Our Wine of the Week, MacMurray Ranch 2013 Russian River Valley Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir ($28), warrants a celebration, even if it is just a small one around a dinner table.
It is bright and beautiful, with buoyant acidity, shimmering fruit and bursts of sweet spice. It is an exuberant wine, with a devil-may-care attitude.
Fruit flavors flash crimson, with gorgeous high notes of Queen Anne cherry and Santa Rosa plum, with just enough acidity to make you think of rhubarb and strawberry. Spice notes are evocative of good white peppercorns, Sichuan peppercorns and star anise. The mouthfeel is silky and voluptuous.
At the table, the wine has broad appeal. Enjoy it with roasted beets, parsnips, carrots, mushrooms, mushroom risotto, wild rice, rare duck breast and rare lamb.
Many varieties of heirloom beans are flattered by this wine and any succulent, oil-rich fish makes a great companion. Smoked salmon, especially tea-smoked salmon, is an extraordinary match.
For today’s recipe I’m inspired by two things, the opening of our local salmon season and the gorgeous morel mushrooms that Jill Adams has had at the Sebastopol farmers market.
Add a bit of brown butter and some roasted beets and you’ll have just the sort of feast this wine deserves.
Wild Pacific King Salmon with Beets, Morels and Brown Butter
2 medium or 5 small beets, trimmed, roasted until tender, peeled and cut in wedges
4 tablespoons brown butter (see Note below)
— Olive oil
1 center cut wild Pacific King salmon fillet, about 12 ounces, scaled and pin bones removed
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
— Black pepper in a mill
4-5 ounces morel mushrooms, cleaned
1⁄3 cup pinot nor
1 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
First, prepare the beets and make the brown butter if you have not already done so. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Brush a sheet pan or heavy skillet with olive oil.
Put the five-spice powder into a small bowl, add a generous half-teaspoon of salt and several turns of pepper and mix well. Cut the salmon into two equal pieces and sprinkle the spice mixture over it. Set the salmon in the pan, set the pan on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 20 minutes for a 1-inch thick fillet; cook thicker salmon a bit longer and thinner salmon a bit less.
Meanwhile, put about half the brown butter into a sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add the morels, toss, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the morels are very tender. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
When the salmon is done, transfer it to individual plates and spoon morels over it. Working quickly, return the pan to the heat, add the remaining butter and the beets and heat through, turning the beets a time or two so that they cook evenly. Add the pinot noir and swirl the pan until the wine is almost completely reduced. Turn the beets in the pan juices, season with salt and pepper and spoon alongside the salmon.
Garnish with snipped chives and enjoy right away.
Note: Brown butter is very easy to make at home. It is typically made with clarified butter that is then heated until it takes on a golden glow and a nut-like aroma, but you can make a quick version with butter that has not been clarified. Simply put the butter into a small heavy pan, set it over medium heat and pay attention to it. Remove it from the heat when the aromas suggest hazelnuts.