Food & Wine magazine is essential reading for Carey and me—often taking advantage of the wine-driven recipes and pairing recommendations. The latest October issue included an extensive wine and food pairing guide highlighting the subtle nuances of 15 popular varietals and the foods they pair beautifully with.
The cover photograph of a leek and truffled pecorino pizza caught my eye. The recommendation:
Pinot Noir is great for dishes with earthy flavors. Recipies made with ingredients like mushrooms and truffles taste great with reds like Pinot Noir and Dolcetto which are light-bodied but full of savory depth.
I chose a wine for the evening that I was unfamiliar with, from a valley I am quite fond of—the Willamette Valley in northwest Oregon and the birthplace of some of the best Pinot Noir our country produces. The Genius Loci Pinot Noir is an estate-bottled, small production wine made by Michael Lundeen. Apart from Genius Loci, his personal label, Michael has made wine with some serious Oregon producers, including: Willakenzie Estate, Belle Pente, Domaine Serene and currently, Illahe.
Incredibly subtle, displaying a delicate nose of strawberry, rhubarb, and dried flowers. The juice is very light, showing colors of ruby and rose with a sparkling transparency. The wine opened with a smart acidity that was eager to settle as the flavors revealed. I enjoyed experiencing an initial licorice and charcoal ferocity melt into soft anise and mocha undertones in the matter of minutes. Unexpectedly, a flavor peak occurs moments after the sip has been swallowed—a lengthy caramel-flavored afterthought that waters the mouth, balancing a sweet and savory tightrope amazingly.
The Genius Loci Pinot continued to ripen slightly on the nose as the night progressed. Its disposition is understated, lean, and laden with slaty minerals and cured meats. This is certainly a nuance-driven wine, not produced for the masses. I don’t know if I could recall a better example of a wine that lingers more beautifully in the mouth, certainly not in this price range.
While lying in bed later that night, I bounced an idea off Carey. “What do you think about me contacting the Genius Loci winemaker? I just can’t believe that I turned up nothing online about this wine. I would love to know his impressions of the Willamette Valley Pinot and see how they compare to mine.”
So much information is spinning around every bottle of wine we buy these days. From shelf tags and label notes to numerical ratings and buyers guides, it can be hard to contribute an original thought, let alone feeling like you haven’t tasted the wine before you even get it home. That is why this wine was different—for once, I got to jump in blind. The chance to compare the winemaker’s thoughts with mine, with all the other noise absent, was just too exciting to resist.
One day later I got a lengthy email from Michael Lundeen, the Genius Loci winemaker, and the source of the picture quotes above.
To pair with the wine, or vise-versa, we chose a lamb and pecorino pizza with white truffle oil. The simple, earthy ingredients meshed beautifully with the juicy, nicely acidic/slightly tart Pinot Noir—especially the lamb. Pinot Noir is perhaps food’s most successful partner, and this particular partnership was seamless.
There is no doubt that this wine kept me thinking. When I wasn’t drinking, my nose barely left the glass; by choice, of course. I have often heard winemakers say that wines aren’t meant to be over-thought, but this one kept me thinking. Constant “tip of the tongue” revelations dogged me over the course of the evening cycling doubt through the notes I had confidently taken moments before—like everything I wrote was just skirting a bigger point, leaving me constantly on the verge of a break through.
Complexity is the best word to describe this, or perhaps evolving complexity, and I guarantee there isn’t a winemaker on the planet that wouldn’t want this degree of intricacy.
Truly amazing pizza with explosive flavors, savory and rich. We added a little more salt which really wrapped up the cheese into the milder flavors of soft, cooked leeks and relatively unseasoned lamb. Enjoy!
Find the full recipe and instructions here, at Food & Wine Magazine online.
-Rob & Carey