Last year, around this time, I was sent a case of sweet wines from the Bordeaux region of France for a series of online tastings. The focus of the fine folks at Sweet Bordeaux has been to resituate the wines from the region, which have long been heralded as wines to be enjoyed after dinner or with dessert.
Given their high levels of acidity, the producers of Sweet Bordeaux argue that the wines should be considered excellent options as an accompaniment for appetizers, entrées, and even as an apéritif. I became familiar with the approach when I visited Bordeaux a few years ago, coming away convinced of the validity of the contention.
Last month, while trying to make some sense of my pile of samples, I came across those twelve bottles of golden Bordeaux wines and decided the time was now. My idea? Make some of the recipes I have been ‘perfecting’ over the past few years and pair them with what I would normally consider a good option and one of the Sweet Bordeaux wines.
(This is now the sixth week of this “Challenge” with links to the first five weeks at the bottom of the page.)
It is fair to say that I have been a meat lover all of my life. Growing up in the Midwest in a farming family (although I never actually lived on a farm), animal products were just that, products. At an early age, I learned that the number one rule on the farm (at least as it pertained to the kids) was “Don’t name the animals.” They were there to serve a purpose and that purpose was often, well, dinner.
I know that will not sit well with a large segment of the population, but that does not change the fact that for most people, either directly or indirectly, livestock are essentially crops.
Yeah, writing that seems pretty awful, but the truth is sometimes awful.
So for all of my life, I have eaten meat and my preference has to be beef. Sure, I like chicken, duck, lamb, and of course pork, but beef is, and likely will always be, at the top for me.
While I knew before moving to Texas that the state was a bit beef-crazy, I had no idea what was in store for me in the Lone Star State. The beef here is simply amazing. I know that word is thrown around way too much these days, but it is appropriate. Heading to the meat counter at my local grocery store (the H-E-B; I love my H-E-B) is close to a religious experience.
The ribeyes that we regularly get from the H-E-B are marvels to behold: thick (usually about 2″), marbled, and juicy, they really are the best steaks I have ever purchased (although I must say, that the steaks I purchased from B&B Butchers near downtown Houston were technically better but they were close to three times as expensive).
Such beautiful slabs of beefy goodness deserve, no demand, the proper preparation, so here is what I do.
If you do not yet have an immersion circulator (often referred to as “sous vide”), it is time to get one, particularly if you like your steaks perfectly cooked. While there are now several on the market, we bought the Anova Precision Cooker close to a decade ago and have been thrilled with it.
List of ingredients:
- Ribeye steak.
- Seal ribeyes in bags (we now use reusable bags which are not ideal since it is difficult to get all the air out, but I hated throwing all of that plastic away).
- Cook sous vide at 129°F (54°C) for 1-4 hours. This is the part that I love about cooking sous vide: it is really hard to screw it up. I found the sweet spot to be about two hours, but the differences in time cooked are fairly subtle. After more than four hours, I have heard, the meat really starts to break down, however, and no one wants that.
- Remove from bags and season liberally (both sides) with salt and pepper.
- Sear for one minute on each side over extremely high heat. My grill gets up to about 700°F or more, which is ideal. Some use a cast iron skillet on a stovetop, but I prefer the additional smokiness from the grill.
- Slice and serve. There is really no need to let the steaks rest after cooking sous vide and then searing as the juices are pretty much locked in.
I knew going in that this would not be a fair fight, but I wanted to try some Sweet Bordeaux with a beautiful slab of meat. In an attempt to even out the playing field at least a bit, I opted for what I thought would be the best bottle of Sweet Bordeaux that I had left: a 750ml bottle of 2016 Château du Cros, Loupiac, a winery with which I had some familiarity. And the competition? Again, to stage a “fairer fight” I did not reach for a Cabernet Sauvignon, but rather the 2019 Benziger Family Winery Joaquin’s Inferno Sonoma Mountain, a Zin-based red blend from California.
I happened to conduct this challenge when some of my wife’s relatives were in town over the holidays, which was not ideal but….
2019 Benziger Family Winery Joaquin’s Inferno Sonoma Mountain, CA: Retail $70. Heavy bottle. 63% Zinfandel, 26% Grenache, 11% Petite Sirah. Under cork. Super dark in the glass (thank you Petite Sirah) with brooding aromas of cassis, black plum, and an herbal black pepper note. The fruit is predominant on the palate, but considerable finesse comes through on the mid-palate. Given the price point, I was expecting a tad more, frankly. Still, Excellent. 90 Points.
2016 Château du Cros, Loupiac, Bordeaux, France: Retail $25. 96% Sémillon, 3% Sauvignon Gris, 1% Muscadelle. A rich golden color in the glass with a delicious honeyed peach and lemon nose. The palate is sweet, naturally, with that honeyed element at the forefront, but there is abundant fruit (peach, apricot), an intense tartness, and multiple layers of complexity. I visited the domaine a number of years ago and I realize that I am perhaps more than a touch jaded by the experience, but this is one of my favorite sweet wines in the region, regardless of appellation (and yes, I am including those with “Sauternes” emblazoned on the label). Outstanding. 93 Points.
Having any wine, much less a sweet white wine, go up against a big red blend when serving up steak is a risky endeavor, but the Château du Cros fared surprisingly well here; it was not a “blowout” by any means. In the end, though, I had to admit that the Benzinger Joaquin’s Inferno was a better pairing for the ribeye.
The Standings (thus far):
Sweet Bordeaux: 3
The Drunken Cyclist: 3