Tuesday, May 8, 2012

#275 - Spanish Hanger, Rosemary Potatoes & Rapini With '96 Contino Gran Reserva

May 7th will henceforth be referred to as Found Ring Day.

I lost my wedding ring cleaning out the neighborhood storm drains Sunday.  Convinced it was lost to the city sewer gods, I nonetheless made a seemingly hopeless effort to find it. As I was looking, an older gentleman on a bicycle, smoking a cigarette, curious as to what I was doing with a rake around a storm drain, asked what was happening. I told him, he was sympathetic, we talked, he mentioned I should look to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, and he peddled away. I found it three minutes later.

I'm not a religious man, but...

So moderately fancy wine to celebrate.

On a side note, this was the replacement ring if said ring wasn't found. That's a freakin' gorgeous ring.

Food:  Hanger steak, rosemary potatoes and rapini

Freezer hanger Spanished up with a smoked paprika, garlic, rosemary, sherry vinegar, 5-spice, salt and olive oil marinade, cooked medium rare. Tasty meat, generous char, happy-slappy.

Roasted potatoes done up with rosemary and garlic with mayo and rosemary oil for dipping. Lavender leaves dropped over and under the potatoes and it did nice things with the food and the wine.

Rapini blanched, then cooked up in the meat pan. Overcooked tops but the stems were delicious.

House food. It's what we Like.

Wine:  1996 Contino Gran Reserva Rioja ($55 - Howard's)

Tempranillo 85%, graciano 10%, mazuelo 5%

One of my first wine obsessions in the pricey wine world was the 2001 Contino Viña del Olivo after reading about it an article from The Atlantic by Corby Kummer back in 2006. We'd been on the Spanish train at the lower end of the dollar world for a few years with the Montecillo red, blue and black labels and various others in the under-$20 range while finding our Spanish feet a few years before that with the cheapy-cheap Trader Joe's Abrazo stuff.

They had something that hit a sorta special wine place in us, making us think that his wine thing has something far beyond getting a nice buzz while having something to wash food down with. I eventually tracked down the 2001 Contino shortly after reading the article and liked it, remembering it to be quite pretty with darker fruit, herbs and gobs of white pepper. Didn't particularly resonate but it served as a benchmark of sorts when it came to starting to understand structure in wine and how transitions were important to understand such structure.

Then López de Heredia came along and everything else Rioja-related didn't matter much anymore. That was Rioja to us, first and last. Still is. This wine only reinforced such a prejudice.

It should be said that this Contino is a very pretty wine with wonderful texture and a graceful gait. But both of us were struck by the idea of drinking a wine that seemed TOO integrated, coming off like a facsimile of a great, well-aged Rioja and losing some of its identity in the process. Typical, somewhat faceless cherry notes wrapped in leather and something like old paprika spice that's been sitting in a jar in the kitchen for years.

Light and muted upon first opening but expanded nicely with the bottle open for an hour and then decanted a bit before the meal. A cheap root beer (off-brand, Mark IV-ish) note popped up at times while it turned oaky at the halfway mark (and open for about 2 1/2 hours), so subtly oaky, never ruining the wine experience but sticking with me so much that I tasted it in the strawberry-coconut ice cream I ate two hours later.

Just never surprised, never changed to a place of fascination. What we got in the first ten seconds of tasting it with the food was what we got throughout the night. Pretty texture, nice ride but a bit like the Anne Hathaway of wine. Certainly looks like a movie star, walks like a movie star, takes the right scripts at the right time to make it seem she's a serious movie star but there just seems to be little there...there outside of the patina of a movie star.

Wanted more and didn't get it.

Pairing:  85  Fine. Wouldn't do it again. 

And wanted more for Found Ring Day.  Solid food with wine that was little more than an exercise in drinking older Rioja.

Should have stuck with sweet potato fries and Ex Umbris, a meal fit for Found Ring Day.

No comments:

Post a Comment