Our Wine of the Week, Pedroncelli 2014 Mother Clone Zinfandel ($18), is a treasure, It is bright, lively and refreshing, with layers of tangy berry flavors and melodies of black pepper, clove and allspice.
With Pedroncelli’s history going back nine decades — the 90th anniversary celebration is taking place this year — it is also a delicious swig of our history.
The wine is exuberantly versatile and can, of course, be enjoyed with all of the classic pairings, from pizza and burgers to barbecued ribs and spaghetti with olive oil and garlic. Ravioli Bolognese is a passionate pairing as well.
But you can enjoy the wine with more delicate, seasonal dishes, too. Roasted sweet peppers doused with a splash of good vinegar and served with mozzarella fresca, grilled tuna with onion marmalade and tomato-bacon galettes all flatter this beautiful wine.
The wine is a good choice for a picnic and today’s recipe is a fabulous picnic side dish, a smoky potato salad with fresh mussels. It is welcome alongside almost anything, including grilled sausage, which are another great match with this classic wine.
Smoky Potato and Mussel Salad
Serves 4 to 6
2 pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
— Kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons Zinfandel vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds PEI mussels, scrubbed
1 small red onion, smoked (see Note below) and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 generous handfuls of small-leaved arugula
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Put the potatoes into a medium saucepan, cover with water by at least 2 inches, season generously with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 7 to 9 minutes, depending on exact thickness.
Drain thoroughly and transfer to a wide shallow bowl. Sprinkle the paprika over the warm potatoes, followed by half the lemon juice, half the vinegar, and half the olive oil. Cover with a tea towel and set aside.
Meanwhile, set a large heavy skillet or a stove-top griddle over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with a little water and if it sizzles immediately, it is ready; if not, heat another minutes or so and test again.
When the pan or griddle is very hot, add a single layer of mussels, which will begin to pop open almost immediately. Agitate the pan or gently move the mussels on the griddle until all have opened. Transfer to a large bowl and continue until all the mussels have been cooked. Let cool until easy to handle and then remove the mussels from their shells, putting them into a medium bowl. If any juices have collected in the bowl, pour them through a strainer onto the mussels. Season the mussels with several turns of black pepper. Set aside.
Put the onion and garlic into a small bowl, add the reserved lemon juice and vinegar, and season with salt. Let rest a few minutes and then stir in the remaining olive oil. Taste and correct for salt and acid.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Olema, 2016 Sonoma County Chardonnay, 13.8% alcohol, $15. ★★★★
An easy-drinking chardonnay, with notes of apple, pear and a touch of oak. Citrusy finish. What makes it a standout is its pitch-perfect balance. Definitely over delivers. Impressive.
Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14.4%, $34. ★★★★½: A gorgeous chardonnay with lively notes of ripe apple, melon and mineral. It’s buoyed by bright acid and has a lingering finish. Supple texture. Striking.
Cycles Gladiator, 2016 Central Coast Chardonnay, 13.5%, $12. ★★★½: Here’s an interesting crossroad of stone fruit and tropical fruit with notes of nectarine and a hint of pineapple. Lightly toasted. Uncomplicated, yet approachable. Solid.
Garnet Vineyards, 2016 Monterey County Chardonnay, 13.8%, $20. ★★★★: A lovely chardonnay that pops with notes of peach, ripe apple and honeysuckle. Rich yet its bright acidity gives it pitch-perfect balance. Creamy texture. Spot on.
Gracianna, 2016 Suzanne’s Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.4%, $36. ★★★★½: A blousy chardonnay with ripe apple, melon and toasty oak. Creamy texture. Bright acid. Lingering finish. Lovely.