Friday, February 16, 2007

St Valentine's Day Dinner

This was our first St Valentine's Day as husband and wife, and I wanted to do something special for my wife. So while she trudged through the new snow (2 inches bullshit, there must have been about 6 inches filling the streets and sidewalks), I prepared a meal that would complement the wines I was choosing.

With a nice little chunk of duck foie gras and toasted baguette slices, I popped the cork on a NV Diebolt Vallois Blanc de Blancs. Lovely and crisp, with nice lemon, pears and almonds on a tight, nervous frame that ends in a long, tart finish. Great mouthfeel, this cut through the fat of the foie gras and just kept on refreshing and satisfying the palate.

Next, I plated the main course, a rack of Australian lamb with a caramelized shallot and thyme crust, duck fat-roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts with bacon. Now I poured the red wine, a 1996 Lynch Bages. Decanted for about 2 hours, this showed deep, dark and velvety black and blue fruits, oak, with a fat structure, notes of cedar and pencil lead, and hints of secondary aspects such as mushrooms and earth. Surprisingly low in acidity, it went only so-so with the lamb, ending with a short finish. It was definitely in its middle age, or, as my wife succintly put it, "a wine having a mid-life crisis", not sure whether to be young and fruitful or old and earthy.

Lastly, we went back to the Diebolt for the dessert, vanilla ice cream with a red fruit coulis. This was a fantastic match, the crispness of the Champagne balancing the sweetness of the ice cream and the coulis.

All in all a wonderful first married St Valentine's Day.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Menage a Trois of Old Burgs, Rhones and Cassoulet

After being inspired by a friend's cassoulet experience, I decided to revisit my family's part of France and make the dish myself at home. I ordered the whole kit from D'Artagnan (no affiliation, just a very satisfied customer) and printed their recipe. Considering how many ingredients are involved (duck confit, duck & Armagnac sausage, garlic sausage, ventreche - a type of French pancetta that's fantastic - Tarbais beans, carrot, and tons of duck fat), it was relatively easy to make. The apartment smelled of game for days afterwards, reminding us of the warm meal we'd enjoyed. After getting all my mise-en-place on Saturday, I spent the day cooking, letting the dish settle into its own juices from Saturday to Monday.

After some stern warnings about my cooking abilities, several good friends gamely decided to volunteer as guinea pigs. This was my 1st cassoulet! God help them...

Since one couple had recently gotten engaged, we started with a 1985 Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royale Champagne, its medium amber color offering crisp peach, brioche and toasty coffee, with a vivid mouthfeel and a nice finish. As the cassoulet was served, my winegeek friend Drew began pouring his white, the 1997 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage Blanc le Chevalier de Sterimberg. Much better after being decanted for about an hour, this beauty was full of peaches, wax, glycerin, smoke and a hint of heat on the back end, its thick body ending with a finish that went on and on. Surprisingly, it went really well with the dish.

Now we got to the older Burgs.

Jorge popped the first one, a 1972 Prosper Maufoux Le Corton. Vibrantly light red in color, this speaks to the issue of provenance: gorgeously dynamic strawberry fruit, with some sous-bois and mushrooms on the nose, the palate a definition of elegance, with amazingly youthful light red fruits, backed by secondary notes and a long finish. It did begin to die within about 20 minutes in the glass, but still, what a wonderful find!

Next came a 1976 Joseph Drouhin Chambertin Clos de Beze. I sniffed this and winced, not from the typical 1976 burnt funk but more from the hint of TCA I was getting. But the wine was fighting for its life, its secondary aromas peeking out of the blanket of TCA, which, truth be told, was rather thin. At the end of the night, I went back to it and found the TCA even worse, as is usual. There was some discussion as Drew and Jorge disagreed about its corkiness, but I firmly believe it was ever so slightly corked.

Now we hit the 1999 Louis Jadot Beaune Clos des Ursules, a lovely crisply fruity wine with some secondary notes starting to appear and filling out its frame with grace and elegance. Very nice, this is a youngster.

We ventured south now, pouring the 1999 Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de Mon Aieul which had been decanted several hours prior. Deep, dark and full of brooding dark fruits and guarrigue, with smoke and chocolate filling out its frame, this youngster was just smoking, a gorgeous and brawny wine that seemed to expand on the palate in velvety waves.

Still thirsty, we reached into the living room EuroCave and found a bottle of 2004 Pierre Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape, our house red. Light kirsch, dark cherries and fruits with some guarrigue filled the palate, with a nice crunchy acidity that woke up our palates after the orgy of Burgs, Rhones and cassoulet.

All in all, a wonderful way to stay warm on an absolutely bitingly cold Monday night. The cassoulet was a hit, there wasn't a bean left in the pot. Except for adding more meat, I'll definitely be ordering that again!


Friday, February 02, 2007

A Vinotas Selection: 2004 Roulot Bourgogne Blanc

Well, it's been a quiet January, so I figured I'd write something for February. It's a rainy and cold Friday night, I've had a bad week, so I opened something nice and uncomplicated. Surprise! It turned out even better than expected. Well, I can honestly say I am thrilled.

Oh, no affiliation, just a very appreciative customer. In fact, I just went out a bought a case.

-2004 Roulot Bourgogne Blanc

From a well regarded producer who regulary makes bottles that go for hundreds of dollars, this was a nice, affordable choice.

White flowers, soft apples, pears, lemons, hay drift up from the glass, as well as a quartzy stoniness. Crisp and precise on the palate, it offers a very energetic attack, full of spicy lemons that lead to a super searingly tart, surprisingly long and high-acid finish that seems to strip the enamel off my teeth. Yowsers! The finish goes on and on with almond and bacon accents, a nice way to round out the acidity of the mid and back palate.

This wine just wants to hang out in the mouth and fight it out, it's a youngster with nerve to spare.

Better yet, who said white Burgs had to be expensive? This beauty's only $24.99!