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Pairings: Three Sticks Pinot Noir lovely with polenta

Our Wine of the Week, Three Sticks 2012 Sonoma Coast Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir ($65) is a true head-turner, a regal, self-assured wine with abundant red fruit, a nearly endless depth and a long pleasing finish that reverberates with dried herbs, sweet spices and a quality that most people describe as “cola,” though root beer or even sassafras may be more accurate.

There is a gorgeousness to the wine even as you look at in the glass, where it shimmers like liquid garnets. On the palate, it is equally alluring, seductive enough to engage fans of the varietal and bold enough to draw in those who have been suspicious of what is occasionally--and incorrectly--called a wimpy grape. Pinot noir is anything but, though to fully understand and enjoy it, you must pay attention. It beckons instead of smacking you in the face.

This is a wine to enjoy on a special occasion, on a night when the moon is full, the sky clear and the air full of winter’s chill. Perhaps on a night when the vineyard itself, Gap’s Crown, on the western slopes of Sonoma Mountain, is bathed in the cool moonlight of the season.

For carnivores, a bone-in, tail-on ribeye steak, seared rare and napped with simple pan sauce of butter, Dijon mustard and red wine, makes an extraordinary match. Herbivores should look towards the season’s mushrooms and make a simple ragout of black chanterelles, porcini and hedgehog mushrooms sautéed in butter, shallots and a bit of white wine.

Omnivores can enjoy both, side by side, accompanied by wild mushroom polenta. With this lovely wine alongside, you’ll have an unparalleled winter feast.

Wild Mushroom Polenta

Serves 4

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 cup coarse-ground polenta

4 tablespoons butter

1 shallot, minced

½ pound wild mushrooms, such as oyster, porcini, or chanterelles, broken or sliced

½ cup dry white wine

- Black pepper in a mill

2 teaspoons porcini powder

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

4 ounces (1 cup) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Pour 3 cups of water into a medium saucepan, add the 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Using a whisk, stir the boiling water in one direction, creating a vortex; slowly pour the polenta into the vortex, stirring all the while. Lower the heat to medium and continue to stir until the polenta thickens, about 5 minutes. Replace the whisk with a wooden spoon and continue to stir now and then until each grain is tender, about 25 to 45 minutes. Add water, ½ cup at a time, if the mixture ever seems too thick.

After the polenta has thickened, put half the butter into a medium sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, turn to coat them with butter, add the wine, cover the pan and cook until the mushrooms wilt, about 7 minutes. Uncover, lower the heat and cook until they are very tender.

Season with salt and several turns of black pepper, remove from the heat and keep warm.

When the polenta is nearly completely tender, add the remaining butter, the porcini powder, the parsley and the cheese. Stir until the butter and cheese are fully incorporated. Stir in the sautéed mushrooms, remove from the heat, pour into a serving bowl, cover and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Michele Anna Jordan has written 18 books to date, including the new “More Than Meatballs.” Email Jordan at michele@saladdresser.com. You’ll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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