The first thing you notice about our Wine of the Week, Edna Valley Vineyard Central Coast 2012 Pinot Noir ($20), is that pinot aroma that rises from the glass to greet you.
This almost indescribable quality, something that for years I've called "pin-essence," is, to my thinking anyway, the raison d'etre for this varietal. It's sultry, earthy, ethereal, elusive and addicting. Without it, a pinot noir may or may not be good, but it won't soar or take your breath away.
With it, the wine has a very good chance of being extraordinary. Think of it as a promise that is delivered quickly, with your first sip.
After that first tantalizing scent, this wine's flavors unfold on the palate in engaging layers. There's a hint of rhubarb, a flourish of pomegranate, a flash of fresh cherry and a finish that is sweet, delicate and ribboned through with smoky oak.
I notice little bursts of cardamom, allspice and clove, too.
Some of the perception of sweetness comes from the wine's alcohol, which hovers a bit above 14 percent.
This is probably the most important characteristic to consider when pairing the wine at the table; it will be best with something fatty to mitigate that alcoholic heat.
Seared duck breast is always a great choice with pinot noir, as are wild mushrooms, porchetta, bacon, wild Pacific king salmon, fresh tuna and pasta dishes such as classic Spaghetti Carbonara.
Pinot noir loves to walk hand-in-hand with black pepper.
For today's recipe, I'm inspired by cherry season. This dish is both elegant and simple to prepare but it is essential to use the best ingredients you can find.