Sunday, March 2, 2008

Four Parts. No Harmony

There were guests coming for dinner last night so the day was spent shopping and cooking. The weather cooperated nicely since it was very cool in the morning to lend itself to braising. The afternoon was warm enough to fire up the grill.

The result was a chili rubbed, braised beef roast preceded by fresh Island Creek oysters warmed on the grill until they just popped open.

The beef got a rub of ancho and chipotle powders mixed with some salt and granulated garlic powder. Browned to a light crust on top of the stove it was braised for four hours with onions, garlic, celery, carrots, red wine and chicken stock. Heavenly smell.

The wines were supposed to be easy but it didn't work out that way. There was a 2005 Albarino to go with the oysters. I previously drank this wine with oysters and it was wonderful. This was the last bottle so it's time had come. We pulled the cork and poured a glass. Peaches and honey came from the nose and it just delighted everyone. It was different from bottles in the past. It had aged for an additional year and was not as fresh as it had been. It had mellowed and honey had become the dominant flavor. It was delicious by itself but paired with the brininess of the oysters it was now too rich and not a good match at all. The oysters were great and the wine was delicious, but they just weren't a happy match.

On to the beef. There were two bottles available and my friends chose a bottle of the 1999 Chapoutier La Bernardine Chateauneuf de Pape. The other choice was a Clos de los Siete 2005, a Malbec blend from Argentina. That would have been my choice but my freinds wanted to drink the older wine.

The beef was rich and hearty and the wine smooth an elegant, but again they didn't pair up well at all. Whereas the Albarino had been too big for the oysters, the Chateauneuf de Pape was not big enough for the hearty flavors in the beef. The wine was wonderful but it had aged to a point where it needed something milder to go with it.

I popped the cork on the Clos de los Siete and did a quick decant. Huge, dark wine full of fruit and flavor and after a couple of minutes in the glass it was perfect with the beef. The guests are generally not fan of big, red wines, and at 15% alcohol this was a big wine. We each drank a glass with the beef and then after dinner switched back to the Chateauneuf de Pape with some mild cheese, but there was no question that the big wine saved the main course.

I liked all three wines and the food was all good, but if I had to do it all over again the Albarino and the Chateauneuf de Pape would stay in the cellar - or I would do a 2006 Albarino which should be fresher and a better match.

Scott and Ellie were happy. They love a good party and guests and they got some of the skimmed fat from the beef over the dog food this morning. Life is good for the Gordons.

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