Pairing: From barbecue to simple soup with Rock Wall zin

The bold edginess of Rock Wall's zinfandel pairs nicely with the rich flavors in this simple soup.|

Our Wine of the Week, Rock Wall 2012 Napa Valley Hendry Vineyard Zinfandel ($40), is a show-off, with big, bold fruit, a mineral foundation and enough spice to fill a pantry. Alcohol weighs in at above 15 percent, so drink judiciously or your head may feel like it was pounded against the winery’s name.

Dark berry and black plum flavors unfold with an edgy bit of sweetness contributed by the alcohol, along with bright sparks of white pepper, black pepper, allspice, clove and a bit of nutmeg. There’s a suggestion of cardamom, too, and just a hint of star anise.

At the table, you have a choice of two directions: Match the wine’s bold complexity or offer it a minimalist stage. To match it, think robust barbecue, nothing too spicy but something with lots of concentrated flavor and an edge of sweetness - beef ribs, say, or smoked brisket. A rare juicy hamburger, classic American pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, and braised sausages with creamy polenta will offer delicious nooks and crannies for the wine tease. Avoid anything too salty or too acidic, as both could turn the wine a tad bitter.

A minimalist approach might be even more engaging. Fettuccine Alfredo, either traditional or a currently trendy version made with pureed cauliflower instead of cream, makes a great canvas, a trampoline upon which the wine will soar.


For today’s dish, I’m taking a minimalist approach with a lusciously rich soup that is very easy to prepare. If you can get dried beans from a local farmer rather than at a supermarket, you’ll have much better results.

Very Simple White Bean Soup

Serves 6

1 pound white beans, such as marrowfats or cannellini

1 onion, white or yellow, cut into small dice

8 large cloves garlic, peeled

- Kosher salt

6 ounces (1½ cups) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

- Black pepper in a mill

- Black olive tapenade, homemade or commercial

Rinse the beans under cool water and pick through them to remove any small rocks or other varieties of bean.

Put them into a clay bean pot or large saucepan of water, set over medium heat and slowly bring to a boil. (If using a bean pot, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.) Reduce the heat, skim off any foam that rises to the surface and cook until the beans have begun to soften. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and continue to cook until the beans are very tender; add water as needed so that the beans do not dry out or scorch. Allow plenty of time, especially if you are using a bean pot. (The beans may be prepared the night before and reheated just before serving.)

Remove from the heat, let cool slightly and puree with an immersion blender until very smooth. Return to low heat, stir in the cheese, taste, correct for salt and season very generously with black pepper.

Ladle into soup plates, top with a dollop of tapenade and serve right away.

Michele Anna Jordan has written 19 books to date, including the new “More Than Meatballs.” Email Jordan at You’ll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at

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