Sunday, September 11, 2011

#221 - TWIB Notes: This Week In Bottles

Our last post, Bill Kim chicken, soba noodles and white asparagus with the 2003 Hirtzberger Axpoint Grüner Veltliner, was the highlight of our grub and drink week but with a week off work for the annual September restaurant vacation, food and wine together at dinner every night nicely complimented my pokey, meandering, highly unproductive hiatus from asking, "Would you like another Coke?"

Some value plays in this week's TWIB Notes.  Friendly French on three occasions, one fine and good enough German offering and a deliciously surprising back-and-forth with two off-region tempranillos, with all the wines under $20.

Not much explanation of food prep for this week's TWIB Notes as I don't have detailed descriptions.

#1 - Farro pasta and lentils with 2009 Domaine Sainte-Eugénie Corbières Rosé ($12 - Howard's)

A modification of a Lidia's Italy recipe, last used with orrechiette and paired with the delicious De Falco Falanghina.  This time made with farro pasta which, after the cooking started, Mrs. Ney realized had the fiber content of Colon Blow cereal...with the added bonus of being made with lentils.  So far, so good.  That's all I'll say.

Nicely cooked pasta made it a tasty success.  A bit of bite added to a well-integrated carrot-celery-tomato-garlic-bay sauce that tasted like something more than the sum of its ingredients.  Light but filling and made better by the open, friendly and cheap Corbières Rosé.  Balanced with little perks of brushy raspberry and mineral (75% Cinsault, 15% Syrah and 10% Grenache).  The food and wine offered the same weight, which went a long way in wanting to reach for the glass after a bite of food.  That made for a breezy and sunny pairing very much wanted.  I probably won't remember the name of this wine a week from now but genial stuff here.  And cheap.

#2 - Ropa vieja, plantains and garlic bread with 2007 Stafford Hills Tempranillo ($15 - In Fine Spirits) and 2006 Nashwauk Tempranillo ($16 - Binny's)

Best food and best pairing of the week here.  Such a surprise.  The pairing was informed by the perfection attained by previous ropa vieja/Cubany food goodness with the tempranillo-based Villa Creek Mas de Maha.  The ropa vieja made with chuck roast, tasting like what I would imagine it would be like to be in Havana with no lunch plans and dipping into a nondescript restaurant on a nondescript street, dropping $4 for a plate of food and coming out thinking, "These people eat this good everyday?"

Had some off-region tempranillos that had to be drunk and expected precisely nothing from either.  We got so much more.  A great back-and-forth that became better by having both at the table as both offered something different to the meal.  We wouldn't have guessed the Stafford Hill (a second label of Holloran Winery, the same place that makes the J. Christopher label) was a tempranillo.  Simple dusty cherry upfront with a cherry Charleston Chew quality underneath.  Nice.  Served as a more pure, lighter and fruit-forward wine to some of the brighter notes in the food.  Wouldn't buy it again but served a purpose.

Unlike the Stafford Hill, we could identify the Nashwauk as a tempranillo with its signature leather notes and still giving fading but still very much present, very dark cherry fruit.  Better length than the Stafford Hill with surprises throughout the meal that kept coming even after about an hour and a half open.  If I could convey ten pairings that work oh-so beautifully with this blog, one of them is that New World tempranillo and Cubany food is Stupid Great.

#3 - Semiramis with 2009 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc ($17 - WDC)

Two orders of hummus, fattoush, dolmas and a chicken and spinach (not baby, which was a change and delicious) special with feta and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.  We spent the meal discussing the fact that if we ever left Chicago, of the three or four places we'd miss dearly, Semiramis and Hema's would be in the running for #1 and #2.

Paired this time with the 2009 version of Domaine Guiberteau's blanc.  Two Aprils ago, the 2007 version and hummus exploded into the stratosphere with delicious pairing delights.  Less so this time in every respect.  Nice to have the 2009 there, becoming more like most of the wines we bring to Semiramis, which is usually more of a standard, welcome accompaniment than anything special.  Compared to the 2007, the 2009 came off less complex and deep, offering the usual solid chenin flavors.  Not perfunctory but didn't sparkle.  Never got in the way, which at Semiramis is just fine with us.

#4 - Lamb meatballs, simmered onion-tomato combo and rice with 2009 Selected by Kermit Lynch VDP du Vaucluse Rouge ($12 - Binny's)

Desperately wanted a 2001 López de Heredia Bosconia with this meal but, like multiple reports of this bottling around the internet, it was corked, tasting like rotten meat even after an hour decant.  Too bad as we had a tapa spread with this vintage of Bosconia two August ago that was off the charts and wonderfully ponderous.  Opened a 2007 Descendientes de Jose Palacios "Petalos" Bierzo with a similar result.  Watery, hollow core.

We somewhat learned our lesson and didn't chase the pairing with progressively more expensive offerings and opened the Kermit Lynch Vaucluse Rouge (55% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Merlot, 10% Marselan <--- that's new to me).  We liked the food, didn't love the food, but the Vaucluse was cordial and hospitable, making for a dinner liked more because of it.

Nice stuff here.  Not as silly delicious as the 50/50 chardonnay/viognier Kermit Lynch's Vaucluse Blanc - a bottle that can no longer be found in Chicago unfortunately - but it hits all the notes one wants from a cheap Rhône all wrapped in a zippy package.  Buying more at that price.
#5 - Imitation crab pasta with 2007 Sprietzer Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Kabinett ($18 - WDC)

Post-vacation finances made for an imitation crab appearance.  Simple linguini/spaghetti-ish pasta bowl with basil, spinach, garlic, olive oil, etc.  Both of us weren't thrilled by the dish but the fresh Italian prep meant the fork continued to go in the bowl in an agreeable manner.  Light and good enough stuff.  Same for the wine.

Served with a pretty German riesling that didn't leave much of an impression.  Chalky and minerally with somewhat generic citrus notes that leaned more towards lime with a shortish, meyer lemon finish and faint echoes of sugar.  Coming off the out-of-this-world Hirtzberger Axpoint the day before, the Sprietzer didn't have much of a chance to get our attention.  The inevitable and unfair comparisons...

Mrs. Ney has lamented some of the food offerings this week but in my world, especially after writing this up, I say, "That wasn't too shabby of a food week at all!"

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