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Archive for the ‘Grenache’ Category

2 1/4lbs of porterhouse lightly aged and seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper, browned on a hot, hot, hot cast iron skillet, then wrapped in foil with butter, olive oil, rosemary, thyme, garlic, Meyer lemon zest and shoved in a low-temp oven to slow cook for an hour.  And in the last act, the steak rested before I ate it or even cut it.  Because you always let it rest.

Oh, there was a side too: A hybrid caprese/panzanella salad composed of toasted bread in olive oil, salt and pepper, with tomatoes, mozzarella, and dressed with thyme, rosemary, Meyer lemon juice/zest, and olive oil.

Wine: R. Lopez Heredia’s Viña Bosconia 2004

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Notes:

While eating red meat all the time is certainly frowned upon in health and environmentally conscious circles, I find it entirely appropriate and perhaps the most luxurious thing one can do to have a perfectly cooked steak once in awhile.  Once in a blue moon may be too much time in between, but certainly no more than once every full moon.  Vegetarian and Vegan concerns aside, there’s nothing quite like the taste of highly saturated animal fat melting in your mouth.

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I had to include this shot showing the marbling on the steak because it’s my job to make you jealous in an educational way.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with various forms of cooking a thick steak, which of course I’ve always had with wine. I can say emphatically that if someone tells you you have to pair a certain wine with a steak they are most certainly trying to sell you something.  A wonderfully cooked steak, that has a bit of semi-crunchy texture on the exterior from the Maillard reaction (Which doesn’t “seal in the juices” or whatever people tell you) and a juicy interior regardless of any additional herbs and spices that have been added can go with a myriad of wines.  This steak could have gone wonderfully with a heavier bodied white that carried lemony aromas, or a sparkling wine, or a dry rosé, or one of a hundred different red wines.  Having said that, this steak was wonderfully accompanied by the Viña Bosconia because it is also a fabulous wine.  It’s mostly Tempranillo, as all riveting red Riojas are, and this one was displaying more bright red fruit flavors while the earthier flavors played back up.  Surprising myself, I actually let this wine sit in a decanter for a full hour before even looking at it.  That’s willpower.

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Rating: 5/5

Brined cornish game hens, rubbed with clove and paprika and put on the grill. Risotto made from arborio, onions, broth, white wine, golden beets, and spiced with thyme, paprika, and clove. Ligonberries deglazed in white wine, spiced with clove, cinnamon, and thyme; spiked with some honey. Also with green beans sauteed in some olive oil.

Wine: Camino de Navaherreros 2010

IMG_1239Notes: I take delight in exploring the extreme perimeters of what my 4-year-old nephew will even consider eating. Apparently this risotto “Tastes like potatoes,” so I’ll go ahead and consider this to be a win for me on this one given my high number of failures in this game.

Anyway…

Lately I’ve been devouring François Chartier’s Taste Buds and Molecules which highlights his research in matching the volatile compounds (aromas/tastes) of wines to those found in food. While limited to flavor matching, it’s an interesting approach because wine science is just getting to the point where enough information has been cataloged to start doing this. I’ll probably post on topics around this at a later point, but for this experience, just know that the components of clove are chemically the same as those found in a number of red wines and grilled meats always have an affinity for wines put into some oak.

The results were of course spectacular. The theme of clove in varying potency levels in each of the parts of the meal were all brought out by the wine and vice-versa. The red fruit in the wine also made good friends with the ligonberries. Retronasally-speaking (breathing out through your nose after you swallow) all this flavor matching creates this heightened immersion into the food and wine which if done in overabundance could be overwhelming.

By the way, yes that is a guy riding a bear on the label which I think is now one of my favorite wine labels. “Herreros” translated means blacksmiths I believe or a skilled tradesmen, but I have no idea what the “Nava” part would be. So it’s the Path of the something-something blacksmiths that carry spears and ride on bears. I definitely want to take that journey.

