Pairings: Upscale pinot with down-home pulled pork
Our Wine of the Week, Benziger 2016 Russian River Reserve Pinot Noir ($45) is both elegant and earthy, with its feet firmly planted on the ground and its head, its high notes, rising high above it, in a delicate realm of cherries, raspberries and plums.
There’s a suggestion of dried brambles, a slightly smoky quality evocative of tobacco and something resembling pepper that moves mysteriously from black to white and back to black again.
The texture has the silky quality of the varietal, with mannered tannins and a lingering finish.
It is a pinot noir that is full-bodied enough that people who say they prefer a more robust red wine will enjoy yet has enough characteristic delicacy that lovers of the ephemeral style for which Russian River pinot noir is widely praised won’t be put off.
The wine is outstanding with seared duck breast, served rare and topped with a suave sauce of butter and Bing cherries, though we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for cherry season to kick in. It is also excellent with duck meatballs, mushroom risotto, and macaroni and cheese spiked with crispy bacon.
Because of its price, its tempting to go up-market when it comes to pairing it at the table. And, indeed, it’s not a bad way to go: Rare rack of lamb with potato puree and oven-roasted asparagus topped with sieved egg and a red wine vinaigrette is a stellar match.
But you can go down-market, too, and enjoy how the wine soars with something as humble as pulled pork sandwiches.
It’s difficult to make today’s dish in small quantities so you might want to use just enough for a single meal and save the rest for a picnic or another meal at home.
Don’t feel like you have to invite the neighborhood and spring for several bottles to enjoy this happy match.
The sauce can be made a day or two in advance.
Juicy Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 Boston butt pork roast, about 4 pounds
— Liquid smoke
4 tablespoons kosher salt
— Sauce for Pulled Pork (recipe follows)
8-10 soft rolls of choice
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
Put the pork on a clean surface and use a pastry brush to coat it all over with liquid smoke. Rub the salt over it, using the full 4 tablespoons.
Set the pork in a deep roasting pan or a clay pot that has been soaked according to manufacturers instructions and add 1/4 inch of water.
Cover, set in the oven and cook for 5 hours or until the pork falls apart when pressed. Remove from the oven, uncover and let rest for 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter and continue to let rest until cool enough to handle; use 2 forks to shred the meat.
While the meat cooks, make the sauce.
To serve, warm the rolls, set on individual plates and pile shredded pork onto the bottom half of the roll. Top with plenty of sauce and serve immediately, with remaining sauce alongside.
Sauce for Pulled Pork
Makes about 2 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, minced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
— Kosher salt
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock or water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses or honey
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
— Black pepper in a mill
Put the olive oil into a small saute pan, set over medium low heat, add the onion and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant, about 8 to 9 minutes. Season with salt, stir in the ketchup, mustard and tomato paste.
Add the chicken stock or water, stirring all the while and simmer gently for 10 or 15 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly.
Stir in the vinegar, brown sugar, molasses or honey and Worcestershire sauce; simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
Taste, correct for salt and season generously with black pepper.
Michele Anna Jordan hosts “Mouthful: Smart Talk About Food, Wine & Farming” on KRCB FM on Sunday evenings at 6. Email her at email@example.com.