Wednesday, June 23, 2010

#88 - Lamb & Farro With '07 Angela Pinot Noir

Some of the more flowery language in wine-speak can be a bit much.

And with the 2009 Bordeaux First-Growth futures starting to trickle out, it's like the playoffs for "letting superlatives fly!" with prices to match. Haut-Brion = $800. LaFite = $1,200.

We'll most likely never dabble in the First-Growth world to any real extent but last night, we dabbled in the more evocative (Read: Pointless but fun) world of wine-speak because, well, it was that nice to return to a wine that causes such forthcoming superlatives to spew.

Question. What's better? Hitting all the green lights on an extended stretch in the city when you're having a crappy day or slipping into a hot tub for a long soak after having a crappy day? Probably the hot tub. Even though both of us can count on one hand how many times we've even been in a hot tub in our lives, the hot tub can make you forget the day happened. Hitting the lights is just a momentary blip that makes handling the crappiness a tad easier.

The 2007 Angela Pinot Noir with great lamb, cherries and farro last night was like the steamiest and most relaxing hot tub soak ever.

Food: New Zealand lamb rack with a cherry and farro salad and mâche

Trader Joe's New Zealand lamb rack marinated in herbes de Provence, extra virgin olive oil, a small glop of balsamic vinegar and a bit of green peppercorn mustard, seared medium-rare in the cast-iron skillet and cut into lollipops. Herby herbaceousness. Juicy and almost rustic.

Some great lamb and while Mrs. Ney has always found lamb with pinot noir as probably the most perfect pairing in the world, I've always stayed in the duck breast-pinot noir vein. That's tailed off a bit lately for me. Still love duck breast and pinot noir but I think I burned myself out on it last year. We've only had medium-rare duck breast once since the inception of this blog and that was the strange little meal involving celery root, star fruit and bok choy. It's kinda like the time when I was 10 and ate four Suzie-Qs in one sitting because they were two for a $1 at Casey's and promptly threw up. After that, Suzie-Qs were no longer on the "I want that" list.

Farro [cooked with chestnuts and thyme in chicken stock] salad with shallot, jalapeño, cherries and mint; drizzled with walnut oil and cherry-balsamic vinegar. The meal planning started with cherries and while they oddly didn't match up perfectly with the wine or coupled with a lamb bite (or even a farro bite, really) they nonetheless were nice to have around. They kept the meal in a certain lamb-cherry-pinot noir realm that was entirely wanted.

Mâche drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and cherry-balsamic vinegar. As always, mâche has that quality that doesn't bully the plate like arugula's slight bitterness can.

Mrs. Ney thought the meal was a little safe. Delicous, perfect with the wine but a little safe. This is the place where I channel my inner-Top Chef and ramble on about the wonders of simplicity. But I can't and won't do such things because while I loved the easy clean-up afterwards, I don't cook and only know that this meal was freakin' delicious. Who wants complicated meals to prepare all the time when this one did this well with a freakin' beautiful wine?

Everything topped off with clafoutis, French almost pie that tastes like cherry pancakes.

And it's fun to say.



Wine: 2007 Angela Pinot Noir ($60 - In Fine Spirits)

Grape: 100% pinot noir
Region: Savannah Ridge in Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon
Vintage (WS): 84 Mostly delicate wines can benefit from cellaring, but many are weak

Angela is an Oregon project owned by a half-dozen people with Ken Wright as the winemaker. Go here to read all about it. I believe 2005 was the first vintage and I haven't yet seen a 2008 Angela. From what I can gather, with the goal of single-vineyard/organic in the future, everything's in a bit of a transition right now. The wine is not what Ken Wright does. He's a single-vineyard, terroir winemaker and Angela is a blend for now, though the current spec sheet says 2008 is exclusively Clawson Creek Vineyard instead of a blend, as the 2006 was (again, from what I can gather. It's a bit confusing with differing reports from different sources).

The 2006 was a bit of a revelation for us. It changed what we thought Oregon pinot noir could be. We loved Oregon pinot noir but this was different - dark, brooding, silky, layered and probably one of the top 10 best wines we ever had. Maybe top five.

It's tough to judge the 2007 against the 2006 because it's difficult to separate the first impression and utter originality that the 2006 offered to us but I'll try.

Straight medium ruby in the glass with a pretty core and a touch of browning on the edges. On the nose, grill notes mixed with some blackberry and wet leaves. On the palate, silky black cherry, a little pomegranate and a background note of blackberry. And TONS of black tea. In fact, by itself before the food, mostly all black tea with medium tannin and low-ish acid.

I remember the 2006's fruit being integrated a bit more with maybe a bit more explosion of dark, smothering flavors (more dippy wine-speak but apt) but the 2007 is right behind it in goody goodness.

The Angela line took on cult status with its low production in '05 (300 cases) and '06 (400 cases) and high demand and can't really be found for purchase anymore but the '07 is still out there. With the 2008 vintage in Oregon being so universally praised and not being able to find any news about a possible 2008 Angela, it makes Christo sad.

Pairing: 95 lamb + pinot noir = always great. Great lamb + great pinot noir = hot tub

It was pretty close to perfect. And that's with the cherries oddly not bringing much to the party.

A farro-lamb bite with the wine was perfect with the herbs on the meat bringing out a forest floor element in the wine. Lamb by itself and farro by itself came in a close second.

And the low acid level by itself perked up beautifully with the food, becoming an even better version of itself and a more well-rounded wine.

In the end, outside of the greens and the cherries to a certain extent, it was a pairing that defined why food and wine together are so great. Everything became more.

Cracked an '07 Ponzi to compare and it didn't. Ponzi is always good, one of our favorite Oregon wines, but it became a lesson in the difference between a great $30 bottle and a ridiculously great $60 bottle.

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