Here's Sunday night dinner, an effort at cleaning out the fridge: fettuccine with red peppers, cremini mushrooms, green peas, sweet Italian sausage, and a cream sauce. More on that later. The wine is the Vertex Just Red: Blend Nº 609, a $15 non-vintage blend that, according to the site, is comprised of secret proportions of "Cabernet Sauvignon (Lake County), Syrah, Petite Syrah (Lodi), Cabernet Franc (Napa Valley), Merlot, Malbec (Sonoma County)". While I enjoy these creative California blends, it's pretty difficult to pick out individual grapes by taste or aroma. I tasted this before dinner, during the meal, and finally afterwards when writing up these notes. It's a little rough when first opened, and definitely needs some breathing time. As should be obvious from looking at the grapes, it is powerful enough to stand up to a pretty strong meal. In fact, this would have been a better pairing with a reduced tomato/meat bolognese sauce, but the sausage helped boost an otherwise mild dish.
Blackberry aromas and flavors are present, with hints of chocolate behind that. The tannins are fairly heavy, and softened to an agreeable level after a couple of hours. It's a good table wine, and I think it goes better with food than on its own. Which I think is appropriate: while there's a food out there for every wine, some have subtleties that can be lost or ignored in the presence of good food, and likewise there are some cases where modest fare and an everyday wine can help each other out.
Back to the pasta: it's got a cream sauce, but you can barely see it in the photo. Trust me, the full power of the flavor is there. Just a bit of cream and some good Romano cheese are what's needed... plus some butter and all the other flavors from the other ingredients. It's possible to get full creamy flavor without a thick, gloopy sauce. And I actually thinned it out at the last minute with a half cup or so of the leftover starchy pasta water, which just changed the texture but didn't mellow out the flavor. The sausage was incredible, made fresh at the local grocery store. I simmered it in a little water, covered for about 45 minutes before slicing it into rounds and adding to the sauce. All ingredients were combined at the end in the same big skillet, and the pasta was grabbed straight from the boiling water and mixed in with everything else before serving. I had a lot of herbs in the homemade salad dressing, so I held back on finishing the dish with some fresh basil or oregano.
I think I need to cook more Italian in 2007... A resolution that's easy to live with.