Let's have some fun, shall we? By fun, I mean, there's no need to take this wine pairing thing too terribly seriously, especially here in the midst of such an abundance of great wine. It is not news that the North Coast, from the lowlands of Lakeville to the coastal hills of Mendocino, yields some of the most seductive pinot noir in the world. This plethora of great wines includes our Wine of the Week, La Crema 2012 Los Carneros Pinot Noir ($40), which is both rich and playful, in a husky kind of way. The wine has broad appeal, both in the range of people who will enjoy it and in the variety of foods that will welcome it. You don't need to look very far for a flawless match. Flawless matches are everywhere.
As the first hint of fragrance rises from the glass, I find myself thinking of my step-grandfather, whose simple kisses surrounded me in a halo of cherry tobacco. I also remember him sitting in his lounge chair, carefully cleaning his beloved pipe and packing in another bowlful of his favorite flavor.
That's this wine, a combination of dark cherry and pipe tobacco, with new leather, a hint of licorice root, dark roasted coffee beans, toasted cloves, black plums and a fillip of milk chocolate, all rising from a lush, broad foundation that embraces the palate like expensive satin.
At the table, the wine will work beautifully with just about any red meat, from delicate rack of lamb to robust venison stew. Mushrooms, bacon, roasted tomatoes, roasted parsnips and rich but not sharp cheeses will further any match.
How about spaghetti Bolognese? You bet. Pizza? Definitely. Sausage and polenta? For sure. Kalua pig? Yep. Eggplant and Fontina panini? Most definitely.
The wine is also a natural with wild Pacific King salmon, especially grilled or roasted in a slow oven so that it retains its succulence. The salmon is the inspiration for today's recipe and the accompaniments are, simply, for fun. Delicious fun. When Blue Lake green beans or haricots verts ripen, they will make an excellent addition, provided you cook them properly, which is to say just enough so that they lose their raw texture and their flavors blossom.
Slow-Cooked Salmon with Bacon, Fried Tomatoes and Beurre Rouge
Makes 4 servings.
4 very fresh fillets of local wild Pacific King salmon, about 6 ounces each, scaled
Black pepper in a mill
4 thick slices bacon, preferably locally made (I use Black Sheep Farm)
1 small red shallot, minced
2 tablespoons best-quality red wine vinegar, such as B.R. Cohn Cabernet
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup organic butter, such as Clover, Straus or Spring Hill, cut into pieces, chilled
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 large tomatoes, such as Parson's Homegrown, cut into thick rounds, stem and blossom ends discarded
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley or snipped chives
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Season the salmon all over with salt and pepper and brush them very lightly with olive oil. Set the fillets on a sheet pan, set the pan on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 20 minutes or a little longer for very thick fillets.
While the salmon cooks, fry the bacon in a large, heavy skillet until very crisp. Set it on absorbent paper to drain and pour off all but a tablespoon or so of the fat. Set the pan and the bacon aside.
Meanwhile, make the beurre rouge. To do so, put the shallot, vinegar, lemon juice and wine into a small saucepan set over medium heat and simmer until it is reduced to a scant 2 tablespoons. Season with salt. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool until the salmon is almost done. Return the pan to very low heat and begin to whisk in the butter, one piece at a time. Do not let the mixture simmer and wait until each piece of butter has been fully incorporated before adding more. Remove from the heat, add several turns of black pepper and set aside briefly.
Working quickly, set the pan with the bacon fat over high heat, add the garlic, saute for 1 minute, then the tomatoes in a single layer — working in two batches if necessary — and saute for 1 minute more. Turn and cook for another minutes; season with salt and pepper.
Divide the tomatoes among individual plates and drape a salmon fillet on top. Strain the beurre rouge into a clean bowl and spoon it over each portion. Drape a slice of bacon over each portion, scatter with parsley or chives and serve.
Michele Anna Jordan has written 17 books to date, including "Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings." You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. Email Jordan at email@example.com.