Thursday, November 04, 2010

Winter Radish Salad and López de Heredia

Have you ever eaten a watermelon radish? They look like turnips on the outside, except that the tail has a pink hue under the skin. They are very mild as far as radishes go, and they are very beautiful, bright fuchsia on the inside.

Every year beginning around now, I impose watermelon radishes on my family and the friends who come over to eat. My typical cooking technique is to slice them and cook them simply in butter and salt, and to serve them alongside a main dish. But last weekend at the market, Bill Maxwell (I like to think of him as my family's farmer) told me that they're great raw. And so it was decided.

I decided to make a salad using watermelon radishes, but what else should go in there? Have you noticed that salads at good restaurants always have walnuts or pumpkin seed oil or some sort of nut in them? I decided that a small handful of coarsely chopped walnuts should be part of the equation. And as I mixed things together I realized that as much as I love watermelon radishes, they would need to share the stage with something else. I had a bunch of good kale, and so it was decided. Shreds of kale - kind of bitter. Slices of radish - kind of spicy and savory. Pieces of walnut - kind of nutty and rich. To balance it out...a bit of ricotta cheese - kind of sweet and creamy. For the dressing, olive oil and sherry vinegar - kind of acidic and very savory.

My plan was to eat this before some leftover roast chicken and turnips, but that went out the window as soon as I tasted the salad. A larger serving, and that was dinner. And a healthy one at that.

There was no question in my mind that I would drink Sherry with this dish. But as I put the food on a plate I began to think of another wine, and imagined that it would be good.

I'm wrong lots of times, my friends, but this time I was right. I drank the 1998 López de Heredia Rioja Rosado Viña Tondonia Gran Riserva, $25, Polaner Selections. Funny, among those I've tasted, this is not my favorite vintage (that would be '95), but I've enjoyed this wine every time I've had it. This was the best bottle yet. It took a half hour for the aromas to knit together, and then it was a completely harmonious and deeply complex, utterly drinkable and satisfying thing of loveliness. Mushrooms, crabs, orange water, musk, rocks, Sherry...those are the things that I thought about while smelling this wine. And this bottle showed such a compelling length and energy. It was truly great with my salad, although it's hard to imagine a meal that this wine would not compliment.

By the way, you know that López de Heredia waits a long time to release their wines, unlike almost every other winery in the world. The idea is to release them when they believe they are ready to drink. I'm starting to believe that the Rosado, like their other Gran Riserva wines, shows best if you give it even a few more years in the cellar. The 1998 did, in any case. Let's see if I can show some self control with my 2000's.


Anonymous said...

Good luck with the self control BG. I bought a six-pack in July and only have 1 left.


TWG said...

Last night tasted through the current range with Maria Jose LdH in Phila. Had a bit of a cold but liked the Bianco Reserva most. She didn't think the bottles would benefit from further bottle aging but wasn't dogmatic about further bottle age.

TWG said...

It's not winter yet, about 45 days to go.