Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#247 - Lamb, Vanilla Mash & Rapini With '05 Bodegas Astrales

Fine and good (enough).

Both of us thought, after taking a first bite of vanilla mash, that the meal could have slid in so much better with a Bordeaux more than this particular Ribera.

It was an odd showing for this vintage of Astrales.  Typical haunting Ribera nose, promising a deep smoky goodness but we didn't get that, at least not in the expression we expected.  A bit of a tenuousness to its backbone throughout its 47,000 different changes throughout the meal.  Felt like it was hanging on for dear life or pulled a hammy or something.  A confidence was present but felt more like a bravado hiding a deep insecurity.

We liked but didn't come close to loving this vintage of Astrales, our first (2004 here).  The test came when we took a break from eating.  Both of us had no inclinations to reach for it and drink it by itself.  The conclusion was "it's good," which is really just damning with faint praise.

Food:  Rosemary-garlic lamb with vanilla mashed potatoes and rapini

Trader Joe's lamb chops marinated in rosemary and garlic, then drizzled with balsamic and olive oil, cooked a perfect medium-rare.  We enjoyed the lamb.  It was good lamb.

Vanilla mashed potatoes, though, are the most sexy food on the planet.  Madagascar vanilla and we could taste it.  These tasted like Love on a pillowy cloud of Love.  Fat and fat with a side of fat but, golly, they're the most delicious thing ever.  Thomas Keller recipe.  Natch.


Rapini with red pepper flakes and olive oil.  $1.99 for a humongous bunch.  $3.49 at Dominick's for a third of that.  Smart shopping is important in life.

We liked this food.  Even liked the wine to a certain extent.  Together...meh.  

Wine:  2005 Bodegas Astrales Ribera Del Duero ($40 - WDC)

Grape:  100% tempranillo
Aging:  18 months in French and American oak, 30% new
Vintage (WS):  95 - Hold - Assertive wines with chewy tannins; the best have great depth

That Ribera buck-wildness was MIA for this drinking.  More settled.  About an hour decant.  After a pop, smell and sip, it showed promise behind a healthy amount of oak and tannin.

The joy of Ribera is in their completeness with its nose absolutely leading the way.  So haunting, so smoky, so Ribera.  The nose usually says it all.  Coffee, black fruits, pencil lead, smoky jerky, maple, scorched earth and herbs.  The real joy, though, once you get all that wafting goodness, is how it washes over your tongue and you realize how balanced and low-key good ones are.  The nose makes you expect some level of loudness and extraction, then you get a wine confident enough that it never needs to resort to such things.

The 2004 had that.  The 2005 had a bit of an identity crisis.  Changed constantly, showing all the flavors of Ribera but never in any expression did it grip us.  I wouldn't say it came off awkward.  I would say it came off a bit tense, nervous, even tepid.

We got all the goodness of Ribera, we just never got them all at the same time.

And it had some trouble remaining consistent with the food.

Pairing:  85  "Geesh!  Would you figure out what direction you want to get here!"

At times, it was more than merely good with the vanilla mash, other times it fell in line nicely with the lamb, even showing quite well with the rapini towards the end of the meal.

But overall, it was like a scatterbrained six-year-old hopped up on sugar.  Not only directionless but no feeling at all that having any direction was even possible.

We didn't know what this was or wanted to be.  Never came together.

Astrales is a wine we'll continue to follow each year.  The 2005 just didn't do it for us.

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