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Spanish Wine Recommendations, Part 3 – From $50 to Infinity

April 5, 2015 9 comments

In the first two posts I shared my recommendations for the Spanish wines under $20, and then between $20 and $50. In today’s post, we will drop all the limits and talk about the wines which will cost more than $50. Heck, most of them will cost way above $50. So let’s explore what the money can buy in the world of the Spanish wines.

Few notes before we dive in. First of all, there will be no white wines in this price category. There might be Spanish white wines which cost more than $50 – I simply not aware of them, hence they will not appear in this post. Now, it is important to explain my basis for the recommendations. No, I didn’t personally taste each and every wine I will recommend to you below. But – I was lucky enough to taste a lot of them – at various events and seminars, I was able to experience some of the best Rioja from the legendary 1964 vintage, Vega Sicilia Unico and even the untouchable 2005 Clos Erasmus. No, my point is not bragging, not at all. In the wine world, price can’t be equated with the quality. Not every $100 or $300 bottle of wine is worth paying for and drinking. There are no guarantees that you will get 10 times more pleasure from the $300 bottle of wine versus the $30 bottle of wine. But the wines I will be talking about below are special. If you like wine, if you consider yourself an oenophile, most of the wines I’m recommending here have a soul and worth experiencing, at least once. This is the rationale behind this list.

As you will see below, the list will be still dominated by Tempranillo, but the focus will somewhat shift down south, from Rioja to Ribera del Duero and Toro. And the wines of Priorat have much bigger play in this price category. Also, in this list, if the vintage is mentioned, it is a part of the essential information. This is different from the two previous lists, where prices were provided for currently available vintages. But here, a 1968 Rioja most likely will not taste as good 1964, and what is worth paying paying for 1964, might not be for the 1968. And the last note – availability of the wines. General availability was one of the factors I took into account when recommending the wine – the wines have to be available, at least online, in order to be included in the under $20 and $20-$50 categories. When it comes to this list, this will not be the case anymore. If you love Spanish wines, make it your dream list, this is your call – but many of the wines I will mention will have very scarce availability. Sorry about that, but this simply the way it is.

Well, pour yourself a glass of Rioja, and let’s talk about Spanish wine “best of the best”.

Tempranillo and Tempranillo-based:

Rioja:

CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja – powerful and always age-worthy – well, I will have to say this about most or even all. Around $70, but sometimes can be found on sale at around $50.
CVNE Pagos de Viña Real Rioja – 100% Tempranillo fruit for this wine is selected from the best plots of the vineyard. One of the very best wines CVNE makes, and scarcely available. About $90 in current releases?

La Rioja Alta Viña 904 Gran Reserva Rioja – balanced and delicious. Generally this wine costs above $50, but at the moment of the writing of this post, it seems to be widely available for about $45 – this is a steal for this quality.
La Rioja Alta Viña 890 Gran Reserva Rioja – La Rioja Alta flagship, the 890 commemorates the year (1890) when La Rioja Alta came into being. Restrained, earthy and extremely long living. I had a pleasure of tasting both 890 and 904 on multiple occasions (here is one of the posts), and this wine never ceases to amaze. Around $120, but price will vary from vintage to vintage.

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Rioja – restrained, balanced, delicious. Prices vary based on vintage, but you will probably pay more than $150.
R. López de Heredia Viña Bosconia Gran Reserva Rioja – never tasted this one. Expect it to be spectacular. Expect to pay around $300, but again, the price will depend on the vintage.

1964 Rioja – anything you can find from the legendary 1964 vintage is worth trying, if you are willing to pay – expect to pay at least $300 for anything in this group. Prepare to be awe-stricken after you will taste these 50+ years old wines. Of course there were other spectacular vintages – 1922, 1947, 1978, 1994, 1995 and so on – you can consult the Rioja vintage chart for more details.

Ribera del Duero:

While there are plenty of Rioja wines in this price category, their prices are vintage driven. The consistent lead in this price category belongs to Ribera del Duero wines, which are very expensive based even on their release prices.

Bodegas Emilio Moro Malleolus de Valderramiro Ribera Del Duero – Full throttle delicious expression of Tempranillo. Around $140.
Bodegas Emilio Moro Malleolus de Sanchomartin Ribera Del Duero – Luscious and spectacular. Around $170.

