What a lovely wine our Wine of the Week is, the Arista 2013 Russian River Valley Mononi Vineyard Pinot Noir. It’s smooth and suave, with a silken texture and an engaging depth. There is a hint of smoke in the bouquet that is mirrored on the palate, woven between threads of raspberry, cranberry and pomegranate flavors.
Tannins are long and smooth, bright acidity keeps the wine lively and there are little flourishes of minerality that break through with each new sip.
The wine is friendly and engaging, a peacemaker sort of wine that should please anyone at the table, including grumpy cab lovers who tend to dismiss the varietal. It flatters and is flattered by a large and delicious array of foods, from simple appetizers such as toasted almonds to complex main courses like cassoulet with smoked duck. Carrots, parsnips, black beans, lentils, lamb ragout, bacon and creamy polenta with wild mushroom cream sauce are all beautiful accompaniments.
For today’s recipe, inspiration comes from Shiitake-Chèvre Soup, a recipe in my first cookbook, “A Cook’s Tour of Sonoma” (Aris Books, 1990) made back then with a smoked duck stock using carcasses from a company no longer in business.
After years of experimenting, this version comes as close as possible to that original one and is a spot-on companion to this wine, especially if you use porcini as one of the mushrooms. Black chanterelles, maitake and Velvet Pioppini also are excellent in this soup, individually or together; a mix gives the best depth of flavor.
Wild Mushroom & Chèvre Soup
Serves 3 to 4
2 to 3 ounces dried mushrooms, such as porcini
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
— Kosher salt
10 to 12 ounces wild or specialty mushrooms of choice, in small pieces
1/2 cup dry Madeira, such as Rainwater, optional
2 cups heavy cream
5 ounces fresh chèvre, such as Laura Chenel’s chabis
— Black pepper in a mill
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Put the dried mushrooms into a medium bowl, add the warm water and set aside.
Put the butter into a medium saucepan set over medium low heat, add the shallot and cook until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes; do not let it brown. Season lightly with salt. Add the mushrooms, stir gently and cook for about 5 minutes.
Strain the liquid covering the dried mushrooms into a small bowl or jar. Chop the mushrooms, add them to the saucepan and season with salt. Increase the heat to high, add the Madeira, if using, and cook until the Madeira is reduced by about half.
Add the reserved soaking liquid and cook gently until the mushrooms are tender.
Add the cream and the chèvre, and stir gently until the cheese is smoothly incorporated into the liquid. Season generously with black pepper, taste, and correct for salt.
Remove from the heat, stir in the chives, ladle into soup plates and enjoy right away.
Michele Anna Jordan is author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at michele @micheleannajordan.com and visit her blog at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.