Pairing: Anderson Valley pinot shines with meaty pie

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Our Wine of the Week, Foursight 2016 Anderson Valley Charles Vineyard Clone 05 Pinot Noir ($54), is a bold beauty, with alcohol hovering just below 14 percent and fruit that is more black than red.

Black cherry and black plum flavors are punctuated by sweet spices, especially allspice, clove and anise, with just a hint of licorice root.

The finish lingers on the palate as beautifully balanced acidity urges you to take another sip.

One of this wine’s finest matches is duck breast, grilled rare, thinly sliced and topped with a relish of Bing cherries, shallots and basil. Remember this for when cherry and basil season comes around in 2019.

In cooler months, the wine is excellent with the dark meat of turkey, rare prime rib, braised lamb shanks, warm farro salad, scalloped winter squash, spaghetti carbonara, wild mushroom risotto, polenta with specialty mushrooms and bacon and roasted root vegetables.

For today’s recipe, I’m taking inspiration from that delightful Sicilian appetizer, arancine, which are balls of risotto, typically stuffed with meat or cheese, and deep fried.

Instead of shaping these into balls, though, I’ve used that UK specialty, shepherd’s pie, for the structure.

Shepherd’s pie is, of course, covered with mashed potatoes instead of rice but the structures — a mixture of meat and vegetables, covered with a flavorful carbohydrate — are identical.

Sicilian-style Shepherd’s Pie

Makes 6 to 8 servings

11/2 pounds Italian rice, preferably Vialone Nano or Carnaroli

2 cups grated smoked caciocavallo or similar cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

— Olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 celery rib, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 ounces pancetta, diced

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground goat, lamb, duck or pork

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

3 minced sage leaves

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup tomato sauce, preferably homemade

3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

Cook the rice in abundant boiling water, lightly salted, as you would cook pasta. When it is fully tender (about 20 minutes), drain it but leave it quite moist and turn it out on a marble surface or a wide platter. Add the cheese and parsley and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

While the rice cooks, prepare the meat. Pour a splash of olive oil into a medium sauté pan, add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté over medium heat until they just begin to soften and take on a little color. Add the garlic and pancetta and cook 2 minutes more.

Season with salt.

Add the ground meats and, using a fork to crumble it, cook until the meat loses its raw look, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and the wine and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the minced sage, nutmeg, allspice and tomato sauce, stir and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Season with several turns of black pepper; taste and correct for salt.

When the meat is cooked, spread it over the surface of an ovenproof baking dish and spread the rice over the top, covering the meat completely. Set on the middle rack of the oven and cook until the rice is heated through and just beginning to color, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “More Than Meatballs.” Email her at

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