Because, in the past year, we've had our prejudices utterly debunked by a wide range of California wines. H/T to Mr. Bonné.
#1 Cuban wild boar shoulder with yuca fries and mojo sauce, served with 2008 Twisted Oak Ol' Chumbucket Calaveras County ($28 - Lush)
Two-ish pounds wild boar shoulder (from D'Artagnan), brined in water + [3-1 orange-lime] juice, sugar, salt, garlic, cumin; stuffed with pancetta, prunes, oregano; wrapped in more pancetta; rubbed with dark brown sugar; braised in Malta. Based on a Roberto Guerra pork shoulder recipe, using boar instead. Mojo sauce for yuca dripping and dragging the boar through, made with charred garlic scapes, guava paste, evoo, sherry vinegar and cumin. Mucigelatinous wonder! Goopy texture that didn't make us miss our favorite condiment with this type of meal - spicy mayonnaise. The mojo brought a garden-like punch to a meal that wanted such things. Solid batch of yuca. Aggressive Cuban flavors galore, something we like oh-so much and liked them here very much.
With Cuban food, California tempranillo or tempranillo-based wines is how we roll. Villa Creek Mas de Maha Paso Robles is our go-to when we want to get Cuban fancy (or the week sucked), but those are getting rare, as Villa Creek made it club-only, if I recall correctly. There are a few floating around out there on the retail market, but we haven't seen it around Chicago in a couple of years. So we've turned to Twisted Oak, a Calaveras County-based winery that loves Spanish-y grapes, so we love them. Loved The Spaniard in the past (here and here), and I think we've learned, in the few bottles of Spanish-based Twisted Oak bottles we've had, that their wines love charred garlic or onions in every form. No exception here. Every bite with the mojo emphasized something we love about Twisted Oak wines. They're never overblown in terms of alcohol, usually hovering around 14% for the reds we've had. But the joy comes in how oddly cooling the wines are, a cooling effect I've only experienced with wines a tick or two below 14%. Such a nice touch, signaling to me that Twisted Oak doesn't want to put their wines in a tiny food box.
Dirty dark cherries and Spanish brush and breeze. Savory cinnamon and clove. Full-bodied that dials back to medium-full so nicely. 46% tempranillo, 24% monastrell, 18% graciano, 10% carignane and 2% grenache. The Spaniard is a similar, Spanish-focused blend - tempranillo, graciano and grenache - with those grapes taken from their best vineyards/batches, and it's more broad, with more fantastic nooks and crannies to enjoy. But at half the price, Ol' Chumbucket hits nearly all the same notes. Big fans. I have to resist the urge to join their club. I join some club every year at this time and eventually regret the cost and selections sent. Seems like they have a VERY good one, though...
#2 Lou Malnati's pepperoni and sausage pizzas and spicy spring blend salad, served with NV Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot #61 Red Blend ($10 - Binny's)
Bistro-like plate o' food. Pizza slices and a salad on the side. Lou Malnati's about 5-6 times a year for us. Because it's good. This was goooood.
But the star was the wine. The Marietta Cellars zinfandel-based cheapie tastes like restrained California goodness, before the bomb hit. Want spicy? Check. Want deep-dark fruit mixed with strawberry lightness? Check. Want a wine that gives the impression of a full body without making you feel like you should probably take a nap, like, right now? Check. Want a wine that pulls back at ALL the right stages, turning it into a happy, food-friendly, $10 wine, something that's very rare these days? Check.
Then get the Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot #61. By the case. It's über table wine at its best. It's not a wine you compare to higher-priced wines. You don't say, "This is $20 good for $10!" That's not the thinking. It's just stupid-fantastic $10 wine and leave it at that.