When you raise a glass of our Wine of the Week, J Cuvee 20 Brut ($28), you're toasting not just your companions, yourself and a new year; you're also celebrating 20 years of winemaking. Year after year, J sparkling wines, including this one, have delighted us.
Think of this sparkler as orchestral, its maker a fine maestro. It begins with a refreshing fanfare of citrus, a spritz of lemon zest and a flourish of grapefruit, which is followed by an allegro of honeysuckle, like the high notes of a flute.
As other flavors unfold — sweet apple, Asian pear, buttered toast and salted caramel — you may find yourself dancing around the room to its irresistible music. Bright acidity, combined with the wine's effervescence, will have you calling for an encore while the wine's luxurious finish still hangs in the air, tra-la, tra-la, tra-la-la.
This wine is excellent with winter salads, from Dungeness crab salad to shaved Brussels sprouts with lemon vinaigrette. It gets along beautifully with sliced persimmons, pomegranate arils and pickled mushrooms, too, and flatters chicken, pork and rich seafood, like grilled sardines and tuna tartare. It is just as good as you would expect it to be with raw oysters, especially if you add a splash of the wine to your favorite mignonette.
For today's recipe, I'm taking inspiration from San Francisco's Great Eastern Restaurant, a landmark eatery on Jackson Street in Chinatown. Great Eastern serves this dish neat, without the embellishments of a cabbage salad and lime wedges that I've added here to create a full meal and further its engagement with the wine.
But the most important elements are the crab and stock. You should begin with live crabs and not cook them too long (about 7 to 16 minutes, depending on size). The stock must be robust and full-flavored. Be sure to begin two days in advance.
There's not much hands-on work, just long simmering and cooling for the stock and 24 hours of chilling for the crab.
This is, by the way, a messy affair, eaten with one's fingers. Be sure to have a lot of napkins and a big bowl for the crab shells.
Dungeness Crab Chilled in Sherry
Makes 4 to 6 servings
8 cups Strong Stock (see Note below)
4 cups dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
1 or 2 serranos or 1 jalape?
1/3 cup grated fresh ginger
5 to 6 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1 lemon grass stalk, fat part only, lightly crushed
1 bunch of green onions, including green parts, very thinly sliced
3 large or 4 small Dungeness crabs, cooked, cleaned and left whole
2 cilantro bunches, long stems removed and discarded, chopped
1 small green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
-- Kosher salt
1 or 2 limes, cut in wedges
Pour the stock and sherry or wine into a pot large enough to hold the crab and small enough to fit in the refrigerator. Bring to a boil over high heat, add the serranos or jalape?, ginger, garlic, lemon grass and green onion, simmer 2 to 3 minutes and remove from the heat.
Add the crab and let the liquid cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours.
To serve, toss the cilantro, cabbage, carrot and sesame seeds together, along with a generous sprinkling of salt. Spread over a large serving platter.