Tuesday, September 14, 2010

By the glass at...Tierra

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 10:08 AM

  • Jimmy Sobeck
The dish: Grilled free range beef tenderloin

The wine: ’08 Paul Hobbs El Filino

The pairing: Fat wine? Tighten it up with some acid.

Considering Tierra's co-chefs and owners Dan and Ticha Krinsky’s commitment to a varied and eclectic Latin American menu, it should be no surprise that the restaurant's wine list is mostly made up of Chilean, Argentinean, and Spanish selections. I even spotted a Brazilian wine on my visit.

Admittedly, I don’t drink a lot of wines from these regions, which have been gaining popularity in recent years for their approachable styles and low price point. To be candid, I tend to find them indistinctive and flabby (overtly rich, lacking acidity or tannic balance). But I do respect a wine list that's consistent with the restaurant’s genre, and even if a particular wine may not be up my alley, winemakers tend to make wines that go well with local foods, so I’m not one to turn my nose up to any wine in a situation like this.

  • Jimmy Sobeck
Many of these South American malbecs and cabernets tend to be “big”, aching for a meat and potatoes style dish, and that’s exactly the direction Tierra went when they recommended I try the ‘08 Paul Hobbs “El Felino” Argentinean unfiltered cabernet ($10 a glass) with the grilled free range beef tenderloin. Hailing from the Mendoza region, which is generally better known for malbec, Hobbs’ cabernet was characteristically ripe with notes of spice and cedar, and it had a crazy tea leaf finish. But it was definitely a little flat and unexciting until the steak arrived. It may not have been prime beef, but the huge chunk of tenderloin was juicy as hell, topped with loads of parsley and garlic heavy Chimichurri sauce, and accompanied by potatoes and a tomato salad. “We like to show that wine can be truly enjoyed even when eating foods that have been prepared with acid. In this case, vinegar”, said chef Dan Krinsky.

Indeed, acid in heavy foods can be a major pairing killer, but in this case I found the wine’s downside (flabby, chewy, lack of a back end) to be part of the reason it paired well with the copious amounts of garlic and vinegar. Each sip of wine was sort of washed away by the acid, an effect I liked.

Pairings like this remind me that sometimes I need to let go of preconceived notions and that there are moments for an uncomplicated rich red wine. Enjoying some great conversation and the awesome ambiance of Tierra is one such occasion. A flavor rich and perfectly cooked steak doesn’t make things too bad either.

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