PAIRING: Blueberry risotto with merlot: Goldschmidt 2009 Alexander Valley bursting with fruit

Maybe we should think of our wine of the week, Chelsea Goldschmidt 2009 Alexander Valley Merlot ($14.99), as a bit of a rascal.|

Maybe we should think of our wine of the week, Chelsea Goldschmidt 2009 Alexander Valley Merlot ($14.99), as a bit of a rascal. In a good way.

Like its namesake, Nick Goldschmidt's oldest daughter Chelsea, the wine is outgoing and expressive. Chelsea has brilliant red hair, and the wine is deeply colored. It bursts with forward fruit, yet soft, tame tannins make it pleasantly easy to swallow. The finish lingers, evocatively, like a final glimpse of trailing red hair as the form to which it is attached disappears around a corner at dusk.

When it comes to pairing it at the table, it is a great wine with any tomato-based dish, from spaghetti with red sauce to traditional American pizza. It is excellent with black olives, too, especially oil-cured black olives. Rich cheeses -- Fontina, for example -- make happy companions, too.

But for the very best pairings, think blueberries. It is an uncommonly happy marriage and it is a happy thing indeed that the attention focused on it coincides with our local blueberry season.

For today's recipe, I've been bold in honor of the wine's boldness. Blueberries work surprisingly well in this luscious risotto, and if you serve it neat, without the duck, you'll have a fabulous match. Add the duck and you have a feast, perfect for a summer dinner party.

Blueberry Risotto with Sear Duck Breast and Blueberry Relish

Makes 3 to 4 servings

3 cups blueberries, rinsed

1 pear

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 shallots, minced

-- Juice of 1 lemon

-- Kosher salt

-- White pepper in a mill

-- Several pinches of ground clove

-- Sugar, as needed

1/3 cup Thai basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 duck breast, trimmed of excess fat

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/4 cup Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice

5 cups homemade broth or stock, preferably duck, hot

3 tablespoons mascarpone

Set aside half the blueberries.

Put the remaining blueberries into a small saucepan.

Peel, core and chop the pears and add them to the pan with the blueberries, along with half the ginger, apple cider vinegar, half the shallots and half the lemon juice. Season with salt and several turns of white pepper. Add a pinch or two of ground clove.

Set over low heat until the berries just soften.

Remove from the heat and carefully taste; if the relish is flat, add a bit of sugar and a pinch more salt. Stir, cool to room temperature and stir in half the Thai basil. Cover and set aside.

Set the duck breast on a clean work surface, score the skin in a 1-inch checkerboard pattern and season all over with ground clove, salt and white pepper. Set aside.

Put the butter and olive oil into a wide deep pan, such as a saucier, and set over medium low heat. Add the remaining shallot and saute until soft and fragrant, about 7 to 8 minutes. Do not let it brown.

Add the rice, increase the heat to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until each grain is milking white. Add half the blueberries and stir. Reduce the heat to medium, add 1/2 cup of the stock and stir until it is absorbed by the rice. Continue adding stock and stirring until the rice is just tender, about 18 minutes. (If stock runs low, add water.)

When there is about 3/4 cup of stock remaining, fold in the remaining blueberries, stir and remove from the heat.

Working quickly, sear the duck breast, skin side down, in a very hot ridged pan, for about 3 minutes. Turn and saute 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat, cover and keep warm.

Return the rice to the heat, add half the stock, stir and taste; correct for salt and pepper. Add the remaining blueberries and remaining stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the mascarpone and remove from the heat.

Ladle the risotto into soup plates. Quickly cut the duck into thin diagonal slices and top each portion of risotto with some of the duck. Spoon relish on top, finish with a sprinkle of the remaining basil and serve immediately.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.

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