Our Wine of the Week, Migration Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch 2015 Pinot Noir ($68), is an elegant and impressive expression of the world’s most captivating grape. Although it is not as delicate and ephemeral as some aficionados prefer, its pretty acidity, silken texture, and complex flavors offer both intrigue and pleasure with each sip. It’s a pinot noir you can lose yourself in, in a good way.
Threads of sweet spice serves as the wine’s core flavor, with red fruit, especially pomegranate, cranberry, and black raspberry, swirling around it like a halo. The spice reverberates on the finish as refreshing acidity brings you back quickly for another sip.
The wine is an easy companion at the table, though it shows itself best with foods that have an earthy quality such as mushrooms, sunchokes, lentils, chickpeas, beets, greens such as chard and kale, coffee, quail, duck, venison, and certain cheeses, especially Roquefort and Comté.
Although it is easy to enjoy this wine with a broad array of foods, a wine of this caliber and price warrants special attention in the kitchen. Today’s recipe, for French caillettes — think meatballs — takes some advance planning, as you’ll need to get caul fat and lamb’s tongue. The best sources are the Sonoma County Meat Company, where caul fat and lamb’s tongue are almost always available, and the Sebastopol Farmers Market, where Heather’s Meats almost always has both as well. Once you have the ingredients, the caillettes are easy to make. Just relax, pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy the process.
Lamb & Kale Caillettes
Makes 4 servings
1 bunch Lacinato kale, large stems and veins separated from the leaves
3 tablespoons homemade lard or olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 pound ground lamb
3 lamb tongues, poached, peeled and cut into very small dice
3 ounces lamb liver or chicken liver, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 ounces caul fat, see note below
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stack the kale leaves and cut them into thin crosswise ribbons, working in batches, and set them aside. Cut the stems and veins into very small dice.
Put the lard or olive oil into a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat, add the diced stems and veins and the shallots, and sauté until tender, about 7 or 8 minutes; add the garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the kale leaves and ½ cup water, increase the heat to medium, and use a large wooden spoon or spatula to turn the leaves until they just begin to wilt. Cook until the kale is tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and thyme, stir, and set aside to cool.
Put the lamb, lamb’s tongue and liver into a mixing bowl, add the cardamom and season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the cooled kale mixture to the meat and mix thoroughly.