97 Barolo, mole, and blues pair well in Austin, Texas

From the “damn, I love this town” department…

Our friends Mike and Magaret (whom we know because they come to nearly every wine tasting I lead here in Austin!) wrote the other day saying they had a very special bottle of wine they wanted to share with Tracie P and me: Guido Porro 1997 Barolo Lazzairasco (!!!). We were thrilled, of course…

Regretfully, not many places allow corkage in Texas (in part due to the fact that the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission discourages it, even though it’s not illegal). But working in the wine business has its perks: my friend and colleague Brad Sharp, wine director at one of our favorite restaurants in the world, Fonda San Miguel, allowed us to bring in this bottle, which Mike hand-carried back from Barolo in 2001. (Btw, whenever we BYOB we always buy a commensurate bottle from the list, in this case some López de Heridia, and we tip generously, keeping in mind that the bill is less than it would have been had we ordered a second bottle at dinner. Fyi, Fonda does not allow corkage.)

In Piedmont, summer months are for Barbera, Pelaverga, and other lighter-bodied red wines that pair well with the lighter foods of warm months. In Mexico, however, heavier foods like mole (a chocolate and chile sauce used to dress meats and enchiladas) are served all year. And so in the spirit of transnational culinary fusion, I paired with carne asada tampiqueña and a cheese enchilada dressed with mole sauce. The combination was FANTASTIC!

Like its brother cru Lazzarito, Lazzairasco (just a few hectares) is one of the great vineyards of Serralunga d’Alba, where some of the richest and most austere Barolo is produced by the appellations oldest subsoils (on the east side of the Barolo-Alba road which divides the “natures” of Barolo).

Although it was one of the indisputably great harvests of a remarkable string of excellent years in Piedmont, 1995-2001, 1997 is not one of my favorite vintages: it was the warmest (as was 2000) and while it was highly praised in the U.S. for its ripe fruit, it didn’t have the balance of, say, 1999 or 2001 (my favs).

Porro is one of the great traditionalist producers of Barolo and this wine entirely surprised us with its lip-smacking acidity and its wild berry fruit character. I knew we were going out on an organoleptic limb with this pairing but wow, did it deliver a sensorial treat — an usual pairing that rewarded us for our daring.

And in keeping with the Austin cosmic cowboy spirit, after dinner we headed over to meet other friends at the Gallery at the Continental Club, where Jimmie Vaughan was sitting in with Hammond B3 player Mike Flanigin. The Gallery at the Continental only holds 50 persons and the “guest” musicians are not advertised (you have to be in the know to find out about which super stars might be appearing on any given night).

Jimmie’s riding high these days, with an awesome new album (that we LOVE) and world tour. He’s also a super sweet guy and he took a moment out for me to snap this photo of him and Margaret.

The dude is a living legend. I mean, how many people in world once lent a wah-wah pedal to Jimi Hendrix?

If only they served Nebbiolo at the Continental Club…