Tuesday, November 17, 2009

#4 - Lamb & '04 Bodegas Astrales + Something Else

Let me tell you about homemade Limoncello.

It's...a process.

In my brief foray into the homemade Limoncello field, it's always been better than store-bought Caravella brand, but, as I said, it's a process (is this the place I grossly and quite drunkenly misspell things? Me thinks so.).

Too much homemade Limoncello. I do not recommend it.

Onto the meal.

Food: Maple-coffee-soy marinated lamb with fingerling (?) potatoes, snap peas and the largest blackberries you ever saw

Whole Foods lamb which, honestly, was uncharacteristically a little fatty/expensive but good with Harvest Time gigantic blackberries and what I suspect was fingerling potatoes. I don't know. I didn't ask Mrs. Ney. Speaking of Mrs. Ney, she took the coffee-soy marinade, boiled it and whipped up a coffee-soy mayonnaise for potato dipping.


Wine: 2004 Bodegas Astrales Ribera Del Duero - $44 Wine Discount Center

Ribera wines tend to be a bit bigger than Spanish Rioja wines, more dark purple, emphasizing blacker fruits compared to Rioja with a tinge of wildness involved. Essentially, Ribera fits a well-crafted niche, crafting wines bursting with concentrated blackberry and darkish fruits with more coffee notes than most and an earthy background without ever approaching the French-style obvious earthiness.

We have a decent amount of experience with Ribera wines and what you get is typically a wild wine, something resembling a horse-bucking journey. They always stay rather firm with the food in front of you, never deviating from what it's supposed to be but it's the subtle changes, especially with the meat itself, that draw you in.

Put an aggressive crust and marinade on any red meat and Ribera will treat you well. It hits all the same notes that good Portuguese wines tend to (cigar, spice box, licorice) while holding firm to its black fruit roots.

We decanted the last Astrales we had and it could have used it. After 30 minutes, it started to display a beautiful character that made me lament the lack of this decanting.

Why no decanting? Well, we started with a 2006 Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz that was probably cooked. No nuance whatsoever. At least nowhere near the nuance we remember from this wine, which was huge, bright, juicy and wonderful black fruits which sailed on forever. Humongous finish, usually, reminiscent of homemade blackberry jam. Didn't happen this time. It was flat.

Astrales will always be a favorite. I would love to put one aside for a few years and see what happens. Better yet, I would love to try this wine as it leaps toward a graceful death.

Pairing: With time, it was wonderful.

Bodegas Astrales is what Ribera Del Duero wine is all about. At least given the scope of the ones we've had. There's always something enigmatic about it. You get/understand the primary flavors but...there's something there. Something earthy without screaming earth. Something like bush ("That's what she said!") and the briary elements you get from Rhone wines but not so...Rhone-ish...without a trace of red fruits to be found. ALL. BLACK.

In the end, it tasted wild/untamed but let the food play with it in spite of itself.

After the meal, with a little left in the glass, it was all licorice, a great finish to a nice meal.

Too bad I topped it off with homemade Limoncello. I'm already scheduling a headache for tomorrow.

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