Bodegas Vega Sicilia – a legendary wine producer from Spain. Many countries have a producer, whose name is considered to be a legend, and alone is enough to solicit a dreamy and understanding “ahh” from the group of oenophiles, the people who loves wines, not necessarily the sommeliers and other wine pros. France might be an exception with multiple names capable of causing this reaction (Bordeaux first growth, DRC, Petrus, Chateau d’Yquem), but most other countries have one or very few, like Penfolds in Australia, Cloudy Bay in New Zealand, Screaming Eagle (may be) in US. Vega Sicilia is the one for Spain, a quintessence of creme of the crop. Here are three Vega Sicilia wines for you, oenophiles:

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5° – mostly Tempranillo with some addition of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Pretty much an introductory Vega Sicilia wine, perfectly balanced and delicious. Around $140
Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva – mostly Tempranillo with addition of Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is produced only in the best years, and it is only released 10 years after the vintage. Beauty and finesse. $500+
Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial – I never had this wine – this is a non-vintage blend of different Unico wines. I’m sure it is spectacular, and practically unavailable. I would guess that the price will be roughly the same as Unico, around $500

Dominio de Pingus Ribera del Duero – this might be the most cult wine coming from Spain. Tiny production, practically unavailable. I never tried that wine. If you will come across this wine and can afford it – I’m sure it should be spectacular. $700+

Toro:

Two more wines from Eguren Family Teso La Monja:

Teso La Monja Victorino Toro – powerful, but with nice herbal undertones. Around $55
Teso la Monja Alabaster Toro – if there is one single wine which should identified with “power”, this is the one. I tried this wine a few times – it was always a young wine though – and within a second this wine takes all over your mouth and locks it completely for next 60 seconds or so – there is simply no other sensory elements except tannins. But – definitely the wine worth experiencing, just with an age on it. Around $180

Garnacha and Garnacha-based (yep, a.k.a Grenache):

In this price range, this is squarely a Priorat territory. Garnacha is a star there, but international varieties are used quite often as well. Before we get to Priorat, one beautiful wine from Campo de Borja:

Bodegas Alto Moncayo ‘Aquilon” Garnacha Campo de Borja – dark chocolate on the firm and powerful structure. Delicious. Around $110

Coming from Priorat:

René Barbier Clos Mogador, Priorat DOCa – a blend of Garnacha with Carignan, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon. An excellent wine. Around $80

Clos i Terrasses Clos Erasmus, Priorat DOCa – one of the very few Spanish wines to ever get a perfect score (100 points) from the wine critic (Robert Parker). As I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to try this specific vintage, and it was spectacular wine. New releases are about $200. The 2005 (this is the one with the perfect score) is about a $1000 and practically unavailable.

Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita Velles Vinyes, Priorat DOCa – this wine might be even more iconic that Vega Sicilia. Alvaro Palacios is an extremely important figure in the Spanish winemaking, well outside of Priorat, influencing lots of winemakers to do their best. Never had a pleasure of trying this wine, but it should be spectacular. It is hard to figure out the pricing, as this wine is practically not available anywhere. I guess you would pay $700+, but this is an extremely rough estimate.

Monastrell and Monastrell-based (a.k.a. Mourvedre)

Not the whole lot to present to you here – but this wine is typically big and delicious:

Bodegas Juan Gil El Nido D.O. Jumilla – 30% Monastrell, 70% Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course this is more of a Cabernet Sauvignon than a Monastrell wine. So here you get the power of Cabernet Sauvignon with playfulness of Monastrell. Lots of power. Around $140

And we are done here. This list is not all encompassing by all means, but it is based on what I know and/or have experienced. Yes, these wines are expensive. Do they worth it? I can’t answer this question for you, my mission is to enable you to make the right decision when the moment comes…

No, we are not done with the series – so far we talked about “what”, but we still have to talk about “where” and “how”.

To be continued…

Spanish Wine Recommendations, Part 2 – Wines under $50

March 30, 2015 20 comments

Here we are again, talking about Spanish wines recommendations. My previous post was dedicated to the wines under $20, and now we are moving up and will look at what few extra dollars can buy you. And I actually mean it – despite the fact that our prices can go to the $50, there are still plenty of amazing Spanish wines at the lower end of the price range, mostly under $30.

