Tag Archives: wine pairing

A night spanning three continents…

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!):

Boeuf Bourguignon

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.

A night spanning three continents: North America, Africa, and Europe

A night spanning three continents: North America, Africa, and Europe

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2011 St. Urbanshof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett

Another Korean dinner companion

As I mentioned in a previous post, last week was our anniversary, actually the first anniversary we got to celebrate together. After the dinner “fiasco” at the restaurant the night before our anniversary, I decided it was time to pull out some Korean food to give us a comforting dinner on the actual anniversary day.

Probably, Botswana food would have been more appropriate, given that we met and fell in love with each other in Botswana, and given that we got married on Botswana’s Independence Day (we actually had no clue when we set the date), but somehow Botswana cuisine has not really won our hearts…except for their steaks! Hands down, I have had my best steaks in Botswana. I don’t know what they do with their cattle, but the produce is phenomenal. Getting Botswana beef in the US, or even Europe, is near to impossible, though.

St. Urbanshof Cork Art

Our love for Korean food stems from my time in Seoul in 2000/2001, and our friendship with our good friends ManSoo and Hyekyung. There is something refreshingly honest in Korean cooking: few ingredients, you get what you order, no glutamate sauces or fancy dishes, down to earth, satisfying cooking. I really do prefer home cooked style meals, which is why the Tuscan and Burgundy cuisines are equally dear to my heart. But riesling is such a perfect match for Korean food, that it is the easiest to pair with my beloved rieslings.

So, for our anniversary dinner I made 감자 조림 (braised potatoes in a spicy sauce; a first and I used the delicious and super easy recipe available here) and 호박전 (zucchini pancakes, to which I add mushrooms and scallions). Both dishes turned out really yummy, and the only question was the pairing.

Korean braised potatoes

We went with a 2011 St. Urbanshof Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett. St. Urbanshof is a winery in Leiwen, along the Mosel (check out their website here). Their black labels are quite iconic. I was first introduced to their wines by my friend Helge many years back. The winery is an early experimenter with the spontaneous fermentation method, which is now quite popular in Germany. The initial nose of these wines tends to be rather sulfuric, but once you get through that, they are irresistibly fresh and fruity and said to age better. This particular wine is a Kabinett (the lowest level of Prädikatswein, for more information check out my at a glance tool here).

The Bockstein is a vineyard along the Saar river in the village of Ockfen. According to the Urbanshof website, it is a 50 degree vineyard slope facing southwest, without other hills blocking it from the sun. The soil is gravelly grey slate. The vineyard is a prime vineyard along the Mosel tributary Saar. More on the vineyard here. If you look at the label closely, you will see a “1” beside a cluster of grapes on the right hand side. This stands for “Erste Lage” (literally “first-class site”). It is a particular designation style used by wineries that are members of the prestigious VDP, the German association of elite winemakers (I will have to write about them in a seperate post, promised). It denotes top vineyards and higher selection standards than required by the German Wine Act.

The beauty in the glass

The wine was, as you can hopefully discern from the photo, of a very pale yellow color. The nose had the typical initial spontaneous notes (in German sometimes referred to as “Sponti-Stinker”, you get the idea). After a couple of minutes it opened up to overwhelming yellow peach, honey and whipped cream aromas. It was surprising in its intensity. On the palate, we welcomed a somewhat viscose riesling, with initial citrus and peach aromas. Despite the citrus, the wine was not overly fresh because it showed low acidity, which was noticeable, but not dominant. The wine felt very smooth on our tongues. As we kept moving it in our mouths, there were hints of banana and floral notes coming in (maybe jasmine).  It had a long finish and for a kabinett was very complex, not just an easy guzzling wine.

The higher residual sugar level in the wine worked marvelously with the braised potatoes which were quite spicy. We got the wine at Costco for $13.99, which is just slightly more than what I would expect to be paying in Germany. In other words, it is quite the steal. At 9.5% ABV, it is also a great companion for fall evenings, when the sweetness is more soothing than in summer.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

2009 Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône

It was our anniversary this weekend, so we decided to try a restaurant in Ann Arbor that is focused on using local ingredients. It was our first time there, so we tried their five course tasting menu to see what the chef was capable of. The restaurant offered an accompanying wine pairing for half of what dinner cost. While I sometimes have had good experiences with these restaurant offered pairings, this is usually only the case if the restaurant has a sommelier and is as devoted to its wine menu as it is to its cuisine. Somehow, this place (and their wine menu) did not give off that impression, so I was reluctant to take it.

Given that the tasting menu was a surprise menu, it was not the easiest thing to decide what wine to go for then. Given that there was no riesling on the menu (shame on them), we decided to go with a lighter red wine that could complement most of what was possibly going to come, and sit out on the wine when it did not match at all. I find Côtes du Rhône wines to usually be a good companion when it comes to this. They are not as heavy bodied as other French reds, and at the same time offer an interesting mix of spices and earthiness. The only Côtes du Rhône the restaurant had was this one, so we decided to go for it.

Today I found out that Kermit Lynch is a major wine merchant in the tradition of French négociants from California. They offer a whole variety of wines from France and Italy with a gazillion of producers working for them. This particular Côtes du Rhône blend is vinified by Jean-François Pasturel from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan grapes from 40 year old vines on 36 hectares around Avignon.

The wine had a medium ruby color. Its nose was nicely perfumy with wooden and earthy notes, Nina detected some blueberries that were definitely there. On the palate, the wine was on the lower end of medium bodied, and it showed a nice fruitiness of red berries and herbal, foresty aromas. The finish was of medium length, with a nice peppery note to it. It was pretty yummy to guzzle at dinner, and was just the right weight.

It also paired nicely with our – quite disappointing – dinner. The first course was a duck liver paté, to which the earthy notes paired well. The second course was a very nice salad with pan-seared (over-peppered) local trout, where it sort of worked. This was followed by uninspired “gnocchi” (which had nothing in common with gnocchi any Italian would serve) in a tomato sauce – the wine worked again. The next course was pork loin with potatoes (talk about uninspired again), where the wine complemented the roast aromas on the pork and went nicely with the onions. The dessert was an abomination of a panna cotta, made with buttermilk which destroyed its texture and taste (hardly any vanilla, and not even a reminder of the creaminess a panna cotta should have) and topped with a horrible concord grape syrup that tasted as bad as a Welch grape juice (which I completely detest)…luckily, I had the wine to clean my palate from the few spoons I ate before I abandoned the dish.

It was kind of a sad thing, this dinner. While I want to support locally sourced restaurants and like the idea, using these ingredients does not absolve you from making dishes that taste good. It is like organic wines. There is no inherent goodness in making wines in an organic fashion. They have to taste good first and foremost. If the two go together, the better. If not, I will relinquish ingredients over taste at any moment.

The wine was nice, so I recommend it.

Tagged , , , , , , ,
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: