Zinfandel and Dry Creek Valley are classic companions, like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Romeo and Juliet without the tragedy, Lady and her Tramp. Their long-time relationship is expressed beautifully in our Wine of the Week, Quivira 2010 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($22).
As you would expect, the wine has layer upon layer of berry flavors, with bright raspberries in the high notes and boysenberries and blackberries contributing deeper elements. It's all punctuated by exclamations of sweet spice, including clove, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and a bit of anise.
Tannins are fairly smooth and restrained and although the alcohol, at 14.5 percent, adds a bit of heat and suggestion of sweetness, it's not off the charts like some zinfandels.
The wine is extraordinary with almost anything from the grill or a wood-burning oven, especially barbecued chicken, quail, goat, lamb, beef, pork and even tofu. Tomato-based sauces, earthy mushrooms, black beans, winter squash, farro, barley and corn all connect beautifully with the wine.
For today's recipe, I've paired braised short ribs with slow-cooker polenta. The polenta is ideal on Halloween because you can leave it untended for quite some time and even keep it in the cooker overnight so that it makes a great before-school breakfast in the morning. The combination of the tender meat, rich sauce and creamy polenta accented by the flashes of orange zest in the gremolata make for one </CW>of my favorite pairings ever.
Braised Short Ribs with Slow-Cooker Polenta & Orange Gremolata
Makes 4 to 6 servings
— Creamy Polenta, recipe follows
5 pounds beef short ribs