Our Wine of the Week, Dashe Cellars Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($24), is a perfect example of why Dry Creek Valley has gained a reputation as perhaps the best place for California's signature grape.
It has the flavors you expect from zinfandel, especially red raspberry, black raspberry, black cherry and cassis.
Those flavors are buoyed by a solid foundation of spice, especially licorice root, white pepper, allspice and clove.
Yet those alone do not signal the unique qualities of zinfandel grown in the Dry Creek Valley appellation.
The prettiness of the wine evokes its place, and by prettiness I mean a softness on the palate, silky tannins and bright lively acid. Combined with classic varietal flavors, the wine's feel in the mouth is all sensual delight.
At the table, the wine will have broad appeal.
All the usual foods that we enjoy with zinfandel — sausages, hamburgers, chili, pasta with red sauces, sweet red peppers, pizza, grilled steak, marinated skirt steak and all manner of barbecue — will welcome this wine alongside.
But the wine's bright acid and delicate texture widens the possibilities because you don't need to mitigate heaviness or rough tannins.
Thus, you can enjoy it with everything from fresh summer tomatoes, seafood soups and stews to BLTs, grilled eggplant, hummus, risotto, polenta, wild rice and lamb prepared any which way.
This wine is also excellent with blueberries, especially blueberry sauces paired with lamb or duck.
One thing to keep in mind when serving it during the summer is that room temperature, recommended for red wines, really means cellar temperature.
Thus, if your kitchen or dining room is particularly warm, cool the wine a bit before pouring it.
For today's recipe, I'm going a somewhat unconventional route and using the wine three ways: in marinade, in vinaigrette and in your glass.
I enjoy this flank steak with fresh corn on the cob, roasted golden beets and a salad of sliced summer tomatoes seasoned with salt and pepper.
Marinated Flank Steak with Zinfandel Vinaigrette
Serves 2, easily doubled
1 to 1? pounds flank steak
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon minced oregano
2 pinches ground clove
? cup zinfandel
1 cup olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons best-quality red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar, if needed
— Oregano sprigs, for garnish
Set the flank steak on a clean work surface and season all over with salt and pepper. Rub the minced garlic into the meat. Put the flank steak into a freezer bag.
Set aside about a third of the oregano.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining oregano with a pinch of clove, ? cup of the zinfandel and ? cup of the olive oil.
Whisk, season with salt and pepper and pour into the freezer bag with the meat.
Close the bag, pushing out all of the air as you do. Massage the meat and marinade for a few minutes and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours and as long as overnight.
Shortly before cooking the steak, prepare the vinaigrette. Put the shallot into a medium bowl, season with salt and pour the vinegar over it. Let sit for 30 minutes.