This stuff is getting downright scarce.
What used to be fairly easy to get (even at Sam's) just a few years ago has become nearly impossible to find, even on the interwebs. And what used to be $40 now sits in the $80-100 range on average.
I'm talking about the Quinta do Vale Meão Douro. We love Portuguese wine. Having said that, there's Portuguese wine and then there's Quinta do Vale Meão. The first time we had it (the 2003), both of us were stunned, thinking, "Wine can taste like this?!" Silky, almost creamy, Asian spice, big, smooth fruit, smoky, dark...just freakin' lovely.
Since the 2002 vintage, production seems to have been cut nearly in half (according to WS notes) and imports to the U.S. have been dramatically reduced (80 cases of the '06 vintage and 200 cases of the '07 vintage).
Their second label, the Meandro, has performed admirably in the U.S., getting solid ratings and selling for under $20 in many places. While fine enough, it never compared to the flagship label in our world. Not. Even. Close.
Food: Five-spiced duck with mole, sweet potatoes and snow peas done in duck fat
We've neglected medium-rare duck recently. That should change as duck and pinot noir on warmer nights is a pretty great thing.
This meal was planned around the preparation of the mole. Mrs. Ney whipped up a mole imparting huge earth and dark chocolate notes with a hint of brightness. A modified Rick Bayless recipe, she substituted oranges for tomatillos, apricots and cherries for raisins, corn tortillas for white bread and 85% cacao for Mexican chocolate with a squirt of honey and a glop of miso paste.
It was the star of the meal and we have gallons of it now. Anybody want some? Please?
Both of us have been rather indifferent when it comes to sweet potatoes, but last night's sweet potatoes, especially dipped in the mole, were something great.
The entire meal was something great.
Wine: 2004 Quinta do Vale Meão Douro ($50-60ish - Sam's?)
Only made since 1999, every vintage since has been adored by critics. As I said, the 2003 was a bit of a revelation for us. The 2002 followed the same path and last night, we had the 2004.
For me, there was a problem that I can't really explain. I got much less from what I've usually got from the Vale Meão (I blame the pre-dinner Conundrum with its sugary sugariness). It was a bit frustrating, so frustrating that I resorted to trying to clean my mouth with pickled ginger, so I defer exclusively to Mrs. Ney on tasting notes, who has a better palate than mine anyway.
One hour decant. Reddish-purple in the glass. Big sediment in the bottle. I got roast beef juice on the nose. Mrs. Ney found smoky/charred meat. Fruit more subdued than expected. Big charred meat initially on the palate with a smooth Asian spice kick followed by more char and charred meat down to the mid-palate. Everything just kept popping, changing and coating on its trip down. Earthy, silky finish that lasted a good 30 seconds. Best one yet. Tasted like the winery went all Old School-Old World in 2004 rather than playing up the fruit and creamy aspect like in the 2002 and 2003. Sort of a gnarly, big-boy wine that said, "this is what I am, like it or not. We don't care either way because we like it."
We thought it might be a little closed (?) still with its more subtle fruit so with two more 2004's, we'll put them away and try again in a few years. This could really be interesting in four years. We're also torn on the one hour decant. After 2 1/2 hours, it started to taste like it was shutting down. But that could open right back up after 4-5 hours. Overall, it had medium, almost chewy tannins that shot in and out so who knows?
Pairing: Yes, yes, yes
We will have this exact same meal again, wine and all. Pretty great stuff.
The Asian spice notes in the wine served as a great bridge between the mole and five spice on the duck crust, the mole and the sweet potatoes and even played well with the snow peas.
Just kept popping back and forth, making everything a bit electric.
By the last third of the meal, I started to get what Mrs. Ney was getting and it became a taste entirely better than the sum of its parts and something that became a taste-memory sort of goodness. Entirely original yet entirely derivative of flavors we love.
A quick note on two wines: Sunday was/is always frozen food Sunday because we work. I didn't work under the auspices of watching the Oscars. Instead of one frozen food meal, we had two.
Lunch: Trader Joe's spinach/feta/phyllo pie with Zacharias White Squared (under $10 - Binny's). $4 for a great little lunch pie. Tastes fresh, isn't salty and doesn't reek of too much feta. Greekish food with a great, cheap Greek wine. A good find. Had a farmer's market on a hot summer day smell going on, like the smell of a crate of peaches that's been out for a bit. In a good way. Dry, a hint of a basement quality and solid, underlying fruit of peach/apricot with a bit of salt. Paired well. No complaints at all and we'd do it again any day.
Dinner: Leftover Sunday Gravy with La Loggia Barbaresco ($12 - Trader Joe's). Same Sunday Gravy from a week ago with the same great garlic bread. Solid meal. Cheap Barbaresco that has gotten a beating on the web for its cheapy cheapness. I'm not saying it was good, but it was a step up from bland table wine. Good cherry core with a little smoky meat. Paired was average, nothing great. We didn't finish the bottle.