Sunday, April 30, 2006

McLaren Vale, how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways! I always seem to ‘wax lyrical’ the morning after a good evening. 'Fantastic wine and fantastic food' encapsulates it but, does not do it justice. It is always difficult to translate to translate your feelings and sensations into written word without it losing some of its power and meaning. We had four wines last night, three from McLaren Vale. Those three were definitely all winners!

McLaren Vale, what a sensational wine region. (For those who have read
Mclaren Vale Shiraz and my other posts, you will realize that I am partial to the odd drop of Shiraz from that wonderful region.) McLaren Vale featured last night but allow me to attempt to build a little suspense and get some saliva production happening first.

As mentioned yesterday I had promised the Leader of the Opposition a lamb meal last night and I had decided on lamb backstraps (because they were less fatty).
Edward helpfully suggested in his comment to Dinner on Saturday? to try a Sangiovese with the lamb as the relatively high tannins would help cut through the ‘fattiness’ of lamb.

I decided, after seeing a veal liver and bacon on roesti potatoes recipe in our weekend magazine, to use the potato idea for my meal. This is because the roesti potato has white vinegar in it and I thought this would also help to cut through any fattiness of the lamb and complement the various flavours well.

In the end we had slow roasted lamb backstraps topped with wilted baby spinach leaves and served on roesti potatoes. The backstraps were roasted at 60C for 1.5 hours in a small amount of olive oil and 1 diced clove of garlic. When removed from the oven they were well seasoned with salt and pepper and then seared in a hot pan for about two minutes per side and then set aside to rest for ten minutes or so.

I grated the potato and then wrapped it in a tea towel and squeezed out as much water as I could. Season with salt and pepper and put a couple of table spoons of white vinegar and ¼ cup of melted butter and mix together. Make separate ‘patties’ of the potato and fry in frypan with a generous amount of vegetable oil (not deep fry). Use spatula to push down reasonably flat. As the potato browns the ‘pancakes’ will firm and be easily flipped over.

The spinach is just wilted in a hot frypan with some olive oil and garlic and then toweled to remove as much moisture as possible. The jus was made from veal stock with balsamic vinegar and red wine. I must say that the food was great - one of my better efforts.
TWC - sorry mate we had to eat your share.

Before the meal, during ‘nibblies’, Rob and I (and our good wives) compared the Koonunga Hill (one of Rob’s favourite guzzlers) with the Oomoo Shiraz (one of my favourites although I don't mind the old Koonunga). I have to say the Oomoo came out way ahead and I think Rob will admit to it. The Koonunga was a Siraz Cab Sav blend but just didn’t have the power, nose or intense flavours that the Oomoo exhibited.

With the meal we had the two showcase wines of the evening. A Coriole McLaren Vale 2004 Sangiovese (based solely on Edward’s earlier suggestion – I had to go out and purchase a bottle as I didn’t have any in the ‘cellar’) and a Wolf Blass 1996 Brown Label Shiraz.

McLaren Vale, how do I love thee? Oh, I have said that before haven’t I? The memory of these two wines is making me almost burst into song or poetry.

I don’t know whether it was the fact that it was surrounded by big McLaren Vale Shiraz but the Coriole’s nose was strikingly similar to a McLaren Vale shiraz. So much so that if I had been blind tasting I would have guessed a McLaren Vale shiraz. I read Halliday’s notes on the 2003 and he talks about ‘light in colour …….. savoury rose petals’. I got none of this. This wine was definitely NOT light in colour it was a dark deep red bordering on purple (although that could have had something to do with the light on the deck). Maybe someone more experienced than I could have smelled the ‘savoury rose petals’ but all I could get was ripe red berries. Being the first bottle of Sangiovese I have ever bought or drunk, I enjoyed it immensely. It was slightly tanniny but somehow more ‘elegant’ (if that is the right word) than some of the bigger bolder shiraz’. It was well worth the money and I will be buying some more.

The best wine of the night goes to Robbie’s contribution the Wolf Blass 1996 Brown Label Classic Shiraz. It was a true McLaren Vale shiraz. It was still big and bold and with still a hint of oakiness about it. As I sat there sniffing it I was amazed at the variety of aromas you could get. Definitely a variety of berries and later on some ‘crushed ants’. The word that Rob and I (being amateurs) both thought of immediately was ‘fresh’. I don’t know where this fits into the wine lexicon but the wine was fresh and alive. It was incredible and reminded me yet again of why I love the shiraz from this region. This wine typified all that is great about the grape! Unfortunately I think it was Robbie’s last bottle. Such sadness to end a night of joy!

Thanks Rob for the wine and thanks Edward for the tip on the Sangiovese.


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