Friday, December 11, 2009

Jambalaya and Wine Pairing Part Two

As promised, here are the last of the results from the Jambalaya tasting.
Almira Los Dos (Grenache/Syrah - 85%/15%) Old vines 2007 - for more on this wine, see
I found the wine very able with the dish, it stayed round and drinkable, pretty and pure. In fact, it was excellent! The juicy fruit matched with the spice and flavor, the acidity cleared the palate and actual interplay occurred between the food and the wine. Top notch, a nearly perfect pair. There was no actual addition to either the food or the wine by pairing them, but it was a wonderful match.

Cycles Gladiator Syrah 2006, Central Coast - For more on this wine, see
There is a deep, smoky aroma with some plum - perhaps even currant - with other sweet, ripe fruit, but it is well balanced. The smokiness continues on the finish but does not overwhelm (I made a note here that I should taste the rest of their products as well). It was much too smoky for this version of jambalaya but it held up to the spice. It overwhelmed the dish with its smoke though. If we had used Jacob's Andouille (the best, smokiest, flavor version for cooking available) it might have paired better. If the meat had been grilled/smoked ahead of time perhaps it would have worked better also.

Kermit Lynch Cotes du Rhone 2006 - Kermit makes a few custom blends to bring into the country and sell under his own moniker. I find this to be reliable year in and year out. It is never a huge blockbuster, but features plenty of Grenache and shows the slight earth tones so prevalent in the air in the Southern Rhone. It also has plenty of pepper notes on the nose and enough body to grab your attention but not so much as to lose its sense of place. The wine was slightly cloudy (unfiltered) with some intense earth and hints of leather with pepper spice and that classic 'garriguey' note. Garrigue refers to the wild herbs, flowers, and earthy note from the rocky soils in that area. It is a primary reason I found myself hungry all the time when visiting the Southern Rhone. In this case, it borders on being too much for me (my tolerance for this wild, earthy style has changed over the years) but it was a surprisingly good match. The earth note and the sweetness of the shrimp actually played well together. But with the addition of hot sauce, it was one step short of a trainwreck. The earth became too much very quickly and it really fought the spice. This does not work with spice! Importer: Kermit Lynch $15-$18

Hill of Content Shiraz 2005, Western (57%)/South (43%) Australia - One of my favorite examples, and a reason to keep drinking Shiraz even when one has been exposed to all manner of seemingly cuddly critters on labels (some that are colored yellow and hop) that seem to have had all the acidity removed while having about a half pound of Domino's sugar added. Shiraz can be beautiful and this blend offers some of the deeper structure of the west while showing plenty of the deep juicy fruit of the south (it comes from Clare Valley which shows more freshness than Barossa in many cases). Good ruby/purple color with some sweet vanilla and cassis on the nose. More of the same on the palate but it cleans up nicely. Well done. It does need some time to open to balance the juice and dryness. The oak overwhelmed the food a bit, but the pairing worked. I did not find it ideal, again, perhaps some smokier meats might have helped. With spice though, the wine performed more than admirably. I found it delicious, in fact. The intensity of the wine still stepped on the flavors of the dish a bit, but the juiciness of the wine handled the spice beautifully. Importer: The Australian Premium Wine Collection $13-$16

Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec 2007, Mendoza - With 25+ years of winemaking experience, Susana Balbo knows all the ropes when it comes to putting good juice in a bottle. This comes, more specifically, from the Uco Valley, an exciting region within Mendoza. Crios means, 'young kids' and reflects that these wines are the 'offspring' of her signature wines. It is unfined and unfiltered. I found currants and plums and nearly cassis, but not with its inherent round sweetness. Instead, it was currants with a dusting of cocao. I found the wine itself a bit spicy from its tannin, fruit I think, rather than wood. I can sum up the pairing succinctly - it was not a disaster, but clearly not a winner; it fought with the food, especially the spiced version. Importer: Vine Connections $13-$16

Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Vintners Cuvee XXXI, California - The label claims it comes from, the "finest coastal, inland, mountain and valley fruit." That pretty much covers the entire help there. I'm guessing there is a lot of Amador County juice here, but I offer no guarantees. They do not label this with a vintage, but at least give us a lot number to determine which version we might be purchasing. I think this is imperative with non-vintage cuvees, otherwise you have no way of telling what you might get in the bottle. There was more wild briar and bramble notes here than in the XXX. The fruit was warmer and more forward too. I guessed lots of Amador since I found so much roasted fruit in the glass. The pairing was excellent, the fruit actually mingles with the flavor of the food. It does not overwhelm, despite its intensity. The interplay continued, even when spice was introduced. This was damn good. Zinfandel does work well with spicy food. $10-$13

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