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To the Southern-Most Reaches of the Continent

Sunday, March 6, 2011

This week we travelled through Argentina. Well, the affordable parts of it, anyway. We stayed in the red grape district, and ventured not far from the medium bodied bottles of the night. Two malbecs on one syrah comprised our evening. Yes, it was a three-bottle affair by the end of it, leaving us feeling exhausted and dizzy, but not necessarily in a good way.

It wasn’t going to start out that way – M had come up with the menu: Indian; I had chosen a wine earlier in the week: the syrah. We started out our Sunday much in the way we always do, by going to the various stores that sell the ingredients we will need to bring the entire evening together. But this week, things went off the rails quicker than usual, I’m afraid.

My girlfriend (though she hates to be called that, since we have a daughter together, the english language does not have a word that means “we’ve been together for going on six years, have lived together that entire time, and we have a baby together, making her the mother of my children,” girlfriend, it is) called to ask me when I was going to be home. I took umbrage, she took umbrage, we umbraged it out on the phone for awhile …

Skip ahead, skip ahead, skip ahead …

So now I’m angry and pouty and M talks me down and we’re on our way home when M’s husband calls. His truck died and he needs someone to bring him some tools and truck parts and it’s raining and hurry.

M is the only one of the two of us with experience cooking Indian, so I elect to go. However, our daughter is sick and need some medicine, we can’t find the tools M’s hubby needs, and it’s raining. A lot. In the way only the Caribbean knows how to dish out.

Skip ahead, skip ahead, skip ahead …

Back in the kitchen, clothes changed, M’s husband has been given a beer, my girlfriend is at the condo with the baby, we’re back in business.

This is when we open the first bottle.

Wine: Altos Las Hormigas, Malbec, 2009, Mendoza, Argentina

Rating: One-and-a-half Bottles

Decant, decant, decant, I say. Since we started letting the air get at our wines, we’ve noticed they take on a mellower, smoother taste. Without knowing the science behind it we started doing it simply because people who know more about wines than us suggested it. And to our great delight it works.


Altos Las Hormigas, Malbec, 2009 could have used a little more decanting. Say, another few years. In the bottle. Corked. It’s not that it was that terrible – far from it. It’s just that it had a very young sort of finish. We found it to have a fruity, slightly acidy start. If you find this wine, and are taken in by the label (guilty), let it sit open for a while, is our suggestion. Lots of citrus, is how we describe it. Fresh, also came to mind. A definite re-buy? Ehnnnn … Maybe if we knew more food and wine pairing, we’d have known what this wine would have gone with, saving it from our mediocre opinion of it. We must to the libary!

This brings us up to the food prep. It must be said that if you are planing on cooking Indian and you have little experience with it, plan ahead. There is a lot of stewing, boiling, and reducing that goes into an Indian meal. If you leave it too late, you will be eating late. If you are drinking wine while you are making it and you leave it too late (guilty), then you will be dizzy and light-headed by the end of your night. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes your efficiency in the kitchen drop some.

It should be said that M is a terribly efficient cook, and were it not for the interruptions throughout the day, we’d have been ready. Also, we overdid it with the vinegar in the vindaloo, which took its tole on our clock. Also, we drank three bottles of wine.

On the menu: Tandoori Chicken, Butter Chicken, Beef Vindaloo, Aloo Gobi, Raita.

Incredible. A triumph of culinary execution. Why do people go out for dinner when you can make tasty food at home? It is a mystery. Bravo to M for her talent and presentation.

Right around the time that the butter chicken was ready and the beef vindaloo had started to behave itself (naughty vindaloo, the name of my next alt-rock band), we opened the night’s second selection.

Wine: Catena, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2008

Rating: Two Bottles

Smokey oaky. Very nice. Totally purchased for the label, and we stick to that method. Pretty label must mean tasty juice. Otherwise, why did I drink motor oil from the can when I was a kid?

This we drank with our meal, and very glad we did, too. A very smooth finish, the Catena, Malbec. Slight pepper and black currant. A nice, medium-bodied, wine, that we thought went superbly well with Indian food. Well, then Indian food that we ate, anyway. Throw a chutney or two in there, and who knows what would happen. Craziness, no doubt.

At this point in the evening, my girlfriend and M’s husband were ready for bed. (Note to readers: we will, in the future, endeavour to begin our evenings earlier. This always livens up the conversation and allows for more hilarity. If we don’t eat until seven, seven-thirty, the two siblings need their beds, and M and I are left to wallow in our gluttony, alone.) So, as they toddled off, my girlfriend and my daughter to the condo, M’s husband to his bed, M and I settled in to our third bottle of the evening.

Wine: Lagarde Reserva, Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina, 2008

Rating: One Bottle

What can I say? This was my purchase, after hours spent in the local wine shoppe, I asked the pros, I made mental notes. Also, in my opinion, the best label of the night. Very classy, simple, and elegant. The contents of the bottle it wrapped? That’s another story.

The only way to describe this wine is to call it dry. As in: “It is sucking all of the moisture from my tongue,” (M). Given the choice between this and Concha y Toro, Cabernet Sauvignon, at the grocery store, I’d buy C&T. It’s not that it was bad, per se, it’s just that it wasn’t very good. If you’d been served it at your friends’ house, you wouldn’t have complained. Instead, you might have offered to run to the store and pick up some more wine, since they were going to run out, anyway, since it’s going to be a long night, and hey! It’s a party! Let’s eat, drink, and be merry! The more the merrier, that’s what I always say, so I’ll just nip out and buy some more wine! You guys finish this, and I’ll be back in a jiff. Drink up! I want to see some rosy cheeks (and empty bottles) when I get back. With more … different … wine.

Disappointing, would be the word. Just … disappointing.

And with that, M and I have decided to impose a new guideline for our Sunday Night Bottles. From now on, at least one of the bottles must be over two-hundred pesos. (That’s roughly sixteen dollars for you Americans, and eighteen dollars for you Canadians.) We want to be wowed. We want to gush and rave. We want, in short, to give people something to read about. We’d like to have a few three bottle nights, you see, and not the sort we had this week. We’d be content with drinking one really good bottle, as opposed to three mediocre ones. When you get excited about what you’re eating and you pair that with the excitement of really good wine, your night takes on a whole different meaning. Everything feels different. Better. You feel more in charge of your life, like the problems just melt away, and you are left with a manageable feast, instead of an unholy mess. When you eat good food and drink good wine, order comes through the chaos. And that’s what we want next week.

So, we finish this week, charged and at the ready, seeking the best bouquet, the nicest legs, and above all, the prettiest labels, in the hopes of finding a worthy draught for our humble grails.


C & M.


3 responses »

  1. I’m no wine aficionado, far from it, but one thing I have learned is that an aerator makes a huge difference in the taste, especially if you’re not organized enough to be decanting everything ahead of time. Even my unrefined palate notices the change.

    Also, I believe she’s called your ‘partner’, which is fun because it leaves people wondering if you’re in business together or you’re gay.

  2. enjoyed the reading, nicely written, of course love the people and can hear them talking. Will take note of the wine, will pass on the cooking, but am most admirous of the cooking courage. lya (love you all!)


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