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Zinfandel is a hedonist’s delight, with its voluptuous body and come-hither ripeness, recalling Peter Paul Rubens’ fleshiness in a beautiful fruit-forward package. I respect Zinfandel immensely and marvel at its ability to knock you on your can while imbibing glass after glass of deliciousness. I kind of fell off the Zinfandel train a few years into wine, preferring subtlety to the overt notes of fruit and tobacco smashing my palate but it is always nice to refresh my memory. I would still have to exercise caution, remain defensive while attending any Zin tasting—making serious use of the spit cup—to keep my senses alert because the wallop that Zins packs is unforgiving and would make the tasting a drag if I let my guard down.

For the coming tasting we met up in West Hollywood; battling traffic (what’s new?) to make it to the tasting that would include a dinner as hearty as the wines of grilled Pork Chops, Momma’s sauerkraut, baked Brussels sprouts, cole slaw and some brownies to wallow in decadence.

I was in charge of the tasting order since one of our mainstays (and a big-time organizer) was off in a far away land. I popped the bottles as they trickled in, allowing for maximum breathing time between each of the brawny Zins. I arranged the bottles by amount of alcohol (not by price) from low to high, trying to be fair to those wines with less ABV in hopes that they would have a fair showing in the tasting later on.

On the table we had the following:

09 Musar Jeune Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cinsault

08 Zito SLO Zinfandel

05 Acorn Heritage Vines Zinfandel

08 Quivira Zin

05 Papapietro & Perry Zinfandel

09 Mauritson Zinfadel

09 Rockpile Zinfandel “Jack’s Cabin”

09 Seghesio Zinfandel “Blue”

09 Seghesio Zinfandel Old Vines “Red”

 

I was able to open the tasting with a bottle from Lebanon’s major player—Château Musar—and had a bottle of their entry level Cabernet blend. A faint perfume of dried cranberry, herbs and orange blossoms on the nose translated to a little more than Crasins on the palate with drying tannins and moderate acidity. Quickly, we transitioned to the Zinfandels, with the primer in place and moved into the juicy fruit flavors of the Quivira Zinfandel that had a powdered cocoa finish and smooth tannins that perked up my buds.

Moving into another crowd pleaser with notes of blackberry, eucalyptus and coffee filling the nostrils, showing a pleasant blue and blackberry combo with velvety tannins and a long favorable finish, the Acorn “Heritage Vines” Zin was a great sipper on its own.

Not all the wines were as well received, some (he doesn’t name names) showed a little more than baby fat in the mouth and left our collective palates saturated in grape jelly, still we were getting as much traction as we could coming out of the goopy turn, making tracks to Mauritson.

We showed two Mauritson wines back to back, their first Zinfandel shown deep garnet in the glass with notes of ripe cherry and some figs on the nose and following on the palate. The Rockpile Zinfandel showed a detectable difference from its varied soils with some herbs, fruit and potpourri that leaped from the glass and on the palate everything was balanced but big with ripe cherry, tobacco and wood spice lingering on the finish. We concluded the tasting with the two Seghesio wines, side by side. The blue labeled Zin had garnet coloring with red fruits, smoke and oak on the nose. The dry wine was surprisingly herbaceous and we then tasted the “Old Vines” Zinfandel that had potent aromas of red fruits, licorice and boysenberry that was coupled with intense acidity by comparison, in addition to the enjoyable amount of fruit. It was the first time in the night I had paid attention to acidity which to me spoke volumes.

We were ready to eat, devouring a summer night’s fare that complimented the wines remarkably. The sides of Brussels sprouts with fresh thyme mixed well with some of the earthier Zins present and the Sauerkraut was one of my favorite items eaten this year and could easily have been eaten on its own. I knocked off nine wines during this sumptuous tasting, leaving 182 left on the journey and I can assure you that Zinfandel will be making another visit on the countdown.

 

It was my dad’s birthday last week and we decided to keep it simple, paying little attention to the elevated numerical count he was reaching and instead of dining out—our custom in years past—we stayed in and made a real simple and homey meal for him. The dinner was anything but fancy and truth be told it was just a dinner, comprised of blue potatoes, fresh asparagus and some thin cut pork chops sautéed in butter. However it was an ideal time to have a wine pairing and I was inclined to serve a Riesling, firstly because it was HOT outside and secondly because we were going to be eating pork. Lets revisit bin number 274.

The conditions could not have been more perfect for serving a blithe wine with a medium body that could be quaffed carefree, and a qualitätswein fit the billing. A Riesling from the Mosel was called in, specifically, a 2009 Willi Schaefer (one of many properties represented in the portfolio of acclaimed importer Terry Theise).

I chose the Mosel wine because it captured our nonchalance; it was unpretentious. One of the most exalted growing regions in Germany is the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. The area is well documented for producing some of the finest versions of Rieslings (among other wines) known to oenophiles. The Schaefer was not of such esteem but rose to the occasion from humble beginnings. The term Mosel—on a wine label—refers to the major river that takes form in the Vosges Mountains and spans across French and German wine making territories. Mosel is found on the labels in part as a stratification system, breaking down the wines into subsets for quality assurance designations. The term Mosel has endured on the labels as a classification because of the ease in which it is pronounced—the same cannot be said for other common German verbiage found pasted on a bottle.

Back to number 274, it was picked because pork and Riesling are a beautiful couple; not only is the fattiness of the pork abated on the palate after a sip of the bright Riesling but also the vibrancy of fruit and structure of these wines prepares your mouth for the following bites. It was with this foreknowledge I was more than happy to unscrew the top of the Willi Schaefer.

My mother prepared a perfectly executed meal with purple potatoes sharing the jus from the buttered pork drippings and some lightly steamed asparagus. The potatoes were remarkable, the creamiest texture I have encountered in a long time and the pork chops had been seasoned well and were crispy on their outsides. The mixed textures enhanced the meal. Everything was light and easy and wine complimented the grub, deleting the grease and replacing it with effulgent pippin apples and citrus sprits of the Schaeffer. Even the asparagus—an enemy of wine—respectfully bowed down.

The day was a success; my dad had celebrated another year, downplaying the proximity to 60, as I stepped ever closer to my 500 mark with my family—in the best company. Van harte gefeliciteerd, Pap.

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