Tuesday, January 24, 2012

#245 - Spanish-Style Hanger & Almond-Saffron Potatoes With '05 Pico Madama

Last night's progression on the thoughts of the wine:

1.  Meh
2.  Ummm...
3.  Certainly has a lot going on...
4.  This is pretty good stuff but not really our bag...
5.  I don't know...kinda like it...wouldn't buy it again...
6.  Well...if it was on sale...
7.  I think this might have a place...
8.  Crap...there's a lot going on here...
9.  I'm not saying I wouldn't buy it again...
10.  Boy, that settles and sits reeeally well.

A 50/50 monastrell/petit verdot, we expected more of an interesting diversion than something that was going to sit in our wheelhouse with such a Spanish-Spanish meal.  I can't say we loved this wine with the food but I can say that our opinion of the wine grew more and more favorable throughout the meal.  Not because it necessarily opened up as the meal progressed (though it did a little bit), more because we sort of gave ourselves over to what it offered - its generosity, its limitations and all.

Food:  Spanish hanger steak, Juanita's almond-saffron potatoes and arugula

Medium-rare hanger steak slathered with tons of smoked paprika and garlic.  Delicious as always with a dark and dirty char.  Juanita's potatoes made with almonds, garlic, saffron, bay, sherry vinegar, the usual.   This time a lemon boiling in the water with the potatoes.  Parsley dumped over everything. We love these potatoes.  Just flip for them.  Something about this batch had that something extra.  Just fantastic stuff.  Perfect amount of everything and the star of the meal.  The almond-saffron goop with the hanger steak became a Taste Of Spain in the most superlative way possible.  Garlic at the fore tempered by paprika, almond and saffron with a perfect touch of a sherry vinegar background.

Arugula salad with olive oil and the best balsamic I think I've ever had, the Fustini's 18-year. Sweet and creamy finesse here to the nth degree.

Simple stuff that was made more great by its simplicity.

Wine:  2005 Pico Madama Jumilla ($34 - WDC)

50/50 monastrell and petit verdot, as I said.  Hour and a half decant and it needed it.  Essentially a medium-bodied wine, shy at first, needing an interested audience, coming off like someone who can get lost amongst the louder talkers in the room but once the right social balance is found, he/she finds their legs and takes over the room with their charm and grace.

So many flavors floating around, changing throughout the meal.  Graphite and rocks, flowers and blackberry, burnt matchsticks and subtle oak, cherries and nuts.  Tannins are young but open and accommodating with air and an overall pretty structure throughout the drinking.  Both of us thought that if given blind, we'd think it was some solid off-region Bordeaux in a weird way.  Had that same streamlined, peculiar Bordeaux character where you can taste the emphasis placed on structure, if that makes sense.

A very nice wine that opened our eyes a touch more to the goodness of Jumilla, monastrell and petit verdot.  Very little experience in that arena (more with mourvèdre, not the Spanish expression) but we're more open to such things now because of this wine. Don't know how more open that is...just more open.

Tons of life in this one.  Just starting to open up.

Pairing:  90  Fell somewhat in love with it and a bite of potato, less so with the meat

Nothing in the realm of overall great here but tons of little nuggets that kept our attention.  Considering we gave a shrug of our shoulders in the beginning, thinking the meal would be merely fine, this one became a winner over time.

That was brought on more by how everything settled and sat with the meal.  The wine's elegance, if not its match-matchiness with the food, elevated the pairing to something very much liked during and after the meal.  Especially after.  A clean, satisfied feeling washed over both of us.

Another example that begs the question, "Who has dinner without wine?"

Quick note: Sunday Gravy on Sunday with a 2005 Sagrantino di Montefalco ($10 - Trader Joe's).

Lamby Sunday Gravy made with lamb bones in the sugo and homemade lamb meatballs.  More subtle than usual in a good way.  Garlic bread for topping, dipping and goodness.  It's a favorite along with the rest of the meal.

The Sagrantino is the Goretti wine with his name taken off to appease his restaurant clients and most likely because 2005 was an average vintage in Umbria with rain during harvest (the label is unmistakably his).  Something happened because Trader Joe's got a ton of it.  Knew nothing about the sagrantino grape before drinking this.  Indigenous to Umbria, this one came off like a Chianti for the most part with very similar acid play, medium body and food-friendliness.  Darker than most Chiantis in this price range, there's a lot to like, especially for $10.  We wouldn't have been disappointed in the least for twice that and a great alternative for the Querceto/Ruffino fans.

Blackberry coffee blend with tons of herbs and a black olive gnarlyness while showing a nice maturity.  Not a simple wine, certainly a bargain, gained oodles more complexity with air and played with the Italian-ness of the food in the way Italian wines do so well.  Pairing Score:  89

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