Our Wine of the Week, McNab 2013 Family Reserve Mendocino Old Vine Zinfandel ($25), is a pretty wine, with a delicacy not often found in the varietal. It has all of the flavors you would expect to find in a zinfandel — black plums, red plums, and raspberries — along with a pantry of spice, especially allspice, anise, cardamom, clove, and just a hint of licorice root.
But there is something else, too, a beguiling acidity, a thread of toast, a coolness on first sip, a finish that resonates pleasantly.
It is an ideal zin to enjoy with summer’s harvest, from ripe tomatoes and sweet peppers to eggplant, properly-cooked green beans, and figs. Add a bit of bacon and any match will soar, which in turn suggests the wine is great with a BLT. It is.
Today’s recipe is inspired by our gardens and from the South of France, where many of the red wines have the same sort of suave appeal. It is also the birthplace of ratatouille, one of the world’s great vegetable stews. This version is not strictly traditional but rather makes use of our current Sonoma County harvest. For a more indulgent feast, top the ratatouille with poached eggs or grilled Provençal-style sausages or serve it over creamy polenta.
Serves 6 to 8
1 large garlic bulb, cloves separated, peeled, and minced
10 ounces small whole crimini mushrooms, cut in half
2 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large or 3 small yellow onions, peeled and cut into quarters or eighths, if large
2 bay leaves
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 fresh oregano sprig
6-8 ripe red tomatoes
3 red bell peppers, seared, peeled, stemmed, cored, and cut into medium julienne
3 small to medium zucchini, cut into medium julienne
— Small handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
10-12 fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin ribbons
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Toss together half the minced garlic, mushrooms, eggplant and onions and put them in a heavy roasting pan. Tuck bay leaves in, season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Drizzle about half of olive oil over the vegetables and add a half cup water. Add sprigs of thyme and oregano and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour, or until the eggplant is tender when pierced with a bamboo skewer.
While vegetables roast, peel tomatoes by holding each one over a flame and quickly blistering skin, letting it cool, and using your fingers to removing the blistered skin.
Remove the stem cores and cut the tomatoes in half through their equators. Hold each half tomato over a bowl and gently squeeze out the juice and gel.
Pour about half of the remaining olive oil into an ovenproof pan, add the tomatoes in a single layer, cut side down, and set in the oven. Cook until the tomatoes begin to darken and caramelize, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Heat remaining olive oil in a heavy skillet set over medium-low heat, add the remaining minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring continuously; do not let the garlic brown or burn. Add roasted peppers and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until peppers are completely tender but not mushy. Transfer to large wide pot. Sauté zucchini 5 to 6 minutes, until it is just limp and begins to take on a bit of color. Add zucchini to peppers.