Our Wine of the Week, Hanna 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($39), is, like all Hanna wines, elegant and beautiful.
In the glass, it is the color of liquid garnets, with seductive aromas that rise to envelop you as you lift the glass. There's a suggestion of freshly ground coffee, the sort of perfume you get when you take the lid off a grinder and inhale the coffee's aroma. There's a fragrance of sweet spices, too, and just a hint of sun-warmed blackberries.
On the palate, it's all classic cabernet flavors, with suggestions of juicy red and black plums and Bing cherries, cocoa spiked with vanilla and both white and black peppercorns, which linger on the palate during the wine's long, silky finish. Tannins have softened and will continue to do so.
For a classic match, think red meat, especially a tender juicy cut of beef or lamb. This is the easy way to go and, if it is your preference, you'll be thrilled.
But there are other excellent options with this lovely wine. Enjoy it with grilled halibut, slow-roasted salmon and rare tuna; add a black olive tapenade and the match will soar. It's excellent with mushrooms and eggplant and if your inclination at this time of year runs toward cabbage soup or stewed lentils, the wine is great alongside.
You might also browse "The Winemaker Cooks" (Chronicle Books, 2010, $35)by Christine Hanna, president of Hanna Winery and Vineyards, for inspiration. It's a wonderful book with a hundred accessible recipes and sage advice about wine.
For today's dish, I've been inspired by the whole-wheat pasta made by Community Grains. The earthy pasta resonates beautifully with the wine and a lush tomato-vodka sauce creates a seductive bridge between them.
If you cannot get Community Grains pasta, I recommend that you not use whole-wheat pasta; just use the best Italian brand you have.
Whole Wheat Pappardelle with Tomato-Vodka Sauce
Makes 3 to 4 servings
-- Kosher salt
10 ounces (1 box) whole-wheat pappardelle or linguine, preferably from Community Grains (see Note below)
6 bacon slices
3 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 14-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes, preferably Muir Glen brand
1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste
? cup vodka
? cup heavy cream or creme fraiche
-- Black pepper in a mill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fill a large pot half full with water, add a generous 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
When the water reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta and stir until the water returns to a boil. Stir two or three times during the next couple of minutes and cook according to package directions until the pasta is just tender.
Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a medium saute pan until it is just crisp.
Transfer the bacon to absorbent paper to drain and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Return the pan to the heat, add the shallots and saute until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes more. Season with salt and add the oregano. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook gently over low heat for 15 minutes.
Add the vodka and cream or creme fraiche, cook for about 2 minutes until just heated through and then pass the sauce through a food mill into a clean saucepan; alternately, puree with an immersion blender and pass through a fine strainer into a clean saucepan.