Thursday, February 2, 2012

#249 - Fregola 'Risotto,' Borlotti Beans & Pancetta With '05 Colonial Estate Exile

We had something close to pairing perfection two days ago.

Right after cracking the Colonial Estate Exile, taking a sip and tasting a chunk of Rogue Smoky Blue, I thought we were going to beat it.  At least approach it.

We didn't beat it but got close.

Tons of extreme like here.

Blood marinated in balsamic.  Who doesn't want that?

Drink it with a big mound of slightly goopy goodness and you got yoself sum lovin'.

Food:  Fregola 'risotto,' borlotti beans, La Quercia pancetta, fennel, shallots, pine nuts, pearl onions, carrots, chicken stock, basil and Rogue Creamery Smoky Blue Cheese

All the above mixed into a big, pause-worthy pile of delicious wonderment with Fustini 18-year balsamic drizzled over everything.

Looked like "a bunch of stuff" on the plate and brought some incredible depth and balanced flavors.

Sounds rich but it wasn't.  Never crossed the Rubicon into rich.  Approached it but never crossed.  In fact, I'd say it was defined more by the carrot-fennel-onion-borlotti bean base than the pancetta and selected dollops of smoky cheese.

And everyone should know Fustini's balsamic.  It's what's good.  Before this balsamic, I haven't had good balsamic on a regular basis.

Great meal and a great example of taking rich ingredients and using them as accents instead of simply piling on, hiding the more delicate flavors that broaden out a meal.

Wine:  2005 Colonial Estate Exile Barossa ($50 - Binny's)

Grapes:  85% Shiraz, 10% Mourvedre, and 5% Grenache 
Vintage (WS):  96 - Drink or Hold - Ideal weather made balanced, generous wines

A Jonathan Malthus project that ended in 2009, the Exile comes from vines previously used by Penfolds Grange.  We've had a few Malthus wines in the past (Colonial Estate's Envoy along with Saint-Émilion's Teyssier and LaForge) and enjoyed them well enough (and I'm intrigued by the World's End project in Napa).  The Exile is different.  This is decadence with shocking, unexpected balance.

15.5% alcohol but we never felt it.  It's a big one but generosity was the descriptor more than over-the-top or massive.  Open texture, plenty of tannin hidden beautifully by everything else it offered and a wine that brought the goods in a way that made us want more rather than being overwhelmed by its bigness.

Opened an hour before the meal.  No decant.  We were fine with where it was upon first open and that proved to be the case throughout the drinking.  Grilled, smoky meat nose.  Huge nose.  Blood marinated in balsamic, chocolate marinated in blood, campfire ash, some jerky, plenty of darker berry fruit at its core and everything revolved around that.  The fruit served as a guider for all the secondary flavors more than overwhelming the party.  Nice brushy herb notes.  Thought it might be thick at first but never proved to be the case.  Bigger, sure but great balance and form.

Plenty of life ahead but we loved where it was.  And we could taste exactly where it was.  Nicely defined flavors that wear its future story on its sleeve.  We want more to follow its tale.

$150 release price.  Got it for $50 at Binny's.  

Pairing:  93  Not what we expected but wonderful in every way.  Great mirroring of flavors.

I was surprised how fresh everything tasted.  The wine and the food.  Pancetta.  Smoky Blue.  Huge Aussie Shiraz.  Fresh wasn't on my mind before tasting it.  I thought a warm blanket connotation was the way it was going to go.  Didn't get that.  A fresh angle with warm blanket accents was the end result.  Same with the wine.  Fresh.  Nice acid.  Clean flavors.  Great balance.

Funny in a way.  Here were two elements that should have been big but weren't and both were that at exactly the same level, which made for a pretty great pairing.

The success came in the match-matchy weightiness with both elements taking reconnaissance missions into rich but never making an all-out assault.  Tough to get into details as the plate of food was a mixed pile of morsels but the Smoky Blue and pancetta bites made the smoky elements in the wine jump while a more mellow bite let the wine show its softer, more sensitive side.

Great stuff together.  Great stuff apart.  Better together so...big success.

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