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Carpe Vinum: Heavyweight Reds

The right wine for you- 6 bottles for just $34.99!

[Read in Casey Kasem’s voice]:  This week’s (Carpe Vinum) long-distance dedication goes out to Heavyweight Reds and the foods that love them.

Using DeLong’s Wine Table Varietal Poster (I had mine mounted to foam core-board and I consult it all the time), we chose five of the heaviest read wines to study:  Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Nero d’Avola, Touriga Nacional, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Without further rambling, here’s what we ended up with for wines and pairings:

Parducci Small Lot Blend Petite Sirah 2010 ⭐⭐/83
100% Petite Sirah.  Dark ruby color in the glass.  Rosemary and mint on the nose.  Flavors of blackberry and white pepper.  Very light bodied, with subdued tannins.  I expected a little more heft and grip for a Petite Sirah.  A decent wine for $15, and totally drinkable for a Tuesday evening, but I wouldn’t make a special trip to seek it out.

Paired with Roasted Eggplant Soup
The color of this soup made me think, “this has to have red peppers in it,” but the color is all from the tomatoes and eggplant!  Substantial and satisfying without being feeling like a brick in your belly.  The recipe calls for goat cheese crumbles on top, but I don’t eat goat cheese, so my girlfriend made mine with feta, which was delightful.

The Pairing 👍
The lighter body of the wine ended up pairing quite nicely with the soup.  Any heavier, and it might have eclipsed the food.


Turley Howell Mountain Zinfandel Cedarman 2012 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/92
Turley never disappoints.  The fruit is sourced from both Rattlesnake Ridge and Dragon Vineyards.  Primarily Zinfandel with a touch of Petite Sirah.  Absolutely LOVE the spice notes on this wine — cinnamon and cloves.  Chocolate and coffee give way to black licorice on the back end.  It’s a real brooder that needs time out of the bottle to open up.  A very special wine.  $60.

Paired with Steak and Egg-Salad Sandwiches
A playful adaptation of steak and eggs . . . these sandwiches are soooooo good!  The egg salad would make a great sandwich even sans steak.  Love the addition of celery for crunch and watercress for a little tang.

The Pairing 👍
Such a nice balance here between the warm spice of the wine and the cool components of the sandwich.  Everyone is playing nicely in the sandbox together.


Arianna Occhipinti Nero d’Avola 2010 ⭐⭐/82
After researching Nero d’Avola for my previous post, I was eager to try this grape again.  I spent quite a bit of time trying to find a “good” Nero, and settled on this one.  And . . . I was disappointed.  A bit cloudy in the glass (is Nero supposed to be cloudy?).  Ooof!  There’s an absolute bitterness (no other way to describe it) to this wine that completely pulled my focus.  I get some tart rhubarb and a follow-on leather note.  Anything else gets beat up by the bully acid in this wine.  It did open up some as it sat out, but it still seemed out of whack.  $40.

Morgante Nero d’Avola 2011 ⭐⭐⭐/85
Kind of purplish in the glass.  Not terribly complex, but the fruit is there — plum, currant, black berry.  A dusty texture, softer and much less acidic than the Occhipinti.  Decent finish.  Not bad for $15.

Paired with Pasta alla Norma
This is a Jamie Oliver recipe, and if you’re an eggplant and basil fan, you’re gonna love this dish! It’s simply eggplant, garlic and basil simmered in tomato sauce.  It’s simple and hearty, and topped with a superb cheese (Ricotta Salata) that I’d never tried before.  It’s also the first time I’ve ever used basil stems in a dish.

The Pairing 👍
OK . . . I will concede that the eggplant dish definitely mellowed out the Occhipinti.  Perhaps Nero is just one of these “doesn’t like to be alone” wines.  There is a red chili pepper in the Pasta alla Norma, and the Morgante really brought out that heat.  Distracting.


Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
The nose is a little closed off, needs time to open up.  Age is going to taste fantastic on this wine.  There’s almost a perfume quality here — flavors of currant, cherry and cedar, tobacco and black licorice.  Very nicely balanced.  Lovely finish.  I’d definitely buy more of this one.  $50.

Portal Colheita Douro Red 2010 ⭐⭐⭐/87
I love the graphic, almost Art Deco quality to the label on this wine.  60% Tinta Roriz, 29% Touriga Nacional, 15% Touriga Franca.  Very dark in the glass, almost inky.  Fruit is kind of clobbered by heavy tannins right now, but I suspect this will mellow out with age.  For $15, I’d buy another bottle just to see where it’s at in five years.

Paired with Grilled Lamb Chops with Pistachio-Mustard Crust
I’m not a big lamb fan.  It just has a gaminess to it that I don’t enjoy.  Scratch that.  Normally, I’m not a big lamb fan.  I’m making an exception for this preparation.  The mustard and pistachio crust is out of this world!  Sorry folks, no recipe.  But I can tell you how my girlfriend made it. Grill the lamb chops to your specifications, and top with a paste of Dijon mustard, roughly chopped pistachios, salt and pepper, and a sprig of rosemary.

The Pairing 👍
The lamb chops were fantastic with the Cabernet (the lamb really brings out an herbal profile in the wine).  Interestingly, the Portal Colheita really emphasized the gaminess in the lamb.  I didn’t enjoy the lamb nearly as much as I did with the Cab.

A couple of us are heading to France on vacation this summer (I’m going Paris and north; my girlfriend is going Paris and south), so for the next 4 months, we’ll be diving into an in-depth study of the French wine regions where we’ll be traveling.  We’ll start with Provence.


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