Every bottle has a story

I am not a wine expert, but with each bottle I try and share with friends, I learn more. Wine is an exceptional social drink; it is the marijuana of alcoholic beverages because it must be shared. I seek to share with you my thoughts and experiences as I drink the wine in my closet, as well as my enthusiasm for the finds that come my way and the excellent values that I find. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences too, so please share!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A mismatch with a poorly-prepared lamb chop

France’s Rhône valley has always been my favorite wine region, ever since I had my first bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the early 1980s. I have explored other appellations in both the Southern and Northern Rhône regions, finding extraordinary wines all the time. One appellation in the Northern Rhône that I had a lucky find several years ago was Saint-Jospeh. As I recall, it was a delicious bold and brilliant wine full of character and terroir. But lately the wines of Saint-Joseph have been beguiling to me, much like Côte-Rôtie. I have purchased and drank highly rated examples of these wines, but was generally left with a feeling of ambivalence. Was the wine really that good? Am I missing something?

Such was the case with the 2006 Domaine Georges Vernay, Saint-Joseph. I had two bottles of these and both time I drank them, I was always left with the thought of how could Wine Spectator rate this a 92? Don’t get me wrong, the wine was very good, but a 92?

And a misstep in preparing the lamb chops the wine was served with probably didn’t help much either.

My friend Curt and I opened my last bottle the other night. The stain on the cork was such a deep violet it was almost black. The nose was a rich and delicious mixture of dark, heavy fruit, of cassis buoyed with a spicy hint of licorice and pepper. This was an incredibly inky wine pouring out of the bottle, dark as night and opaque.

But the taste wasn’t nearly as exhilarating as the nose and its beautiful color. The strong mineral beam carried the fruit nicely, but it struck me as a bit acidic. Again, it was good drinking, but the acid flavor to the wine was exacerbated as well by the lamb served with it. And that brings me to my preparation faux pas.

I marinated the chops in olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic and fresh oregano with salt and pepper. They were perfectly broiled and tender as could be. But I way overdid the lemon juice in the marinade, which also could have used more pepper and maybe even more oregano and garlic. The lemon was so strong it nearly dominated the lamb’s flavor and the tartness of the lemon conflicted with the wine.

Lesson 1: I shall remember that wonderful experience with the first Saint-Joseph I had and will continue my search for another.

Lesson 2: I will use far less lemon in the marinade for the lamb chops, and I think I will also go for a more peppery coating so they grill a bit crispier.

OK, I went back and changed my rating for this wine from an 8 using my scale at the left to a 6.5. This wine was frankly disappointing. Am I missing something with these wines?

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