Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2017, Australia
My wife and I have been diligent about staying home as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. We really miss going out to nice restaurants, and we miss seeing plays and concerts. But we also don’t want to get sick.
So last weekend we had a special date at home with dinner theater in the den. Teri and I watched ‘“Death of a Salesman,” presented by the Goodman Theater in Chicago. It was staged several years ago, starring the late Brian Dennehy, and it was terrific.
They streamed a filmed version of the Broadway cast, which won four Tony awards, including best revival, best actor, best featured actress and best director.
We moved a table in front of the television so we had front row seats, added a tablecloth and candles, and had a wonderful meal. Of course, we needed a special wine so I opened the 2017 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz. I love Australian wines, and we hadn’t had one in a while, so it seemed like the perfect fit for our special evening.
The most famous Australian wine is Penfolds Grange, and the Bin 389 is reminiscent of Grange.
The meal was leftover homemade chili, which meant I didn’t have to cook that night, so it was even more special.
The wine was superb. It is a beautiful inky deep garnet in the glass, with aromas of cassis, herbs and tea. The first sip convinced us this was a wine to be treasured, with rich flavors of raspberry, cranberry and vanilla. The tannins are soft and smooth, giving the wine a full, silky mouthfeel. The finish is long and satisfying. This is simply a delicious wine that is a delight to drink.
The blend is 54 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 46 percent Shiraz. It is aged 12 months in American oak hogsheads (29 percent new, 50 percent one year old and 21 percent two years old.)
Bin 389 is often called “Baby Grange”, in part because components of the wine are matured in the same barrels that held the previous vintage of Penfolds legendary Grange. It combines the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon with the richness of Shiraz. Exemplifying the judicious balance of fruit and oak, Bin 389 highlights the generous mid-palate Penfolds is known for.
This wine is built to last. It likely will continue to improve in the bottle for another 10-15 years. Before drinking, I decanted the wine for 30 minutes. That would be a minimum, and decanting for an hour probably would be a better idea.
Winery: Penfolds was founded in 1844, just eight years after the founding of South Australia. It has been one of the leading wine companies in Australia ever since.
Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold planted a vineyard shortly after arriving in Australia with his wife Mary and their daughter Georgina. He bought 500 acres in Mackgill and began cultivating the French vine cuttings they brought with them. They planned to produce their own medicinal tonic wine.
Penfold died in 1870, but Mary took over the operation. She grew the business for 25 years until her death, when Georgina and her husband Thomas Hyland took over. By 1920 Penfolds accounted for half of all wine sales in Australia.
Many of their wines are known simply by the number of the bin where the wine is stored, such as bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, or bin 2, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre.
Penfolds makes a wide range of varietals and blends, as well as some extraordinary fortified wines called tawnies.
It is most famous for its Grange, developed in secret by Max Schubert, the company’s first chief winemaker. A loyal company man and true innovator, Schubert would propel Penfolds onto the global stage with his experimentation of long-lasting wines, especially Penfolds Grange which he created in the 1950s.
Management did not like the early tastes of the first vintages of Grange so they ordered Schubert to stop making it. He continued anyway and by the 1960s when the first wines were maturing and getting great reviews, they told him to officially re-start making Grange.
Grange is now one of the most beloved wines in the world.
Goes with: We had this beautiful wine with our special quarantine date night dinner, which was home made chili. Besides the candlelight, tablecloth, fancy dishes and silver, what made it special was I didn’t have to cook and we still had a home-cooked meal.
We had a wonderful time and decided we would have to do this again sometime, until it is safe for a real night on the town.
It is a meaty chili, and during the last two years I worked at The Augusta Chronicle, it won the company-wide chili cook-off.
Wimpy wines don’t stand a chance with this chili. I’ve had friends tell me the only thing to drink with chili is beer, and that is a good choice, but I still prefer a hearty red wine like the Penfolds.
Every sip calmed down my taste buds after a spoonful of chili. The flavors all worked together.
The chili is a time-consuming recipe, but it produces great flavor. I cook bacon, then brown ground beef (or tiny beef cubes) and Italian sausage in the bacon grease. I also brown garlic, chopped onions and chopped bell peppers in the bacon fat.
Then you add beef broth, some canned tomatoes and tomato paste, green chiles, kidney beans and black beans, and a load of spices that include bay leaf, chili powder, cumin, celery seed, paprika, oregano and cayenne. It changes each time I make it because I change the amounts, or add a few other things.
I usually serve it over macaroni or thin spaghetti like they do at my favorite Chicago-area chili parlor, Bishop’s, which has been around since my mom and dad were youngsters, some 90 years ago. They introduced me to Bishop’s and I try to stop there when I get back to Chicago. Bishop’s started in Pilsen, my old Chicago neighborhood, and then moved farther and farther west. It is now in Westmont.
I started by trying to recreate the Bishop’s taste, but later added more spices and the tomatoes. The chili is best served in a deep bowl, topped with cheese, chopped green onions and oyster crackers.
The Penfolds is so good, it would be terrific with more refined cuisine, such as beef burgundy, wild game or rich stews.
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