Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#239 - TWIB Notes: This Week In Bottles


That's all I gotta say 'bout that.

So Merry Christmas-Happy Holidays to everyone out there looking for a wine pairing and stumbling across our humble little website.  Or if you've somehow been redirected from a dental implant (?) site as it says in my statistics page.  The mind is awhirl with ideas how THAT happened.

Wooly bubbles, an out-of-this-world bargain Eiswein, a disappointing Heredia and Hema's Kitchen made at home highlight this week's roundup.

Let's get started.

Meal #1 - Pork liver pâté, Chaource cheese and baguette with Anselmann blanc de noir Eiswein & Ayala Zero Dosage Champagne

A Christmas Eve lunch of pork liver pâté from City Provisions.  Straight-forward pâté in the best sense.  You want pork liver pâté?  This is pork liver pâté.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Fresh, clean, liver deep and quite tasty.  Chaource cheese from Whole Foods.  Chaource sorta took over Delice de Bourgogne at our go-to cheese this year, this one two weeks past expiration which seems to be the place it's best served, less moist but not dry, more intense and concentrated in flavor.  Baguette.

Served with a NV Ayala Zero Dosage Champagne ($42 - Binny's) for the cheese and 2007 Anselmann Blanc de Noir Eiswein (500ml - $20 - Trader Joe's) for the pâté, cuz the internets said such things like each other.  The Chaource and Champagne we knew.  The pâté and Eiswein we didn't, and Holy Moly!  It tastes like cranky old German man food goodness that they eat in the mid-afternoon at a café while they sit around and tell stories about why they hate people, ha-rumphing every 30 seconds to the background dulcet sounds of an accordion.

The Ayala Champagne offered little in the way of greatly interesting for us.  No sugar added, hence the name, showing a dry, cottony structure like sticking an old cotton shirt that's been sitting in your closet for ten years in your mouth.  Some nice yeast, citrus buried way deep and some intriguing notes of cinnamon and almond skin on occasion.  Nice balance and tasted mature with moments of youthful verve but never seemed to get going to a broader, more expanded place of second and third order deliciousness.  The only other bubbly we've had in this bone-dry style was the Peñalba Lopez Brut Nature Ribera Del Duero.  So far, we prefer that.  Still mingled nicely with the cheese but we've liked a more open-knit structure from bubbles with Chaource in the past.  Pairing Score:  86

The Anselmann Blanc de Noir Eiswein Pflaz was a different story (from pinot noir).  If you tried to preserve orange and tangerine peels in booze, cloves, allspice and sugar and then let it sit for a month, this is what you'd most likely get.  Just superlative stuff.  No experience with Eiswein outside of one or two here and there at restaurants.  Don't even remember what or where, but we're on board.  This one with the pâté brought a pairing so elevated, so new, so delicious, so pure and memorable that I'll be randomly craving six months from now.  Tasted OLD World.  Pairing Score:  95

Meal #2 - Plantain chicken and potatoes with 1991 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco ($41 - WDC)

Plantain chicken.  Seems like it's been years.  House favorite for many years but mysteriously abandoned for no other reason than we haven't really had a Heredia white or Királyudvar that we've craved, two wines that show best with plantain chicken.  Chicken thighs wrapped around: cheap lunch-meat ham, rosemary and mashed plantains.  Potatoes with a tomato-almond pesto for dipping.  Mâche salad to finish.  Always good.  Happy flavors.

The 1991 Heredia Tondonia Blanco disappointed.  And frankly, it follows a trend in our Heredia world.  Many of the mid-80s to early 90s, red or white, that we've had have been somewhat underwhelming, never leaving any sort of impression on us like so many others outside of that timeframe have.  I have no evidence to back it up but it almost seems like they dabbled in modernizing things during this period only to realize that going back to the Old Way they're known and loved for was the right thing to do.  Something about a fresh, more upfront, clear, chiseled edge to the fruit in this time period - red or white - that obscures any sort of mystery that makes Heredia...Heredia.  The '68 Tondonia is the best wine both of us have ever had.  The '78 Bosconia made us fall in love with Heredia. The '64 Tondonia turned me to jelly.  Some of the early aught reds are going to be freakin' lovely.  But the mid 80s to early 90s examples seem like a lost period to me and this was no exception.

Tasted like pineapple slices with a drizzle of buttermilk and almonds over the top and that's about it. No true length here with a burst of flavor reminiscent of Heredia all over the mid-palate and little else.  No mystery, nothing that spurred an impulse to dig or reflect or pause.  Straight-forward stuff with no Heredia-ness and nothing that indicates it's going to get better.  Played in the realm of good enough with the plantain chicken but the '96 Gravonia still reigns w/r/t this pairing.  Pairing Score:  85      

Meal #3 - Puttanesca with 2010 Trader Joe's "Growers Reserve (sic)" Sauvignon Blanc ($6 - TJ's)

Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, anchovies, capers, oil-cured olives, red pepper flakes, you know the score.  Stewed deliciousness that get in your bones.  Briny-anchovy-tomato greatness that always satisfies.

Red is the traditional pairing but white, particularly something acidic just blows up with puttanesca, offering something different.  Something about the acid matching the briny qualities allows all the other flavors to come to the fore and mingle beautifully.  I'd like to see how a Greco or falanghina performs with this meal but it's tough when a $6 California sauvignon blanc with an unknown provenance does so well.  Touch of grass, touch of lemon, even some minerals jump up while allowing you to taste every flavor in the puttanesca.  While an earthy sangiovese lets you play in the dark and dirty realms of puttanesca, I think we like how an acidic white lets us play in the brighter, cleaner puttanesca world.  Pairing Score:  90 

Meal #4 - Home Hema's With 2011 Crios Torrontés ($12) and NV Albero Brut Cava ($8)

This meal cost $30 total.  And that includes two bottles of wine.

We always love the Hema's Kitchen on Devon spread.  It might be my favorite restaurant in Chicago (complicated equation, that).  But that's $100 with wine (always these two wines in fact).  Mrs. Ney successfully approximated such a meal for a third of the cost.

Indian-spiced (ginger, coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, mustard seed, fenugreek) red lentils; Trader Joe's frozen masala dosa, homemade raita and whole wheat pita.  Deep Indian flavors galore.  Here we had Indian food and didn't feel like we were missing something by not getting Hema's.

The Crios was fine.  2011 along with the 2010 haven't lived up to the 2009 but each year it still brings the white flowers in the glass loveliness oh-so well.  The surprise came with the Albero.  At Hema's, its main purpose was to bring the refreshing, cleansing bubbles and acid with some nice green apple showing up as a bonus.  Never broad or brooding, we always loved what it brought.  With this meal, especially with the masala dosa, the Albero - and remember, this is $8 stuff from TJ's - became something we haven't found in cheaper bubbles, even Champagne bubbles, at three/four/five times the price.  This stuff became a precocious little bugger with tons of interesting things to say.  Lavender and cardamom notes with lemongrass water hits backing it up surprised the hell out of us.  Such an expanded profile and huge depth, like something we've never seen from this wine or were even hinted existed.  We've probably drunk this wine 20 times and never thought it could show this well.  Pairing Score:  96 for the Albero alone, the Crios brought the floral notes we wanted

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