Pairing: Grenache ideal with fall flavors

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Our Wine of the Week, Amapola Creek 2016 Sonoma Valley Vineyard Estate Grenache ($48), is an attention grabber, a wine that wants to be noticed and warrants your attention. Pretty red fruit, especially raspberry, strawberry and Bing cherry, is buoyed by a foundation of crisp acidity, a quality that helps to balance its significant alcohol, which weighs in at 15.5 percent.

There are little bursts of sweet spice, too, and suggestions of cool topsoil.

This wine is excellent with ratatouille, pissaladière and other dishes from the south of France. It is also excellent with game, including venison stew, wild boar sausage and duck meatballs.

You’ll enjoy it with such mushrooms as golden chanterelles and, when they come into season, morels. Roasted sweet peppers, caramelized onions, bacon, black olives, polenta, slow-cooked tomato sauces and beef stews also flatter and are flattered by this wine.

The wine’s price point suggests it warrants an elegant companion, one with layered flavors and a bit of sass. For inspiration, I’ve turned to a favorite polenta tart, which I’ve updated to pair with this elegant wine.

Polenta Tart with Fresh Corn, Red Pepper Butter, Sausages

Serves 3 to 4

1 cup polenta (coarsely-ground)

— Kosher salt

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, at room temperature

— Pinch of ground cardamom

1 garlic clove, pressed

3 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, stemmed and seeded

— Black pepper in a mill

1 ear of corn, kernels cut from the cob

½ cup (2 ounces) grated dry Jack, Estero Gold or similar cheese

4 sausages, such as Provençal or Calabrese, preferably local

Parsley, for garnish

Put 3 cups of water into a medium saucepan, season generously with salt and bring to a boil over high heat.

When the water boils, use a long-handled whisk to stir in one direction, creating a vortex. Slowly pour the polenta into the vortex, stirring all the while. Continue to stir, in one direction, until the polenta thickens, about 7 or 8 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low, add 1 cup of water and simmer gently until the polenta is fully tender, about 35 minutes; stir now and then as it cooks.

Be sure to stir all the way to the bottom of the pot so that no polenta sticks or scorches.

While the polenta cooks, prepare the butter. To do so, put the butter into a small mixing bowl and mix with a fork until smooth. Add the cardamom and pressed garlic and set aside briefly.

Cut the red peppers into medium julienne. Set aside three-quarters of the pepper mix and mince the remaining quarter as finely as possible. Add the remaining quarter it to the butter, along with a generous pinch of salt and several turns of black pepper. Stir until very smooth. Set aside.

When the polenta is just about tender, add the corn, cheese and about a tablespoon of the butter. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.

Working quickly, rinse the inside of a 10-inch metal tart pan or similarly sized container with water, set it on a work surface and pour about half the polenta into it. Spread half the peppers over the polenta and top with the remainder of it.

Cover lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil and set aside in a warm place or a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Cook the sausages, either by frying or broiling them.

To finish the dish, set a flat serving plate, top side down, over the polenta and inverted it all, so that the polenta drops down onto the plate.

Spread the remaining red peppers over the top, followed by the remaining butter. Cut the sausages into diagonal slices and scatter on top. Sprinkle with the parsley and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “San Francisco Seafood.” Email her at

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