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-Norman Rockwell

Every year there are countless recommendations given out as to what wine you should be pairing with your Thanksgiving meal. These recommendations are always made with the utmost confidence that this exact wine will be the perfect match to whatever meal you have and no other wine would do. Everyone eats the exact same thing at Thanksgiving, right? The turkey, the gravy, the cranberry sauce, the stuffing; yours will taste the same as your neighbors, right? Except the pumpkin pie! Your mother makes the best pumpkin pie and everyone else’s tastes exactly the same, which is to say…not as good.  You know the scenario:

 You write down the the recommendations you found in the magazine, on-line, on the radio or on TV, while wondering if you’re spelling it right and whether that word is the producer, the type of wine or where it’s from.  Such joy you have knowing you will be bringing the perfect wines for Thanksgiving! The hunt is on! But once you get to the liquor store, the hunt proves fruitless. The store doesn’t carry those wines (assuming you wrote down the correct thing to begin with) because you live in such a small town that they don’t carry every wine in existence. Fooled again, world of wine!  You got me!  What to do? Panic? You start reaching for the boxed wine….

The idea that there are one or two wines that are a “superior” match to everyone’s Thanksgiving dinner is quite frankly ridiculous.  The problem with specific wine recommendations is that they only work for specific meals.  The specific interactions you get between the wine and food with the environment you’re in comprise the experience.  Thus, the whole point of my musings on this web log.  You have to keep in mind though that a good experience is comprised of a range of factors.  Can you have a good day when it’s raining? Yes.  Can you have a good day when it’s 67 degrees instead of 65? Yes.  Can you have a great Thanksgiving meal with a wide range of wines? Yes.

So instead of worrying yourself over whether or not you’ll be able to find the specific wines that were recommended to you, let’s give you a variety of options, shall we?  Just remember to look for the bottles that have a specific region listed on them.  First, let’s think of the flavor components of traditional Thanksgiving meals: savory, herbs, spices of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, creamy, buttery, jams, tart cranberries, the gamey-ness of the foul.  Now what wines can work well with that?

Whites:

  • Pinot Grigio
  • Chardonnay
  • Viognier
  • Tokaji
  • or some Bubbly!
I generally lean towards the medium to heavier bodied whites so they don’t get lost in all the heavy foods.  A little acid is nice and can provide some zip through the heaviness if you want to lighten it up.  The idea is to match up wines with more stone fruit components (pears, apples, apricots, etc.) which generally happen in cooler climates than ones that have more tropical flavors (mango, pineapple, kiwi) that generally happen in warmer climates.  So could you get a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley?  Yes, but I’d go with that more specifically if I were making a more herbaceous meal with lemon tones.  If you like your buttery chardonnay, it’ll go great with those buttery biscuits and mashed potatoes.  If you generally like buttery chardonnays, but feel like they are at the top of your butteriness threshold, go with a viognier.

Reds:

  • First pickings from the newly released Beaujolais Nouveaus (Gamay)
  • Grenache or  Grenache/Syrah blends
  • Pinot Noir
  • Zinfandel
  • Cabernet Franc

With the reds, the idea is not to get too far into the heavy body realm or too far into the big tannin realm.  The amounts of vinegar and salt in most Thanksgiving meals can typically match the bitterness in the tannins of the above varietals and blends.  The idea with the reds is to match up the red-fruit-jammy and herbaceous flavors while keeping an eye on the tannins.  For some, lots of tannins aren’t a big deal and they kind of like it.  But if you’re having a large number of people over, there are high chances that not everyone is like this.  So if you do want to try a more tannic red, just make sure those who don’t enjoy that sort of thing have a chance to get more vinegar, citric acid or salt in their mouths before they take a quaff.  If your fruits are swaying more to the darker end (blackberries, plums) then you can switch over to the medium-bodied dark fruit wines like Merlot, Syrah, Monastrell, etc.

Just remember, if you really like a couple wines, chances are that those can work for the “perfect” Thanksgiving meal.  You might have to make some small adjustments to your menu, but everything should work out fine.  Those of us who enjoy wine have an expectation bar at some level and as long as it meets that or surpasses it, we’re good.  We don’t fret over prefect pairings, especially if we aren’t doing the cooking or bringing the wine.  If you do have someone who you know has the highest expectation bar, go ahead and tell them to bring the wine.

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Rating: 4/5

1/8″ thick slice of fresh mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto and then flashed fried on the skillet in some olive oil.

Wine: Owen Roe Sinister Hand 2009 – 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre, 2% Counoise

Notes:

This wine was so tasty on a brisk fall day.  Peppery, earthy, balanced tannin and a wild strawberry punch to knock you into submission.  It has enough body and just enough tannin to take on the fat (prosciutto) on fat (mozzarella) on fat (olive oil) delight, break it down in the mouth and make for a satisfying stay in your stomach.  I maxed out at 4 of these, but I was in love. The more health-conscious eater might stick to just 2.

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