Last night, we had my good blogger friend John, The Wine Raconteur, and his wife over for dinner at our place. The dinner had been a long time in the making, and I am glad we finally got to it. It has become a Christmas tradition in Nina’s parents’ house for me to cook a boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy) “between the years”, as we call the period after Christmas and before work starts again in early January. I had to tweak my established recipe (over at FX Cuisine’s stunning food blog) a bit, and figured John and his wife would not mind being the guinea pigs to give the new recipe a try.
I have always loved this dish, and pride myself in having mastered quite some skill in its preparation. It is time consuming, with the marinating and dealing with the meat, but it is also so rewarding! This photo is from FX Cuisine, and mine looks pretty much like this (and yes, I do serve it with mashed potatoes as well!):
As a French classic, a Burgundy Pinot Noir is normally a must to accompany this dish, but John had something else in mind. He had recently acquired a bunch of single vineyard reserve Pinot Noirs from California-based Tudor Wines and wanted to share this wine, which was very generous. He knows of my reservations as regards California Pinot Noirs (too fruit-driven, not enough earthy aromas), so he grinned and informed me that this had enough “dirt” in it. And oh boy, it did. We were drinking the 2007 Tudor Tondre Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands. It was such a pleasant surprise: The initial taste was this wonderful earthiness that a light Pinot Noir carries when done right, and it stretched through the mid-palate, only to be taken over a by surprising fruitiness of sweet cherry and berries. This fruit explosion was in no way a problem, it was so well integrated and part of the earthy tones. Just a great wine, wonderful with the meal as well.
After we were done with the Tudor bottle and our dinner, and conversation was flowing naturally back and forth, I was making eye contact with Nina. We had a bottle of Riesling in the fridge, but it didn’t feel right to crack that bottle just now. As John’s wife was describing how much she enjoys Cabernet Francs and has a penchant for big wines (just like Nina), Nina suggested we should open our last bottle of 2007 Tukulu Pinotage. John reported that he had only ever tasted his first Pinotage at a recent tasting and seemed not very keen on reliving that experience (who can blame him, a lot of the stuff sold here is not up to par), but we insisted. Nina and I have had a weak spot for good Pinotage ever since our time in Botswana, were amazing wines from this grape were available. Tukulu quickly became my favorite producer back then, and has remained so since. Tukulu was one of the first wineries in South Africa to be run by black entrepreneurs and deems itself a black empowerment project (granted, I do like the winery for that reason alone!). This particular bottle had been sitting for a while, and Cellartracker kept nagging me that its drinking window was closing…man, was Cellartracker wrong. The wine poured in a gorgeous purplish red, and swirled heavily through the glass. The nose was fresh and enticing, with typical rubber and dirt aromas mixed with red fruit. On the palate, the wine was wonderfully fresh. Great acidity, lots and lots of earthiness, mixed in that unique style that only good Pinotage can achieve with red fruit. Stunning, and by far not nearing the end of its drinking window.
Instead of dessert, as is common in our household, we opened a 2003 Vereinigte Hospitien Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Spätlese. You all know my love for aged Rieslings by now, and this one did not disappoint. Petrol aromas in the nose, some mineral aromas and citrus. On the palate, the wine was a stunning mix of toffee and vanilla and underlying acidity and yellow fruit aromas. It still tasted very fresh, and was not on its way to (what I loosely describe as) the more sherry-like qualities of even older Rieslings. By this I am referring to a narrower scope of aromas, and a “thinner” mouthfeel (thanks to Frank for making me explain this a bit more!). I love this stage in a Riesling’s development: still supple and a good mouthful, but turning more towards the caramel side. In general, I find the 2003 Mosel Rieslings are great to drink at the moment, so if you have a bottle in your cellar, give it a try!
All in all we spanned three continents last night. Add in that we talked about our Asian trip as well, and we can make that four. I love how wine can do that, so easily. But as always, the best wines are worth nothing if not had in delightful company.
My friend, I am so glad to see you back, firing on all cylinders, so to speak! :-)
What a wonderful post, and look at you: cooking boeuf bourguignon with mashed potatoes! Francesca will be very proud of you! :-)
Beside the marvelous food and the wonderful company, what a great trio of wines you had! I loved your precise tasting notes and I think I would have loved all of them. Your notes on the Riesling made me of course think of our get together and also made me long for more!
