Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Whole Lot of Sauvignon Blanc and Puy Lentil Salad

I'm really blessed to know a lot of great people who love wine almost as much as I do. I few of them even love wine more than I could ever hope to and put me to shame with their knowledge. Once a month for a little over a year now we've been getting together to taste wine and get Wasted. Well we do tend to get tipsy but that's also the name of the group. It's all Lindsay's fault she started it.

This month the fella and I hosted a Sauvignon Blanc tasting, the perfect wine to ring in summer in our backyard. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate and we ended up packed into our tiny living room enjoying ourselves immensely until the rain ended. We tried some good and no so good stuff. I'll leave it up to Lindsay to do the hard core reviewing and I'll stick to taking ridiculous pictures of the wine and posting a recipe for the lentil salad that had everyone making yummy noises.

The 2008 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand was the winner of the tasting as far as I was concerned. It was light with just the right amount of citrus and sweetness. At about $22 it is well worth investing in especially if you don't think you like Sauv Blancs this one will prove the varietal has redeeming qualities.

There is this weird thing with Sauv Blancs where in the $15 or under range buying them is a bit of a crap shoot. There are a few good ones like the Riesling-esque $9 a bottle Quarry Hills Sauv Blanc that just came in to the wine store and we can't keep on the shelves for all the people buying it by the case. Aside from getting lucky and finding the rare keeper a lot of them make you wonder if you've accidentally poured yourself a glass of lawn clippings or cat urine (sorry for that image.) And four of our wines that day definitely fit in the overly green and grassy category.

I chose the 2008 Vicar's Choice Sauvignon Blanc once again from the Marlborough region of New Zealand and the 2008 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from the same region. Both grass monsters. The Vicar's Choice Reserve Sauv Blanc is actually complex and has a slightly sweet grapefruit kick, I should have spent the extra couple of bucks and got that. The Kim Crawford was just disappointing, it's been so good in past years and tasted like the lawn this time around.

The 2008 Starborough Sauv Blanc from the Marlborough region was the best of the grassy wines since it wasn't over poweringly green but still not something I would buy. The 2008 Beau Joubert Oak Lake Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc blend from Stellenbosch South Africa was interesting but also packed too much green-ness to really fall in love with. I was just glad to have a South African wine that had none of the artificial banana flavor that so many of the whites in that area seem to be ruined by.

In the midst of the young Sauv Blancs that were making us all feel like we were chewing on field of clovers there were a couple really nice bottles that shook things up and surprised us all. The 2008 Boogle Vineyards Sauv Blanc from Clarksburg California was a delight. It was a bit sweet and light, something I would find and buy. The 2007 Luna Vineyards Freakout White Blend from Napa Valley was just a good departure from all the New Zealand wines and gave us a chance to rest our palates on something super easy to drink.

And then sadly there were the two wines that just didn't quite work out in the scheme of things. I'm almost positive the bottle of 2006 Ceago Sauv Blanc from Clear Lake California was a bad bottle. Supposedly it doesn't happen much in screw tops but I've heard really good things from customers and my wine genius boss about this wine. I refuse to believe all these people are drinking vinegar and enjoying it so I will give this one another try and get back to you.

The 2007 Domaine Sauvete Sauvignon de Touraine Oneiros from the Loire Valley might just have been too different from everything else to be enjoyable. We probably should have drank it first with clear palates because it was very French and very typical of the traditional Sauv Blanc with a heavy cat pee nose. It wasn't my favorite but I can see someone who enjoys French whites really getting into it.

Blah, blah, blah. Wine, wine, wine. I know you all just came for the lentil salad so here it goes.

Nigella is amazing and I want to cook everything from her book Forever Summer and am very happy I started out with this lentil and goat cheese divinity. It's simple and oh so delicious. Just make sure to use the Puy lentils as they have the structure to hold up to this salad. My other advise is to use the oil from sun dried tomatoes for the olive oil in the recipe, it added an extra layer of yummy go the recipe and it made sure that oil didn't go to waste which I always feel guilty about. Now I will always know what to do with it.

The hard part is resisting the urge to eat all the marinated goat cheese before you serve this. Not that it would be too much of an issue considering this recipe makes enough to serve a hungry houseful of winos and have enough left over for three people to eat for lunch. It is the gift that keeps giving.

As you can see the fella was a big fan. Or maybe it was just the wine. Who knows.

Puy Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad

1 10-ounce log goat's cheese
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried mint (I omitted this)

3 cups Puy lentils
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon chili oil

4 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces jarred sweet peppers in oil
bunch fresh mint, chopped (also omitted this)

Crumble the goat's cheese and marinate in half the juice and zest of the lemon, 4 tablespoons olive oil (I used excess oil from a jar of sun dried tomato) and dried mint. Seal in a container and reserve until just before serving.

Put lentils in a large saucepan of water and add onion, garlic cloves and chili oil. Cook for about 25 minutes or until tender then drain. Keep an eye on the lentils so they don't get too soft and don't think of substituting the Puys for another lentil with less character and structural integrity.

Pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil over the warm lentils in a large serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then add the remaining half of the lemon juice and zest. Drain the sweet peppers, chop them coarsely and mix them into the lentils. Mix with your hands or very carefully with a wooden spoon making sure not the crush and mangle the lentils.

When the lentils have reached room temperature add the marinated goat's cheese and sprinkle over them with the fresh chopped mint and serve immediately.

Original recipe from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer cookbook.

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