Wednesday, August 18, 2010

#108 - Lamb Shank In Mole With '07 Vallado Reserva Field Blend


We're staying there in a few weeks!

Like AT this winery. That's pretty neat.

I'm sure there will be reports.

On another note, the '04 Yalumba HP Shiraz-Viognier from last week got the wine preservation treatment (a Harvey Steiman recommendation - he's good and likes wine). While nothing to write home about, all the wood was gone and even some marginally vibrant fruit perked up on occasion even after a week.

50 disks for $20 at KL Wines. Entirely worth it.

Food: Lamb shank in mole with corn polenta and mint snap peas

Exact same preparation as the duck in mole with '04 Quinta do Vale Meão. From that write-up:

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.
Seemed apt with a Portuguese red in a similar vein. Didn't turn out to be similar from the wine side of things but it still worked in solidly delicious ways.

Tasty corn polenta that made me wonder why we don't eat it more. Farro was an option but it only would have darkened things up even more. The polenta served as a great contrast with its subtle brightness.

Mint snap peas because it's lamb. Mint and lamb = good.

On the lamb, this preparation gave lamb shank a go. While tasty and, at times, delicious, we're talking about a lot of fat with the essence of lamb only half coming through. Some bites were delicious but working around the fat only made us want proper lamb rack even more. It had a pork belly feel to it. Good in small doses and delicious as an appetizer in a succulent sauce but as an entrée...pass. Good in small doses, great at times, marginally fatty and boring as a centerpiece.

But the wine brought everything on the plate together, even if the wine may have never got out of the realm of an idiosyncratic wonder.

Wine: 2007 Quinta do Vallado Reserva Field Blend ($60 - Binny's)

Grapes: Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Sousão
Vintage (WS): 96 A cool, wet spring and summer cut yields by 20 percent, but ideal harvest weather delivered optimal ripeness

A little over a two hour decant and could have used three hours or more.

Mostly because an hour into the meal, the wine started to open up. Scorched earth on the nose and all Portugal in many ways. A jumble of undistinguished mixed darker red berry fruits on the palate with a huge expression of burnt coffee right away that tasted like someone tried to cover it up with caramel syrup. With that as a starting point, the coffee notes changed dramatically throughout the meal, going from a milk chocolate mocha to its best point, a caramel latte that showed up right as we were finishing the bottle. All that mixed quite nicely with a twiggy campfire quality that integrated itself quite nicely. Hints of sweet tannins but dry overall as good Portuguese reds tend to be.

We alternated between thinking this wasn't anything special in the beginning to growing quite fond of it as it opened up in the decanter. A lot of grace here that's probably not for everyone but, as I said, it's all Portugal in some of the best ways. There's an austerity, even after it opened up, that's puzzling but if open to it, the wine rewards in spades. A lot of smoke, decent amount of fig and enough Asian spice that kept us coming back, if only to figure it out.

I have fond memories of this wine a day after drinking it even though I was completely vexed by it during the first half of the meal.

Pairing: 89 A perfect example of the food on the plate coming together because of the wine

It's not like the food particularly needed it. Everything was in place. But with the wine, the lamb, mole, polenta, snap peas and mint became complete dish full of integrated flavor once a sip of wine was introduced.

That's not to say the pairing overall was anything special. It wasn't, really. But with lamb shank that we weren't terribly excited about and sides served to complement the shank, the wine served as something that brought together each element and turned it into a surprisingly cohesive meal. Should have been cohesive, sure. Nothing was out of left field in any way. But the level to which it reached surprised us. Tasted...intentional with the wine.

As for individual elements, only the polenta really stood out, allowing the fruit to come out more in the wine, something that was more muted than we thought should have been/are used to with good Portuguese reds.

Good stuff, entirely interesting, all Portugal. $60? Um...yeah...maybe. Gotta really want it get to know it, though.

Quick note: Semiramis with Mrs. Ney's co-workers and two wines. 2009 Crios Rosé of Malbec ($11 - Whole Foods) and 2008 Montecillo Verdmar Albariño Rias Baixas ($11 - Binny's), two bottles that have been sitting around and we were sick of looking at them.

Both were serviceable with the food (standard Lebanese spread) with the Crios probably playing more nicely than the Montecillo. Could have gone through three bottles of Crios easily. Susanna Balbo is some kind of crazy genius. A lot of substance with this one with an even mixture of strawberry and cherry fruit followed by an easy, open and expressive finish. Unbelievably solid stuff. The Montecillo Albariño was a nice contrast from the rosé and sparkling we had (can't remember the name - brought by someone else, good and was a Blancs de Noirs, IIRC). Tasted like unsweetened old orange juice, but in a good way. Or a weirdly tasty Chinese orange drink bought at a Asian grocery store. Don't really need the Montecillo again but the Crios Rosé of Malbec will be purchased again quite soon.

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