Wednesday, March 26, 2008

From Fois Gras to Frozen Dinners

I love wine shops. For the most part I love the idea of finding a hidden gem on some high shelf that no one has remembered to sticker with a new "upgraded" price tag. Or I love stumbling upon a bargain wine (aka the "wine of the month") brought in by suppliers, wanting to get rid of their overstock of old vintages, that actually prove to be a decent quaff. But I also love wine shops for their clever, mouthwatering descriptions that entice us into thinking that if we buy that bottle of wine, aromas of braised beef short ribs, standing rib roasts or wild mushroom risottos will soon be wafting through our kitchens. Yes, those lush adjective-laden wine descriptions and deliriously decedent wine pairing have me drooling every time. Could anything be better than a hearty, spicy Cote-du-Rhone and a seared steak? A powerful Argentinian Malbec with grilled lamb chops! Or how about a spritzy Albarino with a saffron seafood risotto... oh wait, I'm allergic to crustaceans and I watched my "madre" make paella when I studied abroad in Spain. Truly authentic paella requires a special large pan and an open flame, neither of which can be arranged in my small kitchenette.
So maybe I spend more time reading about these magnificent pairings than I do actually concocting them. The truth is, my Cote-du-Rhones and Albarino's usually accompany a far more practical menu. Albarino's citrus and green apple acidity and light body go quite well with Trader Joe's chicken gyoza. The Cote-du-Rhone makes a fine match with my anything-from-the-fridge quesadilla. And I've found that most Italian whites pair nicely with my 5 minutes and to the table salads. As for that big powerful Malbec, I save it for my ultimate quick fix meal - a Santa Fe Rice and Beans Lean Cuisine. Yep, I eat frozen dinners (but only when they are on sale and only when I am just too tired to imagine anything other than a quick stop at my microwave before hitting the couch).
So, should wine shops pair down their pairings? Should they formulate descriptions to match what we actually eat 6 out of 7 days a week? Or should they press on with their 24.99/lb suggestions? Well my feeling is that it's kind of like window shopping. If I can't have the caviar and Champagne, the Fois Gras and Y'Quem, then at least I can imagine it!

Tasting Notes:
2006 Castineira , Rias Baixas. This Spanish white wine is becoming increasingly trendy, while still being a good value. It's a great wine to have on hand because it can be sipped on its own or paired with a variety of "regular" food - from salads, fish, chicken, Chinese takeout and maybe even an everything quesadilla. This one was particularly lemony. Albarino in general has good acidity and great floral components. $7.99

Monday, March 3, 2008

Birthday Wine: A preview of the year to come?

Last year, when I turned 25, I celebrated by removing my undergraduate adornment (a shiny blue rhinestone belly-ring) and pledging to take my vitamins every day. Yesterday I turned 26 and I have yet to come up with a fitting birthday-resolution. Finding an inspiring, challenging and of course well paying job would be a good one to have, but it seems a little drastic to go from taking vitamins one year to acquiring the perfect career in the next. I will continue to ponder the new goal for my 26th year, but for now I will simply share the experience of my birthday wine:

Tasting Notes:
2002 E. Giboulot, Le Combe d'Eve, Cote du Beaune, France. What does this wine say about the new 26 year-old me? Well, I can hardly pronounce it, and I certainly can't afford it (especially for the $15 dollars a glass that it was being offered for at the restaurant where I celebrated my birthday. Lucky for me it was a gift from the very generous sommelier). But I definitely enjoyed it. And I do have to say that after just over 6 months of regular wine exposure I was able to have a greater understanding and appreciation of it.

Imagine the smell of honey and apple cider, infused with sweet peas or some other wildflowers. This wine had a rich weight to it in my mouth but not a bit of heaviness or syrupy sweetness that you might a wine smelling of honey would have. It had a fabulous crisp finish from good acidity, yet the flavor of the honeyed wine lasted on my tongue long after it had been swallowed. This Burgundy (Chardonnay) paired perfectly with my scallops.

It is important to note that this wine was made with some serious tender-loving care. Giboulot adheres to biodynamic practices - an organic-plus method of viticulture, which follows the astrological rhythms and tries to keep the life forces of the earth in harmony. Though there is not much on the internet about Giboulot, I did find this great site worth visiting.

Can I live up to this decadent wine in the year to come? We shall see!