Preheat oven to 300°.
Heat olive oil in a small Dutch oven over low heat. Add garlic to pan; cook for 5 minutes or until garlic is fragrant, stirring occasionally. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add beef to pan. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Add wine to pan, and bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add garlic, beef, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, carrot, and next 8 ingredients (through bay leaf) to pan; bring to a boil.
Cover and bake at 300° for 2 1/2 hours or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaf. Serve over noodles. Garnish with chopped fresh thyme, if desired.
Note: To make in a slow cooker, prepare through Step 2. Place beef mixture in an electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 5 hours.
Wine note: This satisfying beef stew deserves a rich, earthy, and soulful wine--one with a soft, thick texture. I love the complexity and juiciness of the Kuleto Estate Syrah 2004 from Napa Valley, California ($45), which elevates this stew into a princely dinner. --Karen MacNeil