Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#263 - Sea Bass a la Veracruzana & Duck Fat-Saffron Potatoes With '01 Heredia Blanco


That was the word of the night.  Along with crazy-fancy-classy.

We've been in a bit of a LdH slump of late, finding many of the more recent vintages sort of pedestrian.  Good enough with strong echoes of what we want/love from drinking Heredia but many have just missed.  I think we were spoiled by a batch of '78 Bosconias and a bunch of '96 Gravonias a few years ago.  Heredia never lost that enormous place in our heart, we just haven't gravitate towards the stuff we had on hand.

And then the 2001 comes along. And then we have this food with it.  And then we break out of our Heredia slump with a 500-foot bomb to right that warrants a bat flip and happy trot that can only say, "Slump...GONE!"

It was the kind of home run that makes the bat feel weightless, your stride feel effortless, your muscle memory find its rhythm again, like it never left.  It's the kind of home run that reminds you how pure, singular and transcendent it all can be.

This was the kind of food, wine and food and wine pairing that doesn't need to scream its virtues because it knows, with utter confidence and vision, that what it offers is so damn good.

Food:  Sea Bass a la Veracruzana with duck fat-saffron potatoes and mâche salad

Not cheap ($30) Whole Foods sea bass but worth it, a product of going to a satellite Whole Foods during an odd errands run instead of our home field WF, which offers a better selection of fleshy, cold water fish.  The fish served as more than a vehicle to the Veracruz sauce, offering a brightness to counter Veracruz's darker, down-and-dirty goodness.

Veracruz (Saveur).  Delicious caper-onion-green olive-tomato-jalapeño-garlic-parsley-rosemary business with the alteration being the use of half as many tomatoes and twice as many herbs as called for.  It's what we like.  Came in with moderate expectations, sort of generic expectations, and came out freakin' loving every second of it.  Classy stuff.  Juicy, substantial, graceful, confident fish prep here.

Potatoes roasted with saffron (Saveur).  The last bag of not $7 potatoes at WF.  Alteration. Shrimp stock made from dried shrimp instead of chicken stock.  And a healthy glop of duck fat rubbed on the potatoes.  Probably best potatoes in awhile, serving to give the meal a fatty presence the rest of the meal didn't have with the added bonus of the shrimp stock serving as a bridge to the sea bass, helping to compose the meal further.  Toss in the saline quality to the Heredia and we were happy-slappy, wha-wha.  Warranted a picture it was so pretty.

Mâche salad with pomegranate seeds to finish.  We were full.

Total surprise.  Total success.  Complete loveliness in Every Sense.

Wine:  2001 López de Heredia Viña Gravonia Rioja ($25 - Binny's)

If it says 2001 Rioja on the bottle.  Just buy it.  If it says 2001 LdH, buy a case.  See the 2001 Bosconia for a red example.  And buy the 2001 Gravonia now.  The 2002 is already out (feels like it was pushed out quicker this round).

Tough to describe.  A maturity, sure.  A confident gait, yes.  A beautiful grace and complexity, absolutely.  Mostly, this vintage has a presence of a person that walks into a room and immediately leads the group, steers the ship, creates followers, because just by its very presence, everyone instantly knows he or she will do best by them.  It's a conscious and unconscious handover in the best way.

We never loved Gravonia vintages that brings too much of the watery smoked pineapple along with a bevy of flavors, too many to find that Heredia focus.  The 1999 and 2000 had some of that.  This one has focus in spades and knows exactly how to express itself.  Beautiful nose.  A wafting, hot summer day at dusk smokiness with herbs thrown on the grill.  Smoky orange touch that didn't (thankfully) follow through on the palate.  More of a melony core, transitioning from cantaloupe to honeydew.  But the goods came in the saline entry and the minerals wrapped in seawater finish.  Fresh, splashy, misty seawater coming that echoed a sense of specific place (Azenhas do Mar, Portugal 2000 for me - pretentious waxing hopefully over).  Laser-beam focus and understanding about where to go, what to do and how to get there.

This has a body and structure almost otherworldly (not over, apparently) that just keeps giving.  And gives like it understands that judiciousness and prudence will reward in the end and it does.  It parcels out the loveliness in ways we haven't seen in what seems like a good while.

And typing this, I'm off to get more.  It's a freakin' force of nature.

Pairing:  95  Yep.  That.  Want it.  Always.

Classy.  We've had plenty of pairings that exhibit the superlative joys of matching the food and wine by body and weight.  This was the embodiment, the ideal, the template of such things.

Not your traditional matchy-matchy with individual elements generously intensifying.  This was a case of the Heredia saying, "Oh.  You took that bite.  Well...we'll do this to balance that out.  And then this.  How 'bout this?  Like that?  Yes you do," like a grizzled veteran at the wheel schooling the pairing world on how to do things.  A perfect case of rounding everything out and bringing the pairing-pause.

We had great food and knew it after the first bite.  Then the wine comes along and takes it to new, classy, graceful places.

Total shock.  Total Joy.

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