Pairings: Pinot soars alongside pork confit
Our wine of the week, Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard Pinot Noir ($70), is a sneaky show-off. It starts out all subtle and elegant, as if revealing itself from behind a pretty fan. But before long, it drops the coyness and blossoms into its full self. It is not really subtle at all, but regal, commanding and generous.
Fruit flavors, especially cranberry, pomegranate, Queen Anne cherry, red raspberry and strawberry ride atop a rivulet of bright crisp acidity with just enough engaging minerality to make you sigh with pleasure.
Amongst all that red fruit is a surprise: a burst of orange zest that elevates this wine from many of its peers. It is, in a word, breathtaking.
All manner of favorite foods come to mind when considering how best to enjoy this lovely pinot noir. If you can get guanciale (smoked pork jowls), cut it into decent sized pieces (⅜- to ½-inch cubes) and make a traditional Spaghetti Carbonara; use the best black pepper you have, preferably one with floral qualities.
Sweet potato polenta is a good match, too, and one that will keep vegetarians happy, as will winter squash risotto.
Rare duck, rare lamb, or rare goat served on a bed of sautéed mushrooms welcome this wine alongside. It’s also delicious with smoked salmon and with an end-of-the-season BLT.
For today’s recipe, I’m inspired by the wine’s notes of orange zest, which is not common in this varietal. Although the recipe takes three days to make, there is actually very little hands on work, so please don’t be overwhelmed by the time. The rewards — the wine soars with these flavors, which is what you want a match to do — are worth it.
Pork Rib Confit with Braised Cabbage and Bacon Gremolata
Makes 2 to 4 servings
1 rack pork spare ribs, about 2 to 2½ pounds
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 quart lard or rendered pork fat, plus more as needed
4-5 allspice berries
— Grated zest of 2 oranges
3 bacon slices
1 small red onion, cut into very thin half moons
½ small red cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
3 tablespoons rich red wine vinegar
¾ cup, loosely packed, Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
Two days before serving this dish, begin the confit. Cut the ribs into two pieces. Season them all over with salt and several very generous turns of black pepper.
Put the thyme sprigs into a flat glass dish, set the ribs on top, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
The next evening, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Melt the lard.
Put the pork and the thyme into an ovenproof container, add the allspice berries and half the orange zest, and pour the melted lard over everything. The pork should be fully covered; if it isn’t, add more until it is.
Set on the middle rack of the oven and cook, covered, overnight. After 8 hours, check the pork for tenderness. It should be fully tender but not falling apart; if it is still a bit tough, cook for another 2 hours.