Our Wine of the Week, Husch 2016 Late Harvest Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer ($25), is a luscious pleasure, with a silken texture and engaging sweetness.
As it lingers on the palate, flavors of apricot, ripe white peach, honey, and honeysuckle blossom, with little bursts of sweet spice weaving through the fruit flavors. It is, in a word, gorgeous.
Although late harvest wines are typically served at the end of a meal, this one works well at the start, too, if you happen to have a lobe of fresh foie gras at hand. A simple sauce of apple juice, apple cider vinegar and black pepper simmered until thick and seasoned with a bit of salt served over foie gras that has been seared on the outside and remains nearly raw on the inside is an extraordinary and memorable match that makes both the wine and the foie gras soar. But foie gras being what it is today — fairly hard to get here and quite expensive — we must look elsewhere.
To serve the wine with an appetizer, consider grilled boneless quail with a similar apple-based sauce or with foie gras paté, more readily available than fresh foie gras, with sliced pears or apples.
Most people, though, will prefer this wine at the end of a meal. You can enjoy it simply, with salted almonds alongside, especially if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth.
For today’s dish, inspiration comes from the season, a time when all things pumpkin are in favor. Pumpkin custard, also known as pumpkin pots de crème, might not work well with this wine without the spices.
But with white pepper, black pepper, and a selection of sweet spices commonly associated with pumpkin, the match soars. The custard can be served cold but with this wine, part of the pleasure will come from the well-chilled wine and the warm silky custard. Be sure not to cook the custard too long, as it will toughen and break. Pull it out of the oven and out of the hot water bath the moment it is set.
Pumpkin Pots de Crème
2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup sugar
— Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
6 large egg yolks, beaten lightly
Whisk together the half-and-half, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Add the peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring continuously, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk the pumpkin puree into the half-and-half mixture and strain through a sieve, pressing through as much of the pumpkin as possible. What remains in the sieve should be very dry; discard it.
Fill a tea kettle with water and bring it to a boil.
Whisk the egg yolks into the pumpkin mixture. Pour the custard into 6 ½-cup ramekins or custard cups. Set in a deep baking dish or roasting pan and set in the oven. Carefully pour boiling water into the dish or pan until it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, crimping it loosely to the pan.