Another interesting note is that in this price category transition we will mostly see all the new producer names – this will not be so much the case when we will jump the $50 limit, but – you will have to wait until we get there. I also want to remind you of the same basic concepts we discussed last time –  1) this list is mostly based on my experience with particular producers throughout the years; 2) I’m recommending producers and some specific wines, but not the vintages – with these producers, you stand an excellent chance of been happy no matter what the vintage rating was; 3) The list will include mostly red wines – there are really very few Spanish white wines in that price category which I have the long-term experience with and feel comfortable to recommend.

Ahh, before I will forget – note that absolute majority wines in this list (with the exception of the first white wine), will age extremely well. If you will age these wines, you might want to pay some attention to the vintage charts, but you will be fine even without it.

And the last (I promise!) generic note. Rioja wines are a very big part of my love of Spanish wines. When it comes to Rioja, I’m somewhat conservative, and I might be missing on some of the modern experimental concoctions. By “conservative” I also mean that there are some producers I trust completely, which means that I will gladly drink any wines from those producers, whatever I can acquire or be offered to drink. There are only 3 producers like that – La Rioja Alta, La Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE) and R. López de Heredia. While it is only 3 producers, all started in the late 1800s (if you are interested in a bit of a history, here is one of my older posts on the subject), each of the producers offers multiple lines of wines – 4 or 5 different lines. The reason I bring it up? While I’m familiar with many of their wines, I obviously didn’t taste each and every one of them. But – and this is why I wanted to mention them before we get to the exact recommendations – if you see the name of any one of these 3 producers on the bottle – go for it. There are a few reasons for such a blunt recommendation. First, a lot of their wines are produced only in a good years – for instance, you would never see a Gran Reserva from La Rioja Alta from the average vintage. Another good thing is that generally these producers release their wines when they are ready to drink, which is not based on the minimum aging requirements, so you will always stand a good chance to enjoy their wines once they get in your glass.

Finally, done with introductions – let’s talk wine now.

White Wines:

NV Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad – one of my favorite Sparkling wines, has medium body with a good weight for the Sparkling wine, and lots of complexity on the palate. As an added bonus, beautiful bottle makes it a nice conversation piece. Around $22.

R. López de Heredia – as I already mentioned, one of my absolute favorites. Here are two white wines from López de Heredia:

R. López de Heredia Viña Gravonia Rioja – an interestingly complex white wine. Around $25.
R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva Rioja – usually has very nice age on it by the time of the release. Combination of incredible complexity and freshness. Around $40 (I put is at $35 initially, but it seems that $40 is more realistic).

Red Wines:

Tempranillo and Tempranillo-based:

Rioja:

Multiple wines under CVNE brand:
CVNE Viña Real Reserva Rioja – usually bright with a good fruit presence. Around $25
CVNE Viña Real Gran Reserva Rioja – usually has more powerful structure compare to the regular Reserva. Around $35
CVNE Cune Reserva Rioja – similar to Viña Real Reserva in style. Actually, in price as well – around $25
CVNE Imperial Reserva Rioja – in the old days, this wine was specifically created for the England markets to compete with Claret. Good structure and complexity. Around $40

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Rioja – very complex, earthy, usually more restrained than the others in the similar category. Around $40
R. López de Heredia Viña Bosconia Reserva Rioja – nice and classic. Around $32

La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Rioja – bright and dangerous – once you open a bottle, you can’t stop. Around $30
La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Reserva Rioja – a bit more restrained than the Viña Ardanza, but typically round and polished. Around $30
La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi Reserva Rioja – Most structured out of 3 Reservas. Typically 100% Tempranillo. Around $25

Ribera del Duero:

I’m sure there are many worthy wines from Ribera del Duero in this price range – but I don’t have lots of consistent experiences there, hence only two recommendations:

Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez Tinto Pesquera Crianza Ribera Del Duero – soft and approachable, very round Tempranillo rendering with herbal undertones. Generally under $30.

Bodegas Emilio Moro Malleolus Ribera Del Duero – this is an “introductory” wine from the magnificent Malleolus wines. A beautiful expression of Tempranillo, full of fragrant power. Around $45.

