Randy Caparoso is an award winning wine professional and journalist, living in Denver, Colorado. For a free subscription to Randy's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner.
Julie Johnson, winemaker/proprietor of her own Tres Sabores
estate, located at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains in the prestigious Rutherford Bench AVA
of Napa Valley. Original co-founder of Women for Winesense
. Former president of ZAP
(Zinfandel Advocates & Producers). One of Napa Valley’s pioneers of certified organic grape growing (going back 25 years to her former association with Frog’s Leap Vineyards).
What has Johnson not
done? Frankly, I can’t say, as she’s already inspired a generation of women and men devoted, as she is, to producing wines that express the “voice” (i.e. terroir
) of vineyards; but even more amazingly, without a drop of self-consciousness, and with a ton of levity.
Perfect example: Johnson’s 2006 Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No?
(about $20). The question, why not?
, asked because, to Johnson and her cellar crew, it makes perfect sense to blend some of her certified organic estate grown Zinfandel (dominating this bottling) with invigorating if unconventional grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, along with some peppery Petite Sirah, if indeed it all adds up to perfectly delicious, wild, juicy party
juice: bursting at the seams with black cherry and purple plum aromas and flavors punctuated by cacao, resiny herb and green chile-like spices, with sticks of cinnamon and cardamom thrown in for good measure.
Yes, there’s more natural flavor stuffed into a finger of ¿Porqué No?
than in a gallon of Prego; only, with big, thick, plump red wine (i.e. beneficial alcohol and resveratrol!) flavors, complete with round yet sturdy, viscously textured tannins. How does that song go? Makes me want to shout!
Well, maybe that’s the wine hollering, as I’ve just consumed a bottle along with a dish taken out of Judy Rodgers’ The Zuni Café Cookbook
: pasta with giblet-mushroom sauce
, echoing the invigorating, chewy yet soft, multi-faceted taste of the ¿Porqué No?
. An adaption of Rodgers’ recipe:
8 oz. chicken gizzards and hearts (duck or squab pieces also okay)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped mushrooms (white buttons or a blend of wild)
¾ cup finely diced carrots
¾ cup finely diced celery
¾ cup finely diced yellow onions
1 oz. minced pancetta (or bacon, blanched for 4 minutes)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ cups canned tomatoes (drained to about half their juice)
1 bay leaf
1 dried chili (or few pinches of dried chili flakes)
½ cup full bodied red wine (like Zinfandel or Syrah)
A few leaves of fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. tomato paste (optional)
1 lb. pasta (spaghetti or wide egg pasta)
Parmigiano-Reggiano (to taste)
Rinse gizzards and hearts, then press dry between towels. Remove silverskin from gizzards, chop finely along with hearts.
Warm ¼ cup olive oil in 4 qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add gizzards and cook, stirring continuously, until they turn a little golden at edges (about 5 minutes). Stir in mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions and pancetta or bacon. Add few pinches of salt and enough additional oil to coat vegetables. When mixture starts to sizzle, reduce heat to low, cover, and stew for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, chili and red wine. Bring to bare simmer, cover, and cook until bits of giblet go from chewy to tender (another 45 minutes or so). Stir occasionally, scraping bottom with flat edged spatula, and adjust heat as necessary to maintain low simmer. Taste for salt.
Stir in parsley and another splash of olive oil. Uncover and simmer a little longer to concentrate brothy juices. Sauce should be shiny, rich, thick and sweet (if taste is tart or lean, add olive oil; if not slightly sweet, add pinch of sugar).
Cook pasta al dente
, drain, and fold into giblet-mushroom sauce. Grate Parmigiano to taste.