Tuesday, December 7, 2010

#136 - Monday TK Chicken With A Value Chardonnay Tasting

Aging gracefully means possessing the requisite amount of humility to admit when you're wrong and then learning from it.

Among the laundry list of wrongs in my life, some smaller wrongs have smacked me right in the face as the most shocking.

But one must also possess the wisdom to know the difference between wrongs that can be studied and wrongs that are simply too stupid to warrant study.

Things like "This reality show craze has a short shelf life" and "Don't worry, Sarah Palin will go away soon enough" were very wrong wrongs.

So when Palin got her own reality show...and then did a crossover show with "Kate Plus 8"...

...Can't learn from that. That can only make me queasy. The Learning Channel indeed, guys.

But I digress.

I once proclaimed that I'd never like chardonnay. Boatloads of wrong, there. Just boatloads.

And here's yet another example why.

Food: TK chicken, pearl onions and chestnuts, Delice de Bourgogne cheese with baguette and mâche salad with lemon balm

Same Thomas Keller recipe as the ten times before. It's a Monday staple.

Delice de Bourgogne cheese. A staple with TK chicken, this one past its due date by a month. All sorts of crazy funk going on.

Pearl onions and chestnuts that were tasty but seemed superfluous to both of us.

A mâche salad with a mustard vinaigrette that was an afterthought and barely even wanted until we tasted it. The lemon balm added a drying, lemon/minty/soapy flower goodness that reminded me of secondary chenin blanc flavors. You know, the puzzling weirdness that makes chenin blanc so gosh darn good.

The entire TK chicken experience is in "last meal" territory for me. Yes. Chicken. Last meal. It's that good.

One quick note: A trick learned from Around My French Table. Place a few pieces of baguette under the chicken in the cast-iron pan to prevent sticking. What results is the most ridiculously decadent essence of chicken juice charred baguette tasty nugget you've ever had. Like chicken and bread on crack.

Wine: 2007 Domaine de Gandines Viré Clessé ($22 - In Fine Spirits) & 2008 Merryvale Starmont Chardonnay Napa Valley ($17 - Trader Joe's)

Sort of a bargain chardonnay tasting of wines with decent reviews.

Or Old World vs. New World, if that helps you. We'll be doing a few more of these in the near future as we sample chardonnays from Washington, Oregon and California regions not Napa. We're curious and open to the experience right now w/r/t American chardonnays.

Last night's head-to-head went as expected, though. White Burgundy is a perfect 5-0 so far in our house.

The Merryvale Starmont drew raves by Wine Spectator for its "complexity and intensity, always hanging on to its core fruitiness." Not what we got. A nectarine quality was present but we had to dig for it as it was buried under a thick, wooly blanket of vanilla extract. Like Cinnamon Toast Crunch drenched in vanilla extract. Wasn't thick or cloying and even tapered off quite nicely but wasn't in balance. Blunt and clunky upfront, had its moments on the mid-palate and seemed to desperately want to be a better wine overall but never got there.

The Domaine de Gandines was a different story, confirming again why white Burgundy rules the roost. All honey, creamy smoke and minerals wrapped in a medium body and a crisp touch of acidity on the back end. A touch of lemon rind and even a small hint of blood orange on occasion with something that resembles red pepper flakes and white pepper on the back end.

But the joy came from the mineral core, in particular what we've come to know from the Viré Clessé mineral quality that we've found in the three we've had recently. It's less refined than the Auxey Duresses stuff, tasting more rough and tumble like big polished river rock instead of fine, graceful, small and pretty. Almost serves the fruit like albariño's minerality serves its fruit. Comes off intentionally wild, making for a ton of surprises along the way.

And that's the rub. White Burgundy never beats you over the head with its chardonnay-ness. Last night's wine even, at times, on certain sips, resembled a Vouvray in ways. No butter core, no large oak core. Just a swirl of interesting changes all night.

Pairing: 92 Old World wins again

If we only had the Merryvale Starmont with this meal, I'm sure we would have found something to marginally like but it would have been a stretch. Just too much vanilla.

At times, it sufficed, offering something extra with the onions and chestnuts, coming off sort of like an autumn pairing with its darker, more brooding notes. With everything else though, it tasted ordinary and too much like itself - a vanilla bomb.

The white Burgundy was so familiar to us in the best way, playing right into the French-inspired preparation and product on the (coffee) table. Things just dance in the best way, right in step and never off key.

It's what we want. Always.

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