Toro:

I probably should’ve mentioned Toro in the previous post. This is the third Tempranillo-based region in Spain, after Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Tempranillo is known here under the name of “Ink of Toro”, and typically has the most powerful expression compare to any other wines. I don’t have a consistent experience with any of the Toro wines in “under $20” range, but there is one I can recommend here:

Teso La Monja Almirez Toro – dark and dense, very powerful wine. Around $25

Garnacha and Garnacha-based (yep, a.k.a Grenache):

Again, I have a limited experience with the Garnacha wines in this price range, unfortunately. I’m sure there should be some excellent Garnacha wines from Priorat, but most of the Priorat wines I know of are in the next price range up. Therefore, just two recommendations from the same producer  – Alto Moncayo:

Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton Campo de Borja – fruit forward, with excellent balance. Around $25
Bodegas Alto Moncayo Alto Moncayo Grenache Campo de Borja– shows more power than Veraton, but still has an excellent balance. Around $40

Monastrell and Monastrell-based (a.k.a. Mourvedre)

Again, not the whole lot to present to you here – but this wine is typically big and delicious:

Bodegas Juan Gil Clio D.O. Jumilla – 70% Monastrell, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Bodegas Juan Gil produces a lot of wines in a lot of different regions in Spain. However, I’m only including one wine here, which I happened to like more often than not. Bright, fresh and lip smacking. Around $40

And that concludes our list. If you had any of these wines, I would be curious to know what do you think of them. In any case, stay tuned for the part 3, as it will include a lot of drool-worthy wines.

To be continued…

Few Updates From Michael Skurnik Portfolio Tasting in Connecticut

April 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Michael Skurnik Wines generally needs no introductions – one of the best wine importers and distributors in the country, with the great portfolio of wines and spirits from all over the world. A few days ago I attended a small trade tasting event here in Connecticut, and I want to share a few highlights with you. These are the wines which are either already available or about to be available in the wine stores near you, so if our palates are aligned, you might want to look for them : )

As usual for the trade tastings, my notes are short, and the ratings are done in “+” signs, from “+” to “+++”, but of course, the exceptions make our life more interesting, so “++-|” and “++++” are also  possible. Also, I will list prices for all wines as SRP (suggested retail) in CT, so your local price might be different.

Here we go:

2012 Charles Smith Wines ‘Eve’ Chardonnay Columbia Valley (SRP: $12.99) – ++, nice minerality, very much Chablis-like. Not the best in the world, but excellent value.

2012 Charles Smith Wines ‘Boom Boom’ Syrah Columbia Valley (SRP: $16.99) – ++, surprisingly balanced, simple, round and spicy. Again, great QPR.

SkurnikTasting_JoelGot

2012 Joel Gott Riesling, Washington (SRP: $13.99) – ++-|, fruit forward, nice, balanced, good acidity

2011 Joel Gott Alakai California (SRP: $18.99) – ++-|, nice Rhone-style blend with very explicit Grenache notes – nice plumpness, very round

2011 Joel Gott Zinfandel California (SRP: $16.99) – ++-|, nice, smokey

2012 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon California (SRP: $16.99) – ++-|, very scaled back, good balance

2010 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (SRP: $47.99) – +++, classic Bordeaux style, perfectly round and clean.

2012 Charles Fournier Gold Seal Vineyard Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY (SRP: $14.99) – +++, creamy, delicious

2012 Charles Fournier Gold Seal Vineyard Chardonnay, Finger Lakes, NY (SRP: $13.99) – +++. It seems that winemakers on East Coast start getting their vibe with Chardonnay. Dry, mineral, with clean acidity – Chablis-style and very well done. And QPR? Unbeatable value!

2012 Charles Fournier Gold Seal Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Finger Lakes, NY (SRP: $17.99) – +++. I’m a sucker for a good East Coast Cabernet Franc, and this was a perfect example – bell pepper, cassis, soft and round. Try it!

2011 Januik Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley (SRP: $28.99)- +++. Classic Cabernet Sauvignon, perfectly expressive and round.

2012 Ramsay Pinot Noir California (SRP: $13.99) – ++-|, nice fruit, smokey and round.

2011 Robin K Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley (SRP: $15.99) – ++-|, nice and light

2012 Owens and Vaughn Cabernet Sauvignon California (SRP: $14.99) – ++-|, good fruit, cassis, acidity. Might be the best California Cabernet the money can buy under $15.

