Tuesday, October 16, 2012

#303 - Borlotti Bean & Blue Cheese Fregola Risotto With '07 Sanguis Oracle Of Delphi

15.3% alcohol in a wine is quite a lot.

But when done well with particular attention paid to a refreshing acid lift on the finish, you've got wine that is rather friendly and inviting instead of tongue-killing and port-like.

That's what we got last night from this 2007 Sanguis offering comprising of 96% syrah and 4% viognier.

Put into a food world like borlotti bean and blue cheese fregola risotto with a little Cleveland bacon to match the meaty notes in the wine and you've got a winner.

Many wine types poo-poo such largesse in a wine. They say to keep your reds under 14% and your whites under 13%. Admirable goal, that. Under 15% is commonplace in our house, but keeping your reds under 14% excludes so much freakin' great wine.

The world is big. The wine world is big. Big wines made well can and do have a place. Just like large food flavors - bacon as an ingredient in virtually everything, BBQ, whole roasted pig's sticky-sweet goodness, spicy Thai, etc. - large wines on occasion can be the truth. So let's stop saying wines HAVE to be one certain way. It works the other way as well.

Yes, Parker's love of the big-boy bombs has had a detrimental effect on the emphasis of subtlety, grace and finesse in wine. But isn't the wine world pulling the same philosophical jujitsu when it comes to diversity by outright dismissing higher alcohol wines? Getting down and dirty with a plate of food chockablock with massive flavors necessitates a wine that can keep up. That's gonna mean a bit more alcohol that many may want. But made well and it's happy-slappy stuff.

Dismiss higher-alcohol wines whole-hog and you dismiss the food pairing joy that can come with such things.

So let's make that distinction. Higher alcohol in and of itself isn't a terrible thing. It's bad winemakers that patently refuse to do a good job of integrating it into a larger picture in the glass.

Food:  Borlotti bean and blue cheese fregola risotto

Fregola "risotto'd" up and laid down as a base with borlotti beans and topped with Czuchraj Meats bacon (West Side Market - Cleveland), Rogue Smoky Blue Cheese, balsamic onions, roasted acorn squash and basil. Chicken stock used for the risotto, tiny pinch of lavender, salt, pepper, etc.

Big plate of goopy-oozy soul food that brought all the goods. Defined by its risotto ooze, then accented by the smokiness in the bacon, the freshness in the cheese and basil, the darker tones brought by the onions and a wee touch of sweetness from the squash, which both of us didn't think offered as much as it should have. Even as the ooze began to congeal after an hour, this tasted like the fanciest hash on the planet.

Great food. Maybe not as great-great as the previous version but hit all the right, proper and needed notes.

And the wine wasn't the Hobbs Gregor but boy did it make huge efforts to keep pace with such a thing and largely succeeded.

Wine:  2007 Sanguis Oracle Of Delphi, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley ($75 - Winery)

Again, 96% syrah and 4% viognier (the viognier was key here).

15.3% alcohol
38-42 months in 100% new French oak
Syrah from the Bien Nacido and Watch Hill vineyards

Three-hour decant and it needed every minute. Tons of smoke, meat and pepper to open with the fruit, mainly blackberry with a touch of something more liqueur-like red, not wanting to show its full face quite yet. A little violet, a wee hit of licorice, a lot of wonderful mesquite-y notes in full flame. This one's a young 'un but drinkable right now if you don't mind a bit of fruit vagueness in the glass while still enjoying a full expression of delicious secondary notes.

After the first whiff, I expected this to be enormous but that wasn't the case in the least. Weighty but very proper, infinitely helped by the viognier acid lift that kept the party dancing well into the night. From lips to stomach, a swirl of tremendously interesting stuff all the way down. And the three-hour decant calmed the tannin buck, taking it to a nearly perfect place.

After being open for four hours, a whiff of the wine revealed something intriguing. Almost delicate, like a chardonnay nose with more typical white wine floral notes and something like a guava-pineapple spike. Not on the palate but something strange and interesting there on the nose. Complex stuff.

The syrah was taken from the Bien Nacido and Watch Hill vineyards, their coolest vineyards. This was the same sourcing used by Sanguis for the 2005 Bossman, a wine that I just loved. A Sanguis wine dinner at Blackbird a few months ago made for an odd food and wine pairing fit but the owners of Sanguis were a true joy. Their wines aren't cheap and of the wines in their catalog we've had, only probably one in three hits our joy spot but when they do, it's a "Wow, Thanks for THAT!" moment.

Plus, they seem like nice people that we want to support.

Pairing:  92  Rough edges when it came to the pairing goods but a perfectly laid foundation

From a pairing standpoint, this was an old house where the inspector takes off his cap, wipes his brow, pauses and says, "There are some wiring issues and you'll need a new roof soon but you'd be a fool to walk away from a house this well-built. If you don't buy it, I'm going to."

We cracked some fresh pepper on the top of the risotto at the table and it made the wine explode, allowing some wonderful char, violet, even some flint-like notes to dance in the foreground with a (maybe too quiet) fruity background laying down a groovy baseline.

It wasn't perfect and, in the end, didn't touch the superlative wonder that was borlotti bean and blue cheese fregola risotto and 2003 Hobbs Gregor from last year (I link twice to the same place because we loved it so).  Not as sexy as that.

But it was just like a charming old house where you find new joys everyday.

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