Perhaps it's my admittedly active imagination, but I swear I can taste the land itself in our Wine of the Week, C.G. Di Arie, 2008 Sierra Legend ($35), a blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and primitivo.
There's a concentration to the wine, a rocky intensity and a unique minerality that on first sip evokes the warm inland valley. This is terroir, of course, the taste of place at its best. You may love it, you may hate it, but there's no denying that it is unique, not generic.
The fruit is concentrated, yet in an understated way. There's blueberry and dried Santa Rosa plum, but they emerge mid-palate, not forward. The wine is not a fruit bomb. As these fruit flavors spread over the palate, they are joined by a dark smoky quality that mingles with a suggestion of new black leather warmed by the sun. Finally, there's a suggestion of meat, a pleasant gamy quality that has me thinking of wild duck.
And, indeed, wild duck is a great match, as is the dark meat of heritage breed turkey, wild turkey, wild boar and venison. It would also be outstanding with roast goose. If you have access to these meats, you will probably want to have this wine around. It's a good choice with grass-fed beef, too.
The earthy concentration of the wine will flatter winter squash, dry-farmed potatoes and portobello mushrooms, which opens up a lot of possibilities for vegetables. If you're energetic, try homemade portobello raviolis with a sauce of Italian fontina cheese and sweet Spanish paprika.
For today's recipe, I'm inspired by the cheese ravioli that Traverso's sold for decades and that are now available at Bill and Deb's Downtown Deli (621 Fourth St., Santa Rosa).
Cheese Raviolis with Winter Squash Sauce
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoons clarified butter
2 yellow onions, diced
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 cup winter squash puree
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
12 ounces chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 package cheese raviolis
3 ounces Italian fontina or a chunk of Parmigiana-Reggiano
— Sage sprigs, for garnish
Put the clarified butter into a medium saute pan set over medium heat, add the onions and saute until wilted, about 5 to 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reduce the heat to very low. Saute very gently until the onions are very sweet and concentrated, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat.
To finish the sauce, fry the pancetta in a saute pan until it is translucent. Stir in the caramelized onion, the winter squash puree, half the sage and the chicken stock. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and pepper; remove from the heat.
Fill a large pot two-thirds full of water and set over high heat. Add about a tablespoon of salt and when the water reaches a rolling boil, add the ravioli and stir gently until the water returns to a boil. Cook according to package directions until done. Drain but do not rinse the ravioli.
While the ravioli cook, warm individual soup plates. Divide the drained ravioli among the plates and spoon sauce over them. Top each portion with a shower of cheese and a sprinkling of the remaining sage. Garnish with a sage sprig and serve immediately.