Our Wine of the Week, 2012 MacRostie Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($42), is just the sort of wine you want to find on your wine rack during a winter storm. It’s suave and elegant, with an alluring complexity that weaves together strands of sweet spice, smoky tobacco and dark fruit, especially ripe wild blackberries and black raspberries. It has an earthy flourish, too, suggestive of wild mushrooms poking through damp forest leaves after a good rain.
Core tannins are a bit stern, but stern with a wink, like Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham in “Downton Abbey,” wearing black taffeta and tossing off an insult at Isobel Crawley while her crinkled eyes betray a subtle smile. Although the wine is pleasantly drinkable now, it will age beautifully for the next few years. If you put wine down, this is a good one to add to your cellar.
The wine is lovely with risotto, especially risotto with wild mushrooms, turkey, roasted beets or winter squash. Duck and quail are good companions, too. For a vegetarian feast, bake wild rice and black chanterelles in small winter squash. Wild mushroom strudel is a good match, too.
For today’s recipe, how about French onion soup? It is easy to make with or without a slow-cooker; it’s a flawless match with this pinot noir and it is just what the weather calls for.
Slow-Cooked French Onion Soup
Serves 6 to 8
6 tablespoons butter
7 to 8 yellow onions, trimmed and very thinly sliced
6 to 8 garlic cloves, trimmed very thinly sliced
— Kosher salt
8 cups homemade beef stock, hot
1 fresh bay leaf
1 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup dry sherry or Madeira
— Black pepper in a mill
6 to 8 thick slices rustic hearth bread, preferably sourdough, lightly toasted
12 ounces grated cheese, such as Gruyere, Joe Matos St. George or Bellwether Carmody
Put the butter in a large skillet, add the olive oil and when the butter is melted add the sliced onions and cook, turning the onions in the pan now and then, until they are wilted, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cook about 15 minutes more, until the onions begin to release their sugar and take on a bit of color. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Season with salt and transfer to a slow cooker.
Pour 7 cups of the beef stock over the onions, add the bay leaf and set the cooker on high.
Return the pan to the heat and deglaze it with the red wine; simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Stir in the remaining stock and the sherry or Madeira and cook until the liquid is reduced to about 3/4 of a cup. Stir into the onion mixture.
After 1 hour, set the cooker on low, cover and cook for several hours or overnight.
To finish the soup, taste, correct for salt and season with black pepper.
Preheat an oven broiler.
Ladle the soup into oven-proof soup bowls and set a piece of toast on top of each portion. Sprinkle cheese over the bread and soup, so that it covers the entire surface.
Set the bowls on a baking sheet and set under the broiler just long enough for the cheese to melt and take on a bit of color.