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Pairing: A barbera that's great with lamb

  • Lamb shank in red wine sauce

Our Wine of the Week, Enotria 2010 Mendocino County Barbera ($18) is big, brash and full-bodied. It is an exuberant wine, full of bold red fruit and swirling ropes of smoke. It's so meaty you can almost chew it. Yet there is enough acidity, enough brightness on the finish, that the wine is neither dour nor ponderous, as many husky reds are.

In the glass, it is deeply colored, landing on the spectrum somewhere between crimson and garnet, with moderate tannins that are not at all overbearing.

Anyone appreciative of barbera will love this earthy wine and welcome it at a weeknight table, a holiday table or even tucked into a Christmas stocking.

When it comes to pairing, fall and winter foods are the best companions. Root vegetables, slow-cooked soups and stews, sweet potatoes, winter squash and roast beef all make good matches. It's excellent with roast goose, too, and if your tastes run toward venison, grill a loin and top it with braised wild mushrooms. Vegetarians will enjoy the wine with grilled portobello mushrooms, served over farro or quinoa.

For today's recipe, I've chosen a seasonal favorite, braised lamb shanks, and paired it with earthy polenta nera, which combines cornmeal with buckwheat that in turn resonates beautifully with both the wine and the spices. I like to serve this rustic, lusty dish with roasted winter squash and sauteed kale alongside.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Polenta Nera

Makes 4 servings

4 lamb shanks, bones cracked

— Kosher salt

— Olive oil

1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

8 to 10 garlic cloves, peeled

2 whole allspice berries

1 whole clove

— Black pepper in a mill

2 cups dry red wine

3 cups lamb, duck or beef stock, optional

2 oregano sprigs

3/4 cup polenta or coarse-ground cornmeal

3 tablespoons buckwheat flour

2 tablespoons butter

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