Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Two Tajines and a Cali Merlot

I think I’m almost done with California. As a buyer and wine lover, I hate the idea of completely writing off an entire wine region but once again I got bunged by California. Not to say that I haven’t recently enjoyed a couple of Cali wines but for the most part, they just don’t ‘eat well.’ It could be the tunnel vision that results from ageing, but I hope it’s my palette. I find they lack subtlety, just perverse amounts of jammy fruit backed up with a behemoth oakiness. Ya, I get it… vanilla. It’s better in ice-cream. Two glasses seem to be more than enough for me, which is bizarre considering my penchant for that second bottle.

The Food

Tajine is the Moroccan method for slow cooking. It is essentially a glazed base of a flower pot with a ceramic Fez Type cap. Spices are similar to Indian, though aside from cumin and coriander seeds, one uses dates, prunes, raisins, cinnamon and saffron. I did a veal with date and golden raisins, and a chick pea-sweet potato tajine with coriander, ginger and a touch of cinnamon. A little couscous on the side and we were propelled back a couple of years when we spent a month traveling around Morocco.

The Wine

Merlot 2000, Reserve, Raymond
I figured that with the cooked dates and raisins, my Merlot really be in it’s element. Spicy and sweet was on the table, so why not in our glasses? Manon’s reaction to her first sip was oooh, juicy. Mine too. But it just didn’t seem to go anywhere after that. It lacked ‘cut,’ that acidity that keeps these types of wines from becoming too thick and heavy on the palette. It worked ok with the Veal, better with the chick peas which seemed to bring out hints of black pepper, but all in all, I think I would have been better served by a ripe Duoro. Once the meal was finished, it was way too linear, like syrupy plum juice. Not awful, just a bit boring and heavy.

Here’s a couple of Californians that I drank recently that I did like (I’m trying to keep the door open).

Pinot Noir-Mondeuse 2001, Au Bon Climat.
Classic Savoie mix combines the amplitude and richness of great cali pinot with the rustic bite of Mondeuse. Original, complex and makes you say yummm.

Chardonay 2002, Reserve, Benziger
Full on caramelly lushness that one associates with warm weather chardonnay but without the excessive wood.

Cabernet Sauvignon 1995, Napa Valley Reserve, Beringer
Costs a million dollars and although I opened these at work and thus only had a taste, but that’s what it is all about. So rich and textured, I can only imagine the fun drinking a whole bottle.

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