Tuesday, June 8, 2010

#82 - Angus Bone-In Ribeye & Yuca With '01 Vega Sicilia Valbuena

Ever watch a film and like it so much that you immediately buy the DVD?

You know, the kind of film that made you see things in a different way or accomplished some vast and probing narrative with everything coming together, making you pause a little after seeing it. Nothing epic or spectacular but something that made you say, "Well...that was pretty great."

So you buy the DVD under the auspices that something like that should be supported and of course you're going to watch it again. And then the years pass and it sits there. The DVD case is never cracked, mainly because as time passes, you begin to pick the film apart a bit. You still consider the guts of the film a solid rendering of the material with flashes of brilliance from a great filmmaker. But...at three hours...and the material all too familiar...you're never really going to watch it again. Maybe in ten years but not in the near future.

Last night's wine was that. The 2001 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5º is Steven Soderbergh's Traffic.

Food: Angus bone-in ribeye, yuca fries with mayo and arugula

Trader Joe's Angus bone-in ribeye. Well-marbled with that dusty, earthy Angus-y quality. Even a bit gamey. A good piece of meat from Trader Joe's. Simply prepared with smoked sea salt and pepper and a garlic-rosemary compound butter on top. But both of us are quickly coming to the conclusion that we just don't love ribeye. It's a lot of work for the payoff and we prefer something a bit more lean. Good meat here, though. Enjoyed it enough.

Yuca fries were yuca fries. We'll never get sick of yuca fries. Served with a smoked paprika/cumin/sherry vinegar mayo for dipping. The mayo turned the meal from something that could have been really any cuisine to a meal with a Spanish feel. Just that little bit of smoked paprika helped. And the yuca and ribeye together as back-to-back bites were goshdarn tasty.

An arugula and parsley mix with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic to finish the meal. Parsley and greens = goodness.

Happy and full. No complaints at all. Well-prepared, delicious and satisfying.

Wine: 2001 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5º ($120 - Knightsbridge)

Grape: 80% Tempranillo, 10% Merlot, 10% Cabernet
Region: Ribera Del Duero
Vintage: 93 (WS) Drink or hold, Powerful wines, with ripe fruit, good balance and great aging potential

Vega Sicilia is the "cream of the class", as Dan Hampton would say, of Ribera Del Duero and probably all of Spain. It has one of the most technically advanced wineries in the world yet still produces wines in the old style based strictly on terroir. Typically, the flagship vintage wine, the Unico, releases for $300-400 a bottle, isn't released until ten years after the vintage, can drink for 50 and shouldn't really be drunk for another 20 years after the vintage. A non-vintage wine is also produced, the Unico Reserva Especial, currently a blend from three 90s vintages, typically goes for $400-500 a bottle.

We can afford the second label, the Valbuena 5º, a wine that spends three and a half years in barrel and one and a half in bottle before being released (hence the "5º" - there used to be a 3º but it was discontinued in 1988 to avoid confusion).

In 2001, while a good vintage for Ribera in general, Vega Sicilia didn't produce a Unico so all their grapes went into producing the Valbuena. A very hot summer led to early ripening, making the long barreling aging required for the Unico impossible.

The 2001 Valbuena was a mixed bag around the Internet on its drinking and aging potential. Wine Spectator had it finishing up in 2010 due to the ripeness of the vintage. Parker had it drinking well now with another 10 years to go. Tanzer didn't commit.

Decanted for about an hour. Opaque purple in the glass. Grilled meat on the nose. Right away, just a MASSIVE wine. Thick, almost a meal in itself, tasting like a wild Right Bank Bordeaux but settled down rather quick into a more medium-bodied mouthfeel. Tons of faintly sweet blackberry and maybe wild mulberry fruit with some background red fruits. A bit tart with some herb/spice notes that was probably sage with something approaching a wild brush blend and a hint of an elegant vanilla touch at the end. Tannins were big right away but quickly dissipated.

I initially questioned the short decant but this one evolved beautifully throughout the two hour meal, peaking in the middle to reveal a nicely composed wine full of nuance and ending with something a bit more simple. We lucked out.

No question, this is a beautiful wine and it may have the guts to go for a few more years due to the massiveness we experienced right away. And it certainly resonated well after the meal but not really the next day. At $120, if I'm in a spendy mood and at Knightsbridge, it might be interesting to see what this one does in a few years, but I'm not in any hurry or under any real compulsion to find out. That's a lot of money. Comparing it to something in a similar vein, we were both more intrigued by both the '06 and '07 Flor de Pingus at $50 less.

Pairing: 90 Straddled a lot of lines but in the end was quite delicious

Great with the yuca and smoked paprika mayo. Delicious with the meat. Great and delicious when we mixed all of those together.

The wee bit of vanilla in the wine was playful with the smoked paprika but the unquestioned star of the night was the rosemary in the compound butter and what that did to the wine. It became something that danced, becoming much more complex and put together than any other combination.

At times, the pairing struggled to get out of the Realm of Merely Good but in its totality, it made it to the Land of Borderline Lovely.

With Traffic, there was some Michael Douglas overacting and the lens filters got in the way at times. But there was also Benicio Del Toro and Don Cheadle and the lens filters brought a unique way to separate and connect the now-tired "interconnectness" visual storytelling. Like the Valbuena, it's a thoughtful creation of beauty rooted directly in its time and place.

But like Traffic, I don't know if I ever need to experience it again.

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