My Father-in-law called me up a few weeks ago and said, "I've got a vertical of Grange we should drink". We talked a bit about how best to enjoy these stellar bottles and decided to do a vertical tasting with food pairings the day after Thanksgiving. After doing a little research, we found some great tasting notes for the 1992-1995 Penfold's Grange.
If you aren't familiar with Grange, it's a wine conceived by Max Schubert, grown and produced by Penfold's in Australia, and is considered to be Australia's "first growth". That means it's compared to the finest Bordeaux first growth's like Chateau Margaux, Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau Latour. The Grange blend was created in 1951 as an experimental blend by the then winemaker for Penfold's. He wanted to create an Australian wine to rival France's most sought after wines with quality and agability.
The Grange was initially met with negative reviews from the press because it didn't have the drinkability upon release. Schubert was ordered to discontinue making the blend, however, he persisted. A few years later, the Grange blend finally received the accolades it deserved which was about right because the wine wasn't made to drink right away, it was meant to be a wine that's aged before drinking. The following wine notes and recipes were part of the tasting:
1992 Grange 93 points from Robert Parker Out of all the wines in the vertical, this one resembled a Bordeaux the most. It wasn't overly fruity or extracted but rather terroir-driven with refined fruit at its peak showing notes of elegance and aging. If tasted blind, I doubt many people would even guess this was an Australian wine. The Shiraz wasn't big and jammy like many Aussie Shiraz', it was restrained as was the Cabernet netting a mere 13.5% ALC.
1993 Grange 91 point from Robert Parker The '93 was interesting as tasted in context to the other vintages. It showed signs of age and refinement but was still in its peak drinking window. Overall, this vintage was not rated that high but astute wine making was apparent as this Grange also showed finesse with a hint of younger fruit.
1994 Grange 91 points from Robert Parker After smelling and tasting the 1992 and 1993, the 1994 started to resemble an Australian wine. Riper fruit, more youthful tasting with a tad more sweetness on the palate. Notes of blackberry, stewed plums, toasty oak and more density from the 89% Shiraz 11% Cabernet blend. This wine has a few more years of aging ahead of it but was already demonstrating why Grange is such a sought after wine.
1995 Grange 92 points from Robert Parker The 1995 was the most acidic wine out of all four. Sweet blackberry liquer, ripe fruit and plenty of aging potential ahead of it. After tasting all 4 vintages in order, the '95 was so much more youthful than the 1992. There was a distinct progression of age across all four vintages.
Of course, great wine deserves great food. So we set out to find the perfect food pairings to go with these stellar wines. Here are a few of the recipe items we made, and they were SUBLIME! Absolutely stunning pairings. Many Aussie Shiraz's are rich and jammy, but the Grange is a wine of finesse and elegance. Although it's a blend of Cabernet and Shiraz, it's not necessarily a wine to go with beef. We wanted something more exotic and luxurious. Here's what we came up with:
INGREDIENTS 1 cup Soy Sauce 1 cup Sherry 4 6-OZ duck breast halves 12 frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed and halved 1 cup chicken stock 1 cup beef stock 1/2 cup ruby port 1 fresh thyme sprig 1 TSP cornstarch dissolved into 2 TBSP water 1/4 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Whisk soy sauce and Sherry in medium bowl to blend. Using a sharp knife, make diagonal slits on the duck breasts 1/2-inch apart making sure to not cut too deep (not through meat). Place duck, skin side up into glass baking dish. Pour marinade over. Cover duck with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours. Bring cherries, chicken stock, beef stock, port and thyme spring to boil in a heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Simmer until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup.
Meanwhile, heat heavy large skillet over medium heat. Remove duck from marinade. Add duck breasts, skin side down to skillet. Cook until skin is crispy, about 10 minutes. Turn duck over and continue cooking to desired doneness, about 5 minutes for medium. Transfer duck to cutting board or other surface. Add cornstarch mixture to port-cherry sauce. Bring to simmer, whisking constantly. Add butter one piece at a time until melted.
Slice duck breast and fan out on plates. Spoon sauce over duck then serve.
Presidential Rack of Lamb a la Richelieu When President and Mrs Reagan visited Paris in the mid 1980's they did have many official functions including a diplomatic dinner with President and Madame Francoise Mitterand at the Elysee Palace (the White House of France) Naturally, the diplomatic decorum demanded that the American guests of honor should return the invitation. The Reagans were staying at the US Embassy and decided to honor the French President and first lady with non American food. The chefs at the US Embassy were French chefs. The Lamb recipe is very fancy in terms of prestige. It was put together by chef Auguste Esccoffier at the turn of the 20th century. It was named in honor of Cardinal Armand de Richelieu, who was chief minister to King Louis XIII in the 17th century.
INGREDIENTS 2 racks, 6 chops each., have the butcher cut the chine bone for easy serving of chops.
Marinade: 1/2 bottle of white wine 1/2 cup of quality olive oil 1 medium onion sliced 1 whole bay leaf crumbled 1/2 teaspoon of dried marjoram, or 2 TBSP of fresh if available 8 black peppercorns, coarsly crushed 1/2 TSP of dried thyme, or 2 TSP of fresh salt to taste
Marination needs to be a minimum of 4 hr. Overnight would be good. Keep turning and spoon over the rack.
Place in the oven and grill at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes depending on cooking level preferred. Keep to lamb warm in the oven while the sauce is being made.
Sauce: Place the drippings in a fry pan. Remove some of the fat. Add a cup of port or madeira. Reduce under high heat. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of butter one at a time. Serve the sauce in a gravy boat at the table.