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Pairings: Duck breast with zinfandel


Our Wine of the Week, Artezin 2011 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($25), will thrill zin fans with its classic flavors and exuberant fruit.

Enveloping aromas suggest violets and ripe boysenberries warmed by the sun. Take a sip and a lush juiciness punctuated by sweet baking spices, black and white peppercorns and cocoa splash over the palate in an enormous wave of flavor. If you called this wine a fruit bomb, you wouldn't be wrong, exactly, though I think there is an elegance to it that warrants a more refined comparison. Hence my use of a wave to describe the wine's effect; it splashes rather than explodes.

To enjoy this wine at its best, you want big, juicy flavors. Vegans will want to turn to winter squash, fresh pasta with rich red sauces and purees of root vegetables. Pumpkin ravioli over a bed of parsnip puree with a black pepper and pumpkin broth will make a great match.

Vegetarian dishes will benefit from full-bodied, aged cheeses.

The easiest matches are with red meat, from duck, lamb and beef to boar, buffalo and venison. Slow-cooked stews and braises will work well but the very best match is with something juicy and rare. For today's recipe, I've added the flavors of coffee and cocoa to rare duck breast, for an earthy and exuberant pairing.

Seared Duck Breast with Coffee-Cocoa Rub

Makes 2 servings

1/2 cup farro, soaked overnight, cooked in salted water until tender but not mushy, drained

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

— Olive oil

1/2 duck breast, boned, skin-on, trimmed (see Note below)

1 tablespoon finely ground coffee, preferably medium roast

1 tablespoon sweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup dry red wine

— Zest of 1 small orange

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon or fresh Italian parsley

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