Our Wine of the Week, Siduri 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($28), is a perfect winter wine. Alcohol weighs in above 14.5 percent, which gives the wine an immediate warming quality and suggests the best pairings will be the hearty foods we want when nights are cold and we'd gather around a fire if it weren't for all our no-burn days.
There is a remarkable foundation of earthy flavors that range from dried cherries and black raspberries to wild mushrooms, black pepper and cool damp topsoil. There's a hint of something else, too, cedar or, perhaps, sandalwood, punctuated with little bursts of dried sage, oregano and bay.
Although smooth and satiny on the palate, as you would expect from any Siduri pinot noir, there is an engaging depth to the wine and a complexity that will keep your cranky uncle from calling it wimpy.
Because of the wine's richness and depth, it will flatter and be flattered by almost any red meat, from a rare ribeye steak or rack of lamb to slow-cooked pot roast, wild boar sausage and venison stew. In this arena, you pretty much can't go wrong. Vegetarians will enjoy it with roasted root vegetables, quinoa and farro. The wine is also a natural companion to beans, including pinto, black, white, Christmas lima or whatever you prefer, and delicious with all manner of lentils, too.
For today's recipe, I can't resist revisiting an old favorite, cotechino and lentils. Cotechino is a fat Italian sausage that Franco Dunn of One World Sausages makes in the cooler months. Braised with lentils and served with Lacinato kale, which is rich and sturdy, cotechino makes a perfect winter dinner. Vegetarians can omit the sausage, use vegetable stock and saute the kale in olive oil; a shower of grated cheese — Vella Dry Jack, Estero Gold or something similar — will add an engaging richness that will resonate beautifully with the wine.
Cotechino and Lentils with Braised Kale
Makes 3 to 4 servings