2010 Chateau Saint Julian Bordeaux Superieur (SRP: $12.99) – ++-|, nice, round, and great QPR

2012 Petit Chapeau Macon-Villages (SRP: $13.99) – ++-|, perfect Chardonnay, round and supple, and outstanding QPR

2012 Petit Chapeau Bordeaux Blanc (SRP: $12.99) – ++-|, refreshing, clean, great acidity – perfect for a hot summer day.

2010 Chateau de Clotte Cotes de Castillon (SRP: $16.99) – ++-|, classic Bordeaux at a great price

2011 David Duband Bourgogne Rouge (SRP: $22.99) – +++, excellent, classic Burgundy at a great price

2011 Domaine de L’Enchantoir Saumur Blanc (SRP: $12.99) – +++. Very unusual and interesting wine, great minerality mid-palate. Definitely worth experiencing, especially at such QPR

SkurnikTasting_RiojaAltaAnd of course I saved the best for last.

2007 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Rioja Riserva (SRP: $19.99) – ++++. In a word, spectacular. In another word, wow! Such a perfect balance of fruit, structure, power and earthiness which only Rioja possess. Amazing wine, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing which can beat it in the under $20 range. Go try it (I mean buy a case) and send me a thank you note…

2001 La Rioja Alta 904 Rioja Gran Riserva (SRP: $47.99) – ++++. Stunning. Same as the wine above, but mature, with different level of fruit expression. At a price? Great value in my opinion. And don’t forget that 2001 was one of the best years ever. This wine will give you lots of pleasure for many years ahead.

2010 Bodegas Cepa 21 Hito Ribera Del Duero (SRP: $14.99) – +++-|. Outstanding. Fruit and power combined  – delicious rendition of Tempranillo. At $14.99? No further comments.

And we are done here. Whether you tried any wines listed here or not, I would love to know your opinion. Cheers!

 

 

 

Weekly Wine Quiz #87: How Well Do You Know Your Wines, Part 2

January 4, 2014 16 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

As I skipped the traditional Meritage, I would like to start with the answer to the wine quiz #86, How well do you know your wines. In the quiz, you were given the pictures of the top of the wine bottles, and you were supposed to name the producer or wine based on that picture of that foil top. Here are the answers (and below are the pictures, now with the producer/wine names):

1. Laetitia, the winery in California producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines

2. Cambria, the winery in California, also producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines

3. Wente, large winery in California Livermore valley

4. Turley, California Zinfandel and Petite Sirah specialist (however, the picture was taken from the bottle of Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon)

5. La Rioja Alta, one of the best Rioja producers in Spain

6. Peter Michael, California winery producing great Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon

Bonus: Satrapezo, a great wine made out of Saperavi grape by Marani winery in Georgia – I understand that this is a very obscure wine for many, this is why it was set as a bonus question.

Talking about the results – this was a tough quiz, with a few people being able to properly identify Wente, and then some guesses for the #2 being Cline – this is close, but incorrect. The “C” on the Cline bottles is done slightly in the different style.

I still like this quiz, so here comes round number 2 – hopefully you can do better! Here we go:

1. DSC_0302

2. DSC_0305

3. DSC_0301

4. DSC_0307

5. DSC_0295

6. DSC_0298

7. DSC_0286

And the bonus question:

B. DSC_0291

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

There is a Train Station in Haro

July 30, 2013 5 comments

DSC_0184 Vina Real 1978 in the glassI remember talking to someone about great Rioja seminar I attended, and I remember being asked “why did you go to that Rioja seminar, don’t you already know everything you need about Rioja?”. I only raised my eyebrow. Yes, I make no secret that Rioja is one of my all time favorite wines (I’m sure you noticed if you read this blog for a while) – but there is always so much to learn around wine, you can never pass the educational opportunity. Especially when this is the seminar at PJ Wine store, where wine education always includes a glass (or two, or more) of great wine, just to make sure your newly acquired knowledge would be well anchored. As a side note, this seminar took place a while back (in March of 2013), but the experience was so good, it is still worth sharing.

Andrew Mulligan of Michael Skurnik Wines, who was running the seminar, was a wealth of knowledge on the subject of Rioja. Before we will talk about the wines in the seminar, here are some of the interesting facts about Rioja wines which we learned:

