When LL says, “You know, I feel like making risotto tonight,” I promise that I am not the boy who replies, “Damnit, I was hoping for succotash and tuna-noodle casserole,” because she is, as far as I am concerned, the Queen of Risotto. Here are two examples, one from about a month ago and one from last night.
These words say it all: “Risotto with Duck and White Balsamic Vinegar.” The recipe, inspired by a dish at the restaurant La Stua de Michill in the Italian Dolomites, is in the March 2009 issue of Bon Appetit, An unusual point here is that the liquid, instead of the typical chicken broth, was beef broth, an element that lent additional richness to the dish. The duck was a pair of breasts from Whole Foods. The result was phenomenally, sublimely delicious.

For the wine, I opened a bottle of the Pali Wine Co. Thorn Ridge Ranch Pinot Noir 2007, Sonoma Coast. Pali Wine Co. is owned by a group of 21 friends and coworkers who, however hard they labor in the corporate world, share an obsession with pinot noir. The pali.jpg company purchases grapes from highly regarded vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and throughout California. For 2007, Pali produced small quantities of 13 different pinot noirs, of which I tasted four; I’ll mention the other three in an upcoming post on pinot noir wines from California. Pali’s winemaker, through the 2007 wines, was Brian Loring, who makes a series of pinot noir wines under his own label; beginning with ’08, winemaker will be Kenneth Juhasz. The winery is in Lompoc, the “City of Arts and Flowers,” in Santa Barbara County.

Loring, and the owners of Pali Wine Co., favor full-throttle pinots that emphasize, to greater or lesser degrees, power over elegance while retaining a firm grip on varietal character. The Thorn Ridge Ranch Pinot Noir 2007 offers an exuberant bouquet of roasted black currant and black cherry packed with black pepper and bacon fat, earth and minerals and, around the edges, a filigree of ripe mulberry, rose petals and smoke. The earthy aspect burgeons in the mouth with moss and mushrooms and a rooty tea-like element, all permeating flavors of smoky black currant, black cherry and cola. A wash of tannin sweeps the finish, bringing an austere note. 180 cases. Drink now through 2012 or ’13. Excellent. About $60.

Last night’s risotto was pure improvisation, with mixed dried mushrooms, diced country ham and green peas. It was fabulously flavorful and filled with texture, a sort of late-winter/early spring transitional dish

This time I opened a less expensive and more widely available wine, Boony Doon’s Ca’ del Solo Sangiovese 2006, San Benito County. The unusual blend is 77 percent sangiovese, 16 percent freisa, 6 percent syrah and 1 percent grenache, all from the biodynamically-run Gimelli Vineyard. The dark ruby colored wine bursts with freshness and immediate seductiveness; the bouquet is clean and bright, seething with notes of ripe, meaty and fleshy raspberry, black currant and mulberry, violets and rose petals and dried spice. It’s a rich and savory wine, deeply rooted in spice and such earthly elements as briers and brambles and damp leaves that bolster tasty black current and raspberry flavors. The texture is smooth and polished but pleasingly roughened at the edges with slightly gritty tannins. California has not done sterling service regarding the sangiovese grape; this is one of the best renditions. Excellent. About $18, though found on the Internet as low as $13.

Pali image (much cropped) from the website of the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper.