Pairing: Pinot noir with cherry gremolata
Our Wine of the Week, La Crema 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($25), is a lovely choice for celebrating Earth Day, as it has a pleasingly loamy foundation, an earthiness punctuated by flavors of allspice, cocoa, licorice root and good black tea. Above this foundation is a bright melody of acid, citrus zest, Queen Anne cherry, Bing cherry and a flourish of pomegranate, characteristics that begin in the wine's bouquet and resolve on the palate.
The wine is on the darker side of pinot noir, with a rich concentration of flavors and a lush mouthfeel, qualities that have become increasingly popular over the last decade or two. It is more velvety than satiny, attributes that can be key to successful pairings.
Foods with earthy qualities make great companions. Mushrooms, especially chanterelles; parsnips, beets and carrots; farro, lentils, quinoa and sweet potatoes all pair beautifully with this wine. Rare duck breast, all manner of lamb, braised pork shoulder and grass-fed beef are flattered by and in turn flatter the wine.
When pairing any wine, seasonings, including condiments, shape the final result. The right condiment can make the match soar; the wrong one can ruin both the wine and the food.
For today's recipe, I'm chosen a versatile and easy-to-make condiment, a gremolata. For the cherries, head to a farmers market where Neufeld Farms is a vendor — you'll find them at Windsor, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa Community and Petaluma Eastside — and snag some of their delicious Queen Anne dried cherries. In a few weeks, you can switch from dried to fresh. Use the condiment with creamy polenta, wild rice, rare leg or rack of lamb, braised lamb, lamb burgers, duck burgers, seared duck breast, braised pork shoulder or grilled boneless quail.
Dried Cherry Gremolata
Makes about ½ cup
1 handful (about ½ cup) dried cherries, preferably Queen Anne variety (see Note below)
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon minced spring garlic, white part only
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh Thai basil, optional
— Kosher salt to taste
— Black pepper in a mill
Remove the pips from the cherries and use a sharp knife to cut them into small dice. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.
Add the orange zest, garlic, parsley and basil, if using, and toss gently with a fork. Add a pinch of salt, toss again and taste; if the flavors haven't quite come together, add a pinch more salt, along with several turns of black pepper. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
Note: If the cherries are quite firm — like a raisin or dried cranberry — put them in a small bowl, cover with some of the wine or hot water and set aside for about an hour or so. Drain and then dice.
Email Michele Anna Jordan at email@example.com. You'll find her blog, 'Eat This Now,' at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.