Thursday, July 28, 2011

#211 - Rosemary Lamb & Potato-Kale Cake With A 2000 Amarone

Trying to till through sparse or vague reviews for a wine bought at a bargain and figuring out how to drink it can be a difficult plough.

We got this 2000 Amarone at a steep discount, down to $35 from $60, which was probably flag #1.

A mid-level producer from a very fine vintage in Amarone, recommendations on wines from top-end producers in Amarone typically want people to wait ten, sometimes twenty years before drinking them and most don't even release them until five years after the vintage.  Here's one that should be forging ahead quite nicely yet...nearly 50% off.

Then there was the Wine Spectator review:

90  Intense, with currants, herbs and a tinge of iodine. Full-bodied and smooth, with concentrated fruit and mineral flavors. Very fine tannins that firm up a bit on the finish. Bitter chocolate aftertaste. Needs time. Best after 2006. 950 cases made. –JS

Looking back after drinking it, some more flags.  The review was done upon release, in 2005, yet we have a "needs time" followed by a "best after 2006."  A short gap followed by an absence of a real drinking window and pretty generic descriptors used for an Amarone translates to a wine that is "fiiiinnnne" and good enough or typical but nothing exciting.

That's what we got as well, along with typically good lamb, a shockingly delicious potato-kale cake and an "Oregonzola" cheese from Rogue Creamery to pair with the Amarone that blew us away.

But shiraz or syrah was the play here.

Food:  Rosemary lamb and potato-kale cake with Oregonzola and stravecchio parmesan

Lamb marinated in garlic, rosemary and dijon with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and soy sauce.    Medium rare and good stuff.  The copious amounts of rosemary perked up all the acid in the other ingredients to great effect.

Potato-kale cake, a Catalonian mountain recipe from The New Spanish Table, is similar to Spanish tortilla or onion-potato gratin but even more simple along with being dairy and egg-free, this one with a bit of pancetta added.  Potatoes, kale, onion, La Quercia pork, garlic, salt and olive oil essentially boiling the potatoes, cooking the kale, sautéing up the onions and pancetta, combining the ingredients in a big pan and goldening up the combo in the oven.  We were shocked how bright and perfectly bitter the kale was.  Just enough of everything while coming off light for a potato cake.  Wonderful.  Kale is now on the menu.

"Oregonzola" cheese from Rogue Creamery in Oregon.  A gorgonzola type was prudent with Amarone as it along with blue cheeses is considered one of the pairings in the world that are perfect.  Mrs. Ney doesn't even enjoy gorgonzola but loved this one.  So fresh and clean for a blue cheese, tasting like New World cheese in the best way, finding all the good and leaving out the footy-moldy quality some blues can have.  We like, sometimes love, the funk of Old World cheeses but it has to hit us in the right form.  This one was great stuff, mainly because we didn't want the funk in a cheese style both of us don't really care about.  Sarvecchio parmesan as well to play into the expected nuttiness found in the secondary flavors of Amarone.  Meh.  Creamy and fruity without much personality.  Liked it enough, didn't love it.

We ate well and the meal was the polar opposite of the Shrimp On Fire mouth burn from the night before.  Also, the meal followed a typical path - winter food in the dead of summer (and vice versa).  Something about that we like.

But the wine was out of place for the most part.

Wine:  2000 Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Ca' Florian ($35 - Binny's)

Popped it two hours before the meal to see how this one should be handled.  Fine structurally right out of the bottle so the cork went right back in.

Very medium-bodied with a short finish and the absence of that velvety quality, all three surprising from an Amarone, smelling of concentrated red fruits doused in fig liqueur and pretty much tasting of that as well.  Acid was alive but took a back seat to a boring fruit profile playing around with a touch of discount chocolate.  Smooth and easy but the levels weren't talking to each other.  Never flat necessarily, just sort of personality-free.  Felt like it was struggling to offer more, offering some herb play on intermittent occasions, but never got there.

The weird thing was that is came off like it could taste like this for at least a few more years.  Enough acid and tannin was around in Amarone form to think it could drink this boring for a few more years.

Thought about switching up, even tried a couple of kitchen wines, but ended up staying with it because of what it offered with the kale cake and Oregonzola.

Pairing:  83  Beware the bargain bin, even with a meal catered to the wine

In retrospect, the nearly 50% off price tag told the story.

But there were some winners here in tiny forms.  The pairing could almost be considered a good one if we just had kale cake and Oregonzola cheese as a teeny-tiny complexity and proper structure showed up in the wine with both.  But we had a delicious protein that simply wasn't talking to the wine, making the wine come off thin and insipid.

Shiraz, syrah or even pinot noir with the kale not being as big as we thought could have and probably should have been the wine for this one.

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