Friday, March 25, 2011

Paired Up: Merlot/Cabernet Franc Blend and Steak in Chocolate Sauce

In our Paired Up posts, we review a wine and the food we wisely (or foolishly) paired it with. 

The Wine

2009 Buty Winery Merlot & Cabernet Franc (Columbia Valley)

We wanted to do a Merlot for this tasting, but we didn't think the one bottle in our cellar was quite ready and we didn't find any varietal Merlots that tickled our fancy. We tried a bottle of the 2008 vintage of this blend with an excellent dinner at Monsoon in Capitol Hill a couple nights prior to this meal, where it worked Buty-fully with a wide variety of dishes. The strength of the wine was great with steak, and we felt that the chocolate notes would mesh well with the chocolate sauce in this meal. Alas, the 2008 was not to be found, so we picked up a bottle of the 2009 at McCarthy & Schiering in Queen Anne while out on a walk. We packed it back down the hill and it sat in our living room for a few days before we got a chance to cook this dinner. It decanted for about 20 minutes before tasting, and really should have aired out more as it got better as the night wore on.

The Food

This one was all Katy - the only thing Hunter helped with was the eating. In the chef's words:

Moving on up! After mastering the leg of lamb, I'm feeling like getting a little edgy- onto the Beef Tenderloin! We knew that we wanted to taste a Merlot, and since, in our opinions, Merlot just comes off as a generic-panic at the cellar-"I didn't know what to buy, so I got this because I've heard of it" wine, we wanted to try something a little unconventional for the dish.

Again, SUPER important to get your prep work done ahead of time. As everyone who was once an adolescent knows, once things start moving, it's hard to slow them down and there is nothing more mood killing than overcooked tenderloin!
So, to start: Mince 1 tablespoon worth of a shallot and 1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary; set each aside. In one measuring cup, add around 1/4 cup of port (This is a big part of the overall flavor, so make sure you get something that you would actually drink on it's own... if you know, you were into drinking ports...) and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Get another measuring cup ready with 1/4 cup of beef stock. Lastly, take about 2 squares of bittersweet chocolate, and coarsely chop that up.

Once you've got that down and you feel the timing is right (no need to rush things!), put a skillet on the stove with a little drizzle of EVOO on it, and crank up the heat to med-high. While that's getting nice and hot, unpack your meat and brush all sides with a little EVOO and crust one side with fresh cracked white pepper. When the EVOO in the skillet begins to smoke (just a little!), go ahead and put your meat in, pepper side down. While it sizzles here, quickly crust the new "up" side with more pepper. For medium rare, you'll want about 2-3 minutes per side. If you want it more cooked than that... well, maybe this recipe isn't for you!

Once both sides are done, set the meat aside (tent it with tin foil). Keeping the skillet on the burner, stir in the shallots, and cook for about a minute. Next comes the port/balsamic mixture. Simmer this until it reduces down to a thickish chocolate-syrup type consistency (about 2-3 minutes). Add the beef stock and rosemary; return to a simmer, then quickly whisk in the chopped up chocolate. Once that is all melty, it's ready to pour over your hot meat!

On a side note: as is evident in our lovely picture (which does not do the flavors any favors), presentation was lost a bit. I think that it would have looked better if I had kept more control with pouring the sauce... like if I had first poured it into a measuring cup that had a spout...

For a side dish, we resorted back to the baked brussels sprouts, because, well, they were delicious and they are still sort of in season, and they are super easy, and why not? We also threw some quinoa in there, because, well, we like quinoa.

Hunter's Gatherings 

The wine is an appealing, deep red. The nose showed fairly strongly at first of chocolate, brett and plums, then faded a bit. After some time airing out, the aromas returned with some woody and mineral notes. The attack is sharp and acidic until the chocolate takes over at mid-palate. The finish is very tannic - high and hard - and a bit chewy. Still, it is a pleasing wine and shows a lot of promise; best get a bottle of this and let it lay for a while, because when those tannins smooth out, this one will be fantastic. 88

Once again, garlic was great with a red wine. This was no surprise. The chocolate sauce was also a great pair with the Merlot/Cab Franc blend, and helped smooth out some of the acidity and the tannins. This, too, was no surprise. The biggest surprise to me was that the chocolate-beef combo brought some spice out of the wine, giving a nice kick to the meal as a whole. I expected the brussels sprouts to ground the wine and play up the earthy elements, but there was no such interaction for me. 

Katy's Take 

The color reminds me of fresh pomegranate seeds - beautifully clear and deep red. The bouquet was of deep dark, black fruits. A little buttery and creamy. Almost a bittersweet scent of chocolate. There was a bare hint of pencil shavings and a final whiff of toasted coconut. On the palate it was a bit of a surprise! It had a drying sweetness, nearly tart, but not unpleasantly flavorful. There was an initial rush of spicy meat, which immediately gave way to a predominant sour cherry. The mid-palate was still tart, but with a beginning closed roundness of a sweet butter cream. Overall, there is a lasting smack of tart cherries that leaves me to think that this wine might have benefited from some more time in the cellar. 86 

What a dish! On it's own, the meat was a show stopper. I think it would pair well with most dark red wines, but it didn't really need it. The wine took great benefit from the sweet and savory tastes and textures of the tenderloin. It seemed to bring out the initial taste of spicy meat and force it more into the center of the palate, imparting a new-found, albeit false, sense of age. I guess, like a really, really good fake ID in college: it maybe shouldn't, but it just works! The brussels sprouts also worked really well with the wine, combating the sour and rounding it out to a more earthy finish.

The Conclusion

The wine was probably a bit too young and definitely did not get enough air to shine as it will in time. The main course was another great one; the chocolate sauce, steak and wine were wonderful together! The garlic that was mixed in with the brussels sprouts also gave the expected slice of heaven when consumed with the wine. The brussels sprouts themselves were a split decision for us, but they weren't really the focus of the meal. We'll have to find another bottle of Buty, search out a more unifying side and revisit this one when everything is ready!

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