotto made with red wine and black olives. To engage the wine's lighter qualities, I've added simple fresh tomato concasse and basil. For the best match, use this wine and not another in the risotto.
<strong>Olive Risotto with Tomato Basil Sauce</strong>
<em>Makes 4 servings</em>
Tomato Concasse (recipe follows)
2 thyme sprigs
6 cups vegetable broth, hot
? cup olive oil
3 shallots, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1? cups Vialone Nano or Carnaroli rice
—Black pepper in a mill
? cup medium-bodied red wine
8 ounces pitted olives (a mix of Kalamata, Ni?ise, California black and oil-cured), minced
? cup (about 3 ounces) grated Vella Dry Jack or Valley Ford Estero Gold cheese
8 to 10 basil leaves, cut into very thin ribbons
20 whole pitted olives, for garnish
Make the tomato concasse and set it aside. Add the thyme sprigs to the heated vegetable broth and keep warm over low heat.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and saute until soft and fragrant, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute two minutes more.
Increase the heat to medium. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until each grain begins to turn milky white, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed. Add the stock ? cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the liquid is nearly absorbed. Continue to add stock and stir until the rice is almost tender, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the olives and the cheese and continue adding stock and stirring until the rice is tender, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Pour in the last of the stock, add the minced basil and remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Divide the risotto among individual soup plates, spoon concasse around the edge of each portion, garnish with whole olives and serve immediately.