The magic of wild foraged mushrooms is a delight I have normally reserved for mid-autumn or early spring cooking. So imagine my surprise when I saw pile upon pile of freshly picked fungi at the local farmers market. While the rest of our country freezes, Northern California is blessed with these lovely on-again-off-again rains which also happen to be perfect mushroom weather! Going into another weekend soaked by the aforementioned atmospheric conditions I figured why not celebrate the gloom and cook up some tasty shrooms.
To love a mushroom is to love wine and vice versa for me. After all, the two are inextricably linked. Yeast is a form of fungi and wine is a product of its life cycle. My favorite wines are ones that honor this connection both in regards to their flavor and bouquet as well as their genesis, being made naturally with indigenous yeasts.
Amongst these, the incredible Pinot Noirs from Enderle & Moll in Baden, Germany immediately come to mind. Sven Enderle and Florian Moll are defining the Spatburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) revolution in Germany at the moment. Biodynamic in the vineyard and natural in the cellar, their Pinots are a reflection of the land and the microbes that gave rise to them. In the glass these wines are beguiling with a style that is both masculine and feminine in nature. I paired this wine with a surprisingly easy to make meal of teriyaki-inspired king oyster mushrooms. The delicately floral nose works with the dishes sweetness while the crunchy mineral quality on the palate enhances the similar flavors in the meaty king oyster mushrooms.
If there’s one region that immediately comes to mind when thinking of wild mushroom pairings it’s the white wines of Somlo in central Hungary. The wines from this region are some of the most earthy and mineral whites I’ve ever tasted and are a symbiotic pairing with a number of mushroom dishes. Known as the “Hat of God”, Somlo is a quirk of geology. In the midst of flat plane sits the worn bump of an extinct volcano that, millions of years ago, resided deep under the ocean. That means the soil composition is both marine and volcanic while the climate is continental, a combination that seldom happens. All the wines of Somlo are white and all of the vineyards are planted on the gentle slopes of the once mighty thermal vent. Juhfark, Harslevelu and Furmint are the main varieties and all are marked by extreme mineral notes. The Apatsagi Furmint from 2016 is great introduction to the region with its richly endowed, almost Alsatian, body and a flavor that is reminiscent of paraffin, salt, and a flower filled meadow. I got a whole load of wild mushrooms and cooked up a batch of Hungarian mushroom soup which might be the best cure to the rainy day blues I’ve ever come across. Even better, this thick and creamy soup, enhanced with a healthy dose of paprika, also works as a worthy topper to a pile of buttered egg noodles. Yum!
Earlier this week I got to write about the defining winery of Valtellina, Ar.Pe.Pe. Nebbiolo, known as Chiavennasca locally, takes on a more angular and crystalline form in this Alpine region. As I wrote about the sleek and subtle Nebbiolos that the terraced mountainside vineyards produce I couldn’t help daydreaming about creamy pasta studded with wild mushrooms. Though the lean, acid-driven frame and slightly wooly tannic grip of these wines provide a definite contrast to the smooth richness of a creamy mushroom sauce, there is a earthy note that matches underneath it all. I really enjoyed the above recipe with the 2013 Grumello “Sassorosso” from Nino Negri. At $29.99 it is a remarkable value for any nebbiolo, let alone a fully fledged Grumello. Dried floral notes turn to forest floor with flavors of bright tart cherry lifting the more savory flavors.
It should be apparent after all this mycological musing that the silver lining to our rainy weather is a hearty meal of mushrooms. So don’t dread the drizzle and instead pop a bottle and get your spore on with a bounty of mid-winter wild mushrooms.