Pairings: Zin with pasta and mushrooms

This week's wine of the week, Cline zinfandel, pairs well with creamy pasta and cheese, sausage and Oaxacan mole.|

Our Wine of the Week, Cline Cellars 2015 Ancient Vines Zinfandel ($20) is soft and sexy, with a lush, silky texture; rich fruit, especially ripe strawberries and smooth tannins. There's an appealing softness to the wine that sets it apart from bigger, bolder zinfandels. You'll notice just a hint of violet in the wine's bouquet and threads of medium-roast coffee and milk chocolate amid the fruit flavors. Just a hint of smoke hovers over other qualities, a shimmering halo that can be key to pairing the wine successfully.

Alcohol is substantial, 15 percent, and this, too, is a good guide for matching the wine with the right foods.

A classic Qaxacan molé with chicken and Mexican chocolate is a beautiful match, provided it isn't too spicy. Your favorite macaroni and cheese makes a fabulous match, too, especially if it includes at least one smoked cheese, a smoked cheddar, a smoked mozzarella, or both.

The wine is a good match for New Orleans food, including crawfish etouffé, shrimp and grits, and even red beans and rice with andouille sausage.

If you want to go out on a culinary limb, try pairing the wine with that Canadian marvel, poutine, traditionally a pile of fries covered with brown gravy and melting cheese.

Indeed, on first sip memories of the crawfish poutine served at a food stall at St. Roch's Market in New Orleans swirled in my mind's palate.

You can find several of my recipes for macaroni and cheese at “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

For today's recipe, it's something very simple and delightful, a dish you can make in minutes that will please almost everyone, especially with this wine alongside.

Pasta with Mushrooms in Cream

Serves 2, easily doubled

- Kosher salt

4-6 ounces dried pasta, such as spaghetti or fettuccine

6 ounces crimini (brown) mushrooms, brushed clean

3 tablespoons best-quality butter

1/4 cup Rainwater Madeira, optional

1/3 cup cream or half and half, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons creme fraiche

- Black pepper in a mill

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Fill a medium saucepan two-thirds full with water, add a generous 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.

When the water reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta and stir until the water returns to a boil. Reduce the heat a bit and cook according to package directions until just done.

Meanwhile, trim a bit off the stem of each mushrooms and cut them all into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Set a heavy saute pan over medium heat, add the butter, and when it is completely melted, add the mushrooms.

Saute gently until the mushrooms are fully tender. Season with salt and add the Madeira, if using; simmer until it is nearly completely evaporated.

Add the cream and simmer for about 2 minutes and stir in the creme fraiche. Taste, correct for salt, and season with several turns of black pepper. If it seems too thick, add a splash of cream and heat through.

Working quickly, drain the pasta but do not rinse it. Tip the pasta into the saute pan and turn it until it is evenly coated with the sauce.

Divide evenly among two pasta plates, garnish with parsley, and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The New Cook's Tour of Sonoma.” Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com

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