Thursday, August 12, 2010

#107 - Harissa-Marinated Bison Flank Steak & Two Wines

Two days ago, I did a wildly detailed spreadsheet inventory of our wines.

The side-effect of it was seeing the number of wines that probably should have been drunk years ago. Fewer than I thought as we try to keep good tabs on such things but I can't recommend a non-vintage Trialeti Akhashini Georgian (the country) red wine bought probably three years ago and very well could have been eight-nine years old. Tasted like bugs.

I'm guessing the 2004 Toasted Head is on a similar path without the buggy bugginess.

But a surprise in the older/"drink me now! Geesh!" vein was drunk last night, a wine that thoroughly outperformed a wine that we just adore and was also approaching its demise.

Food: Harissa-marinated bison flank steak, sweet potatoes and frisée

In June, we went a little darker, big and Frenchy with bison flank steak, using a Chris Cosentino marinade containing junipers, balsamic and black pepper. Following this recipe last night (bison for tri-tip) , the bison came off insanely bright in a great way.

Using Whole Foods harissa paste - a product that has the freakin' goods - garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and sherry vinegar, the result was meat with flavor that jumped in our mouth, staying perfectly bright and sunny and allowing the bison flavor to completely come through. Turned into a surprisingly light meal and for $12 a pound, bison's always a perfectly delicious option.

Served with honey, cardamom and ginger sweet potatoes and a frisée salad with a toasted cumin seed/za'atar vinaigrette. A North African/Middle Eastern/Maghrebian/Levantian extravaganza in many ways. Except bison. Not many bison in the Middle East.

Wine: 2004 Yalumba Hand-Picked Shiraz-Viognier ($30 - Sam's) & 2006 Rosenblum Cellars Mourvèdre ($11 - Binny's)

We were under the assumption during the meal that the Yalumba we were popped last night was the same vintage as the wine we drank with what was probably the best food and wine pairing we've had in the last year. It wasn't. And thank all that is holy. It solves a riddle knowing that it wasn't the 2004 Yalumba HP Shiraz-Viognier with the Asian beef filet. It was the 2005. It would have been odd to see such a dramatic change in just a few months and would have forced me to buy a larger wine fridge right now. Money saved!

The 2004 Yalumba by most estimates is approaching the end of its drinking window and that's what we got last night along with a wall of tailing oak. Very concentrated cherry and herb core right away that disappeared in a split second, then settled into a medium-bodied, rather ordinary wine that was drinkable but not particularly distinguished. Then the oak bomb came. Every other sip was like chewing on a piece of dry wood that's sat out in the hot sun for years. Tannins were tired and the wine overall just came across as weary and creaky. Drinkable but geriatric. We missed the golden years with this one.

So we popped a second bottle, a 2006 Rosenblum Mourvèdre (with a touch of Carignane) made in Contra Costa County, just northeast of the Bay Area. Rosenblum wines are everywhere, in grocery stores, liquor stores and corner markets. And I'm quickly coming to the realization that that's a good thing. This was the second or third Rosenblum wine we've had and they seem to be quality performers at a great price point.

A cloudy red in the glass with a floral violet note on the palate mixing with a solid core of red and black raspberry and maybe a bit of bee pollen. Fine structure and played well above its price tag in some great ways. Probably would have been better two years ago but seemed to be still going strong enough.

Pairing: 85 Boring with the Yalumba, Surprising and good with the Rosenblum

The Rosenblum mingled beautifully with the bright bison and just soared with the cumin seed. Mental note: Cumin and Mourvèdre.

While the Yalumba was clumsy and tired, the Rosenblum saved the night. It would have been sad to see such a wine fail with meat of this caliber but the Rosenblum came to the rescue and served us admirably.

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