Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Asian Bison, Momofuku Ginger-Ramp Sauce & Barley-Basil Business With 2013 Arnot-Roberts & Julia's Dazzle Rosés

A rosé throw-down made with REALLY non-indigenous grapes (or with grapes most people wouldn't think even existed in these AVA's...well...the Portuguese grapes actually have a long and somewhat forgotten history in California so...and sangiovese seems to really be catching on...OH, HELL, you get my drift!)

Arnot-Roberts uses touriga nacional and tinta cão from the Luchsinger Vineyard in the Clear Lake AVA for this rosé. Portuguese grapes from California gets a big 'yes' in our house every time. Sousão from Silvaspoons? C'mon! Where do I get that?

Julia's Dazzle, a joint project between Long Shadows owner Allen Shoup and winemaker Gilles Nicault, is 98% pinot grigio and a 2% splash of sangiovese, all from Horse Heaven Hills in Washington.

Served with Asian flavors toned down, to make sure it didn't scare the bejesus out of the wines.

And it worked...mostly. We got food and wine with opinions, which is all we ever really want.

Food: Asian bison flat-iron with Momofuku ginger-ramp sauce, cold barley-basil salad, and Asian blend greens

Bison flat-iron marinated in white miso, orange zest and juice, Thai bird chiles, garlic and sesame oil; seared a very pretty medium-rare.

Momofuku ginger scallion sauce with a few variations so as to not frighten the wine: ramps slightly charred under broiler; one finely-diced carrot added for texture; used non-neutral oil; ginger infused into evoo, then removed.

Cold barley 'salad' mixed with basil and togarashi, and drizzled with a dash of sesame oil.

Mariano's Asian blend salad with pomegranate seeds.

The result WAS food with opinions. And it came off a bit like beef and cold sesame noodles from The Silver Palate Cookbook, a collection of 80's staples that still (mostly) hold up, and a meal that occupies a happy place in my heart.

Pan-Asian flavors everywhere, yet never too aggressive - as we wanted to drink rosé, not thinned-out, limp wine that real Asian food goodness would have provided.

Quality dinner here.

The wines were a mixed bag.

Wine: 2013 Arnot-Roberts Rosé Lake County ($27 - Lush) & 2013 Julia's Dazzle Rosé Horse Heaven Hills ($15 - Binny's)

Alright...I have a completely unwarranted bias against touriga nacional. It's based in nothing, except having a few 100%-ers that left me saying, "It's Portuguese for boring cabernet" (not so much) under my breath. And I also have a bias against Dão reds, which is also based in very little. To me, they come off first and foremost like they don't want to offend. So I went in to the Arnot-Roberts with an mostly open mind and a sprinkle of "Does it have to be touriga nacional?"

We ended up liking it with reservations. Strawberries galore with a hint of wild, floral herbs to start, then it was taken over by a well water quality that careened into the aforementioned cheap Dão territory, the kind of well water that oddly tastes like driving through the industrial parts of a European city smells, on a day when the metallic red dust was really flyin'. But it was still bright, moderately refreshing, distinctive enough, and we're glad we have another bottle. And for all the buggy-bear love this house has for anything Portuguese, we've yet to have a rosé that we loved. Something about Portuguese red grapes that don't translate well to rosé for us (I'm sure I'll have one next week that I'll love and then I'll be wrong again about wine things previously thought to be gospel).

The Julia's Dazzle, though, had a refreshing, simple, roundness to it that saddled up to the food quite nicely. Nothing infinitely complex here, just a rosé with a friendliness that was willing to adapt. Tasted like honeydew melon that was lightly drizzled with some sort of red berry coulis, yet stayed dry-ish and cleansing. Lifty and spritely, simple yet ingratiating. It knew what it wanted to be and became that.

Pairing: No complaints

We really did like both of these wines with the food. I consciously reached for the Arnot-Roberts more early on because I wanted to like it. But as Mrs. Ney said, it kept coming off like the guy at the party with one too many sarcastic jokes. After awhile, it got to the point of 'enough already.' But this rosé seems more fitted to a Farmers' Market Jubilee-type dinner (Lincoln Square opens June 3), and another Arnot-Roberts Trousseau is overdue.

The Julia's Dazzle was more flattering, even a touch slutty with the food. It wanted to be liked so it cozied up and did everything it could to make the food like it. Even to the point of getting a lil handsy at times.      

We typically want something classy. Who doesn't?

But it doesn't hurt to show a little leg at times.

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