October 30, 2006

A ridiculous tasting of California Cabs, and an impromptu coffee sauce

pan-roasted pork tenderloin with rosemary
nutty brussel sprouts, potato-apple puree, fig, coffee-soy-caramel pan jus

Thanks to Mr. G.H., I had the opportunity to participate in a blind analytical tasting of nine ultra high-end California Cabernet Sauvignons with the good folks of FOG. Check out this lineup, listed in order of my ranking:
  1. 2003 Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains (1,500 cases, $120 group rank: 8). Not popular with the group, but my favorite because of its distinctive earthy, somewhat green acidity. It makes sense that this one stood out from the pack, with the completely different climate and soils of Santa Cruz. I thought this had the best potential for food pairings because of its lively, bright palate.
  2. 2003 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Napa Valley (7,043 cases, $125 group rank: 4). A very balanced, well-executed wine; some thought it was too middle-of-the-road.
  3. 2003 Dalle Valle Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (800 cases, $110 group rank: 1). I have always wanted to try this wine, ever since passing up on an incredibly well-priced bottle of Maya at a charity auction a couple of years ago. Amazing, cool core of full-bodied fruit, balanced by somewhat aggressive, warm tannic structure.
  4. 2003 Spottswood Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Vineyard, St. Helena (3,700 cases, $110 group rank: 2). An elegant, floral cabernet, exhibiting finesse and complexity, like a field of violets, lavender and light herbs. An eye opener for me
  5. 2003 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain (1,000 cases, $65 group rank: 3). One of my favorite wineries. Herbaceous undertone, with bright cherry and juniper berry (I think).
  6. 2003 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley (1,827 cases, $250 estimated group rank: 6). One of Napa's exclusive cult wines; very difficult to get one's hands on a bottle... I can't believe I got to taste it blind. Surprising bitter notes in a very powerful wine.
  7. 2003 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (2,500 cases, $85 group rank: 7). Remarkably smooth, silky and plush, almost to a fault, because it muted any distinctive characteristics.
  8. 2003 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Georges de Latour, Private Reserve, Napa Valley (14,000 cases, $95 group rank: 9). Light and almost watery.
  9. 2003 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Selection, Napa Valley (9,800 cases, $136 gropu rank: 5). A montrous amount of new oak for my taste, with a burnt smell. Seemed to have the longest finish of all, approx. 35-40 seconds.
How incredible to have so many exclusive wines at one tasting! Nearly all of them were absolutely delicious, with the rankings only separating stylistic preferences (at least for me). By the way, it's no easy task to try and stay fair and precise in your tasting notes with this many powerful wines coating your taste buds.

We were also fortunate to have Wilfred Wong (BevMo's buyer) on hand for this tasting. No way! Wilfred's capsule reviews helped make new and different wines a bit more accessible and less intimidating when I first started buying wine, so it was a real treat for me to watch him taste and listen to some of his comments. A very nice fellow. Also, props to Steve P. for organizing a great tasting.

After I got home, I prepared a late supper for me and Lav. On the BART ride, I was trying to think of some flavor combinations for an intensely flavored pan sauce to accompany pork tenderloin. I ended up getting fixated on incorporating a coffee reduction to play off of the roasted characteristics of the pork and the coffee.

To comprise the reduction, I started with a cup of coffee, then added sugar, a splash of mirin, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar. I used the resulting liquid to deglaze the pan once the tenderloin had been seared and finished in the oven, and polished it with a tiny dab of butter. The result was much better than I had expected; each of the disparate elements came together in a synergy of deep and brooding flavors, adding just the right dimension to the dish. The recipe could use just a bit of tweaking to bring even more of the coffee flavor out, but I am really happy with the result already...

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1 comment:

  1. at first i thought, "a coffee and soy sauce reduction? i'm not so sure about that jack... sounds gross." but i stand corrected. i think it was the best piece of pork you've ever made! yum! the roasted figs were the topper!