We had a great dinner of imported Italian Latini farro linguini from Gustiamo.com with a duck ragu made from Maple Leaf Farm's duck.
For the ragu, I browned two duck leg/thigh quarters that were seasoned with a little kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. I used about a quarter cup or less of olive oil in the All-Clad Tagine. After browning the duck over medium-high heat, I removed the duck to a plate and added a diced Vidalia onion, two diced large carrots and three diced celery stalks (deveined). After about 10 minutes at medium heat, until softened, I added a few cloves of finely chopped garlic and sauteed until the garlicky smell started to rise. Then, I added the duck back to the tagine and added two cups of 2004 McManis Family Vineyards Merlot, a cup of chicken stock and two cans of diced tomatoes. I also added several healthy pinches of sage, which I rubbed together in my fingers to "wake up" the herbs, and smaller amounts of basil, oregano, thyme, and marjoram. I covered and simmered for about an hour and half (until almost all the liquid has reduced). I then removed the duck and set aside to cool a bit. I blended the remaining sauce with a stick blender, directly in the pan. After the duck cooled, I removed the duck from the bone and chopped with a cleaver until it was completely pulverized. I added the duck back to the sauce and mixed the cooked linguini with the sauce. We served with freshly grated parmigano reggiano (from Caputo's cheese market in Melrose or Stone Park) and a 2002 Sangiovese Toscano from Castello di Monastero. For our accompanying bread, we broiled slices of a baguette with a drizzle of Castello di Brolio estate olive oil, which we got on our honeymoon to Italy. The oil is from Tuscany. It is a very green olive oil with rich, buttery notes that blows out of the water any olive oil found in American grocery stores. This oil is best saved for applications where it can be appreciated on its own.
This Merlot came to Natalie as a gift at the Las Vegas Gourmet Housewares show from Cynmark Designs that make the Bottleneckless, a drip catcher for wine bottles. It retails for less than $10 but has a fairly good complexity for the price. It was smooth, very drinkable. I think it had the bouquet of cherry pie and was not overly tannic or acidic. The finish was slightly berry-like. I'd give it a 84.
This wine was a nice surprise. It's been in our "wine closet" for a long time — so long that I don't remember where we got it. I think it may have been one that we brought back from Italy, or maybe my folks got it for us, because the bottle was all in Italian and did not have the required sulfites for importing. It was another smooth wine that paired well with the sauce. It was slightly tannic, but it rounded out the duck fat of the sauce (which was not overly pronounced). The bottle description of "fruti di bosco" bouquet was accurate. Natalie also thought that it has dark cherry notes and a slight sweetness on the finish. Mmm, mmm good. I'd give it a 91.