01 October 2010

Chilean Pinot Noirs & Oxtails

In the past year, I've had some rough experiences with Chilean Pinot Noir. I tried three bottles from different producers and was let down by each. They were all bad enough to assume that the bottles were flawed or damaged, but I found myself wondering about the region/grape combination.

I finally got the opportunity to try a pair of decent Chilean Pinot Noirs. These are not Burgundy or Oregon, but I think they are closing in on entry level New Zealand Pinot. And that is a very promising start. Both wines here are made by ViƱa Leyda in the Leyda and adjoining San Antonio valleys. This is a very new wine region, only used for grapes since 1997.

2009 Leyda Classic Pinot Noir
San Antonio Valley, Chile
$10, 14% abv.

The aroma is dark, with a strong element of overripe wild strawberries. Slightly tart, rich finish. Big fruit flavors. At cooler temperatures, the wine is softer. For pairing this with food, you'll want to think more Syrah than Pinot Noir based on the fruit and acidity, meaning it can stand up to some heavier dishes.

2009 Leyda Single Vineyards Las Brisas Pinot Noir
Leyda Valley, Chile
$20, 14% abv.

Softer, milder, more restrained. Similar strawberry aromas and flavors are present but subdued, and with additional plum. Initial tartness gives way to a short clean finish. With a little breathing this becomes a lovely wine and has more of a classic Pinot Noir character. This is one to keep in mind for grilled salmon.

I got a craving for oxtails, and luckily it's a pretty easy craving to satisfy. I happened to post a note about this on Facebook while I was cooking, and there was a lot of interest. If you've never had them, poke around in the butcher section until you find pieces that look like those at the right. Normally one package will have two big pieces and several smaller pieces. There's not much meat on the latter, but don't throw them out--you can take advantage of the flavor.

I patted them dry, dusted them with flour and spices, and heated up a splash of oil in the enameled Dutch oven. I seared them heavily on all sides until well browned, and then added a can of chopped tomatoes and peppers as well as half a bottle of wine. Feel free to use a white wine if you like, or even beer and beef broth works well. Oxtails aren't delicate and will braise well in just about anything. Which is why I added a splash of brandy for added flavor.

For about two hours, I let the oxtails braise slowly on top of the oven, turning them over every half hour to ensure good coverage. Meanwhile I made a batch of lentils seasoned with tandoori spices and slow cooked in chicken broth. Before serving the oxtails, I removed them to a plate and added some sour cream to the braising liquid. I felt like a slightly creamier, tangier sauce would be nice.

Oxtails look difficult, but when cooked right the meat just melts off the bone and the little chunks of fat are buttery nuggets of joy. There's a rich dark flavor involved that is distinct from every other part of the cow, and I love serving oxtails to people that have never had them before but are willing to give them a try. Now that the weather is a little cooler, it was wonderful to enjoy an autumn meal like this with a couple of glasses of Pinot Noir.

Note: These wines were received as samples.


fredric koeppel said...

looks and sounds excellent, and as you know, I'm a fan of ox-tails. btw, I'll be visiting Leyda on Monday.

Joe said...

yep. that'll do.

ready for some cold weather food!

Benito said...


The oxtails you fixed for me with the memorable Ridge tasting were spectacular, and that was the last time I had this particular cut. I hope you have a blast in the country so nice they named it after a spice. ;)


Damn straight. It was unfortunate that you went out west the one time when it was more pleasant here than there. Anxious to see the writeups on the visit with other winebloggers!


Allen said...

Fine looking meal. Great work.

Benito said...


Thanks, and I love slow braising cuts that benefit from it. I think the first time I ever made oxtails was back in high school, and I pretty much just boiled them to death.