French Bistro Food With 2003 Château d'Armailhac Pauillac

French Bistro Food With 2003 Château d'Armailhac Pauillac

I don't love Bordeaux. There. I said it. I very much like Bordeaux and respect Bordeaux, yet own way too much Bordeaux for my level of like and respect. When we first began collecting wine, I fell into the trap of how one should start a collection, attempting to predict what we would like to drink 10-20-30 years from now, informed by what we liked then and coupled with what would drink well into our fifties and beyond. With a bit of prestige sprinkled on top, no doubt.

But tastes change, wine loves migrate, other styles burrow deeper into your heart and you find yourself stuck with a 14-year vertical of cellared Clos Fourtet St.-Emilion with nary a jones to drink any of it in the last three years. When your apartment is a cracker box, maximizing space is always on the mind.

Maybe it will come back around, maybe Bordeaux will reveal itself to be a gracious and welcome companion as we age. Mostly though, I can't help but think I was informed more by the prestige of Bordeaux collecting than anything relating to what we truly loved and wanted. Especially at the price.

So it's time to clear some of these out of the chilled environment, starting with a cheapie that only made me say, "THIS was in the cellar?"

Food: Skirt steak and celery root-potato mash with mâche salad to finish

Bistro food!  Skirt steak marinated in evoo, balsamic, garlic, dry mustard, and basil; buried in the freezer for who knows how long, seared in bacon fat. Cast-iron skillet deglazed with chicken stock to add to the faux bordelaise [shallots sautéed in olive oil, whole-grain blackcurrant mustard and the beef marinade dumped on top of that, pan deglazed with chicken stock and reduced; bone marrow (THAT was in the freezer?!) roasted by itself and then whisked into the sauce, resulting in something pretty close in flavor to a bordelaise]. Celery root and yukon golds boiled with the fragrant equivalent of 1000 bay leaves, mashed together with ungodly amounts of butter and cream, then seasoned with white pepper and nutmeg. Parsley and basil on top of everything.

So...Bistro food!

And delicious in every respect. Not our bag, really, but very much liked.

Speaking of not our bag...

Wine: 2003 Château d'Armailhac Pauillac ($32 - Binny's)

From the first growth global giant that is Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac (makers of Opus One in Napa and Almaviva in Chile as well) comes this baby brother bottling (or sister in terms of style). We had the château's other sibling, the Clerc Milon (2003 in fact) just a few months ago and, when comparing the two, the Clerc Milon is much more brawny and expressive. Both aren't really second (or third) wines by definition. These aren't Mouton-Rothschild wines that come from grapes that don't make the flagship bottling cut. These are wines that come from their own distinct vineyards and have for decades. Clerc Milon typically releases at a higher price and sees slightly (and consistently) higher accolades upon release but some of d'Armailhac's vines are reportedly a hundred years old (From The Wine Doctor, a superlative wine info source on the web - that guy is DOING THE LEG WORK!).

Cabernet-forward, as Left Bank does. Can't find the exact blend but the vineyard planting is 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot so the resulting blend most likely hit close to that.

Two-and-a-half hour double decant. Tight as heck upon first pop. Unwound just enough to enjoy much of what (I think) it has to offer. Struck mostly by its 13% alcohol and how that allowed for a curvy and light body and texture. Tasted like it just woke up from a nap and seemingly never shaking its cellar coolness, either. Not exactly the most talky wine, but interesting notes of (drying) plum and cherry liqueur, licorice root, toffee taken to the very edge of doneness and LOADS of leather. Nice acid balance and still needs time but opened up enough to enjoy its Bordeaux-ness. Small expression box though with not the most aromatic nose in the world and a slightly clipped length. Left us more than anything saying, "Yep, that's Left Bank and that's cabernet...." Nothing particularly...inspiring to us here.

Good. Fine. Whatever. Didn't show everything it had to offer but we're not racing out to buy and lay down more to find out its everything-ness.

Pairing: Bistro goodness, just not bistro greatness in the least

Much to like and helped by some typical Bordeaux food links in the preparation. The bone marrow Bordelaise ape, black currant mustard and nutmeg did its job with this pairing, coaxing out a length and balance in the wine that simply wasn't there by itself. We hit a place of fineness and even consistent goodness throughout but never earth-shattering greatness. Never even whiffed that, really.

We got French bistro food with Bordeaux wine at the top end of its most general sense. That was good enough for us last night.

Total cost of the meal: $50 For $25 a person, if we were served this out in the world, yes, a big yes. But here's the rub. $60? Nope. Fine line that informed us as to the exact level of tasty pairing pleasure. The food wanted something...more.

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