The baked Eggs Puttanesca recipe in this month’s column has an abundance of deep, warm flavors and it could pair nicely with a variety of rich, red wines. I’ve chosen Zinfandel at this particular moment in our history because it will absolutely enhance this flavorful dish, but it also presents an opportunity to support our local grape growers and wineries. Without question, much of the very finest Zinfandel in the world is grown and produced right here in Sonoma County. It is also indisputable that the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted our community in many ways we never could have imagined just a short time ago. One of those impacts has been a severe slowdown in sales by the small and medium-sized local wineries that depend on their tasting rooms and restaurants to move much of their world-class wines.
The weather conditions in parts of our county are ideal for getting Zinfandel grapes perfectly ripe while developing beautiful layers of complex flavors and structure. The Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Valley and Russian River Valleys are particularly renowned for their Zinfandel grapes, but really, all of the Zin grown in Sonoma County is considered top-notch. You can find other very nice Zins made with Napa Valley, Mendocino County, Lake County, Sierra Foothills and Lodi grapes. The key is to grow the grapes in an environment with enough heat to get them ripe, but with enough moderation to that heat (such as fog, wind and elevation) so that the ripening happens gradually over the season rather than quickly and clumsily.
Zinfandel typically exhibits ample fruit flavors with moderate tannins, moderate acidity and often a nice spiciness on the finish. The fruit flavors such as plum, strawberry, blackberry and raspberry will go very nicely with the umami from the anchovy, olives, sautéed onion and garlic while also toning down the slight spiciness from the red pepper flake and black pepper. The acidity in the wine interacts favorably with the delicate richness of the eggs and the sweetness of the tomatoes. The spice characteristic to zinfandels is quite pleasant with the capers and kale in the dish.
While we are under the current shelter in place conditions please buy and try some local wines from our great local retailers. Then, once you are allowed to, please consider visiting some of our local wineries to buy a few bottles of each of the favorites that you uncover during your quarantine research. Every purchase you make will be appreciated and will help our region to start on the long road to recovery. Thank you.
Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at or 707-548-2294. Visit their website at www.JamesFamilyCellars.com