Wednesday, June 1, 2011

#194 - Lavender Lamb And Pistachio Fregola With A 2000 Heredia Bosconia

It's interesting to know a winery well enough to be able to taste it and have a ballpark idea of how old it is, how the vintage was and how long a particular bottle has to go.

I don't have the wine tasting ability to be able to do such things yet with just any wine.

But it seems that this is how said ability starts: with an fairly intimate understanding of one winery, experience with tons of vintages over a course of years and the knowledge of how the winery's style and wine has shown at various stages in good, bad and mediocre years.

I'm terrible at blind tastings when it comes to nailing down the vitals. Mrs. Ney's tongue is infinitely better than mine at such things.  But I would probably know if a Quinta do Vale Meão was a 2003 or 2007 (great years) contrasted with any of the years in between.  I'd feel fairly competent in the early aughts of Clos Fourtet.  I think I could nail a Ponzi in a lineup of young Oregon pinots.

But last night, not knowing the finer vintage details before drinking, I don't think I've ever come across a wine that was so obvious in my head to be a Heredia Bosconia about 10-15 years old and from a vintage that wasn't the best.

Having said all that - and good for you, Christo, here's your popsicle - we still don't know why people get off on such things so thoroughly.  Especially when good red wine is infinitely better with the right food.

Food:  Lavender lamb, piquillo marmalade, pistachio fregola and asparagus

Mario Batali's lavender/rosemary lamb recipe from Food & Wine, made during the filming of that shockingly dull Spain - On The Road Again PBS series.  You know, the one where Gwyneth Paltrow wouldn't eat Spain...for a TV show about eating food in Spain.  But the world now knows she speaks Spanish quite well and that's the most important thing, really.  We felt terrible for Mr. Batali.  He knows and loves Spanish food but had nothing to work with.  I digress.

Bright lamb lollipops, brighter than expected, with a subtle herbal/floral kick.  Good stuff.  Mixed with the piquillo marmalade, a piquillo pepper, red onion, orange zest & juice, garlic and sherry vinegar concoction from The New Spanish Table that's become a house favorite, it became all Spanish-y good with a side of good.  Took lamb and made it taste like something that's been eaten for centuries, like a northern Spain/southern France amalgam that's tried and true and delicious.  Perfect vacillation between earthy, bright, light and filling, like lamb made for a hot land.

Pistachio fregola "risotto" made with onion, pistachio, lemon thyme, chicken stock and, well, fregola.  Brought a starchy-creamy-ooziness to the lamb-piquillo business that needed something to contrast with it.  And it did perfectly.

Asparagus to finish that we barely touched.

Got back to Spanish flavors after a hiatus.  Spanish food is probably what made us really and completely get into food and wine pairings.  It made us understand why people flipped for such a thing.

This meal was no exception.

Wine:  2000 López de Heredia Viña Bosconia Reserva ($35 - Binny's)

Grapes:  80% tempranillo, 15% garnacha, 3% graciano and 2% mazuelo
Region:  Rioja
Vintage (WS):  85  Drink or hold. Huge yields. Top producers made good wines, but others are light 

I flipped over the 2001 back in August, served with a fancy tapas spread and evoking Hemingway, something that tells me I wrote that post up while a bit sauced (and just read A Moveable Feast).

We didn't decant the 2001 and it killed me.  With that lesson learned, right out of the bottle it came off a bit tart so a 40-minute decant this time, helping things along immensely.

Medium-bodied, lighter ruby in the glass, somewhat hidden fruit but showing all the signature secondary flavors that make Heredia the most delicious thing on the planet.  Tons of graceful and light orange peel and tobacco leaf with underlying cinnamon, cedar and tea notes.

In those tea notes came the tea tannins that make (one element) of Heredia so unique.  Gorgeous finish that made me want to stay in the finish forever.

Easy acid but prevalent, easy tannins but prevalent.  The creamy, bright and focused fruit showed up later and about 2/3 of the way down that told me a longer decant would have helped but how would we know?  With the 40-minute decant, we were happy and satisfied.

Didn't burst out of the glass with a personality that needed to express itself like the 2001, showing more of a settled and brooding disposition with lots to say underneath if you gave it time.

We could tell there was some struggle with the vintage here but as with nearly everything that Heredia makes, in the end, you're going to get the goods.

Pairing:  94  The food seemed made specifically for the wine

Perfectly medium-bodied food with a perfectly medium-bodied wine with secondary flavors that played right into each other.

Orange juice/zest notes in the piquillo marmalade slid right into the orangey notes in the wine while the cinnamon and tea notes in the wine seemed a perfect wine with the lamb.

Had all the Spanish-y garlic, sherry vinegar and onion floating all around that picked up the best elements of the tempranillo as Spanish food does so well, making it taste like so much More while mint and parsley, sprinkled liberally over the entire plate, accentuated and extended the wonderfully graceful finish in the wine beautifully.

Last night was a flavor combination seemingly made for What We Like.

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