When we think cabernet sauvignon, we usually think a big hunk of meat: a sizzling steak or lush leg of lamb, a rich beef bourguignon or even a rack of ribs.
But, in these budget-conscious times, what fare could we match with a robust cab that was a bit easier on the wallet?
It turns out that everybody's favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese, is divine with an Edna Valley Vineyard 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $16 at supermarkets and big box stores). A big red! Who would have guessed?
The recipe we chose for our taste test came from Martha Hall Foose's cookbook-memoir Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, which won this year's James Beard Award for best American cooking. While she threw us a revisionist curve and called for fusilli in her baked mac and cheese ("a vegetable in some states"), we resisted and stuck with the classic elbow macaroni. Otherwise, we followed to the letter her prescription for combining cheddar, Parmesan, whole grain mustard, bread crumbs and a good bit of milk.
This is a silky dish with a hint of kick from the mustard and some black pepper. The Edna Valley cab can be described in much the same way. It is smooth as velvet but with a bold central character, seamlessly blending dark berry flavors with smidges of coffee and chocolate. The grape is prominent, but so are the ripe tannins that yield complexity and a classic long finish.
Given that this wine comes from the Paso Robles region of California, it is no surprise that it is not your typical cab. Instead it is slightly rebellious, making it just the right counterpoint for an iconic dish known both for its many permutations and for its staying power.
Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.