Saint Paddy’s, second time around

Shredded corned beef in pickling-spice sauce, on shredded steamed cabbage, with boiled carrots and red potatoes and chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. 

I came across a recipe, in one of those quick, good eatin’, sections of a food mag, suggesting shredded steamed or sauteed cabbage with leftover corned beef on top, pulled-pork style. Good idea.

So tonight we’re having that. I’ve steamed the shredded cabbage and am about to boil potatoes and carrots, all to be re-warmed when the time comes. The water I’m using has fresh pickling spices, bagged, and a good half-teaspoom of ground allspice. Half the liquid is water, half is a Mendocino chardonnay.

As before, I’ll thicken the liquid with a little corn starch and will warm the slices of leftover corned beef in it. Everything I’ve mentioned above will wind up suffused by (in, Jan?) the sauce. And we will have the result with the Mendocino chardonnay (a special bottling called Pound Hound, by two Sonoma County wineries at the Trentadue Winery) and with a gift wine from Judy’s teaching partner, Sharon — Clos du Bois 2003 Sonoma County cabernet sauvignon.

Can hardly wait. I’ll only report on the result if for some reason it disappoints. –Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.

A fine, fruity Sonoma County Bordeaux

Kenwood Vineyards 2006 Sonoma County cabernet sauvignon, $15

Two years maturing in American and French oak have tamed sturdy tannic acid in a dark, dense Bordeaux blend that looks — and tastes — like fruity Santa Rosa plums with a couple of other elements that at first seemed hard to name.

Others have identified fig, with a hint of pipe tobacco. That works for me, but the primary impression is plums. Bright acids include whatever is characteristic of cranberries; maybe the berry flavor is in there, too.

Nephew Ron shared this wine. I’ll be pairing it with boneless, skinless chicken breast sauteed in I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and olive oil. The meat will top a slice of whole wheat toast. And the chicken itself will be topped with a couple of rashers of platter bacon. At the table, the dish will get the final topping — fresh-grated pecorino romano cheese and a dribble of salad-quality virgin olive oil.

At the side will be roasted red potatoes and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I have made little bit of sauce for the vegetables — butter, fig-balsamic vinegar, a dash of this wine and, because the sauce turned out a bit too acidic, a dollop of low-fat yogurt. I usually serve vegetables “naked,” but I’ll test them with a bit of the sauce to see if it works.

Ordinarily I’d write after the meal, but I think the pairing should work well. –Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.

Another writer calls the 2006 version of this pinot noir “gulpable” and I think the 2007 is, too

Cep Vineyards 2007 Sonoma Coast pinot noir

‘Cep’ is French for ‘grapevine,’ we’re told. The label features a drawing of a vine getting ready for bud-break. I think Cep is a second label of a better-known producer, but I’m not sure who that is.

I do know what the wine is. This is part of my nephew Ron’s Christmas gift of a case of wine selected for quality and the possibility that the wines might be a surprise to me. (Many were.)

Sonoma Coast is a pretty large area but it’s prime Burgundy country. There’s a lot of fog which promotes hang time — grapes have time to linger on the vine long enough to develop a lot more character, and sugar, than vines in France. More sugar means more alcohol. This wine has 14.2 percent alcohol — but not a bit of the heat, in mouth and aftertaste, that one might expect. It’s full, fruity, smooth, rich and . . . yes . . . “gulpable.”

It’s also great with food. I’m having it with a rich, creamy risotto and a baby-spinach and grape-tomato salad, and it’s perfect. This is not a wine I’d describe primarily in terms of fruit flavors, simply that it’s richly fruity. It is also earthy, as French pinot noir (“Burgundy”) is. If you have it with crusty french or sourdough bread, you don’t even need butter (though that’s okay). Just tear off pieces and scoop up some risotto and gulp both the food and the wine.

The only cost estimate I saw online was $25 for the 2006. Give this review to some friends who are sometimes your dinner guests; maybe one of them will bring you a bottle. –Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.

Gallo doesn’t own Sonoma County, even if all their vineyards here make it seem they do; Sonoma owns Gallo, big time, and that’s all according to Gallo’s long term plan

A fine example of Gallo’s investment in America’s best Burgundy challenger to France: Gallo Family 2007 Sonoma County Pinot Noir, $15-20.

For a small-party meal with an Italian influence, I chose a Gallo pinot noir and thought it was every bit as good with this meal as a northern Italy red would have been.

This wine was of course clearly American, clearly from a county heavily influenced by northern California coastal weather all along the Russian River. That means it’s fruity and deeply colored, as the Italians would like it, but it is much fuller in the mouth, unashamedly inky, and lacking in traces of barnyard influence than a French pinot noir would be. There’s cocoa and coffee in the aftertaste and it’s smooth and silky yet generous in red stone fruit and satisfying weight.

The meal featured spaghetti ala carbonara (turkey bacon, a bit of cream, pecorino romano, olive oil and light “butter” added after whipped eggs have been “cooked” in the hot whole wheat spaghetti immediately after it’s taken off the heat, and drained).

Boneless, skinless turkey thighs filled out the main course nicely. They were braised in a half-and-half mixture of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and olive oil. Yes, I wrote “in.” The chicken emerges moist and rich from cooking in a half-inch of such a mixture, which is then added to the carbonara. With the chicken I produced a caper sauce, with lots of capers and their salty liquid and a bit of a roux, plus worcestershire sauce and enough water to make the sauce substantial but not thick like a paste.

I made a casserole of wilted fresh spinach spread across a thin layer of bread crumbs, topped with shredded pecorino romano cheese, then topped with slices of previously-roasted acorn squash and finished with pepper jack cheese and some more bread crumbs and dollops of a prepared barbeque sauce.

When Gallo began moving into Sonoma County about three decades ago, it seems few people noticed, though the family announced their decision to upgrade their reputation with massive production of world-class Sonoma wines. By now a substantial portion of Sonoma County (which in land area is the size of Rhode Island) is covered in Gallo grapevines. Not incidentally, but rather something to be appreciated: Gallo plants far less than half of the acreage it owns to grapes as a matter of stewardship of the land. –Bob Cramer, writing as The Fearless Taster.