Wine Pairing: Wild Mushroom Risotto & Heron French Merlot
Wild mushrooms and French Merlot is a wickedly heady example of earthy food and wine.
Earthy is the taste or smell of forest floor, wet leaves, nutty-toasty bread, dust, chalk or bramble. Earth is the most primal, basic scent, from whence all other fragrances of life commence. When earthy food is enhanced by an earthy wine, it’s one of those phenomenal pairings that linger in your taste memory.
Andrea Immer, master sommelier, says, “…So many of the foods and wines with a meaningful (in terms of matching) earthiness quotient are among the easiest, tastiest, and cheapest to pull together on a frequent basis.” Think root vegetables, grains, beans, mushrooms, truffles and some cheeses.
Any combination of wild mushrooms will work beautifully in risotto depending upon the season – porcini, chanterelle, morel, shiitake, oyster, portabella, lobster, etc. Leeks and mushrooms have a natural affinity that gives creamy risotto a wonderful, earthy flavor.
Heron Merlot Vin De Pays d’Oc is produced from a single, slate-based vineyard in St. Chinian, the coolest microclimate in the Languedoc. This French Merlot is dusty, dark and earthy with a smooth elegance and silky texture that comes from twenty-year-old vines. At $11.99, Wine Spectator hails it as one of the best-priced earthy wines on the planet!
Laely Heron is the owner and passionate winemaker of this French merlot and four other California-based wines.
Dining is an art form where good food, good wine, and good conversation is in harmony, creating a sonata of friendships. Non-Americans revere the art of the table, where the smallest effort can create a huge pleasure. Some of the most important conversations of my life have been at the table.” Laely Heron
Risotto – A basic recipe to leap from:
A few handfuls of wild or domestic mushrooms
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1 leek, white part only, finely sliced or chopped
1/4 – 1/2 cup dried mushrooms
1 each bay leaf
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup Cognac or dry white wine – or both!
2 qts. vegetable or chicken stock, heated, not boiling
1/4 cup cream, if desired
3 Tbs. fresh thyme
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
Saute a lovely assortment of mushrooms in 1 Tbs. of the butter until mushrooms become caramelized & fragrant; set aside. Saute garlic, leeks, dried mushrooms and a bay leaf in butter until soft. Stir in Arborio rice & a pinch of salt; cook until grains begin to turn translucent & pop. Deglaze with cognac or white wine. When alcohol evaporates, add a ladle of chicken or vegetable stock, continue to stir until stock absorbs into the rice. Keep stirring and adding hot stock, one ladle at a time, until desired consistency and the rice is al dente. Take risotto off heat & stir in cream, remaining butter, sautéed wild mushrooms, fresh thyme & shredded Parmesan. Season with kosher salt & pepper.