Our Wine of the Week, Bogle Vineyards 2012 California Essential Red ($11), is a great quaffer to keep on hand. You can’t beat the cost. It’s engaging, approachable and can easily hold its own with wines triple its cost.
The wine’s aromas are rich, earthy and rather heady, qualities that transform into flavors of black raspberries, Bing cherries and black plums that in turn give way to little sparks of sweet spice and dried herbs. The lingering finish suggests dried licorice root, vanilla and sweet pipe tobacco.
There’s a surprising elegance to this wine. Although it is a bit burly, it is not the enormous fruit bomb it could have been, given its composition of syrah, old vine zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah. It is soft enough to enjoy with, say, grilled wild Pacific King salmon, especially if you slather the fish with a robust barbecue sauce.
This wine is a great match with pretty much anything off the grill, from burgers and sausages to leg of lamb or goat, skirt steak, tri-tip, New York steak or a juicy rib-eye. Add grilled corn on the cob and roasted sweet peppers alongside and the match soars.
For today’s recipe, I’ve adapted a dish from my book “Polenta” (Broadway Books, 1997) that is lovely in the summer as a light main course or as part of a barbecue.
Summer Polenta with Fresh Corn and Red Pepper Butter
Serves 6 to 8
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
2 cups coarse-ground polenta
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
4 sweet red peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
3 garlic cloves, minced
— Black pepper in a mill
2 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
3 ounces grated Vella Dry Jack or similar cheese
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Pour 8 cups of water into a medium saucepan, add the tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, use a long-handled whisk to stir in one direction, creating a vortex. Pour the polenta into the vortex, stirring all the while and continue to stir, in one direction, until the mixture thickens. Lower the heat and simmer gently, until the polenta is fully tender, stirring it now and then so that it does not form lumps and does not scorch.
While the polenta cooks, make the red-pepper butter. To do so, put the butter into a mixing bowl. Mince one of the sweet peppers as finely as possible, reducing it nearly to a puree, and use a fork to mix it into the butter until very smooth. Add half the garlic, season with salt and mix until very smooth. (Alternately, you may make this in a food processor.)
Cut the remaining peppers into medium julienne, transfer to a small mixing bowl, add the remaining garlic and set aside.
Use a little of the butter to coat the inside of a 2-quart loaf pan, baking dish or decorative mold. Set the rest aside.
When the polenta is nearly tender, add the corn, the cheese and half the parsley. Stir, cook for 3 or 4 minutes, taste, correct for salt and season with several turns of black pepper. Stir in half the butter.
Three Urban Cycling Rides To Try
Astro Motel day manager Sam Hamby has a few recommendations for rides to get from city to country and back again.
1. Joe Rodota trail to Forestville: About 16 miles from downtown Santa Rosa to Sebastopol and back.
This is about 30 miles round trip from downtown Santa Rosa to Forestville and back. One block from the Astro you can jump on the famous Joe Rodota multiuse trail to gain access to Sebastopol, Forestville, Graton and more of Sonoma’s west county beauty without ever encountering vehicle. The amount of quality scenery, specialty shops and restaurants along this route are absolutely stunning. It’s also mostly flat.
2. Downtown Santa Rosa to Occidental: About a 35-mile round trip from downtown Santa Rosa.
This route also takes you on a west county meander via Occidental Road to Occidental to enjoy Howards Station (one of my favorite breakfast spots) and back through Freestone to stop at WildFlour Bakery (another favorite) before heading back through the rolling hills of west county. The roads taken to get to Occidental really embody the beauty of Sonoma County.
3. Cavedale-Trinity Loop: About a 17-mile round trip if you start from Sonoma. About 40 miles round trip if you start from downtown Santa Rosa.
This ride will test your climbing legs as you head out Highway 12 toward Sonoma and loop around on Lawndale and back to Highway 12. From here, you will head up Cavedale Road. A roughly 5.5-mile-climb toward Mt. Veeder offering breathtaking views of Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon. Following Cavedale will connect you to Trinity Road for a fun, sweeping downhill ride back toward Highway 12 and back to Santa Rosa.