Celebrating 4th July in New Zealand

I like to pop the cork on an American wine on the 4th July as a nod to my friends on the other side of the vast waters of the Pacific. And pop the cork it is as the wine doesn’t have a screwcap! Not that I would necessarily expect a USA wine to have a screwcap but some coming to our shores now do. These are the ones I will choose on my purchasing sprees.

But tonight’s wine is an older wine found in a long forgotten carton so I pull out my Ah So to ease the cork out carefully, but the Ah So won’t go in – the fact the cork is black should be a clue.  The wine, Yamhill Valley Vineyards Willamette Reserve Pinot Noir 1994*, seemed like it was upmarket so I’m surprised to see a synthetic in there. Yes. A synthetic! So I have to hunt for my corkscrew that I haven’t used in more than a year.  Well the cork is tight and the wine is neither corked nor oxidised. Phew!

The fading, burnished, orange-red hue is commensurate with the wine’s age and good to see a deep dark core.

The aroma rustic, savoury, barnyardy …. Brett, I whisper, not too affectionately.

Brett stands his ground upfront in the palate but the red cherry / raspberry fruit pushing through is trying to be the hero. A firmly structured wine twenty-two (yes 22) years on from vintage – I reckon the tannins must have been pretty impenetrable in its youth.

But overall it’s gamey and savoury with a roasted beetroot and stewed tamarillo character – I try some stewed tamarillo I have in the fridge – they are in season here right now as I love them – but Brett is too strong and takes over again.

So I accompany with the food that has been cooking in the oven and filling the house with its aromas all afternoon – lamb shoulder chops braised in tomato (from a can) with choko (chayote), leek and fennel highlights.  This is a favourite winter dish this year as choko and fennel is growing in my garden and I use the seeds and fern in the baking process to infuse its wonderful anise / liquorice flavours. I cooked it once. I cooked it twice and then I cooked it again – this is the third time in as many weeks. I braise the meat with fennel seeds, throw it into a casserole dish with the other ingredients and cook it slowly until the lamb falls off the bones.  And tonight it’s wonderful with the Yamhill Valley pinot as the fennel punches the daylight out of Brett and saves this wine for me – the seeds and both the baked and fresh fern garnish. The more fresh fennel fern I eat, the more I like the wine.

So it’s a winner with food on the 4th July 2016 on a cold winter’s night in New Zealand.

* Yamhill Valley Vineyards (http://www.yamhill.com/) is in McMinnville, Oregon, USA. This wine states it has 13% alcohol by volume. Current price on the Yamhill website is US$40 and the current vintage has a screwcap. Yay!  But I don’t know how much the 1994 with the synthetic cork cost. I think it must have been a gift.  I can’t remember who gave it to me but thank you so much.  It’s great to pull the cork on it at last.  Wish you were here.



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