Thursday, December 16, 2010

BT#6: The Small Group

Holy Cow!!!

It had been a while. I guess it took some time for the reverberations to subside after our last Blind Tasting w-a-a-a-y back in May (????) Yes. Back in May. That was a doozy!

Scott courageously tried to rally the troops for a Sunday get together before Thanksgiving but couldn't raise sufficient muster. A couple of voices tried to bring together a small group, but by then even Scott had other plans. Finally three of us got together early on a cloudy Sunday with a couple of newcomers and pulled some corks out of some bottles.

As always, tasting blind is just a damned intimidating endeavor. Our newcomers were a little hesitant about speaking out, but we prodded and were rewarded with some great insights. It's easy to be intimidated by display of wine knowledge, but that's just book learning. We are all tasters and we all bring a lifetime of tasting experience to the tasting. Then it just becomes association of flavor with experience and any answer based on experience is valid. If vocabulary differs from the standard 'sommelier' descriptors, the somm's should pay attention to the differences and learn. In a blind tasting all are naked before the wine. On to the wines...

#1:  Dark ruby in color, not showing much color change, but doesn't have the bright lustre of a young wine. The rim doesn't show much glycerin, everyone's in agreement that it's definitely old world, which is confirmed by the earthiness on the nose. Flavors speak of red and black fruits and darkness. Speculation focuses on Spain, then the Rhone. 1999 Hermitage from Guigal.

#2: Opaque and ruby, turning to brownish red on the edge of the rim. Old World for sure. The group surges over the familiar ground of cedar, dried fruits and hints of mint kissed barnyard. Bordeaux? Yes. Pauilliac? Yes. Age? Not twenty years old, better than '97 or 98, must be 1996. Yes!  Do we have to start guessing estates? No, it's the classic Pauilliac, Chateau Pontet-Canet, 1996. The second vintage after Alfred Tesseron became the proprietor and began to initiate the drive to the exalted quality the estate has achieved in recent vintages.

#3)  New wine! Bright red fruit jumps out of the glass supported by dark undertones and massive oak and vanilla. I was not alone in writing down the name of a property right off the bat, ( I had it pegged as a precocious 2007 Cabernet from Napa.) But I was thrown off by the oak, vanilla and tannins. The wine showed way too much cherry for Cabernet. As the spectacular wine opened in the glass, we chased and guessed around the world and never did get it. 2007 Aquilon, ultra-ripe Garnacha from Alto Moncayo in Campo de Borja. The immense wine is typical of the work of the renowned Australian winemaker, Chris Ringland.

#4)  Another younger wine. Rich, dark and opulent in the glass, it has the appearance of a ripe New World wine. Intense aromas of cassis, cedar, vanilla, smoke and espresso follow through on the palate. The long gripping finish is tinged with a perfumed minerality. Despite the ripeness, the wine has an Old World sensibility. Not Bordeaux, not Spainish. It must be Italian and could only be a Super-Tuscan. 2004 Petrona Galatrona.
#5)  After a whiff of funk which blows off quickly, the aromas of the last wine show copious black fruit with hints of herbs and vanilla. Once more we venture to say that it tastes like Napa Cabernet, but this time we're correct. A bit of age is correctly noted! 2003 Arns Estate.

And that was it! All that was left was to sit and visit with each other and revisit the wines and compare and contrast. We all had intended to leave around 3, but we stayed until 4:30, but that's the magic of wine: it creates a place where time and space are suspended and friends are made. 

Peppers in Your Beer

It was a crisp cold Sunday with clear blue skies. It was noon as I was driving home, when I was seized by a craving for tamales. A quick check revealed no other lunch plans, so I cruised by the Dallas Tortilla and Tamale Factory, picked up a quick two dozen, a bag of chips some of their incendiary hot sauce and headed for the house. 

The tamales were still warm, we just grated some cheese, drizzled some hot sauce and melted the cheese in the microwave. They were moist,meaty and delicious with the rich flavors of pork and fat (they still use lard) permeating the masa. Delicious and comforting.

The meal called for beer and we pulled a large 750 ml bottle of Chipotle Porter from Mikkeller, a dark, rich ale brewed with Chipotle Peppers. The rich, bitter chocolate flavors faded to reveal the spice of the peppers punctuating the finish. The porter integrated well with the rich corn and took the flavors down into earthiness.

We don't hear a lot about European craft breweries. Part of the reason is the highly developed level of craft in traditional European breweries, which provide the inspiration and models for the American craft brewers. Europe does not have the great void of quality beer that has afflicted the America's until recently.

Mikkeller is based in Copenhagen and their products are just now beginning to penetrate the Southwest.