Thursday, December 23, 2010

#144 - Thomas Keller Chicken With Two Chardonnays

Another chardonnay tasting. Another TK chicken meal.

Thomas Keller chicken is a "last meal" kinda thing for me and has been talked about here oodles of times.

Last night was a return to the Old World vs. New World chardonnay tasting promised earlier this month. That time, with two wines in the same price range, white Burgundy won hands down. Most of the time, in the same price range, white Burgundy is going to win in this house. It's what we want.

But last night offered intriguing results with an American chardonnay nearly beating a white Burgundy priced nearly four times more on its own and actually won the pairing battle.

Food: Thomas Keller Chicken, Delice de Bourgogne cheese with baguette and a mâche and radish salad

Recipe here. This time, sprinkled with freshly picked lemon thyme, sel gris & white pepper. Great chicken, this one in the upper 10% of the TKC oeuvre.

Delice de Bourgogne cheese with baguette. Cheese only four days past its expiration date this time. Beautiful stuff always. Whole Foods baguette. If you would have told me ten years ago that at some point in my life, I'd have strong feelings about baguette, I would have wondered if someone neutered me. Well, I do. I need more crusty-crustiness than the Whole Foods version offers, though this one compared to the Trader Joe's/Panera version might have been a better vehicle for sopping up the stellar chicken juice, something that should be bottled and sold as a crack accompaniment.

Now, the mâche salad. Mâche may be the default, unexciting green for us but I have a thing for it. Last night's served to round out the meal in the best way and actually add a critical element to the meal that was entirely unexpected. Blended with pea shoots and served with a grated-radish/mustard/white balsamic vinaigrette, it refreshed, cleansed and brought a surprising radishy-pea shoot greatness.

Typically great stuff overall.

But the wines served with it brought an interesting result.

Wine: 2007 Hubert Lamy Bourgogne “Les Chataigners” ($31 - Howard's) & 2007 Francis Ford Coppola Votre Santé Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($9 - TJ's)

It's a horizontal!

Second 2007 Hubert Lamy for us, the first tasted in October. We liked that "Les Frionnes" Saint-Aubin well enough. Pretty and distinct with focused fruit. Last night's Hubert Lamy is taken from a single vineyard but is bottled under the more general Bourgogne Blanc label.

A light, sparkly yellow/green in the glass. Subtle lime peel notes upfront that transitioned into very light lemon custard. Midpalate of undistinguishable dark stones that was clouded by that basic chardonnay character's creaminess, leaving something not particularly distinct, delineated or layered. Never really went anywhere. Older French oak barrels used. A graceful hint of vanilla at times but more butterscotch than anything. It certainly was a lighter, more accessible white Burgundy but didn't offer much in the way of personality, verve or guts to take control of the tongue or direct the food. Wasn't....very dynamic.

The Votre Santé was the surprise. Much darker in the glass. I'm always leery of the wines that promote themselves as being "in the Burgundian style," but here's an $8 Trader Joe's chardonnay making valiant, if ultimately unsuccessful efforts to do such things. When you drink it though, tons of respect is given to those efforts. For $8, it's almost pretty. A grab-bag of citrus fruits that never overwhelmed anything or screamed, "Look at me!" with something in the middle that nearly came off minerally. More pronounced vanilla on the back-end than we like but less than so many other California chardonnays we've had. At times, even, that became tasty and wanted. You can taste a welcome restraint and huge efforts to keep things under control throughout.

The pairing told the story.

Pairing: 88 Back and forth, we found things to like

In the end, taking each wine on their merits and not taking price into account, the Hubert Lamy was a 10-20% better wine. But only slightly. And was only 'reminiscent' of white Burgundy goodness instead of actually bringing the goods.

It stood back and allowed the food to shine, never getting in the way and offering pleasant enough company with the food. But the Votre Santé might have been more interesting with individual bites, especially the bread-chicken juice combo and particularly with the breast meat.

First time in a long time that the breast meat outshone the leg-thigh meat with both wines. It wasn't even really close. Both became slightly bitter on the finish with the leg-thigh meat while the breast meat enhanced each wine and vice versa.

If each bottle were served separately with this meal, I think I might have liked the Votre Santé better for its playfulness and aggressiveness all wrapped in a blanket of something like restraint while the Hubert Lamy would have fell in the ho-hum category. As a pairing, gotta say, the $8 Trader Joe's bottle pretty much beat a $31 white Burgundy from a respected name.

Couldn't have predicted that.

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