Thursday, March 3, 2011

#168 - Lamb, Chorizo Spread & Arugula With Vallado 100% Sousão

A week in Portugal last September left us with some impressions.

1.) We can take or leave Lisbon.

2.) We can take or leave most Portuguese food.

3.) There are few places on Earth better than the Douro Valley.

4.) There are few places on Earth more relaxing than Quinta do Vallado winery.

5.) There have been few wines that left a bigger impression on me than the 100% Sousão we had at Vallado.

Last night, seven months after buying a bottle about two seconds after tasting it (for about $20, BTW), we finally had it.

Food: Lamb rack with pearl onions, chorizo spread with Seeduction bread and arugula and parsley salad

Trader Joe's lamb rack marinated in roasted garlic, olive oil, rosemary, soy sauce and red wine vinegar. Better than most Trader Joe's lamb racks. Tasted more...fresh or something. More pure, bright lamb flavor. Usually, it's a fallback lamb when Paulina/Whole Foods lamb seems cost-prohibitive or we're drinking a bottle of wine that doesn't particularly warrant the $10-12 more in lamb cost.

Roasted tiny pearl onions drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar reduction and soy sauce. Solid stuff and played a integral role in the pairing.

A chorizo spread for Whole Foods Seeduction bread (one of the best breads out there). The spread taken from The New Portuguese Table. Seemed right and proper and continues to be a cookbook offering much bigger, bolder flavors than we got in Portugal. Chorizo, mayo, butter, parsley, mint and a splash of Portuguese whiskey hot sauce all blended together. Tasty. A touch salty but came off more like whipped mortadella than chorizo-like. More up my alley than Mrs. Ney's.

Arugula and parsley salad with extra virgin olive oil and good sherry vinegar. Odd arugula. Trader Joe's stuff that had a very raw, almost sheep's milk cheese funk to it. Wasn't bad, was even good overall, just had an oddness to it. Starting to realize that organic arugula almost necessitates the clamshell packaging instead of the bag and spending an extra couple dollars for the certainty of it being delicious is essential. It's been hit or miss.

The meal was prepped around the wine - or at least the impression we had of the wine at the winery - but it turned into a meal that could have played into the hands of a lot of reds we like.

Fresh, a little bit of umami goodness, great depth from the onions, salty hit from the chorizo, always welcome hearty graininess from the Seeduction bread, bitter and earthy salad finish. Hit a ton of notes.

But the wine was the star.

Wine: 2008 Quinta do Vallado 100% Sousão Douro (about $20 - Winery)

Not sold anywhere in the United States which, admittedly, offers a bit more swagger to it in my mind. Something nice 'bout that. Only about 200 cases made with most sold in Portugal and Spain to wine nuts, according to our wine tour. Entirely foot trodden for six days in old-style lagares built into the design of the winery's brand-spanking new winemaking facility specifically for the sousão grape (read about the revival of the grape here). Aged 20 months in French oak. Special stuff in my world. Wine Spectator rated it just four days ago talking about its fruitiness and juiciness. We didn't get that. The fruit in this one played second-fiddle more than any other wine I think I've ever had in such a glorious way.

At the winery, it was all iron-rich blood, concentrated and utterly distinctive. Completely original in our world. Last night showed tons of iron, tar, game, liquified dirt, game (did I mention that?), treated black tobacco product like Skoal, balsamic and summer garbage whiff in the best possible way. Tasted like it came from a dark, dark place. Big black flavors, medium body, great structure, long finish, nice heat and acid that let everything fall into its seemingly proper place. Black, black magic here. Ink in the glass and balsamic-drenched compost on the nose. After all that, we finally figured the fruit to be old dark cherries and blackberries underneath, utterly buried by the delicious weirdness upfront but still there in essential and tasty ways. Beautiful witches' brew. Kills us that we only bought one bottle.

Pairing: 90 It was about the wine but the pairing ended up better than expected

Fit wonderfully with a bite of lamb and onion, letting everything in the wine fall properly into place while accenting the iron in the lamb, turning it into something more lamby and pure with the onions turning the finish in the wine into something even longer.

But might have been best with the greens, oddly. Stellar stuff turning the wine into a kaleidoscope of previously mentioned flavors, each and every one popping up in one sip. Concentrated and vivid stuff even as the wine by itself was starting to become more simple and oxidized an hour or so into the meal (glad we didn't decant).

Too much iron and oak with the salty-ish chorizo spread.

Great stuff all around. We have to write that winery a letter.

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