Pairing Sebastiani cab with mac and cheese

Our Wine of the Week, Sebastiani Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($34, 14.2 percent alcohol), is subtle, suave and elegant. It is a real beauty, regal and restrained, yet full of a sensuality.

It makes an immediate impression - think of a debonair actor like Gregory Peck, or Jon Hamm as Don Draper entering a room - that lingers long after the last drop of wine has been savored. Anyone who loves cabernet sauvignon should derive extraordinary pleasure from this wine.

Although there is plenty of dark fruit, the wine is not aggressive. Sometimes a California red will have so much huge, forward fruit that pairing it successfully at the table can be challenging. Not so with this wine. It has fine table manners, you could say, and can be enjoyed with any foods traditionally paired with the varietal, from black olives, eggplant, mushrooms, winter squashes and halibut to roast beef, grilled ribeye, venison loin and wild boar.

Other flavors - a suggestion of milk chocolate, a hint of dried sage, enough cool earthiness to make you think of topsoil - are equally restrained so that on your palate there is a pleasing harmony instead of fragmented flavors.

Because of the wine's restraint, because you don't have to mitigate the fruit, I can't resist pairing this wine with one of the world's classic comfort foods, traditional macaroni and cheese, as a main course, not a side dish. The voluptuous textures of both the wine and the macaroni and cheese will cozy up to each other like a Persian cat rubbing itself against thick velvet. On a cool night, what could be better?

Because the dish itself is so rich, I like to serve sauteed spinach alongside and end the meal with a butter lettuce salad dressed lightly with a simple red wine vinaigrette and a bit of crumbled blue cheese.

You'll notice that the recipe calls for both white pepper and black pepper; this is the ideal way to make it but if you do not have white pepper, don't worry. No one will miss it, though if you do have it will contribute a subtle layer of fermented flavor.

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon

Makes 3 to 4 servings

- Butter

2 teaspoons Coleman's dry mustard

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1? cups heavy cream or unsweetened condensed milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 pound St. George cheese, grated (see Note below)

? pound Valley Ford Estero Gold cheese, grated (see Note below)

3 ounces artisan bacon, such as Black Sheep or Black Pig, cooked until just crisp, drained and crumbled

12 ounces ditalini, cooked al dente, drained and rinsed

- White pepper in a mill

- Black pepper in a mill

- Kosher salt

1 cup fresh bread crumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a large deep baking dish; a porcelain souffle dish is ideal.

Put the mustard and Tabasco into a large bowl and stir until smooth. And the cream or condensed milk and the eggs and whisk thoroughly until smooth and thick.

Combine the two cheeses and fold about two-thirds into the egg mixture, along with the pasta.

Add the bacon and the remaining cheese, folding quickly and not overmixing.

Season generously with black and white peppers.

Season to taste with salt. Pour the mixture into the buttered baking dish and spread the the bread crumbs over the top.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake until the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: These cheeses create a subtle and voluptuous dish but you can also get outstanding results using a medium-sharp Cheddar, which has the added benefit of being less expensive.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at

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