Thanks my friend. I know it has been too long. I will try to keep it up, but life intervenes, you know what I am talking about…
As we established before, all I am craving for is Francesca’s approval, so I accept that honor with glee!
The wines really were three outstanding examples of their genre, and that would have made for a great night alone.
We need to figure out a way by which we can get together for an extended tasting not too far in the future…
I think it is time for me to throw in my two cents. Oliver and Nina were very gracious hosts and Oliver made a wonderful dinner, that I will also write about as the Muse strikes me. I think that the Chianti had enough body to add to the dish, and the house had a wonderful aroma as we walked in. As for political discussions, the thought ever crossed my mind when there is wonderful friends, food and wines to enjoy. It was a delight to hear Oliver discuss some of the great times he has had the pleasure of sharing with other bloggers as well. I do think the evening warrants two articles as it was so delightful.
John, thanks so much for your take on things! As you said, it was a great evening. I am looking forward to your extended take on it. Glad the Chianti worked for you as well!!
Where do you stand on what wine to use while cooking? A lot of people follow the rule – don’t cook with anything you wouldn’t drink. But I don’t like the idea of using an expensive, aged Barolo in Beef Barolo. Or a terrific Burgundy in yours. I’d opt for the shitty bottle of $10 Cali Pinot…
Oh, John, thanks for asking this question!! I never am sure how much of the food stuff I should post because I want to keep the focus on wine…
I think I will write a separate post about what wine to use for cooking at one point. I also see no sense in using expensive wine in cooking. I am rather convinced it is a marketing genius idea of wine distributors. The subtle flavors of great reds would totally get lost in a dish like this one. And, when I asked my host family back in Dijon on what wine to use, they pointed at the lowest shelf in the supermarket wine section, where the “Burgundy Pinot Noirs” were 3 euros. I miss those price ranges…
That said, not sure a Cali Pinot with its fruit forward aromas would work that well. I opted for a cheap chianti that I knew had enough earthy tones to come through…but that might just be me. :)
Then again, it might also be that I am willing to drink almost anything, so the rule technically still applies…;)
sounds heavenly )
I agree! By the looks of it…
Thanks guys, it was really something. One of those nights you expect to go well, and then they go beyond…
I love aged Rieslings, but unfortunately, I usually end up drinking them before they get to the aged point . . . sounds like a WUNDERBAR evening!! Prost!
Thanks!! Similar issue for me, which is why I am always happy to find library wines at wineries in Germany to take to the US: perfectly aged, and in great condition!
I have another bottle of 1976 Riesling… first come, first served….
Wow! That sounds like a great evening. The food and the wine. Will have to keep a look out for that Tudor Pinot especially.
John got it from the winery, I hope you can find it somewhere…definitely outside my usual price range….
Oh. And if it’s outside your usual price range, um…. Oh, heck. I’ll still keep my eyes peeled.
It seems as though we have similar experiences with the Cellar tracker tasting windows–I use them as a guide but almost invariably find them waaaaay to conservative (but then I, too, like some age on my wine). I hope you told John I said hello (and I bet there was not much convo on Obamacare)!
Yes, I noticed your rants against the Cellartracker tasting window. Will now finally be able to trust you, Jeff. While we didn’t discuss Obamacare, we did discuss you and your roots at length….:)
I am sure that was an enlightening discussion….
Sounds like a fantastic evening!
For me there is a big variation in the style and quality of Pinotages, so it’s understandable when someone isn’t keen on them after just trying one or two.
What exactly did you mean by “sherry-like qualities of even older Rieslings”? I don’t drink that much sherry but tend to think of it as either being yeasty (Fino) or deliberately oxidised (Oloroso), neither of which I associate with mature Riesling.
Hey Frank, and thanks for the feedback! I totally agree, it is a shame how hard it can be to find good Pinotage outside of South Africa….I have written about that before.
The rather loose description “sherry-like” referred to closing window in broadness of flavors: less primary fruit, more narrow flavors of petrol, and in general a less supple mouthfeel. Does that make sense?
I am sure that was an enlightening discussion….
Oops, I thought I was commenting on my comment thread!