Wednesday, April 11, 2012

#270 - Hanger, Vanilla Mash & Rapini With '08 Owen Roe Merlot

Portland vittles and Willamette wine trip next month!

A trip that includes a visit to the Oregon outpost of Owen Roe.

Those crazy cats have become a bit of a favorite.

This wine was no exception.  In fact, it might be the best full-on 100% merlot I've ever had.  We don't drink much merlot except when we have a rare yen for the fat pile that is vanilla mash.

This time, we wanted merlot, oddly, with the hanger, vanilla mash and rapini business coming along for the ride, which is the way the meal itself turned out because this is a silly good merlot that strikes every chord of balance:

Expressive without being obvious, elusive without being a tease, fruity without being a hammer, earthy without being gritty, full and round without bringing milk chocolate cream, layered and long without a sappy linger.

Want more now, please.

Food:  Hanger steak, vanilla mash, rapini and Jamaican pickled onions

Garlic, parsley, olive oil and Bill Kim Seoul sauce-marinated hanger steak cooked up rare to medium rare.    Vanilla mash done as vanilla mash is done, with Madagascar vanilla bean and rapini blanched, then cooked up in the meat pan with Aleppo pepper.  Onion-jalapeño accompaniment with the meat, quick pickled with Jamaican jerk spices and then sautéed.

Meat, starch, bitter green.  But more.  Spicy onions, Seoul sauce drench, flavors varied and complementary popping everywhere.  Loved how the onions played off the meat, loved how all three main elements on the plate never strayed from one another.  Composed stuff, bringing flavors that warmed the cockles of our hearts.  Tastes like a meal that should have been eaten in front of a fireplace.

And the wine was the fourth-leg ringer that brought home the gold.

Wine:  2008 Owen Roe Merlot Dubrul Vineyard Yakima Valley ($46 - Binny's)

Medium body, dark plum core fruit wrapped in black wild fruits, truffle dust, flowers and the finest, nutrient-rich wet earth just beginning to dry out serving as a guider for each stage down the throat.  Acid that kept everything in delicious, proper balance and young, round, fine tannins that make it drinkable now but show it to be in for a long ride.  Now see the above description for its silly-great overall expression.

A great deal of the description of this wine comes from what it's not.  But then you get to what it is and that becomes its definition.  It's in the journey this wine takes from lip to stomach.  Just when I thought it might be getting too big, it pulls back and shows off its delicate side.  Just when I thought it might be getting too singularly fruity, it flashes an earthy, flowery leg and says, "Check this out."

Even haunting at times. Great finesse, all those adjectives.  But just stunning stuff in its completeness that kept bringing more surprises, more levels of fun.

Pairing:  94  And it's with the food where the wine strutted with the confidence of a proud peacock prancing and posing for the paparazzi

Had a little spice here along with a deep marinade on the hanger.  Also had a bitter green.  But the wine kept saying "pffft, that's all ya got?" and proceeding to show even more.  The wine's youth helped, bringing a sturdy backbone to punch all comers in the face and show who's boss.  Bring a little onion Jamaican spice and it threw up its feathers, rounded out and took it on like it was nothing, even became longer and stretchier.  Bring a little rapini and it's like it popped its hood and showed us its guts and those guts were something pretty glorious.  Vanilla mash and merlot is vanilla mash and merlot.  Always good.

The wine simply captured everything and captivated all throughout the meal.  It was the tuning fork, the compass, the heavy-set, middle-aged preschool teacher herding all her spastic kiddies like she has them under some sort of svengali-like spell.

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