1994 Monte Bello and Grilled Polenta, Oh My!

We had a question come up on our Facebook page recently about the 1994 Monte Bello, and given that I hadn’t had an opportunity to try this particular vintage recently, I contacted winemaker Eric Baugher to see if he’d be interested in doing some tasting. To my delight, he was. And we did. Taste, that is. And accordingly I learned an awful lot about this wine. That’s what happens when you taste Monte Bello with Eric Baugher. You learn an awful lot.

Anyhow, I could go on for pages about what we discussed, and I could offer vast and thorough tasting notes, however, I’m not going to go that route this time. Because my truest revelation about this vintage came later that night, over the dinner table, in the company of my lovely missus.

Because I’d brought the remaining ’94 home with me, I of course wanted to share it with Amy. And as is usually the case in our house, the wine drives the cooking; meaning that I cook depending on what wine I want to serve. So I was cooking to the ’94 Monte Bello. And what I came up with, if I may say so myself, was rather fine and delicious and wondrous and delicious and magic and delicious.  I call it Grilled Red Aioli Polenta.

First, diced organic golden onions (from the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market!) went into a skillet with organic butter and organic safflower oil. Into our mini-Cuisinart went  organic olive oil, organic mayonnaise (I prefer to use organic Nayonnaise, a vegan alternative, because traditional aioli is not supposed to contain egg), organic tomato paste, red wine (NOT the ’94 MB!), dried basil and dried oregano, chili powder, a spoonful of organic orange/apricot marmalade, and Salle Alle Erbe herb salt. Once the onions approached the edge of carmelization, they and the hot oil and butter joined their brethren in the mixer. Mixing then ensued.

While the sauce set, I fired up the Panini grill and, once hot, added cakes of organic polenta that had been painted with olive oil. On the stove, I got the steamer going, and once the water was boiling, added organic broccoli (Farmer’s Market again!), and kernels of organic roasted corn.

As is of course ALWAYS the case when I cook, EVERYTHING finished at EXACTLY the same time. So I was ready to serve.

First, a bed of chopped organic Romaine lettuce. Then, the grilled polenta cakes. Then the steamed broccoli and roasted corn kernels. Over this, I poured the “red aioli.” Atop the sauce, thin strips of organic yogurt cheese. And finally, a balsamic and olive oil drizzle. Mmmmmm ….

And what else to say? The ’94 went perfectly. Not just perfectly, but one of those truly magic pairings, where the boundary between liquid and solid, wine and food, blurs to the point of inconsequence, when there is only the taste, the feel, the smell, the look, of beauty. It was wonderful.

Categories: Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Food & Wine Pairing, Monte Bello, Varietals & Blends, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine Tales

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