Thursday, January 5, 2012

#242 - TWIB Notes: This Week In Bottles

Let's do a connect-the-meals-with-wines puzzle!

Here are the wines:

1.  2009 Ponzi Pinot Noir
2.  2006 Ponzi Pinot Noir
3.  2004 Terre Rough Syrah Sentinel/Pyramid Block
4.  NV De Vallois Saumur Brut
5.  2005 Edmond Cornu & Fils Chorey-les-Beaune

And here are the meals:

1.  Roasted Chicken, Moondust Cheese & Mâche
2.  Braised Pork Shoulder, Savory Scones & Brussels Sprouts
3.  Szechuan Peppercorn Tuna, Roasted Beets & Frisée
4.  Semiramis Hummus & Dolmas

Clue:  the tuna and white Burgundy would have been terrible together!

Frankly (who's Frank?  Frank Lee Gifford!), only one pairing really worked on a superlative level and another was just flat-out awful.

Meal #1:  Semiramis hummus, dolmas & maamoul cookies with NV De Vallois Saumur Brut ($20 - Binny's)

What was supposed to be a light lunch in anticipation of a roasted chicken & white Burgundy dinner delight filled us up tremendously.  Beans expand.  But the usual deliciousness from Semiramis.  What was rather "meh" about the meal came from the Saumur bubbly, something we'd never had before, bubbles from Saumur that is.

Chenin blanc and chardonnay.  Medium bubbles, a medium-dark yellow in the glass, good texture, everything proper and good.  A flavor combo of ginger and peaches with background lemon and salt.  What's not to like?  We didn't hate this, even enjoyed it well enough, but the dryness, instead of concentrating flavors or offering a sturdy backbone for the ginger/peach/lemon/salt to jump in and out, play around and get all-together interesting, the dryness tended to obscure the delicious factor for the most part.  It kept the baby in a corner and everybody knows you can't keep baby in a corner.  It missed that pizzazz, that it factor to keep us going back to the glass with gusto.  Saumur and hummus is a winner.  Here, it wasn't so much.  Pairing Score:  85

Meal #2:  Aforementioned roasted chicken, moondust cheese and mâche salad with 2005 Edmond Cornu & Fils Chorey-les-Beaune ($24 - WDC)

Oddly full from the above lunch, we nonetheless plowed through and moved onto dinner, which sorta blew and it wasn't the food's fault.  A superior roasted chicken (à la Thomas Keller), cracklin' skin, moist meat, great juice, all together good stuff.  Quebecois "moondust" cheese with baguette, a new favorite.  This was Good Food!

And we really couldn't care much about it.  Our fullness contributed somewhat but the real failure - utter, utter failure - came from the wine. This is TK chicken and white Burgundy.  This is our wheelhouse.  And this rather sucked.  Easily one of the worst pairings in a long time, rivaling (oddly) another TK chicken and white Burgundy from a year ago and (oddly) almost to the day.

Nothing technically wrong with this wine.  It was just so damn boring!  Smoke, pineapple, apple, banana, honey and dull/sparse minerals, all of it upfront and in our face.  Came off aggressive and obvious, loud like an episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (I wanted to reach for the volume control) and nothing in the way of grace or nuance.  This one's liked by the trusted person I bought it from and on the interwebs.  Awkward phase?  We don't need to find out.  With roasted chicken and white Burgundy, it has to hit that place.  Very little wiggle room or large spectrum of goodness.  It's *&$% or get off the pot.  This pairing tastes...constipated.  Pairing Score:  44 

Meal #3:  Szechuan peppercorn tuna and roasted beets over frisée with two Ponzi Pinot Noirs (both $30 - both from Binny's)

Since changing over to oil-cured tuna for Niçoise to save a bit of money recently, true-blue tuna has been absent since late August, when we had this exact same meal and wine.

This one vastly outperformed the August meal, mainly because the quality of the tuna was such pure and pristine Whole Foods good ness compared to the Whole Foods dull and rather chewy cut last time.

Flawless tuna here.  Flawless, flawless, flawless.  Cooked rare and crusted with pink peppercorns, szechuan peppercorns, coriander, cardamom, ginger and thyme.  Flavor explosion similar to the first time we had this preparation (a 99er...pairing score, not OWS lingo), an experience that tasted "new" in the most grand way that time and this time.

Delicious roasted beets with cumin-seed vinaigrette again.  Freakin' beets.  Who knew?  All of it over a frisée salad (much better than pea shoot salad - they can be a prickly struggle at times) with pomegranate seeds and Seeduction bread, kerrygold butter and rose petal jam on the side.

Deathbed meal?  Deathbed meal.

Popped a 2009 Ponzi Pinot Noir, our first for this vintage from a favorite winery.  Not lovin' it.  Doesn't grip us.  Ponzi acid, Ponzi body, definitely a Ponzi but a bit mushy, showing a more cranberry and spiced raspberry singular number, missing that distinct black tea, loam and autumn leaves that pops with the previous Ponzi vintages that expands and stretches the wine to something like Huggy Bear Love.  Short.  This bottle randomly showed up at Binny's.  Just one bottle sitting in a sea of 2008s a long time ago, like it was a sample bottle sent (weird storage issue?).  We'll be buying more but this first tasting of the 2009, a vintage that wasn't exactly great in Oregon, won't cause us to run out as soon as possible and gobble up more.

So we switched over to a 2006 rather quick and got THE GOODS!  Last one, unfortunately.  All black tea and little wisps of earth cascading down with Ponzi's signature earth-wrapped cherry fruit, popping all along the way with a long, almost pause-worthy finish.  Still just great stuff and sung beautifully with the great quality of the tuna and dancing so wonderfully with the beets.  Pairing Score:  94 with the 2006, 82 with the 2009  

Meal #4:  Braised pork shoulder, savory scones and Brussels sprouts with a 2004 Terre Rouge Sentinel Oak Vineyard Pyramid Block ($26 - WDC)

Pork shoulder marinated in raisins, honey, sherry vinegar with [parsley, thyme, rosemary], braised in marinade with fennel bulb; crisped up à la tinga in cast iron skillet.

A sauce "gravy":  onions, bacon, bay leaves, chicken stock, molasses; solids strained out, and thickened with leftover gingerbread.

Served with Brussels sprouts:  sautéed in tinga skillet; aleppo, white balsamic vinegar.

Savory scones from this recipe, using golden raisins instead of currants.

New flavors here.  A pork shoulder braise that tasted molten and deep but never heavy or leaden. Great Brussels sprouts as well but the savory scones were something special.  Can't recommend them more highly, tasting like something Blackbird might come up with.

Both of us thought all three elements, while magically delicious, only integrated themselves together on a base level without marrying together in a superlative way.  That said, this entire meal tasted of a new food world I hadn't had before and would eat again next week and the week after.  Great flavors all around.

The wine served well on a base level as well but got pushed around a bit.  Nothing in the way of enormous depth or wondrous syrah-ness, just a medium-bodied jingle showing plum, sage and sometimes a touch of licorice.  But the wine's acid was AWOL with the scones, perked up nicely with the pork shoulder and turned raspy with the Brussels sprouts.  The wine's matured to a place where only a year or so is left of interesting interestingness and overall, it's merely "fine enough" but the tenuous structure made for a pairing that never got out of the realm of "I'll forget I drank you in a week."  A nice $15 wine right now.  That's about it.  Pairing Score:  86

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