Let the Wine Speak -- Or, Apple Inspirations

Yesterday afternoon, we sent samples of the two Grenache barrels off to the lab, to run a panel on each and see where we are with malolactic fermentation, alcohol levels, pH, and other assorted numbers that will give us an overall technical picture of what's going on with the wine right now. It's helpful to have this information. Still, the taste and mouthfeel of the wine remain the key factors that will influence any and all decisions we make about what to do with it.

Blindly into Wine

This week, Jody took up the task of cooking a secret meal, and I chose the brown-bag wine. Daughter Talia, 10, accompanied me to one of our local wine shops.

"What can I help you find?" asked the proprietor.

"I'm just going to look and see what speaks to me," I answered, which was true, however amusing Mr. Wine Shop may have found it.

"I'll listen for the shouting," he zinged.

Rather than explain how the bottles actually speak in whispers, and save the shouting for later (if they are, in fact, going to shout at all), I let him enjoy his moment, and set off to find mine.

Let Me in the Sound

"This wine speaks to me," Talia said as we strolled the Spanish aisle, resting her hand on a bottle. My eyes hit the shelf-talker at the same time: Verdejo ... 75-112 year-old vines ... $14.99? I heard the whisper. I listened.

2008 Shaya 100% Verdejo Old Vines, Rueda, Spain. 13.5% alcohol.

Yes, there's an animal, but it's not a cuddly-critter label. The deer looks like an image of a hammered steel sculpture, almost three-dimensional. Very striking. The back label explains: "As the morning mist disperses across the undulating countryside, the Shaya deer emerge from the surrounding pine forest to forage."

However, according to my brief online research, Shaya deer don't actually appear to exist anywhere except for the label of this wine bottle. I even looked it up using the Spanish word for deer, venado -- nothing.

Ah well. Mysteries of life. On to the tasting notes. Extremely light in color, the wine had a wonderfully appley nose, which boded well for the secret meal. Why? Read on.

Winter Wonder-meal

As Jody tells it, his inspiration for the meal was a lone Winesap apple on the counter. He wanted something wintry, savory, and tart. This translated into (beware: menu-speak and insufferable hyphenation ahead)

slow-cooked, pan-crisped pulled pork shoulder, served atop apple-balsamic-black-pepper cranberry sauce; and bitter greens sauteed with diced bacon, caramelized onion, and apple-cider vinegar.   

Growing up in fine-dining restaurant kitchens gave Jody something of a flair for presentation. Oh, man, he's going to be annoyed that I just used "Jody" and "flair" in the same sentence.

The Pairing

The wine's green-apple nose carried through to the palate, with bracing acidity and flavors of honeydew, kiwifruit and lemon peel. A mineral streak added depth and flintiness. This wine was a pleasure to experience. It didn't shout -- it sang.

"It's almost like a Sauv Blanc, but it doesn't quite have the same characteristics," Jody mused. Then his eyes narrowed. "We're in Spain. 2008. Albariño." (So close!)

With the meal? If you're planning on white wine with a dish like this, you can't miss with the Shaya Old Vine Verdejo. Even if those deer are imaginary.

The acidity of the wine enhanced the brightness of the winter flavors in the food, while tempering the richness of the heartier components. Crispy pulled pork, smoky bacon in the greens -- it handled everything admirably. We'll buy it again (and try it with a radically different dish next time, for fun).

Saddest part of the night? The empty glass. :(

See you next week for more cellar news, and the story of my parents' first visit to the (Double) Double-Blind dinner fun. Your comments are welcome!

I'd like to dedicate this week's writings to my Uncle Frank, who passed away on January 21 from ALS. I will forever remember Frank as a man who loved good food, good wine, and most of all, his family. He had a beautiful broad smile; a boisterous, fine-hearted Italian-Irish spirit; and, always, room at his table for another chair. Salute, sláinte!