The Clever Root

Spring 2018

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s p r i n g 2 0 1 8 | 2 3 WITH A WINE AND FOOD experience in Napa or Sonoma now costing as much as $275 per person—the price tag of the three-hour wine- pairing lunch at Joseph Phelps Vineyards—it goes without saying that experience needs to be really good. I admit I've always been skeptical that they would be: In my opinion, wine and food experiences at wineries always seemed to be long on glamour and short on education. But as I perused possibilities that could potentially prove me wrong, one of them caught my eye. WALT winery in Sonoma offers a "Terroir to Table" tasting featuring six Pinot Noirs from vineyards 1,000 miles apart, pairing them with customized bites from the hip and highly-rat- ed Girl & the Fig restaurant in Sonoma. It was a tasting too tempting to ignore. Owned by Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hall, also the proprietors of Hall Winery in Napa Valley, WALT specializes in Pinot Noir and makes as many as ten single-vineyard versions each year. These aren't just any old Pinot vineyards, but some of the biggest names on the West Coast, including Shea Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley, Sierra Mar in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and Rita's Crown in the Sta. Rita Hills. I would have sat happily for an hour tasting just the six Pinots, but the dishes also offered an incredibly-intriguing matrix of intense fla- vors and luxurious textures: duck rillettes with homemade fig jam; Alsatian onion tart with crispy sage; savory parmesan pecan short- bread with chevre mousse; pâté de campagne; butternut squash with ricotta cheesecake and toasted pumpkin seeds; and cave-aged comté cheese with beets. "If you're a home chef, this isn't the kind of thing you're going to do," said my guide Melissa Crosby. "It isn't as simple as steak and Cabernet." Simple, no, but delicious? Absolutely. Each Pinot was beautifully made, vivid, and elegant; they were endlessly fascinating to taste against such a range of food flavors. In the end, my favorite pairing was the WALT 2015 The Corners Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley with the pâté de campagne. It was even some- thing I could make (OK, serve) at home. The 90-minute experience costs $60—a bargain given the stature of the wines and the quality of the food. You can make a reserva- tion online at or by calling 707-933-4440. Pickled Figs From The Girl & the Fig cookbook (makes 1½ cups) ➤ 1 vanilla bean ➤ ½ cup Figoun (crème de cassis can be substituted) ➤ 1 cup Champagne vinegar ➤ ¾ cup sugar ➤ ½ cup framboise ➤ 1 makrut lime leaf (zest of 2 limes may be substituted) ➤ 2 Tbsp. honey ➤ ½ tsp. sea salt ➤ 1 tsp. white pepper ➤ 15 fresh figs, stems removed Split the vanilla bean in half and add to 1 cup water with the Figoun, vinegar, sugar, framboise, lime leaf, honey, salt, and pepper in a large saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the figs, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 7 minutes, then remove from heat. Allow the figs to cool in the liquid before removing them. The liquid can be used to pickle other fruit, like apricots and plums. The figs will keep in the refrigerator for 7 days. Duck and Mushroom Rillettes From The Girl & the Fig cookbook (makes 2½ cups) Rillette is quite simple to prepare and uses leftover ingredients. Duck, rabbit, or pork can easily become a rillette by being poached in fat (similar to the confit technique) and then whipped with a small amount of the fat or butter. Rillettes are generally served in small ramekins, but a decorative bowl with complementary garnishes will work just as well. ➤ 2 tbsp. unsalted butter ➤ ½ cup cremini mushrooms, chopped ➤ 2 Tbsp. minced shallots ➤ ½ Tbsp. minced garlic ➤ 1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped ➤ 1 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, chopped ➤ 4 confited duck legs, shredded ➤ Salt and white pepper to taste ➤ 3 Tbsp. crème fraîche (sour cream may be substituted) Melt the butter in a sauté pan. Add the mushrooms and shallots and cook gently until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tarragon, parsley, and shredded duck and break up with a wooden spoon (the mixture will look stringy). Season with salt and pepper, then remove from heat and add the crème fraîche. Blend the mixture with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are incorporated. Fill 3-ounce ramekins with the mixture and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. ■cr

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