It's gotten to the point where Mrs. Ney cringes when I begin to cough...because it isn't going to stop.
We don't celebrate New Year's Eve like the rest of the planet. We don't do 'groups' if we can help it and a collective 40 years in the customer service industry probably has something to do with it.
So we gathered up some of our favorite foods, paired some appropriate wines and had a nice little day and night that culminated in the glorious ABC 7 tradition of showing middle-aged white people dancing and ringing in the New Year to the dulcet tones of the Gin Blossoms at some hotel in Schaumburg. Always funny.
Lunch: Charcuterie-style grab bag of goodness with Champagne
Lomo Embuchado (thinly sliced, dry-cured pork tenderloin)
Abondance cheese (French)
Mahon cheese (Spanish)
Manchego cheese (Spanish)
Oil-cured black olives
NV Henriot Souverain Brut Champagne - $40 Binny's
A softer Champagne, entirely pleasing with mellow green apple, only a touch of yeast, a bit of honey and a medium finish. We're more Cava people as we enjoy the rustic edge it brings but there was nothing wrong with this Champagne, even if it wasn't even close to being worth $40 ($20 and we would buy it again if the occasion was right).
The pairing worked in a different way than a traditional pairing. Nothing was enchanced, per se, was the sparkler and individual bites. The enjoyment came from simply having it with the meal to serve as a lifter of everything. It kept everything light and bright with the bubbles keeping the palate awake.
Individually, pairing it with the Serrano ham alone was terrible. Tasted like gym socks but with bread and a little mustard, things like that could be hidden.
This meal is easily one of my top-five favorites, a "little bit of this, a little bit of that"-type meal chockablock with top quality ingredients. Serrano ham is always heaven and I think I now love Abondance.
Dinner: Duck with spicy Farro and Brussels Sprouts with CDP and California Rhone-style
Two half bottles:
2007 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe "La Crau" Châteauneuf-du-Pape - $40 Binny's
2007 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Paso Robles - $18 WDC
Medium-rare duck slathered in a fig-based sauce with spicy farro and leaves of Brussels sprouts hit with only a little heat.
Spectacular duck. Just spectacular. Caused a serious pause on first taste. The farro turned out a tad too spicy but didn't kill anything and a huge mound of Brussels sprout leaves served for me as a palate cleanser at the end of the meal.
In short, both wines paired generously with the duck. Maybe not perfect but there was a lot to like with both of them.
The "La Crau" was #3 on the Wine Spectator top 100 for 2009. It's young, of course but we figured the 375ml bottle helped it out a bit. We have limited experience with CDP but enough to know what to expect. It's very typical of CDP w/r/t tasting notes (fig, garrigue, licorice, berry, currant, smoke) with the added benefit of a beautiful balance between all of that. A finish that really sneaks up on you and lingers beautifully. It was the best of the two with the duck, playing around with it, alternating flavors with each subsequent bite. The fruit was a bit restrained so we'll put the other two bottles of this away to see what happens. Going to be great, most likely.
The Esprit de Beaucastel was rich, rich, rich! California Rhônes are such a nice, new experience for us. We just got into them and they - along with some Syrahs - altered our snooty prejudices of California reds. A lot of roasted herbs here with dark rich berry to start that turns to red berry. It's Mourvèdre-forward (44% M, 29% G, 21% S with 6% Counoise) and it may suffer from what we don't particularly enjoy about Cali-Rhônes. They can be a tad syrupy. We've had worse in this respect and a little age would mellow this out.
Overall though, it strikes a balance. I liked it with the spicy farro with a licorice note kicking up. A lot to like, but wasn't the big-boy wine that the "La Crau" was. Probably would have loved it if the Télégraphe wasn't sitting right next to it. We both kept reaching for the CDP and had to consciously incorporate the Tablas Creek into the picture.
Really satisfying day of food with wine.