If you serve our Wine of the Week, Four Vines 2010 "The Sophisticate" Sonoma County Zinfandel ($25) to, say, your brother-in-law from Bakersfield, you might want to turn the label away from him. I can just imagine the comments about the proprietary name. Maybe I'm thinking about one of my own relatives, not yours.
But the wine is aptly named. It is beautifully balanced, graceful and refined, yet, at the same time, rich, bold and even a bit brawny. It has a gentlemanly but distinctly masculine quality, like Gary Cooper in a pin-striped suit and fedora. This wine is no metrosexual.
In the glass it is dark red, with a glow that emerges when you hold the wine up to the light, more like a boulder of garnet than a finely cut stone. Complex aromas capture your attention quickly, with wisps of smoke and something akin to game -- venison, perhaps, or wild boar -- cooking on a grill.
On first sip, the mouth fills with all the bright berry flavors we expect from Sonoma County zinfandels. Quickly, petite sirah and syrah deepen the flavors, as if they were penetrating your palate. As the wine lingers, suggestions of licorice root, vanilla, toasted cinnamon and caramel begin to emerge.
When it comes to pairing the wine at the table, think big, bold and rustic. Ham with red-eyed gravy is a great match, as is Louisiana-style dirty rice, provided it is not too spicy. A Proven?l daube, braised sausages with lentils and a mild red curry with root vegetables are all good companions. You can enjoy the wine with pizza, spaghetti Bolognese and creamy polenta with portobello mushrooms. Braised short ribs welcome the wine alongside, too.
For today's recipe, I've taken inspiration from Franco Dunn's Spanish-style chorizos, which are beautiful with chicken livers and roasted peppers.
Chicken Liver & Chorizo Spaghetti
Makes 4 to 8 servings
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 pound dried spaghetti