Saturday, December 25, 2004

Two Wines and an Osso Bucco

The Food

I was invited over to Herve’s house but I had to do the cooking. Being Christmas and all, chances are he was in a mood to crack open one of his sexier bottles that he has stashed in his cellar. I decided on a ‘wine friendly’ Osso Bucco, replacing a more classic tomato sauce with wild mushrooms and herbs. In find the acidity in tomatoes often reeks havoc on more delicate reds.
So I browned the beef shanks and braised them with whole garlic cloves for 3 hours over caramelized onions and celery. After removing the cooked shanks, I took the onion mixture and threw it, with all the cooking juices, into the blender. I fried off some chanterelles and shitake mushrooms, then threw them into the onion cream with some thyme.
A nice touch was marinating half a cup of dried mushrooms in the remenants of last night’s bottle, the white Costière de Nimes 2000 Lou Coucardié from Château de Nages.. 100% Grenache Blanc, it was slightly oxidized and over the top oaked. It was a perfect match for the earthiness of the mushrooms, almost like cooking with a rich, buttery dry sherry. I blended this mixture with the onions before adding the sautéed mushrooms..
A polenta with roasted garlic, butternut squash and suage was our side dish (which rocked with the mushroom sauce). Steamed green beans with butter and black pepper added some nice crunch and color.

The Wine

Château La Pointe 1986, Pomerol

This is always one of my favorite moments of any dinner. Crouching in a cool room, gently searching through bottles and imagining if it is the right one. We decided to steer clear of Italians, he had no Piedmont wines (nebbiolo) and I was afraid Sangiovese might be too aggressive and mask the subtle flavours of the mushroom, tyme , suage and roasted garlic. I wanted Pomerol, and I figured an 1986 would be delicate enough for the sauce, rich enough for the meat but still with enough structure to handle the fat of the shanks. This was my first La Pointe and while it had less ’earthiness’ than some other Pomerols that I have tasted, it’s tanins, while soft, where still very present. Not a powerful fine, very elegant in fact. I found it lacked a certain ’fleshiness, ’ length without enough amplitude and richness. Still, it worked magnificently with the mushroom sauce, adding a hint of dark cherry and red plums. Close, but not the home run, at least not yet. We drank down to the last glass and let it sit while we opened the second bottle.

Viña Lanciano 1995, Bodegas Lan, Rioja

Rioja was my second choice. I normally don’t drink Rioja as I find it tends to move rapidly towards a ‘decaying forest’ odour, as if the massive oakiness and the somber and earthy Tempranillo grape morph into a rotting forest floor, eradicating any subtlety in it’s wake. The Lan Rioja was loaded with plum jam, wild mushrooms and of course, vanilla, all in a perfect equilibrium and framed by a gripping acidity. I loved it’s richness, it was alive in your mouth and aside from an attack of massive black fruit, it subsided rather quickly, blending back in with the ensemble. It was very Rioja…. Earthy, rich and ripe. It was less subtle than the Pomerol, but it wasn’t at all out of place.

Back to the Pomerol

Sitting by the fire, bellys filled, it was time to revisit the Pomerol. We became suddenly quiet as we each rolled the remaining wine around our glasses, stopping to smell and taste, and then back to the roll. It was pretty, a very feminine wine. Soft and alluring it stayed elegant down to the last drop. Yet another bottle you wished you had a case of in the basement.

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