What's not to love about our Wine of the Week, Pedroncelli 2012 Signature Selection Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($20)? It's suave and sophisticated, with a bright crispness, pretty acidity, elegant fruit suggestive of pomegranate and cranberry — how perfect to the season! — and subtle suggestions of sweet oak and toasted brioche.
It is more varietally articulate than wines twice its price, which is to say that from first first sip to last you know it is a pinot noir, a quality that does not apply to all California pinots. Perhaps because of climate change or perhaps because of winemakers' misguided inclinations, pinot noir from the Golden State is increasingly overripe and over-extracted, practices that are fatal to the varietal's definitive delicacy and finesse. This wine escaped those missteps.
This pinot noir will be a happy addition to any table throughout the fall holidays and beyond. It is also a lovely aperitif wine, if your tastes run to the red side of the spectrum. It will pair beautifully with heritage turkey and is also a happy match with ham. Root vegetables, seasonal mushrooms, duck, cranberry relish (with a splash of the wine) and parsnip puree are all flattered by this wine.
So is quail. Today's recipe is inspired by both the local quail now available at some farmers markets, and a new batch of smoked and ground chiles from Min-Hee Hill Gardens in Sebastopol. I prefer the ground poblanos, as they have just a hint of sweetness that resonates with both the apple in the vinaigrette and the sweet oak in the wine, and enough heat to be interesting but not so much that it turns the wine bitter.
Pan-Roasted Quail Salad with Smokey Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Makes 2 to 4 servings
4 boned quail, preferably local (see note below)
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
2 tablespoons apple juice or cider
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar