Mon 15 Nov 2010
Yes, you read that title correctly: WineS of the Week, as in a white and a red. I don’t promise to offer you two wines every week, but it worked out nicely for this week because of the wines and because of what we ate on succeeding nights. These wines were samples for review.
First, the white. One of our favorite chardonnays from California is Morgan Winery’s Metallico Unoaked Chardonnay, and for 2009 the wine doesn’t disappoint. Metallico 09, Monterey Country, is utterly appealing in its freshness, its clarity and pure chardonnay presence. Scents of lemon with hints of roasted lemon and lemon balm are wreathed with touches of quince and ginger and a high note of honeysuckle; underlying this parade of delights is a scintillating layer of damp limestone. Exquisite balance among racy, tingling acidity, a texture that’s moderately lush without being too soft and juicy, spicy, mineral-laced citrus-drenched flavors imparts not just enjoyment but a sense of authenticity and craftsmanship. It’s a wine that gives a great deal of pleasure, but you don’t quaff it carelessly. Now through 2012. Production was 3,800 cases. Alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Excellent. About $20.
I had purchased two beautiful fillets of swordfish at Whole Foods, each about 10 ounces. For a dinner that came together rapidly, we marinated the swordfish in white wine, fresh sage, orange juice (and a few segments of the orange), garlic and flat-leaf parsley. Quartered some small potatoes, boiled them and then roasted them under the broiler. Chopped, blanched and sauteed broccoli rabe. LL seared the swordfish at high heat in the trusty old cast-iron skillet and used the marinade to make a reduction for a sauce. The result — delicious in every respect — is illustrated in the accompanying image. The Morgan Metallico 09 and the dish were perfect together.
For Saturday’s Pizza and Movie Night — we watched “Wild Grass,” directed by Alain Resnais — I opened a bottle of the Amalaya 2009, a blend of 75 percent malbec grapes, 10 percent each cabernet sauvignon and syrah and 5 percent tannat. The latter is a grape grown principally in the southwest wine regions of France, such as Madiran and Irouléguy, and in South America, where producers in Uruguay have a particular liking for it. Amalaya is produced in the Calchaqui Valley in Argentina’s Salta region, where the vineyards lie at Andean altitudes from 5,250 to 5,580 feet; that’s right, some of these vines are cultivated at more than a mile above sea level. Bodega y Estancia Colomé, which makes Amalaya, among other labels, was founded in 1831 and is the oldest winery in Argentina. It was owned for 170 years by the Isasmendi-Dávalos family; Hess Family Estates acquired the estate in 2001.
Amalaya 2009 offers a rich, spicy bouquet of ripe black currants and blueberries permeated by bell pepper and black olive with whiffs of cedar, tobacco and thyme. While the wine is smooth and mellow and balanced, it hints at something untamed in its dark berryish quality, its slightly exotic, peppery spice and briery-brambly elements. Eighty percent of the wine is aged in tank, which lends freshness, and the rest in French oak for 10 months, developing a sense of spaciousness in the structure. The wine is robust without being rustic and almost plush in its finely-milled tannins, though keen acidity keeps the enterprise lively and drinkable. 10,000 cases were imported by The Hess Collection Winery, Napa, Cal. Alcohol is 14 percent. Now through 2012. Very Good+. About $17.
About a month ago, I started roasted tomatoes for the pizza. Depending on the variety and size of the tomatoes, I halve or quarter them, douse them with olive oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper and dried thyme, marjoram and oregano, and slide them under the broiler. I like them to wilt a little and get a touch black around the edges, so they retain juiciness and flavor. When they’re out of the oven, it’s easy to strip off the skin. I’ve also been giving the pizzas a foundation of black olive tapenade and basil pesto, each drawn in an X-shape on the rolled-out dough. Then thinly-sliced rounds of green pepper; the tomatoes (not too many); diced green onion; chopped bacon (fried while the tomatoes are roasting); a little more thyme, marjoram and oregano; mozzarella and grated Parmesan. Keep it simple is my mantra. These have been great pizzas, some of the best of my pizza-making career. Amalaya 2009 is just the kind of flavorful, spicy, well-structured wine that goes with them best.