Amazing Chemistry -- Or, a Meal and a Mystery

As our three barrels continue to laze through their seventh month of malolactic fermentation (am I ever going to have anything else to say in this regard? I'm sure at some point, I will), we're tasting weekly and marveling at how the wine is developing. The Grenache is nearly done with ML, we know. How do we know, you ask? Well, thanks to a swell gift from a dear friend, enabling us to experience better living through chemistry.

A malic-acid quick testing kit! What fun! In case you can't tell from the fabulous lighting in this photo, we're hovering somewhere around 50-ish mg/L of malic acid in the Grenache. The Syrah test was much purpler (in all respects).

The fact that our barrels are still working to complete ML at this point in their young lives is perfectly normal and fine, experienced winemaking friends assure us. We allowed the wine to enter ML naturally, without adding cultured malolactic bacteria at the end of fermentation, as many wineries do. (All healthy wine should be able to complete ML on its own if allowed to do so; but wineries with strict timelines for aging and bottling prefer to control exactly when that will happen.)

Wait, Everyone Likes What I Made? Really?

If you've noticed that I haven't written recently about personally cooking a meal for our double-double-blind food and wine pairings, well, that's because I hadn't. Oh, I've been cooking it up here and there, but those meals just weren't coinciding with this event. All that's a long-winded way of saying my turn was long overdue. I took it on Friday night.

Meals that take days to prepare are always special and (usually) wonderful treats, but like most everyone with kids and/or a day job, my weekdays are busy, busy. What I've found with weekday meal planning is that, if I can have just a few minutes to shut everything else out and think about it, the components and the meal typically come together quickly and easily. That's what happened with my dinner this week.

Grilled-chicken sandwiches on rustic rolls with cayenne-lemon-parsley mayo, arugula, crisped Prosciutto di Parma, and candied home-pickled jalapeños and onions. On the side: oven-roasted sweet-potato fries with a lemon-sriracha sour-cream dipping sauce.

It was a cinch to put together, and I'm happy to say it's now on the short list of Dinners Everyone in the Family Likes. Can't beat that! (Modification's the key. No prosciutto on Talia's sandwich -- what is that girl thinking -- and sliced avocado on both the children's instead of the candied jalapeños and onions.)  

Before hitting the grill, the chicken spent about 15 minutes in a marinade of plain yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice & zest, chopped parsley, and cayenne pepper.

Hold that Secret; And a Mystery-Wine Mystery

The secret wine was waiting to be poured, and for the first time in Double-Double-Blind History, it had to wait longer than usual. You see, we'd been (non-blind) sipping an absolutely delightful Amador County Verdelho before dinner, and enjoying it so much that we simply had to see how it paired with the flavors of the food. The verdict: Go and get yourself some Forlorn Hope Que Saudade. Right away. Well, actually, you can't just yet, because the current vintage (a mere 177 cases) is sold out. I happen to know, however, that the 2009 vintage was bottled this week, so get on the mailing list and make sure you don't miss out when it's released. (You might have to fight me for it.)

Now. Time for Jody's secret bottle. He poured it; I swirled it. A light shade of garnet, it smelled all Grenache -- lovely Grenache, with telltale aromas of raspberry and earth.

I was pretty sure it was 100 percent Grenache, from California, and I thought 2007...

The first sip surprised me -- this was a deep, multilayered wine with a weighty sense the nose didn't initially reveal. Strong licorice flavors kept the vibrant berry fruit in check, and pleasantly earthy flavors shone through, as well. I kept coming back for more. It was delicious, and a hit with the flavors of the meal. Prosciutto likes Grenache.

Ramian Reserve 2006 Grenache Rouge, California, 14.4% alc.
167 cases produced

The back label explained this reserve blend was created from the best barrels, and aged in French oak for 20 months. When I visited the winery's website, all I could find about 2006 Grenache, however, was a rosé-appearing wine in a clear bottle for which the tech sheet listed nine months in neutral oak, not 20 (though the winemaker's notes did sound interestingly similar to mine). It was obvious this wasn't the same bottle we'd enjoyed. Time for more research!

Getting to the bottom of a mystery is one of my favorite pastimes, and the more I dug, the more mysteriously interesting this one became. Dottie and John from the Wall Street Journal had even had something to say about the Ramian Grenache Rouge that wasn't our Ramian Grenache Rouge. But no one, anywhere, seemed to be able to confirm this bottle actually existed.

So, I'm venturing a theory. There is mention of a "Grenache Reserve" in the "Select 100" allocation club on the Ramian website. The website also mentions that club members receive wines made just for the club ... could this be one of those special wines? Jody purchased it at the WineSellar and Brasserie, where he assures me they could tell me what I want to know. But I'd love to hear from winemaker Brian Graham before I take the easy way out. (The easy way out's not nearly as much fun.)

Until next time, y'all - cheers!