Thursday, September 26, 2013

TWIB Notes: This Week In Bottles

What's the difference between TWIB Notes and Quick Hits?


Someday - I'm shooting for July of 2017 - I'll figure out how to organize this here blog. Same with painting the apartment.

Better food week than last. French roast chicken, a great elderflower cheese, cocoa hanger steak with fancy Portuguese wine, and a panzanella salad whose preparation made the kitchen look like a gaggle of wild muskrats got loose and went to town.


French roast chicken, elderflower cheese, green beans and carrots with 2005 Jean-Noel Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chaumes ($70 - In Fine Spirits) & 2011 Ponzi Arneis Willamette Valley ($20 - Winery)

Frenched-up (read: butter) chicken, stuffed with garlic, bay leaves tucked under the skin, butter-basted. Cooked in the oven with carrots and onions. Green beans cooked in the chicken pan, then added to the carrots and onions as the side. Tarragon and parsley on top. An alteration of our standard home chicken with its French country flair.

Toss in the delicious elderflower tomme cheese (Trader Joe's cheese of the month) with its slight funkiness cleaned up by a freshy-fresh finish and an almost juniper-like floral note buried deep in the background, and we found the complete French country dinner we were looking for (read: Not Spanish).

Gotta drink the white Burgundy in this house. Food Frenched-up for such. We just didn't know that dumping a bottle of vanilla extract on the food was the play. That's an exaggeration because even though the Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet was a nuclear wasteland of oak and vanilla, it was well-made enough to play with the food in acceptable, even almost lovely ways at times. Very little fruit, all of it buried under new oak and vanilla, but all the stuffing was there, even a three-act...something...with the cheese, turning lightly smoky on the finish. Odd phase? Could it get better? Don't care. At this price and this showing, nope. We don't do oak and vanilla at this level, if ever. With the wine giving us enough of a Frenchy-French pairing to be deemed fine enough, we'll cut our losses and run. On its own, wow! An oaky assault on the mouth!

We put the 2011 Ponzi Arneis in the "Drink Now" pile after a showing a few months ago that made it seem like it was about to turn into bounty of slowly rotting fruit. How wrong we were. Maybe it was the juxtaposition with the Burgundy but its New World, and in particular Ponzi, zippy acid was a happy change-up. This bottling was much more fresh with only a faintest fading towards the very end. Vibrant apricot-guava-lime deliciousness with a salty mineral quality pumping along from start to finish, turning a bit watery at the very end but jumpy, happy acid throughout. Quite nice stuff. Seems like this wine has had nine lives.

Tons to like in this pairing. Happy with the options.


Cocoa-rubbed hanger steak and Portuguese punched potatoes and an arugula-corn salad with 2004 Quinta do Vale Meão Douro ($40 - Wine Discount Center)

This was better, even though it was just meat and potatoes. Here's an example of simple meat and potatoes tasting like so much more when fancy wine comes into the picture.

Hanger steak rubbed with cumin, cocoa powder, smoked paprika, black pepper; seared in the cast-iron. Olive oil infused with rosemary, garlic and bay leaves drizzled on top as a post-sear marinade. Parsley and mint on top. Portuguese punched potatoes as a starch (salted and half-smashed potatoes drizzled with garlic oil - from The New Portuguese Table). Arugula, corn and mint salad to finish.

This one was about the cocoa powder and rosemary-garlic-bay oil, with each getting into every bite of the hanger steak in the best, most balanced sense. Specific and new flavor at this level. Loved it. Succulent and grizzly at the same time, similar to the wine.

The 2004 continues to change! Nothing clipped here, like a previous tasting two years ago. Shame it's our last bottle. Funny that this wine used to be $40 at Wine Discount Center. We haven't seen a Quinta do Vale Meão of any vintage in Chicago in years. Tons of Meandro (though not recently), none of the flagship. Shame times ten when this seems to be hitting a (bleeping) awesome phase. While it seemed indifferent two years ago as to showing any sort of completeness and wonder, it's giving all of itself now, just on its own terms. Not austere, just more like the hinterlands of the Douro where you have to stop and listen to the beautiful silence and flow of the air. Plums and blackberry as a fruit framework but a great Cormac McCarthy-like starkness defined it, but, you know, without the soul-crushing death and hell-like backdrop. Chocolatey at times, black earth at others, alcohol present but playing well with others. Grizzly but fancy as only great Portuguese reds can show. They taste so damn thoughtful and this one most certainly did.

Here's meat and potatoes. Nothing more. Served with a wine like this, and how this wine dove into the rub on the meat, we found a dinner that became so much more than just that.

Great dinner.


Panzanella salad with 2011 Efesté Feral Sauvignon Blanc ($20 - Wine Discount Center)

New York Times recipe from this week, using the leftover chicken from Monday. Tomatoes, lemon, chicken, croutons, basil, parsley, garlic, capers, chicken skin, avocado, arugula, dijon, fresh oregano, all the goodies. Some adjustments and notes. Avocado and arugula added. Tons more garlic used. All-Clad pans get HOT! Stale tomato-basil bread used. What a mess.

For a meal with a preparation that looked like a bomb went off in the kitchen and had a bit of a "burned" quality to it (chicken skin "got away" from me, but mostly salvaged), nothing in the final flavor tasted like such. Solid lunch idea turned into dinner and it succeeded in that endeavor.

Served with a surprise wine. Both of us, for some reason, thought the Efesté Feral Sauvignon Blanc also needed to be put in the "drink now" pile. After drinking it, "more, please" was the phrase of the night. Never would have thought this was a Washington sauvignon blanc. Tasted like a French sauvignon blanc from either a Loire satellite region or some crazy genius nailed it down in the Languedoc or something. White peaches and a small touch of both grass and hay in flavor but such a proper, beautiful acid driving the ship here, finishing with a touch of cream and something like Thai basil. Golly. Pretty happy stuff here.

Solid, solid, solid pairing with the acid in the food and the acid in the wine walking in lockstep. Loved how both elements tasted so integrated.

Good week.


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