Pairing: Zinfandel sings with cioppino

Our Wine of the Week, Dry Creek Vineyard 2016 Dry Creek Valley Old Vine Zinfandel ($35) is a classically beautiful expression of our heritage. The varietal may have been traced to its genetic roots in Europe, but its contemporary spiritual home is Dry Creek Valley,

The first flavor to blossom on your palate is raspberry, the signature quality of zinfandels from this valley. Next come starbursts of cranberry and pomegranate, followed by whispers of milk chocolate, black peppercorns and violets. The wine has a voluptuous texture, with tannins that are rich and ripe.

The wine is a natural with slow-cooked tomato sauces and stews. Spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, braised short ribs, coq au vin, classic beef stew, chili Colorado that isn’t too spicy and polenta with lamb or pork ragout are all outstanding companions.

Today’s inspiration comes from the season, by which I mean Dungeness crab season, which has gotten off to a very good start, with big succulent crab. In addition, we tend to go to extra trouble in the kitchen at this time of year. Why not craft cioppino, with layered flavors that mirror the layer complexity of this lovely wine? This cioppinio, which is my own, is lighter and more delicate than many versions, qualities that highlight the more subtle flavors of herbs and spices.


Serves 4 to 8

2 whole Dungeness crabs, cooked and cleaned

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups dry white wine

2 bay leaf

1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into small dice

1 celery stalk, minced

6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

- Kosher salt

- Black pepper in a mill

1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

3/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice

2 pounds clams or cockles in their shells, rinsed

2 pounds fresh black mussels, rinsed

1 lemon, cut into wedges

- Hot garlic bread (see Note below)

Pick the crab meat from its shells, saving the shells. Put crab into a bowl, cover it and refrigerate it.

Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a medium sauté pan, add the crab shells and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, the white wine and one bay leaf and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine sieve and set aside. Discard the shells.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large heavy pot set over medium-low heat, add the onions and celery and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Season generously with salt and black pepper.

Add half the parsley along with the remaining bay leaf, oregano, thyme, pepper flakes, reserved crab shell broth, red wine and tomatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to very low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Add the clams or cockles and the mussels to the pot, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Examine the shellfish and discard those that have not opened. Add the crab, cover, remove from the heat and let rest for 10 minutes.

Use tongs to remove and discard the bay leaf.

Divide the seafood among large soup plates or pasta bowls. Ladle broth over each portion, scatter the remaining parsley on top and enjoy right away, with lemon wedges and hot bread alongside.

Note: If you don’t know how to make garlic bread, here’s the trick:

Melt a stick of butter over low heat and add several minced garlic cloves. Stir in ¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley.

Cut a loaf of sourdough bread in half lengthwise and use a pastry brush to cover the cut surfaces with the garlic butter.

About ten minutes before serving, put the bread in an oven preheated to 350 degrees until it just turns golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, cut into wide slices and enjoy hot.

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