Saturday, April 9, 2011

Paired Up: Sangiovese and a Smorgasbord

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

The Wine

2008 Yellow Hawk Cellar Sangiovese (Columbia Valley)

On the final day of our first trip to Walla Walla, we stopped in at Yellow Hawk Cellars. Sadly, that would be our one and only visit as they have since closed up shop. At that visit, though, the wines were good and the prices were great, so we grabbed a couple bottles. When we got home, the 2007 Sangiovese became an early favorite of the trip of ours, and we bought several more bottles at Metropolitan Market. It was also one of the first wines that sent us out looking for online wine reviews and wine blogs. Washington Wine Report has selected a couple of the older vintages of this wine as recommended Thanksgiving wines, and we have generally found that Sangiovese is a food-friendly wine that goes with most anything. We put that to the test here.

This bottle was bought shortly before Thanksgiving last year and has been in the wine rack in our living room since then. It decanted for as long as it took us to heat everything up, so about 15-20 minutes. That was sufficient for this wine, and popping and pouring probably wouldn't be bad either.

The Food

After working out, we needed something quick, and we needed to use up leftovers. So, we put together this smorgasbord!

OK, so it's not technically a smörgåsbord in the strictest Swedish sense, but it is a bunch of random food. It was time to clean out the fridge, and we thought to ourselves, well hell, let's put our favorite Sangiovese to the test, and see how well it actually goes with food items that probably shouldn't be on the table at the same time anyway! First, we tested it out with 2 kinds of Gouda, a very young one, and a more aged Parmesan/Gouda. We had some yummy leftovers of Hunter's sauce, more leftover chicken/veggie/quinoa stir-fry*, and a little treat I used to live on when I was a starving art student in college, deli cheeses with tomato paste (why? because we had it just sitting in the fridge, doing nothing but going bad...), and lastly, some endives and grapes. 

Simple. Also, cleaning out the fridge by way of pigging out and drinking wine... not bad!

*The quinoa dish is our go-to middle of the busy work week, belt line friendly dish. Boil a breast of chicken, and shred it. Then, in a small pot (this is for 2 people), put 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa and cover with 3/4 cups water and 1/4 cup chicken stock. Season as you want, bring to a boil uncovered, then reduce to simmer and cover for about 15 minutes. While all that is going on, in a large pan, heat up a few swirls of EVOO over medium high, then put in a bag of mixed frozen veggies. (It's not cheating! Frozen veggies are often higher in nutrients! And they're easy!) Heat that up, adding seasonings again as you wish, and I usually add in some low sodium soy sauce, and maybe more chicken stock. Then add the shredded chicken in for a couple minutes, remove it from heat, mix in the cooked quinoa, and serve! Again, easy, very high in protein, low in calories and fat, but really filling because you can eat a lot of it!

Hunter's Gatherings

It's straight-up red with medium depth and nice clarity. The nose is only moderate and shows red fruits (strawberry, raspberry) with some spice, tar and oak detectable. The flavors in the taste are more than the nose let on, with sour cherry dominating like a Sour Patch Kid amongst Swedish Fish. The rest of the taste has red fruits and some spice, but it really does smack of the sour cherry throughout. 86

With the food... so much to take in! The pasta and sauce brought out some nice meaty flavors in the wine that I didn't see coming. The quinoa dish brought the spice forward and made everything livelier and more pleasant. The cheeses were a mixed bag. The Gouda-style parmesan was delicious with it, bringing the fruit forward while allowing the wine to integrate and smooth out the rough edges of the cheese. The Gouda was similar, except that its flavor lasted much longer than that of the wine and overwhelmed the experience. The sliced cheeses, on the other hand, could not keep up with the wine at all and simply disappeared. The endive with tomato sauce did not do it for me at all - it made everything way too sour and left me scrambling for more of the excellent parm-sangiovese combo. I loved the wine with the grapes. Mmmmm.

Katy's Take

With a medium deep, clear, dark-garnet hue, I often find this wine exciting from the initial pour. It had a moderate aroma that shows some age, and showcases a bouquet of red fruits, cherry and apple, with deeper and more complex scents of a meaty, peppery earth, and an almost elusive whiff of blueberry and an herby clove. The flavor is medium sweet, slightly drying, and crisp. The attack puckers your mouth with sour cherries that very quickly fade to a much more delicate and light apple mid-palate, while the finish smacks of a unique earthy, feminine meaty ending that makes you want to get in line and take the ride all over again! 85 

Paired Up:

Hmm... so much to talk about! I suppose I should just go in order:

The young Gouda was a great pairing. The cheese is smooth, nutty and creamy, and the the wine just telegraphs this creaminess. The aged Gouda-parm was also great, melting with the wine and creating a smoother, creamier, more caramelized texture and flavor. The sauce was, of course, compatible with the wine, bringing forth more fruitiness and less spice in the wine. The quinoa/chicken dish (which I made spicy) was much more exciting. The spice seemed to reignite the wine and bring out more of the tongue twisting sour cherry, which cut through the heat with a more drying crispness, which just became really refreshing. For the rest of it... well, let's just say that I'm very glad my days in college, eating college style food, are long gone! I wish that I had left the cheese and paste to my memories, where it tasted much better! What I will say is that pairing it with the deli cheddar/paste, it made me think that this wine should be drunk with our next pizza delivery. The sodium in the marinara really cut the sour down, allowing more sweet fruit juiciness to shine through. The grapes were great with the wine, but then most wines go well with grapes. Just like beef goes with beef. And bacon always tastes good on a ham sandwich.

The Conclusion

So what did we learn here? Is Sangiovese the universal pairing red that we hoped it would be? Well, not really, or at least not this one. But, it was an excellent match for a couple of the options here (especially the Gouda/Parm and the quinoa dish) and pretty good for a couple others. It may not have been much of a match with the sliced cheese, but we'll chalk that up to the cheese being weak moreso than this wine being too strong. Perhaps a more refined palate since the days of college had something to do with that as well... Also, mmmm, grapes. And mmmm, bacon. (Yeah, we didn't have bacon, but isn't bacon great? Seriously.)

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