Saturday, May 24, 2008
We've been doing the Dinner Time in our ads for a couple of months now, but Tuesday night was the first time since we started that I cooked one of our dinner time recipes. Of course, it was one of my own, and it's one of my favorites.
I cooked the Braised Lamb, and it came out great again. I really love that recipe. The change was in the wine I used. I had been given two samples of California Merlot, so I used the occasion to sample them side by side. Given my druthers, I would still choose a Chateauneuf du Pape, but it was just a weeknight dinner and I was happy to try something else.
The names of the wines are irrelevant to the issue right now, since I have neither one in stock. One was from Santa Barbara and the other was from Napa. I tried them right before I served up the dinner, and I immediately preferred the Santa Barbara. I found it to be richer, with a core of black cherry that was very impressive. It was fairly low in tannin but with enough acidity to give it structure. The Napa was harder edged, with more tannin, less generous fruit and a minty/herbal edge that was very interesting.
Then we served dinner, and the equation turned right around. It was the Napa that complemented the food. That minty quality was the difference. It was as if another herb was added to the food. Besides being good on its own, and washing down the food, it really added an extra element that was missing from the Santa Barbara. While the Santa Barbara remained good, it just didn't add anything. It was a nice wine, and if I had ordered it in a restaurant I would not have been disappointed. It just wasn't as appropriate as the Napa was for the dish.
It really goes to show that wines for sipping and wines for food are not always interchangeable.