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If you don't typically drink sparkling wines, or if you save them for special occasions, this is a great time to get into the habit of enjoying them more frequently. A good place to start is with our Wine of the Week, Gloria Ferrer Non-Vintage Blanc de Noirs ($22), a buoyant bubbly, perfect now but also welcome any time, 365 days a year.

In the glass, the first thing you notice is the wine's soft pink blush, like the palest peach or nectarine, with lively bubbles scurrying towards the surface. Allow yourself a moment to linger, sighing with pleasure. A glass of sparkling wine is a thing of special beauty.

As you bring the flute to your lips, bubbles may tickle and tease your nose, evoking a smile. With that first sip, you should feel yourself relax, as your shoulders soften and your thoughts turn from the troubles of the day to the pleasure in the glass.

Pinot noir contributes most of the wine's flavors, with suggestions of raspberries, Rainier cherries, strawberries and a bit of smoke. Bright acidity will have you thinking of citrus, lemon, perhaps, or maybe Ruby grapefruit, and there's a mysterious, ineffable quality, too, that pinot thing, here not unlike root beer, especially really good, ice-cold root beer.

All this is to say, in a way, that this is both a delicious and a playful quaffer. It will flatter almost any food, though it does have certain affinities. Crab Louis is sensational with this sparkler, as is chicken liver mousse, which leads us to foie gras, a compelling if illegal match. Quail, rubbed with a Chinese five-spice blend and grilled; slow-roasted pork; winter squash and coconut curry; and cheese fondue all soar with this wine alongside. This sparkler is even great with a grilled cheese sandwich, especially with a cheese that is nutty and well-aged, and when made on sturdy hearth bread.


For today's recipe, I've chosen a classic, Spaghetti Carbonara. Because the dish is so rich, you may want to begin with a simple appetizer — chilled cracked crab, for example — and end the meal with a big green salad. This blanc de noirs will take you all the way from your first bite to your last.

<strong>Spaghetti Carbonara</strong>

<em> Makes 4 to 6 servings</em>

1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch wide crosswise strips

— Kosher salt

1 pound bucatini or spaghetti

4 large eggs from pastured hens, at room temperature

6 ounces grated cheese (see Note below)

— Black pepper in a mill

Rub the cut sides of the garlic over a heavy pan — a seasoned cast-iron pan is ideal — and set the pan over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and swirl as it warms so that it picks up the garlic flavor. Add the bacon and cook slowly, so that the edges brown but the bacon itself remains somewhat tender. When the bacon is cooked, drain off all but about a tablespoon or two of the fat; keep warm over a very low flame.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot two-thirds full with water, season generously with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain but do not rinse.

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While the pasta cooks, put the eggs into a large bowl that you have warmed under running water and dried. Whisk until smooth. Fold in the cheese and season very generously with black pepper.

Shake off all excess water from the hot pasta and turn it into the bowl with the eggs. Working quickly, add the bacon and all the pan juices to the pasta and use two forks to lift and turn the pasta so that each strand is evenly coated. Taste, correct for salt, toss again and quickly divide among warmed pasta bowls or soup plates. Add several turns of black pepper to each portion and serve.

<strong>Note:</strong> Use a hard grating cheese, either from Italy or Northern California. Bellwether Farms Pepato, Valley Ford Estero Gold, Vella Dry Jack, Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Asiago and Pecorino Romano each contribute different subtle elements, all delicious.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>