Monday, November 13, 2006

November Wine Dinner

Jess and Mike hosted Wine Dinner last night in their lovely South Slope townhouse. It was somewhat of a last minute affair, as new babies and other commitments prevented much advance planning. But the food was spectacular - Jess really knocked it out of the park. Here is the menu:

Starters:
Cured meat plate with sweet Sopressata and Imported Prociutto
Sweet Potato Crostini
Fresh Ricotta Cheese Crostini

Main:
Beef Goulash with home made spaetzle and braised escarole

Dessert:
Caramelized Apple Custard Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream

The prociutto and the sweet potato crostini were the highlights of the starters for me. The prociutto was rose colored and smelled quite funky, like the boys locker room after the big game. The flavor, though, was beautiful - sweet and salty and lightly musky. The sweet potato for the crostini had a little cottage cheese mixed in, and some chives - an interesting combination, and it was a nice counterpoint to the prociutto. Deetrane, by the way, baked the bread for the evening using some tips from the recent NY Times piece on bread. And the bread was wonderfully textured, fluffy on the inside with a crisp dark brown crust.

I was given the task of bringing wine to pair with the starters, and I chose a dry Vouvray made by Domaine Huet. I have mentioned Huet Vouvray before and I love their wines, all made from the chenin blanc grape. A little context this time - Domaine Huet is one of the most well respected producers in the Loire Valley, and probably is the biggest name in Vouvray. Victor Huet, the founder, and then his son Gaston Huet, now his son-in-law Noel Pinguet makes wines from 3 vineyards: Le Mont (Huet's lighter wines), Le Haut-Lieu, and Clos du Bourg (the vineyard whose grapes Huet uses to craft his biggest wines). In better vintages Huet produces sweet wines, labeled "moelleux," from those vineyards, and also an intensely expensive (about $130 for 500ml) dessert wine called Cuvee Constance. Curiously, there is no mention of Cuvee Constance on the Huet website right now. I imagine, but am not at all sure, that this wine represents the finest grapes taken from the premier trie, or first pass, in each vineyard.

The Wine Doctor posted a bunch of tasting notes and plenty of interesting information about Domaine Huet as part of his Loire Profiles series. If you have any interest at all in Loire wines, this series is worth checking out.
2005 Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec Le Haut-Lieu, $26. This wine is still very young, and the aromas and flavors display this quite clearly. There are clean smells of fresh stone fruits and pure but reserved flavors of pear and quince, with that mineral rainwater finish that defines quality dry Vouvrays for me. The wine paired well with the starters, but was not really ready for drinking. There is something hidden under the surface, and I imagine that checking back in on this wine in 10 years will reveal much more beauty and complexity.

Deetrane busted out a 1981 Domaine de Chevalier Pessac-Leognan to pair with the goulash. I know almost nothing about Bordeaux, but I do know that 1981 is one of those vintages that did not get great press attention, and therefore the wines can be somewhat reasonably priced. Again, The Wine Doctor has an informative profile and tasting notes on Chevalier. Mike, a Bordeaux lover who has tasted many wines at all maturity levels, said "this is everything you want in a mature Bordeaux." I was surprised to hear that, as I found some leather, like the fuzzy back of a belt, in the nose, but that's about it - no tobacco, cedar, cassis, or herbs - what I understand to be typical mature Bordeaux smells. And the palate was straightforward black fruits, and pretty flabby at that. No backbone of acidity or tannins to structure the wine. It was pleasant and fun to taste such an old wine, but ultimately not very satisfying.

The goulash was tremendous though, and the wine paired well. Without a doubt the best goulash I have ever tasted, and inspiring as a piece of home cooking. Perfectly textured, rich and light at the same time, beautifully colored and aromatic with ground caraway and caramelized onions. And the home made spaetzle...a tough act to follow for future wine dinners, I tell you.

Mike cracked open a 2002 Barton & Guestier Sauternes to serve with dessert. A large negociant house, apparently, I poked around on their website but have not been able to learn much about the wine. Light honey colored, the wine smelled of caramel and pineapples. Surprisingly light bodied and thin in texture, this wine was not at all sticky. Lovely and simple, there were flavors of sweet citrus fruit with some burnt sugar. It paired very well with the truly fabulous caramelized apple custard tart that Jess made. She served some leftover caramelized apples too, that were snatched up faster than 2005 Bordeaux futures.

All in all, a wonderful wine dinner, with good, but not great wine. But a GREAT time - little kids scooting around before bedtime, a warm kitchen and pots of yummy smelling food, good friends, my 6 months pregnant wife enjoying tiny sips of tiny glasses of wine...what more could you ask for on a Sunday night?

1 comment:

deetrane said...

how dare you call my wine flabby?!?