Our Wine of the Week, The Loring, 2012 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($32) is a classic example of how this beloved varietal blossoms in this appellation, which is one of the best places in the United States for pinot noir. Tannins are long and soft, acid is bright and lively and the wine splashes over the palate with an enticing delicacy.
There is, at first, a suggestion of sweetness, a result of the wine's substantial alcohol, 14.7 percent. Focus on flavors for a few moments and the sweetness resolves into a cornucopia of warm spices, especially allspice, clove and anise, a bit of new black leather, a whiff of smoke and rich Santa Rosa plum.
At the table, it is a good idea to let the high alcohol guide you because if you mitigate it a bit, matches will soar. One way to do this is to either choose foods with sweet elements or include a subtle sweetness in the dish. Pork chops with a fruit sauce, seared duck breast with dried cherries and pasta with summer tomatoes, butter and creme fraiche all achieve this well.
Bacon is an excellent match, too, as is corn, especially creamy polenta. For today's recipe, I've taken inspiration from these ingredients along with late summer tomatoes, combining them all in a luscious BLT tart. The polenta engages the alcohol, turning down the volume on its sweetness, and the bacon encourages the wine's smoky flavors to blossom.
For best results, make the tart in an 8?- or 9-inch tart pan that is 2? inches deep and has a removable bottom.
Polenta BLT Tart
Makes 6 servings
11/2 cups coarse-ground polenta
8 bacon slices
5 medium (3-inches across) heirloom tomatoes
4 ounces Italian Fontina cheese
1 tablespoon butter, creme fraiche or sour cream
— Black pepper in a mill
3 tablespoons mayonnaise mixed with the juice of ? lemon and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 to 10 Romaine lettuce leaves, cut into 1/4-inch crosswise slices
Pour 6 cups water into a medium saucepan, season generously with salt and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Begin to stir the water with a whisk in one direction, creating a vortex; slowly pour the polenta into the vortex, stirring all the while. When all the polenta has been added to the water, continue to stir until it begins to thicken a bit, about 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer very slowly until the polenta is tender, about 25 to 40 minutes. Stir frequently, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan each time so that the polenta does not stick.
While the polenta cooks, fry the bacon until it is very crisp. Drain it on absorbent paper and then chop or crumble it. Set aside.
Remove the stem cores of the tomatoes and cut a small slice off both ends. Cut the trimmed tomatoes in ?-inch thick slices and set them on a large plate. Sprinkle light with salt and set aside.
When the polenta is nearly completely tender, add the cheese and butter, creme fraiche or sour cream. Continue cooking until it is fully tender, remove from the heat, season with salt and several turns of black pepper and stir well. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes; stir once as it rests.