Our Wine of the Week, Inman Family 2013 Russian River Valley OGV Estate Pinot Noir ($68), is an earthy beauty, suave, sophisticated and a tad beguiling, as the best pinot noirs are. It is a grown-up wine, one that does not pander to novices with a lot of forward fruit or any suggestion of sweetness.
Flavors are subtle and elusive. Here’s a bit of sour cherry, nope, it’s gone, but look, there’s some sassafras, no, wait, I think it’s nutmeg ... on and on the wine goes, teasing and pleasing all the while. Suggestions of rose petals, dried sage, rhubarb, strawberry all make their ethereal appearances and vanish, only to show again, on the next sip or the long seductive finish.
Tannins are silky and smooth, with a slightly dusty quality towards the outer palate, a quality that reinforces the wine’s earthy, forest-y quality.
The wine is extraordinary with mushrooms, especially maitake, oyster or porcini fried in butter until the edges are a bit crisp. Set a slow-roasted salmon fillet on top, add a little beurre rouge and you have an elegant dish that rises to the level of this special-occasion wine. You can find this recipe at “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
It is also excellent with rare duck breast, duck meatballs, Korean-style beef ribs, grilled quail, slow-cooked eggplant, roasted beets, roasted parsnips and parsnip soup. It’s also wonderful, in a perverse sort of way, with a well-made BLT, which means the bacon must be very crisp, the tomatoes perfectly ripe and thinly sliced, and the bread tender, not overly toasted and slathered with a lot of mayonnaise.
Because it is summer and we seem to be riding a few heat waves, I’m suggesting a more casual dish, something you can prepare the ingredients for early in the day when it is cool and bring them up to room temperature in the evening just before tossing them together and adding the dressing, which must be hot.
Sausage, Rice & Bean Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Serves 3 to 4
3 bacon slices
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons best-quality red wine vinegar, such as Zinfandel or Cabarnet Sauvignon or B. R. Cohn Cabarnet Sauvignon, plus more to taste
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
5 tablespoons best-quality extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
1 cup cooked short grain rice, preferably Spanish or Italian, warm
1 cup cooked black beans, warm
2 smoked sausage of choice, hot and cut into half rounds
1 small red onion, cut into small dice
½ cup quartered cherry tomatoes
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Set a heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook, turning a time or two, until it is quite crisp. Transfer the bacon to absorbent paper to drain and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
With the heat on medium low, add the shallot and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté 1 minute more. Add the vinegar, swirl the pan and season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat, add the olive oil, stir, taste and correct for salt, pepper and acid balance. Set aside.