We had never had a vertical tasting at the house and we were not really sure how to proceed. Most of the time when we had a chance to taste a vertical run, it was just tasting the wines with perhaps crackers and cheese, but we were planning on having something special. We had discussions about three different courses with the three different wines, but there were a couple of problems with that scenario; first my Bride would be in the kitchen the entire time and we just have a typical home with one stove, a large toaster oven and a microwave, so having multiple dishes at different times was just not going to happen. Then there was the small matter of deciding on a menu, after we had decided on the appetizers, which were the easy part of the equation. Of course, I think big and grandiose, and it is easy when I am not the one that is really doing the cooking. Eventually everything fell into place and my Bride is to be commended royally.
We had side plates set up between the couples for fresh baguette slices and a whole clove of roasted garlic, to be plucked and spread on the bread. Next, we had the Caesar Salad that I have been bragging about, ever since she learned the recipe, while we were on our honeymoon, and that is now quite a few years ago, but who is counting. Then we experimented with a new recipe that she has tweaked a bit, but it was the first appearance for others, before we were the guinea pigs. The Coquilles St. Jacques al crème de Xeres, or sea scallops sautéed with mushrooms and garlic, pan-sauced with Sherry and cream with rice was a dish that we have had several times out for dinner and she was itching to try making it, though I was concerned if the red wines might over power the dish. The second entrée that she wanted and that she loves with red wine is a slab of Bourbon Salmon, which has become one of her signature dishes during the holidays. The third entrée was also a dish that we like to get, and usually as a take-out order, because the serving is so large, we can both share one order, is a dish that we call Lamb Sautee with Mushrooms. She also made two sides for the dinner, one was Armenian Pilaf which I can eat, with another side of Armenian Pilaf. It is rice that is made with butter, chicken broth and garlic and served, once all of the liquids are absorbed by the rice. The other side was Brussels Sprouts with Bacon as we needed something green on the table. Everything was done family style, with no concern about plating the different dishes. Dessert was a tried and true dish of Bananas Foster from a recipe that she learned on one of our trips to New Orleans, and created originally at Brennan’s. My Bride was upset that she over-cooked the Bourbon Salmon as it was a bit on the dry side, and part of the problem was trying to accommodate too many different dishes including the appetizers that were all trying to be cooked concurrently; and she felt that there was not enough bacon with the Brussels Sprouts.
We actually used two different wines in the preparation of the dishes, not to mention the liquor and liqueur used for the dessert. The first thing I had to get was some Sherry, and I wanted the real stuff, not the corner market “Sherry,” and I asked my local wine shop, the Fine Wine Source if he had any, and it is not something that he normally carries, as there is really no demand. I am happy to say that he got me a bottle from one of his suppliers in just a couple of days, and it was a bottle of Emilio Lustau “Solera Reserva” Fino Jarana Very Dry Jerez-Xeres-Sherry NV; the word Sherry is the Anglicized version of Jerez or Xeres. Bodegas Lustau is probably the most famous fortified wine producer in the world. Founded in 1896 by Jose Ruiz-Bordejo as an almacenista, a business where they bought young wines (Ruiz made his own) and matured them in their own soleras, before selling them to larger houses, who then blended the wines with other wines in their soleras. In the 1950’s Emilio Lustau Ortega (the son-in-law of Ruiz) began bottling and exporting his own wines. Lustau is based in Jerez, but is the only winery that has sites in all three of cities of the Sherry Triangle; Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlu car de Barrameda. While owning two vineyards he also has contracts with other vineyards as well. Palomino is the grape variety used to make Sherry, it is rather neutral in flavor, with low acidity and potential alcohol, perfect for the fortification system to make Sherry. Fino is the lightest and driest style of Sherry wines and is a culmination of many years of pouring wines from one barrel to another barrel and maintaining a certain consistent taste, all because of a natural yeast that creates a “flor” that feeds on alcohol and oxygen, and it is possible for the flor to live for ten years. I am painting a very simplistic painting of all the work involved, but the final product is a very light and delicate wine with a nutty flavor that works well with some foods. The other wine that was used in the production of the Lamb Sautee was a wine that I privately tasted and enjoyed when I was picking up the bottle of Sherry. Gran Passione Rosso Veneto IGT 2019 is a limited production wine made by Cantine Bertoldi. Cantine Bertoldi is known for their Valpolicella and Amarone wines. They were founded in 1932 and have gone through several generations of the Bertoldi family and they are now in possession of fifty acres of hand cared varietals of Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, Garganega, Trebbiano and Cortese, while also adding into the mix they have Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The grapes selected for their passito wines are sun dried and fermented in Stainless Steel. The Gran Passione is made from some of these passito grapes and is made from a “rare red blend” which is a way to describe a mixture that either the winery wants to keep secret, or they just are not sure of their proprietary blend and then there are some years when this wine is not made. While the wine is not as rich and full bodied as an Amarone de Valpolicella, it is a delightful wine for ten dollars a bottle and it was perfect for using with the lamb.