Wednesday, September 22, 2010

#116 - Tri-Tip And Saffron/Almond Potatoes With First Drop Two Percent

Shiraz in two forms made the table last night.

The first one was a bit of an old friend revisited, one that made us remember fondly our Australian shiraz love that had been put to bed a few years ago.

The second one was Jam Jar.

Given to me by a friend, we were entirely sick of looking at the cutesy label and cracked the thing just to get it out of our face. Yes...each to his own, I guess but thanks. Tasted like sticky sweet balsamic vinegar in a glass. A Costco legend and supposedly made to satisfy the market for sweet red wine, I don't get it. Just. Don't. Get. It.

So a cup of it went into the marinade.

Food: Five spice-marinated tri-tip with saffron-almond potatoes and Brussels sprouts

Beautiful rare-to-medium rare tri-tip marinated in five spice, hot smoked paprika, a cup of wine, olive oil, thyme and honey. Great meat that seemed to glow on the plate.

Saffron-almond potatoes (or Juanita's potatoes) that, along with the wine, revisited an old friend. It had been awhile since we had them. A usual accompaniment with plantain chicken made in a roulade style with ham and served with a Heredia white, it's a meal that's a top-fiver in the Ney house and tastes like the essence of 2008/2009. These potatoes tasted...nostalgic.

Brussels sprouts quickly sautéed without a browning in lemon juice and mint.

Everything tied together nicely. The saffron in the potatoes and the paprika in the marinade created a small Spanish bent and the Asian five spice notes didn't overwhelm the plate, only nicely playing in the background. The thyme and honey lifted the tri-tip and kept it from being heavy and the lemon juice in the Brussels sprouts kept the endnote light.

Big flavors that nonetheless kept a great balance, leaving us feeling satisfied without bursting at the seams.

Wine: 2005 First Drop Two Percent Barossa ($32 - LCBO - Toronto)

The 2% refers to the albariño in the blend. 98% shiraz and 2% albariño. Not an ordinary blend. A few winemakers mess around with a drop of viognier in red blends to great effect but albariño is a rare thing indeed. Much of albariño in Australia was, through DNA tasting, later found out to actually be French savagnin grape and it had been for years incorrectly labeled but all indications that I could find on this one is that this was true albariño (unless they were simply allowed to call what was already in the bottle albariño).

No decant. Weren't sure on the drinking window. Conflicting reports on the interwebs. Nose of blackberry toast, alcohol, some herbs and black licorice. Big dark fruits on the palate that are just starting to stew/meld together but are seemingly kept vibrant and separate by the albariño in the blend. Not seamless and smooth, a bit rough around the edges but in a good way. Stayed bright throughout the meal with a mid-palate core of char and creamy spice notes with an occasional mouthful of aging tannin but not unwelcome in the least. Still some life here. I worried.

It's been a year/year and a half since we last had this one and tasted virtually the same. All the tasty goodness still largely present.

Pairing: 90 Big food and big wine = something quite harmonious

Large food flavors that, in the end, didn't come off heavy. Large wine that, in the end, stayed bright and kinda light. It worked!

Five spice and shiraz seem to always work just fine but, as I said, this, overall, tasted nostalgic.

Certainly in the realm of big and brawny but everything stayed at the very bottom realm of such things. Nothing ever bullied.

Probably (and oddly) best with the potatoes. The fruit in the wine became more pure and jumpy. But it held its own with the meat, bringing out a herby char in the wine and even something tobacco-like (or old coffee).

The first time we had the 2005 First Drop, it glistened.

Much of that is still here. And that wee touch of albariño still makes it a beautifully food-friendly wine. Shiraz can be limited with food. This one opens that door a little bit.

Pretty great stuff.

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