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Cline 2011 Cool Climate Pinot Noir

Cline's Sonoma Coast vineyards

Lavender pasta primavera, honey ricotta gnocchi, and mushroom risotto await the verdict

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It’s so cunningly concealed, you’ll hardly know it’s there. Look for the words, “recipe inside,” adjacent to the back label of several varietals of Cline Cellars wines, and peel that baby back. Reveal the itty bitty booklet, something like the mini-material safety data sheets that are taped to bottles of garden pesticide — not that that’s an entirely appropriate example for a winery that practices sustainable farming — that instead contains a recipe pairing for the wine. Tear off the recipe, and there’s a duplicate label underneath, as if nothing had happened.

To pick the perfect recipe for their new, “cool climate” Pinot Noir, Cline created a little buzz, asking their customers to vote on five vegetarian creations courtesy of chef Jerry James Stone. On the evening of Friday, March 30, 2012, a motley assembly of wine club members, bloggers, and media folk such as myself gathered at the Cline “Villa,” to pass judgment on the top three recipes.

In the kitchen, chef Stone and his impromptu crew were busily whipping up the finalist recipes (looks like the pizza got bumped out, but you know, “pizza and Pinot,” hey, that’s a new one) while guests sampled Pinot going back to 2008, and kicked back with low-key winemaker Charlie Tsegeletosk.

We cast secret ballots, and the results were in: Sort of. My notes say the gnocchi won, as does the website. But Stone’s mushroom risotto, seeming to have pulled a Bush v. Gore on the gnocchi, appears on the label, likely because — as I duly noted that evening — the tangy orange peel note of Cline’s 2010 Pinot Noir was just the thing for the nuttiness of the risotto. The gnocchi was pretty darn good, mind you.

The 2011 “Cool Climate” Pinot Noir ($15.99) should also prove a good foil, although it’s lighter on the orange peel aromas, bigger on the strawberry jam, baked rhubarb, with a soupçon of vegetable stock adding complexity. 2011 was a difficult year, and this is a fine result, silky and bright, just the thing to let a vegetarian dish shine.

Just one question: Why in the world do you think they left out the “magic” in Stone’s originally named, “magic mushroom risotto”?

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Mushroom Risotto

Serves 3 to 5

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 shallot, chopped (1/4 cup)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup Cool Climate Pinot Noir
  • 1 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons dark miso
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste

1. Add olive oil to large skillet and sauté onions, shallots and garlic, cooking until onions are translucent. Transfer to a medium-sized casserole dish and set aside.

2. Add butter to pan and sauté mushrooms; add to casserole dish.

3. Whisk together Cline Cool Climate Pinot Noir, vegetable stock, miso, and cocoa, transfer to casserole.

4. Add Arborio rice and Parmesan cheese to casserole and mix.

5. Cover casserole dish and bake at 425°F in a pre-heated oven for about 30-40 minutes until rice is fully cooked.

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