Thursday, January 10, 2008

Five Nights of Oregon Pinot - Part III

On this, the third night of our little Oregon wine festival, we drank a wine we've had several times in the past, the 2004 Chehalem Pinot Noir Corral Creek. Chehalem makes three single vineyard Pinot Noirs, a Reserve wine, and several blends. Single Vineyard wines include Stoller, Ridgecrest, and Corral Creek. I have never tasted Stoller or the Reserve wine, and I hear that they are quite good. There is also a wide range of whites, and Chehalem is considered to be among the absolute top tier of Oregon dry Riesling producers. If the one bottle I had means anything, I can see why.

Of the Pinots I've sampled, Corral Creek is the wine I've enjoyed best from their lineup, as I always find it to have nice balance and fresh red fruit. Harry Peterson-Nedry describes the vineyard and its fruit better than I can so read this if you're interested. We remembered the 04 wine as being pretty spicy and juicy, so we decided to cook up a little something spicy to accompany the wine. Yup, I think of it in that order.

We made a pot of red lentil stew mildly spiced with roasted fenugreek, cumin, and coriander seeds, and threw in some lamb shoulder chunks that I hacked up from chops. I Just brought fenugreek back into the spice inventory in our house, and let me tell you - such an interesting and delicious flavor. The house smelled great for the next 48 hours (but then a week later, as our windows are taped up against the cold, it began to smell like the back seat of a shoddy car service, but what are you gonna do?). At the bottom of this post I'm sharing the recipe with you.

2004 Chehalem Pinot Noir Corral Creek Vineyard, $39 from the winery. The wine was light rose colored and translucent and highly perfumed out of the bottle. Nose was pretty red fruits and vanilla with a spicy frame. The nose faded a bit after about 15 minutes though, leaving more vanilla that I might like. The palate was pleasantly fruity with nice spice and even some herbal notes. But this wine is almost 15% alcohol, and it was all too apparent, as the flavors were rarely allowed to shine in a pure way. There were fleeting hints of ripe cherries and fleeting hints of a pine and herbal finish. But they were fleeting, and the strength of the alcohol was a bit dominant. Maybe a longer decant would have helped to soften and balance the wine. But I know that this one drinks young, so the hour we gave it should have sufficed. We wanted to like this wine, and BrooklynLady enjoyed it more than I did. I still suspect that I have not tasted the best that Chehalem has to offer. I read that the 2005 Chehalem wines have alcohol levels in the 13s. I'd like to try them.

Here is the recipe for red lentil stew with lamb and fenugreek:

In a large pot, put maybe a pound of rinsed red lentils under about two inches of water. Bring to a boil, let boil rapidly for two minutes or so, spooning off any nitrogen-white-scum that rises to the surface, and then lower the heat to a simmer and partially cover the pot. These will be cooked in under a half hour, but I like to book them a bit longer until they completely fall apart.

Wash and dry about one pound of lamb shoulder chops (don't use loin or rib for this), cut into small pieces keeping the bones and the meat, salt liberally, and set aside. Take about one teaspoon and a bit more fenugreek seeds, one teaspoon of cumin seeds, and one teaspoon of coriander seeds (use fresh spices - old ones taste old) and roast them in a hot thick-bottomed pan on the stove top over medium heat until you can smell the aromas wafting up. Shake the seeds around in the pan as you go. When they smell nice and toasty, put them into a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle and grind them. Try not to swoon.

In another pot on medium-high heat cook one large thinly sliced onion in vegetable oil, stirring a lot to prevent sticking. Add one large clove of finely chopped garlic and if you like (and I like), some freshly crushed dried red chilies. I would stop at two if you want to taste the other spices. Continue to stir a lot - garlic browns easily at high heat. When the onion and garlic mixture is well cooked - at least 10 minutes, probably more - it should be translucent and aromatic, but not brown, add the ground spices and continue to stir for another 5 minutes or so.

Add the lamb chunks and keep stirring. When they are browned on all sides, lower the heat to low-medium, and pour the red lentils into the lamb pot. Oooh yeah. Let this simmer for a while. It will be delicious after a half hour but the lamb will become more tender if you can wait at least 45 minutes, especially if you are using good local organic lamb - it cooks faster. Before you serve this, add a fair amount of good coarse salt. I like this with flat bread - you can use it to pick up the stew. But rice is fine -whatever you like. We actually ate it out of soup bowls with no starch, along with a green salad with tangy dressing - have something acidic to cut the stew's rich lambyness. You might even squirt a little lemon juice right into each portion of stew. With a spicy and fresh Pinot, this is right on.


Anonymous said...

OK, well my mouth is watering now... Interesting review and great recipe! Can't wait to try the stew. I, also, feel that I haven't tried the wine that makes Chehalem great. Let me know when you find it, OK?

Brooklynguy said...

hi Scampy! happy new year to you. i hope you get to try the stew. i hear you - i'm working on faith now with Chehalem, as it's been a while since i've been wowed by the wine. but i believe in giving plenty of chances once a producer has wowed me, and they did a few years ago. i am on fumes now, and i'm not filling up the tank again til i taste something worth the $$.

as an Oregon native, i would be most interested to know what you like from out there. see you-

peter said...

Sounds wicked. We had lamb too tonight- shanks and merguez in a sort of hybrid tagine thingy. Bravo on the toasted whole spices- it's one of the keys to making the good great. I like fenugreek particularly with collards puréed with a bit of yogurt. You might want to check out the post for tomorrow's dinner- I think you'll enjoy it.

What do you think of Siduri? They've always been one of my faves too.

Brooklynguy said...

hey peter - never tried a siduri wine. i hear that fenugreek and yogurt are like long lost brothers. i'll have to try that.

peter said...

Their single vineyard pinots are special wines. Stay tuned for the details of tonight's insane dinner...