It can be challenging to write about a wine, including our Wine of the Week, Bonny Doon Vineyard 2011 "Le Pousseur" Syrah ($26), that is so adeptly described by its maker, the inimitable and perversely brilliant Randall Grahm.
Grahm trips lightly through world literature, philosophy and poetry as he toys with his fans, in this instance comparing the wine to Jorge Luis Borges' short story, "The Zahir."
"One will wander the world till the end of one's days," Grahm writes, "its sublime, haunting fragrance gradually displacing all thoughts and memories, including the knowledge of one's own name."
That's this wine, he proclaims. All that for just $26? What a deal!
There is a feminine elegance about this syrah, Grahm says, and I agree. But it is at first a stern femininity until one ponders it a bit and catches its more subtle yet playful aspects. A sip evokes the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley of Downton Abbey, not at her most proper but at her most wry and giddy. It's all black taffeta illuminated by moonlight and surrounded by fragrant night-blooming blossoms.
The wine has a meaty quality, a depth of savory flavors that buoys its dark fruit. Think oil-cured black olives, slow-cooked venison, rare elk and maybe even morcilla de cabrito, goat's blood pudding redolent with garlic and Mexican oregano.
Is there anything we can put on the table that will rise to this description? Game will flatter it nicely, so if you have wild boar sausages, now is the time to enjoy them. A grilled cheese sandwich with a well-aged cheddar, jamon serrano and black olive tapenade on Russian black bread would provide a unique and compelling joy. Smoked beef, especially a smoked yet rare steak topped with black olive butter, is one of the best matches imaginable.
But for today's recipe, I'm playing Grahm's own game and taking inspiration from "A Rebours" ("Against the Grain"), a 19th century French novel by J.K. Huysmans. The protagonist hosts a funeral feast for a small, unmentionable personal tragedy, and smoked sausages are one of the more accessible items on the menu. (You can read the full text of the feast at <a href="http://http://www.eldritchpress.org/jkh/r01.html">www.eldritchpress.org/jkh/r01.html</a>.) I've always wanted to create this feast, simply for the fun of it, and this wine would be perfect poured into blood-red goblets.
<strong>Smoked Sausages with Black Lentil Soup, Creme Fraiche &amp; Smoked Salt</strong>
Makes 4 to 6 servings
<em>2 to 3 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil</em>
<em> 1 yellow onion, peeled and minced</em>
<em> 2 carrots, peeled and minced</em>
<em> 6 garlic cloves, crushed and minced</em>
<em> — Kosher salt</em>
<em> — Pinch of red pepper flakes</em>
<em> 2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste</em>
<em> 1 1/2 cup Beluga (black) lentils, rinsed and picked over to remove small rocks</em>
<em> 4 to 6 smoked sausages of choice</em>
<em> 4 cups homemade stock (see Note below)</em>
<em> — Black pepper in a mill</em>
<em> 1/2 cup creme fraiche, stirred</em>
<em> — Smoked salt, optional</em>
Put the fat or oil in a soup pot set over medium heat, add the onion and carrots and saute until soft and fragrant; do not brown. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes more. Season with salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes, stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring all the while, for 90 seconds.
Add the lentils, the stock and 4 cups of water. Add the sausages, increase the heat and bring to a boil. When the water reaches a full rolling boil, use tongs to transfer the sausages to a plate and reduce the heat to low so that the soup simmers. Skim off any foam that forms.
Cook, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
When the lentils are just about done, fry the sausage in a heavy pan over high heat. Turn them frequently and cook until they burst and are cooked through. Set aside.
Taste the soup, correct for salt and season generously with black pepper. Remove from the heat.
Cut the sausages in wide (about 1 1/2 inches) diagonal slices.
Ladle the soup into broad soup plates and arrange slices of sausage on top. Drizzle with creme fraiche and sprinkle smoked salt, if using, on top.
<em><strong>Note:</strong> </em>The richer your stock, the better the soup. If you happen to have homemade stock (any kind) in the freezer and have a ham bone or a ham hock, simmer it in the stock for several hours; it will pick up some of the smoky flavor and provide another layer of flavor.
<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 &amp; 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at email@example.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs. pressdemocrat.com.</em>