Wed 3 Feb 2010
We were having swordfish, a great fish to cook at home because it’s so easy, and LL made a smoked tomato sauce to go with it. With swordfish, the requirement is to cook it carefully and briefly, so it doesn’t dry out. You douse it with salt, pepper and lemon juice before searing or get a bit fancier and marinate it in lime juice, minced fresh ginger and garlic and a bit of soy sauce and white wine (or mirin). The point is to sear it on each side for a couple of minutes, so it’s a little crusty on the outside and just beyond rare at the center.
For the smoked tomato sauce, you start by lining a heavy pot with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Make sure that the lid still fits on the pot tightly. Drop a handful of wood grilling chips, like mesquite or hickory or grapevines, on the bottom of the pot and set a grid of some kind over them, (to hold the tomatoes), put the lid on and turn the burner to high. Let those wood chips start smoking and then put quartered Roma tomatoes on the grid and replace the lid on the pot. When the tomatoes are nicely smoked, put them in a food processor with some olive oil and puree until smooth. Voila! Smoked tomato sauce. It’s pretty damned heady and flavorful, and it made a great accompaniment to the swordfish. On the plate here is also a medley of braised broccoli, turnips and roasted red peppers.
A couple of nights later, we used the smoked tomato sauce on meat loaf, which pepped up the flavor, and that weekend, for the Pizza-and-Movie-Night pizza, I used what was left of the smoked tomato sauce as the base for the pizza ingredients, which included slices of fresh tomatoes and a julienne of dried tomatoes, as well as marinated mushrooms, black olives and chopped salami. Yep, it was one of the good ones.
With all of these meals, we drank wines from V. Sattui Winery, a Napa Valley institution that sells its products only at the tasting room south of St. Helena or by mail order through the winery’s website. The company was founded in San Francisco in 1885 by the merchant Vittorio Sattui; 90 years later, Vittorio’s great-grandson Dario re-established the business at its present site, conceiving the unique idea of not selling the wines to wholesalers or restaurants. V. Sattui makes about 40,000 cases of wine annually, comprising 45 different wines. The company owns 230 acres, mainly in the Napa Valley, and also sources grapes from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Amador, Lodi and Mendocino counties. Winemaker is Brooks Painter. You can’t miss V. Sattui from Highway 29. It’s an extensive Italianate compound with winery, tasting facilities, picnic grounds and a store that sells all sorts of ready-to-eat foods as well as more than 200 cheeses.
With the swordfish, we tried the V. Sattui White Riesling 2008, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Made all in stainless steel, this exhilarating riesling offers a touch of sweetness on the entry, but that factor is easily balanced with crisp acidity and a prominent limestone element. Aromas of green apple and spiced pear are woven with hints of honeysuckle and roasted lemon, while in the mouth, a texture poised between the spareness of acid and minerality and the slight lushness of ripe peach and pear flavors is highly pleasing. The wine finishes with a touch of grapefruit austerity. 607 cases produced. Excellent. About $24.
With the meat loaf, we drank the V. Sattui Preston Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Napa Valley, which blends a dollop of Carneros merlot with the cabernet from a well-known Rutherford vineyard. This is a terrific old-fashioned Napa cabernet, sinewy and muscular but bursting with black currant and black cherry flavors and hints of cedar, bell pepper, tobacco and baking spices. It’s actually pretty sleek, with polished oak and smooth tannins providing framework and a little resistance — you feel that slight gravity of the tannins — but no interference to the fruit. Balance and integration are everything here, with each element eloquently making its case. 2,934 cases produced. Excellent. About $45.
Finally, well-matched with the pizza, was the V. Sattui Crow Ridge Zinfandel 2007, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. The 94-year-old vines include, as is typical of Sonoma County zinfandel vineyards planted a century or more ago, a field blend of other varieties, including carignane, petite sirah and alicante bouschet, each represented here by a smidgeon. Again, this is a gratifyingly old-fashioned zinfandel in which the blackberry, black currant and plum flavors are twined with notes of black pepper, briers and brambles. It’s profoundly earthy and layered with granite-like mineral elements, yet, as with the Preston Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, this Crow Ridge Zinfandel 2007 embodies an innate sense of balance among fruit and essential acidity, tannin and wood — 15 percent new American oak, 20 percent new French oak and the rest used barrels up to five years old. The alcohol level is 15 percent, but there’s nothing hot or overbearing or over-ripe about this wine. It’s a little shaggy, a little foresty, completely authentic and mainly delicious. 702 cases. Excellent. About $33.
Samples for review; further blandishments included small samples of three cheeses to pair with the wines.