But I had no idea that the Sonoma Coast, which includes the Russian River Valley, is held in such comparatively low regard by informed, high-end wine consumers, until I was recently exposed to new consumer research.
There’s no reason for that, although the Sonoma Coast appellation is a much larger area than the RRV, and larger than the “true coast.” It’s shaped a bit like a Sphinx, except tilted to the Northwest, and maybe wearing a cast on its foot, reminding me of “Paw Paw” in the independent 2011 movie, The Future. Poor Paw Paw. I know it was preciously ironic and all, but I’m going to be sad now.
What was I talking about? Let’s just open this bottle of Pinot.
The La Crema 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($25) is my favorite of recent efforts. 2011 was supposed to be a difficult vintage, but you don’t hear many Pinot winemakers complaining, and the results are turning up quite well.
The 2011 leads with sandalwood and fresh-crushed, dried herbs, taking on Mexican baking chocolate spiciness after a little breather. Fruit aromas are candied, but alluring, like La Vie raspberry candies, and the tingly-sweet finish slinks off just slowly enough, you start to miss it before it’s gone. It cools in fruit character, while the spice deepens, after being open a day or so.
Recipe pairing follows; romantic fools take note, La Crema also suggests a “floral pairing” of chocolate cosmos or amaranths.
Pan Seared Duck Breast with Wild Rice, Glazed Onions and Spiced Roasted Plums
This mouth-watering recipe owes its success to the timeless pairing of red fruit and wild winged game. The acidity in the wine serves to not only foil the richness of the duck but also enhances the spiced roasted plums.
The La Crema Pinot Noir from Monterey, with its subtle notes of earth and minerality, pairs perfectly with the anise in the Chinese five-spice and leads to a long elegant finish.
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 strip bacon, finely chopped
- 1 cup wild rice
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ onion, diced
- 6 cups chicken stock, at a simmer
- 6 firm plums, quartered
- 2 Tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 bag white pearl onions, peeled
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
- 4 duck breasts, cleaned and trimmed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Butter to taste
- Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350° F. Place a 4-quart pot over low-medium heat and add 2 Tbsp. oil and bacon. Sauté until bacon begins to brown, approximately 3 minutes. Add the rice, bay leaves, onion and slowly pour in the simmering chicken stock. Simmer for approximately 50 minutes or until most of the rice begins to split open. Drain rice and reserve liquid.
In a small mixing bowl, add the plums, five-spice and 1 Tbsp. oil. Toss well to distribute seasoning. Pour the plums onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
Place onions in a 2-quart pot and cover with water. Add honey, 1 Tbsp. butter and vinegar. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove lid and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Once onions have cooled slightly, add 1 Tbsp. butter. Reserve onions and keep warm.
In a skillet over medium heat, roast duck (skin side down) until golden and skin has rendered its fat. Flip the duck breast over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to rest. In a medium sized pan, over high heat, add 1 Tbsp. of butter (or more, if desired). Once the butter has melted, sauté the rice. Keep cooking liquid on hand to moisten the rice. Add sage and season to taste.
To serve: spoon rice onto plate and top with roasted plums. Place duck breast on the side and spoon onions on top. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.