A glimpse of the label, or even just the name itself, is enough to suggest that our Wine of the Week, Clos de Gilroy 2011 Central Coast Grenache ($18), is the progeny of the inimitable Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Winery in Santa Cruz.
Notice similarities between "clos" and "clove?" Gilroy Garlic Festival ring a bell? This is pure Randall Grahm coyness and the wine's back label continues the conceit, with layered plays on words that resonate with the world's most popular allium.
Remarkably, this layered word-tease mirrors the layers of flavor in the wine; if you know Randall Grahm, you expect nothing less. His wines are lighthearted, pleasing and not at all frivolous but his packaging and marketing are quirky, highly entertaining, sometimes obtuse and generally over the top.
The wine has a light touch on the palate; you could say it skips or dances, with long, soft tannins and a very engaging acidity, which shows itself best when the wine is served a bit chilled, as you would chill a Beaujolais.
On first sip, you'll be thinking of ripe cherries and roses, a perfect springtime combination. There's a cool herbal quality, too, suggestive of the aroma of mint and arugula carried on a morning breeze. I taste licorice root, as well, along with good, white peppercorns, which themselves have a slightly fermented flavor.
Come summer, this wine will be excellent with fresh tuna and you might want to snag a bottle for fresh wild Pacific King salmon, which should be available in the next few weeks.
If you're a fan of the Mediterranean diet, this wine is for you -- it resonates beautifully with foods from coastal Spain, Provence, Italy, Sicily, Greece and North Africa.
But it's spring, or will be any minute now, and I'm inspired by the beautiful leeks I'm seeing at our farmers markets. By adding just a bit of bacon fat, crumbled bacon and freshly ground white pepper, the wine is a great match with succulent mahi mahi and melted leeks.
Mahi Mahi, Leeks and Bacon in Parchment
Makes 2 servings
3 bacon slices, fried until crisp and drained
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon bacon fat
6 to 8 small leeks, white and pale green parts only, thoroughly cleaned and cut into thin rounds
-- Kosher salt
-- White pepper in a mill
2 sheets of cooking parchment, 12-inches-by-16-inches
2 mahi mahi fillets, about 6 ounces each (see Note below)
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
-- Olive oil
Crumble or chop the bacon and set it aside.
Put the butter and bacon fat into a heavy skillet set over medium heat and when it is melted, add the leeks and season lightly with salt. Stir now and then until the leeks wilt. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook gently until the leeks are so soft that they seem to have melted. Do not let them brown.
Taste, correct for salt and season with a few turns of white pepper.
Remove from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Season the mahi mahi all over with salt and white pepper.
Set a piece of parchment on a clean work surface, placing it vertically. Fold it over so that the 12-inch sides touch, make a crease in the center and unfold.