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Pairings: Domaine Carneros Estate Brut perfect for crab

Our Wine of the Week, Domaine Carneros 2009 Estate Brut ($32), has a special place in my heart. Many year ago, my precocious daughter Nicolle asked to choose the menu for her 9th birthday celebration at a restaurant, long closed, where I worked as a waitress. I wasn't surprised when she selected escargots, Caesar salad, steak tartare and cheesecake, but nearly fell over with her next request.

“I want Domaine Carneros Champagne,” she said. “I know your favorite is Taittinger but it's MY birthday.”

Precocious, indeed.

The wine is a longtime family favorite and whenever we raise a glass, we laugh about that night so long ago.

Year after year, this wine is a delight, with an elegance and depth that rewards but does not require attention. Sip it casually as you chat with friends or savor it solo, by a warm fire or the glimmering lights of a Christmas tree. You'll notice crisp, cool apples, Comice pear, lemon, pomelo and a smoky, yeasty quality that may have you thinking about buttered toast, hazelnuts and beurre noisette.

At the table, the wine has broad appeal. Enjoy it with oysters on the half shell, country-style paté or sea scallops seared in beurre noisette, a kind of browned butter. It is spectacular with roasted marrow bones and outstanding with almost any ceviche.

It is also a perfect mate with Dungeness crab, served simply with lemon and Tabasco sauce, say, or in vichyssoise, crab cakes or almost any other way. For today's recipe, I'm pairing crab with avocado in a refreshing tostada, a favorite combination. To serve as an appetizer, use small cocktail-size tortillas, which you can find in Latin markets such as Lola's. The recipe can easily be doubled.

Avocado Crab Tostadas

Makes 4 servings

— Meat from 1 Dungeness crab

2 serranos, stemmed, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 small shallot, minced

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