Our Wine of the Week, Buehler Vineyards 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28), is a classic example of what Napa County does best.
Our neighbor to the east makes great cabernet, with full round flavors, plush textures and orchards of fruit. Yet this wine has a quality that sets it apart from some of Napa?s best-known wines. At under $30 a bottle, it is a bargain.
If you like big bold fruit, enjoy this wine now. There?s plenty of juicy blackberries, ripe black currants and dark plums, characteristics that will settle down over the next few years.
The tannins, too, will soften with time, as the wine loses the brashness of youth in favor of a velvet maturity that is already showing itself just slightly.
This wine would be lovely with a simple beef tenderloin, cooked rare and topped with a dollop of olive butter. Any rare red meat ? beef, buffalo, venison, leg of lamb ? would be happy to share the table with this wine. It?s a natural match.
But what happens if we dig a little deeper? Vegetarians should look to wild mushrooms, especially black chanterelles and morels, lentils, farro, wild rice and eggplant. A mushroom stew over lentils and farro makes an extraordinary and lusty match.
Marinated eggplant over wild rice is another happy marriage, though I suggest waiting until eggplant is in season locally.
For today?s recipe, I?ve paired spaghetti squash with a simple tomato sauce spiked with dried porcini mushrooms, which are available in most local markets.
The slight sweetness of the squash engages the fruity elements in the wine, allowing the earthy savor of the mushrooms to blossom.
Spaghetti Squash with Tomato-Porcini Sauce
Makes 4 to 6 servings
12?- to 3-pound spaghetti squash, baked (see Note below)
1ounce dried porcini
2tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2tablespoons minced onion
2tablespoons minced carrot
2tablespoons minced celery
1cup dry white wine
114-ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably Muir Glen
1teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
?Black pepper in a mill
2tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
?Parmigiano-Reggiano, in one piece
First, prepare the spaghetti squash.
While it cooks, make the sauce. Put the dried mushrooms into a small bowl and cover them with hot water. Set aside until the mushrooms have softened, 20 to 30 minutes.
Put the butter and olive oil in a medium saute pan set over medium-low heat and when the butter is melted, add the onion, carrot and celery and saute until very soft, about 20 minutes. Stir frequently and do not let the vegetables burn. Season with salt.
Increase the heat to high, add the wine and cook until it is reduced by two-thirds.
Transfer the softened mushrooms to a work surface and strain the soaking liquid through a sieve into the pan with the vegetables and wine.
Pass the tomatoes through a food mill or grate them on the large blade of a box grater and stir them, along with all their juices, into the pan. Add the thyme leaves, bring to a boil and simmer very gently for 15 minutes.
Working quickly, rinse the mushrooms to remove any sand, pat them dry and cut them into very small julienne. Stir the mushrooms into the sauce and cook 5 minutes more.