Our Wine of the Week, Souverain 2008 Sonoma County Merlot ($16), is big, juicy, fruity and hot, with a bold 14.8 percent alcohol. It's like a summer afternoon in an inland valley, grill roaring, succulent ribs over the fire.
There's plenty of oak in this wine, which shows itself in both the complex tannins and in the threads of sweet spice that weave through ripe black fruit, especially blueberry, black currants, black plums and juicy ripe black raspberries.
For a flawless, exuberant match, serve this wine with short ribs braised in beef stock and red wine, with scalloped potatoes alongside. The wine is also perfect alongside red beans, ham hocks, sausage and rice.
Both of these dishes are best in cold weather. So what about summer fare?
Almost anything from the grill will welcome this wine, especially ribs, burgers, pizzas and such. It's also a good choice with sweet potato salad dressed with honey vinaigrette. Roasted sweet peppers, dead-ripe tomatoes and corn on the cob slathered with browned butter are good options, too.
For today's recipe, I'm taking inspiration from both the flavors of the wine and its ruby glow.
Quinoa, with its earthy, almost dusty taste, is a good match with merlot. And when you cook the seed — it's not a grain, as is widely believed — with a red beet, it takes on a lovely scarlet glow, which resonates with the wine's pretty color.
With a red-wine vinaigrette spiked with two sweet spices and additional sweetness from currants and fresh corn, you have a lovely salad to enjoy neat or as an accompaniment to grilled meats or vegetables.
Ruby Quinoa Salad with Corn, Currants and Clove Vinaigrette