Originally published in the Vines on Pine bi-weekly newsletter
Summer, jazz music and pinot noir all have a lot in common. All three are seductive, warm, sultry, at times languid, sweet, and have an elusive finish. Most people reach for white wine in summer, but pinot noir encapsulates the season best. It is filled with fruit, but finishes easily like the last notes of Dave Brubeck’s, “Take Five.”
A beautiful illustration of this is Really Good Wine by Joe 2010 Pinot Noir from Dundee, Oregon. It really ought to be served at room temperature. Some folks like to put a light chill on pinot to beat the heat, but doing so would be like listening to Louis Armstrong with your hands over your ears. You’ll still get some of the better notes, but you’ll miss all of the nuances that made him special.
If you have never tried an Oregon pinot before, know that they are closer to their Burgundy brethren than their California cousins. California pinots are more rock-and-roll with their sometimes over-the-top delivery of fruit. Really Good Wine by Joe Pinot Noir reflects the cooler daytime temperatures and less intense sun light that create less residual sugar, as evidenced in just 13% alcohol. (California counterparts run closer to 14% alcohol.) The result for Oregon pinot is more earthiness and minerality.
Joe Dobbes is a small, environmentally minded winemaker who produced just 800 cases of this 2010 gem. He demonstrates a commitment to his land through sustainable agricultural methods and support for his community by giving a portion of the proceeds from each bottle to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Northwest. At just $18.99 his pinot has all the complexity of others twice the price.
This wine is equally at home at a fancy dinner party or a picnic in the park. Its flavors are complex, rich and subtle on the palate. It starts with hints of blackberries, surprises you with bright cherry acidity, and finishes light as air with smooth tannins evaporating like the end-of-summer evening sunlight.
It paired beautifully with an improvised dish full of summer’s best ingredients: nutty farro, chanterelle mushrooms (which look like orange trumpets) and sweet fennel sausage tossed together with extra virgin olive oil, crispy shallots, and topped with grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese. It’s like a more interesting version of risotto and like the wine is best served at room temperature.
2 cups farro
6 links sweet Italian fennel sausage
1 shallot, sliced finely across to create little rings
1 cup of chanterelle mushrooms (about 15), cleaned and trimmed of any dirty spots
? cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs of unsalted butter
1/3 cup of parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add farro and cook until al dente. (About 10 minutes.) Drain the farro in a colander and then add it to a bowl with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Mix, add salt to your taste, and let rest while it cools to room temperature.
Meanwhile, remove the sausage meat from their skins and chop coarsely. Heat 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan and slowly add the loose sausage meat. Doing so slowly allows the meat to release water and caramelize. Don’t worry if it sticks to the bottom of the pan. In fact, that will only create deeper flavor. Once all the meat is cooked and all pink spots are browned, raise the heat to high and add a splash of Really Good Wine by Joe Pinot Noir to de-glaze the pan. Using a spatula, scrape all the sausage from the pan, making sure to release the brown bits. Add the sausage to the farro and olive oil, mix well and let rest.
Finally, use the same large pan to sauté the shallot rings and the mushrooms over medium heat. (Add a bit more olive oil if the pan is dry and as Julia Child said, don’t crowd the mushrooms!) Once the shallots begin to crisp and the mushrooms wilt, add the butter and stir to coat for another 2-3 minutes. Add the shallots and mushrooms to the sausage and farro, mix very well, and serve dusted with grated cheese.