February 11, 2021
By Bruce Neyers
Fresh rigatoni pasta with black trumpet mushrooms, chanterelles and pancetta
The site development for our ÂME Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard was begun by Dave Abreu in 1998 with cross-ripping, then removing the rock from this parcel on our Conn Valley Ranch. Within two years, a drainage system had been installed, and we began to lay out and plant the vines. The drainage system was designed and engineered by Drew Aspegren to conform with the requirements under the then newly passed Hillside Erosion Control Ordinance.
The project was a monumental undertaking for us, given the combination of land clearing, grading, rock removal, Hillside Ordinance dictates, and the complications of planting grapevines on steep slopes at high elevation. Had we known what we were in for, we probably never would have seriously considered it. Dave’s enthusiasm, as well as that of our three children after whom the vineyard would be named – ÂME, for Alexandra, Mike and Elizabeth is the French word for ‘SOUL’ – kept up our interest through the several years of work, and now the vineyard is responsible for our finest wine. The 2017 ÂME Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, though, is something even a little more special.
Over the past year, we’ve had more opportunities than ever to get better acquainted with our wines. Barbara’s cooking horizons have broadened, and I’ve been the fortunate recipient of that change to our lives. On several occasions over the past few months, Barbara has come up with a new dish or an unfamiliar twist on an old favorite, and my long-time love affair with the classic reds of Bordeaux has nudged me in the direction of opening and decanting a bottle of Neyers ÂME. For a variety of reasons, though, the 2017 has become my favorite.
Barbara has always had a way with pasta, it seems, and ironically it was a staple at our dinner table during that first year of our marriage when we were undergraduate students at the University of Delaware, getting by on a weekly food budget that allowed for a celebratory meat loaf on Wednesday. During Barbara’s 20+ year tenure at Chez Panisse, I think Alice relied on her pasta ideas more than any others, and even now I get a few heart palpitations when I learn she has planned pasta for dinner. This time of year, that news is especially welcome, as our local grocery store seems to have a ‘fungi forager’ on the payroll, and even with rainfall far less than normal, they offer an ambitious selection of wild mushrooms these days.
As my old friend Dennis Foley taught me, if you think Cabernet Sauvignon is well matched with steak, try it with wild mushrooms. Barbara has been able to find both Chanterelles and Black Trumpets at Sunshine Foods lately, and there are not many dishes that add to the magical combination of tastes displayed by fine Cabernet like this pasta dish. We had it last week and Barbara used some freshly made Rigatoni she found locally. A number of other ‘thick pastas’ – as Darrell Corti calls them – will work, because the wine requires food with texture. He suggests also Penne, Shells, or one that might be a little more difficult to find called Cavatelli. Be sure to slightly chill the 2017 ÂME, then decant it for maximum enjoyment. You’ll find a wine that has everything we look for in an expressive Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s a wonderful earthy base, that supports the core of cassis and wild blackberry. And like all great Cabernet Sauvignon, there’s a long, mineral finish that reflects the exotic nature of the basalt and gravel in the soil. As Sam Spade so eloquently put it, ‘This is the stuff that dreams are made of.”
Rigatoni Pasta with wild mushrooms
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 cups loosely packed Black Trumpet mushrooms cleaned and sliced in strips
- 2 cups chanterelle mushrooms cleaned and sliced
- 1/2 white onion minced
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (when using black trumpet mushrooms, more olive oil may be required)
- 2 slices of pancetta, 1/8–1/4 inch thick, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and cooked until crisp
- Freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan
- Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
- 1 12-ounce package of rigatoni
- 2 cloves minced garlic (optional)
Cook minced onion in a frying pan over medium heat until translucent. If using garlic, cook with the onions.
Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the chanterelles begin to shrink, or in the case of black trumpet mushrooms they will begin to rehydrate. If necessary, add more olive oil to the black trumpet mushrooms
Add kosher salt and fresh ground pepper while the mushrooms are cooking.
While preparing the mushroom, cook the rigatoni in salted water following the directions on the package.
Add the cooked pasta to the mushroom mixture.
Just before serving add the pancetta.
Serve the pasta and sprinkle each serving with freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan.
The ÂME Vineyard looking north just after pruning. The rows run east to west and catch the rising and setting sun. The spacing is 2 feet by 6 feet, and the vines are non-clonal selection budwood, trained in unilateral cordon. The elevation rises to 1,000 feet.
“Juicy and ripe, with an unctuous edge to the mix of plum and blackberry fruit, showing notes of cocoa and black licorice in the background. The finish reveals a toasty side, but the fruit keeps pace. Best from 2021 through 2026. 329 cases made. 91 POINTS” –James Molesworth