On first sip, our Wine of the Week, CrossBarn 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($35), is all about texture. It has that marvelous silk-on-satin mouthful that no other varietal possesses, not to the degree that pinot noir does anyway. On the wine's lingering finish, a brightness emerges, with buoyant acidity and flavors that can almost be described as tart, suggestive of citrus zest. This is a subtle element, but it is there if you pay attention.
There's plenty of fruit, too, but it has more of a mid-palate impact than a forward expression; the wine is not a fruit bomb. I notice concentrated cherry flavors, with undercurrents of cool topsoil and dried leaves, possibly even the dried camellia sinensis leaves that we call black tea.
The wine is at once earthy and sophisticated, with enough depth to engage those who don't necessarily gravitate to pinot noir and enough ephemeral qualities to please those who do.
When it comes to the table, the wine is an easy companion. It's lovely with a simple winter squash soup, beautiful with turkey risotto and delightful with almost anything that includes bacon or mushrooms. It is, of course, a natural with rare duck breast, rare lamb and grilled quail.
For today's recipe, I've paired black lentils with earthy mushrooms and added just enough vinaigrette to resonate beautifully with the wine. Be sure to use the best red wine vinegar you have, something like B.R. Cohn's Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar or a vinegar made of pinot noir.
<strong>Warm Mushroom and Lentil Salad</strong>
<em> Makes 4 servings</em>
3/4 cup black Beluga lentils, rinsed and picked over
— Boiling water
— Kosher salt
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons bacon fat and 1tablespoon butter
1 large shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 pound oyster, maitake, trumpet or similar mushrooms, cleaned and broken or sliced into medium pieces
1/2 cup dry white wine
— Black pepper in a mill
2 tablespoons fresh minced Italian parsley
1 tablespoon best-quality rich red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pinot noir
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
—Inner leaves of 1 large or 2 small heads of butter lettuce, rinsed and dried
Put the lentils in a heavy saucepan, cover generously with cold water and bring to a full rolling boil. Drain the lentils, cover with boiling water by 1 1/2 inches, set over high heat and bring to a rolling boil again; lower the heat and simmer gently until the lentils are fully tender, about 45 to 60 minutes or even a little longer. After the lentils have been cooking for 45 minutes, season somewhat generously with salt. Remove from the heat, cool and drain.
Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms. Put the butter into a medium saute pan set over medium-low heat, add all but a scant teaspoon of the shallot and saut?until soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, saut?2 minutes more and season with salt. Add the mushrooms, toss and saut?2 or 3 minutes. Add the wine, cover the pan and simmer gently until the mushrooms are fully tender, from 5 to 15minutes, depending on the type of mushroom. Taste the mushrooms, correct for salt, season very generously with black pepper and stir in the Italian parsley. Set aside.