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Mononi Vineyards has solution for those who want it lush, but not 'cabernet-ized'

One way to think about our Wine of the Week, Arista 2010 Mononi Vineyards Pinot Noir ($60) is as a peacemaker. It is rich and lush enough that your uncle who insists all pinot noir is wimpy will enjoy it. At the same time, it is delicate enough that those who complain about the "cabernet-zation" of pinot noir will have no argument. It is so diplomatic it could be secretary of state. It's a Hillary Clinton kind of wine, smart, suave, engaging, complex and alluring, with a refinement and maturity that belies its youth. You can put it on your Thanksgiving table without fear or hesitation. Everyone should love it.

The aromas are all earthy savor, suggestive of a damp forest floor during mushroom season, with a few floral surprises, tiny wisps of violet and jasmine. On the palate, the wine is silken from the first sip to the lingering finish. Tannins are as smooth as a lake at midnight, with no roughness and a slight intimation of sweetness. There is just a whisper of chocolate, which serves as a trampoline of sorts for pomegranate, cranberry and blackberry, qualities that burst like tiny stars on the palate.

This wine works beautifully with fall foods, including those that so many of us will be enjoying tomorrow. For an extraordinary match, consider adding roasted celery root to mashed potatoes, roasted garlic to winter squash puree and sauteed wild mushrooms to traditional bread stuffing. The wine is excellent with turkey, especially dark meat and smoked turkey, and goes well with ham, too. It is also extraordinary with duck, especially rare duck breast seasoned with sweet spices and a cranberry glaze, beets and grains like farro and barley. Accents like toasted pecans, oil-cured black olives, fresh chevre and bacon will enhance almost any match.

Vegetarians will love this wine with roasted root vegetables topped with a dollop of creme fraiche.

For today's recipe, I've chosen a pretty and delicious carrot salad, perfect if you've needed one more dish to round out your holiday menu.

Carrot Salad with Black Olives, Pecans, Pomegranates and Goat Feta

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut in 1/8 inch diagonal slices

4 ounces shelled pecans

2 to 3 ounces oil-cured black olives


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