Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Down Under in Brooklyn

Wine Blogging Wednesday is again upon us, a bit earlier this month because of a few holiday Wednesdays later in the month. WBW is Lenn's baby - he got it all started over two years ago now. Lenn has a brand new baby, by the way, and this may or may not impede his ability to participate in WBW this month. We'll see...

Tim at Winecast is hosting this month, and new world Syrah is his theme of choice. I have little experience with Syrah, and I don't drink much new world wine, other than Oregon Pinot Noir. When I start to explore wine made from a grape that is unfamiliar to me, I usually begin with the classics, the old world versions. I began to explore a bit with a couple of bottles from Cornas, the famous Northern Rhone appellation, but really I have no context in which to frame my tastings. The theme this month offers a great learning opportunity for me.

So it was with an intrepid spirit and good cheer that I set out to taste a new world Syrah for WBW #30. I decided to make a night of it - go Down Under in Brooklyn. Why not crack open a bottle of that Two Hands Shiraz that everyone raves about in their Cellar Tracker notes, and how about a roast leg of Aussie grass fed lamb to go with it?

First, the lamb. I really went for it, buying and roasting the whole leg. No one came for dinner, and BrooklynLady was 9 months pregnant and could eat only small amounts at a time. Leftover lamb happens to be a favorite of mine though. Something about the cool to room temperature herbal, salty, and gamy slices...I can pick them out of the fridge and start munching, any time of day.

I figured that the wine would be big and fruity, maybe with some sweetness to it, so I decided to marinate the lamb with something salty and savory to create a bit of contrast. I used a mortar and pestle to pound three anchovy fillets, about a tablespoon of fresh rosemary needles, and a large garlic clove into a paste. Transferred that to a bowl and whisked in some good extra virgin olive oil. Rubbed this all over the lamb, massaging it in like you would your pregnant wife's feet, and let it sit for about two hours.

Side dishes: a mix of sweet and savory again. Sweet: butternut squash, pan roasted at low enough heat so as not to brown, with some butter and brown sugar, then pureed with a little whole milk and salt. Savory - a green salad made with Romaine lettuce hearts and Persian cucumbers - the un-waxed skinny and long ones with a high meat to water ratio - they're bitter and crisp. Dressed with a simple vinaigrette that began with anchovies, again pounded with garlic, some Dijon mustard, and then the vinegar and good olive oil.

You say it's geeky of me to echo the anchovy thing in the salad dressing? So what? There are only so many things in life I care to obsess about, and the war in Iraq is not one of them. Neither is global warming, nor is my current "job," the crap I do to get a paycheck. So can't you just let me have my matching marinade and salad dressing anchovy geek out, please?

The lamb came out lookin' good and I let her rest under tin foil for about 20 minutes. Served with the squash and salad YUM. I cannot say that I have ever worked with better quality lamb. Good fat layer, but no big fatty deposits inside the leg, beautiful gamy rich flavor, and a minerally freshness - it's grass-fed.

About 2 hours prior I opened and decanted a bottle of 2004 Two Hands Shiraz Lily's Garden, $42. Two Hands, located in the Barossa Valley of South Australia, produces many different wines, but I believe is known for their McLaren Vale Shiraz. As I said before, I have no context for tasting this wine - no experience with Aussie Shiraz (other than a few bottles of inexpensive stuff that I thought was just too sweet and alcohol driven), and little experience with Syrah, period. So take my notes with a grain of salt.

2004 Two Hands Shiraz Lily's Garden
Inky purple. Nice aromas of dark fruit, rosemary, and an iron, blood like smell. These aromas, while lovely, were somewhat fleeting, as there was also a prominent alcohol heat that pushed them aside. Hard not to, I guess, at 14.5%. Two hours later, by the way, the herbal and metal aromas were more reserved, and the fruit and heat more prominent. Very interesting palate of juicy red and black fruit, black licorice, and raisins, with pretty good acidity. A big and powerful wine, even on the finish.

It did pair well with the lamb, and yes, the palate was interesting. But only in an intellectual way, not for me in the emotional way that I usually react to a wine that I love. in other words, I recognize that this is quality juice, and that it might even stand out among wines of this style. It's not a style that I favor, because it is so overwhelming, such a bully on the table. I can't imagine sitting around chatting and sipping this wine - too big and too much alcohol. But even gamy roast lamb with anchovy paste was having a hard time competing. And by the way, the critics all loved this wine, rating it between 91 and 94, and the folks on Cellar Tracker rave about it - tasting notes praise the lavish fruit and texture, the community average rating is 92. So what do I know...

I am certainly open to suggestions from you Aussies about other pairings (I still have one more bottle), or about similar wines so I can learn more about the style. And big thanks to Tim at Winecast for hosting this month's WBW.

10 comments:

Jack said...

Funny how we did a Leg of Lamb too, but marinated for a day and not with anchovie paste...

...and our Barossa-like wine was a better match for the food, esp. on the second day, where the leftovers became shepherd's pie.

Farley said...

While the wine may not have made your day, I'm wishing I had some of that lamb...

winecast said...

Thanks for participating!


Cheers,
--
Tim Elliott
Winecast

northcarolinaguy said...

We are also curious about this wine and bought the last bottle in our wine store down here in NC a few weeks ago. Probably the last bottle in NC. I will pass my notes when we open the bottle. Now seeing the pictures of the lamb, I am curious about the lamb too :)

Brooklynguy said...

I wonder what the classic pairing is for rich Syrah. The lamb was excellent, if I may say so, and Syrah might be a good pairing...but this one was a bit much for me. What is Barossa-like wine Jack? And what did you marinate your lamb with? Farley - there ws more than enough. You could have come over. and NCGuy - I am very curious to hear how you and NCGal liked this wine. DId you ever get the chance to try that 2000 Clos Roche Neuves Marginale, by the way?

northcarolinaguy said...

We have not tried the 200 Clos Roche Neuves yet. We want to pair it with a red meat dish but we have been cooking pasta, chicken or fish dish at home since we have red meat with friedns all the time (we southerners socialize a lot), plus I don't want to share it with anybody.

Dr. Debs said...

The lamb looks great, Neil! I think lamb is the classic pairing, either braised or grilled(we had our WBW #30 wine with a Moroccan lamb tagine. Heavy stews, any grilled or braised meat, grilled vegetables with lots of herbs, and cheddar cheese dishes are also good. Mac, cheese, and syrah or hearty cheese quiches are surprisingly good, too.

Marcus g58 said...

Syrah is good with good cooking, no matter what you make!

Wasn't there a vote recently on what grape to take to a desert island and Syrah won? I voted for it, but mostly because of its food-friendly New World expressions. Yum! Check out some Midi versions of it when you get the chance.

Brooklynguy said...

I like your "no sharing the 2000 roche neuves, NCGuy." a good policy if you have only one bottle. i have to go read about how to make tagine. did you use a real tagine pot? i want to buy one of those, made of clay. hard to find. and good to see you back this way Marcus - i thought that since i had my daughter, you had foresaken brooklyn or something. if i could take one graoe to a desert island it would unhesitatingly be pinot noir.

Dr. Debs said...

No, I have no tagine--just a Calphalon pot with a domed lid. Probably less authentic, put the recipe I followed was absolutely delicious. Had an interesting brown and braise method, followed by slow cooking for an hour.