29 March 2014

wine tasting dinner: a bottle of red, a bottle of white

Welcome back! It's been a full week since I last posted, but this is a long one to redeem myself. Last month, the Sailor and I hosted an at-home wine tasting party. We won the tasting party at an auction back in the summer and finally put the event together this winter. If you've ever peeked at our wine rack or if you recall our experience at the Thirsty Owl, a local tasting room, you know we're not exactly connoisseurs. So it took us a bit of time to connect with the "wine expert" and then to plan the night. We went back and forth on a theme or region and whether we would do a sit down dinner or tasting plates to go with the wine. And then we finally devised a plan for a tasting menu. 

(Yep, it's long. For those who are interested in the wines only, scroll down. The list of wines, where to buy, review and prices are all the way at the bottom of the post.)

I don't know anyone who studies cookbooks like the Sailor. He reads; he compares recipes; he makes notes. Cookbooks are like textbooks to him. Me...I just like to eat. Not this time though. While I didn't exactly put the menu together, the Sailor consulted with me on the six courses he developed. He was probably just being considerate, but he sure did make me feel like I had an important role...in addition to playing hostess and putting together all of the cutesy party-prep stuff I am somewhat capable of doing.

The inspiration or 'theme' for the dinner? Somewhere in our worldly travels, we've tried a number of wines from Spain and Argentina that we rated "good." In Wine Spectator speak, they'd probably characterize the wines as complex, earthy or balanced. So, when speaking with the "wine expert," we referenced a few "good" vintages that we've enjoyed and told him to select wines to compliment the menu, which the Sailor and I planned using Everyday Italian, Secrets of the Best Chefs, Made in Spain and Italian Grill

I wish that I had taken more photos (story of my life), because every course really was delicious and looked like photo from a cooking magazine. And despite all of us feasting like kings that night, we had plenty of left-overs to enjoy for days.

First Course
Click for data sheet on vineyards, grapes, harvest

Prosciutto Wrapped Pears with Blue Cheese and Balsamic

Cheese & Duck Prosciutto 

The highlight of this course was the duck prosciutto, which the Sailor prepared using a method from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie cookbook. More on Ruhlman. Ruhlman sums up the technique, "Pack one duck breast in kosher salt, cover and refrigerate 24 hours.  Remove from salt, rinse it, dry it, wrap in cheesecloth and hang for a week or so.  A general rule is dry-cured products are done when they lose 30% of their weight." And that's exactly what the Sailor did- If you have a humidity meter and kitchen scale, give it a whirl. Serve it on slices of thin baguette with a little mustard...Mmmm. 

Second Course
White Bean Dip with Pita
Giada DeLaurentis, Everyday Italian (page 19)

Grilled Baby Octopus with White Beans

Mario Batali, Italian Grill (page 111)

Bonito with Soft Onions and Tomato on Bread
Jose Andres, Made in Spain (page 65)

Grilled Shrimp

Seared Piquillo Peppers with Cheese
Jose Andres, Made in Spain (page 58)

This course included my favorite white wine and second favorite wine overall that we tasted during the evening. The Ossian has apricot, almond, and toffee notes, making it sweet, but it also has a bit of spice and citrus.

Grilled Pizza with Carmelized Onions, Figs and Goat Cheese

Fifth Course

2010 Luca Malbec

Grilled Lamb Chops

Giada DeLaurentis, Everyday Italian (page 149)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Lardons

Sixth Course
Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri and/or Guajilo Pepper Sauce
Adam Roberts, Secrets of the Best Chefs (page 252)

Wrinkled Baby Potatoes with Red and Green Sauce

Seventh Course


Click for data sheet on vineyards, grapes, harvest
Lemon Semifreddo with Blackberries and Honey

Adam Roberts, Secrets of the Best Chefs (page 86)

Raventos Blanc de Nit Cava
Notes of dried rose, yeast, fennel, pungent acidity, persistent bubbles, ending very dry- Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

2011 Dido Macabeu Garnatxa Montsant

Layers of rich, silky complexity, with a hint of almond, marzipan and pears. Beautiful white fruit and crisp acidity- Nicholas Roberts, Ltd.

Light gold colored, it offers up a toasty, leesy, mineral, baking spice, apricot and tropical-scented perfume. Super spicy on the palate with a creamy texture, superb concentration, and richness–Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
Aged in American cask for 36 months, it has a bucolic, natural bouquet of bright red cherries, balsamic, mint and a touch of dried honey all with superb delineation. The palate is medium-bodied with wonderful delineation and supple, lithe tannins. The acidity is very well judged and it leads to a pert, tense finish of bitter cherry, loganberry and licorice.- Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Good ruby-red. Crushed dark berries and chocolatey oak on the nose, lifted by a mineral element. Sweet, velvety and inviting, with harmonious acidity and underlying minerality enlivening the dark berry, coffee bean and chocolate flavors. – International Wine Cellar
Sexy, slightly high-toned aromas of blackberry, mocha, cedar, violet and bitter chocolate lifted by a peppery note; hints at dried fruits without showing any raisiny character.  Sweet, silky and seamless if a bit youthfully reduced, offering lush yet utterly fresh flavors of currant, plum and chocolate nicely framed by harmonious acidity. – International Wine Cellar

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