  • There are four grape varieties allowed to be used in a production of red Rioja wines – Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo and Graciano. Tempranillo is usually the main grape, which is responsible for main flavor profile and ageability of the Rioja. Garnacha adds body and power, Mazuelo – spicy flavors, Graciano – structure. There are no limitations for the exact wine composition, so all types of blends are possible
  • Rioja wines are typically made out of grapes harvested from the different vineyards in the region. There are also single-vineyard Rioja wines, which are called Pago. Rioja Contino is an example of single vineyard Rioja.
  • Production of all wines in Rioja is controlled by Consejo Regulador (Control Board), an organization founded in 1926. Consejo Regulador also sets vintage ratings for different years. You can find all vintage ratings (starting from 1926!) here.
  • 2010 and 2011 vintages have “excellente” rating – Crianzas should be good already!
  • Bodegas Muga, CVNE, Lopez de Heredia and La Rioja Alta wineries (some of the very best Rioja producers) are all located at four corners the train station in Haro – the location was chosen for the purposes of easy shipping of wines to UK.
  • La Rioja Alta 890 line commemorates the 1890 when the winery was created. 904 commemorates 1904 when Ardanza winery was acquired and became a part of La Rioja Alta. The winery decided to call their wines this way (using 890 instead of 1890 and 904 instead of 1904) so consumers would not confuse commemoration dates with the dates of production.
  • CVNE was founded by 1879 by two brothers, and it produces Rioja in two distinct styles under two different labels – CVNE and Vina Real. All the fruit for Vina Real comes from Rioja Alavesa region, and all the fruit in CVNE wines comes from Rioja Alta.
  • CVNE Imperial label was started specifically for the UK market, and it was called like that because it was created during the UK’s “Imperial Century”.
DSC_0174 Rioja line-up

Rioja seminar tasting line-up

Now, let me present to you the wines with my notes. All the wines are included in the order we tasted them.

CVNE Imperial Reserva 2005 – gorgeous nose, dark fruit, perfect acidity, cherries, perfectly balanced, but very masculine. Touch of eucalyptus. Very long finish. Drinkability: 8

La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Gran Reserva 2004 – Beautiful. A lot more delicate than the previous wine, more earthy, sage notes, very beautiful. Perfect acidity. Drinkability: 8

CVNE Cune Reserva 2004 – beautiful, very delicate, (all 4 grapes are used , Tempranilo 85%, 5% the rest), a bit too delicate for me. Drinkability: 7+

Vina Real Gran Reserva 2004 – Beautiful nose, similar to #1, but smooth palate, very nice, round. Drinkability: 8

La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Gran Reserva 2001 – Stunning. A lot of fruit, sweet on the finish. Perfect with food. Absolutely bright and young, you can never tell it is 12 years old. Residual sweetness of Grenache is coming through (20% of Grenache). Drinkability: 8+

CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 2001 – Wow. Perfect fruit, less sweetness on the finish compare to the previous wine. Might be my best of tasting. Perfect power despite the age. Drinkability: 9-

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 1998 – Very interesting. A lot more herbs, more subtle, beautiful profile. Drinkability: 8+

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 1995 – Very different. Lots of herbs, subtle, beautiful. Drinkability: 8+

CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva 1978 – Tobacco, leather, mature wine. Very nice. Still has enough fruit. Drinkability: 8

Yes, I know, my tasting notes are rather short and mostly describe the wines through emotions. However, I think you can see the progression in the flavor profile from the bright fruit to the more earthy, spicy, delicate notes. The common trait among these 9 wines? Elegance. Elegance and balance, to be precise. These are the wines you crave, as you know they will bring you lots of pleasure every time you will open them.

Andrew told us a story from his personal experience with the old Rioja wine. He ordered bottle of 1917 Rioja for the customer, and the customer … refused to take it later on. So the bottle was shared at the table in the restaurant, without much expectations, among the group of young wine professionals. On the very first sip, the table got quiet. And it stayed quiet for the next 5 minutes, as everybody just wanted to reflect on that special moment. I wish you great wine experiences, my friends. Cheers!

Daily Glass: Study of La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi

March 8, 2013 21 comments

DSC_0159  La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi 2003On a given day, outside of any big holidays or special dinners, I have no idea what bottle I’m going to open in the evening. Sometimes it can be a painful procedure of looking at 20-30 bottles not been able to decide. Today, it was easy – @wineking3 mentioned on twitter that he had not the best experience with 2003 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva, which sparked my interest. You see, La Rioja Alta is one of the very best (and of my  favorite) producers in Rioja, so I wanted to see if I can taste the same or similar wine – and I quite convinced that I should have some 2003 La Rioja Alta wine. Also it appears that Decanter magazine suggests that 2003 Rioja should be drunk now, however suggesting that better producers created powerful wines – which again only increased my interest.

La Rioja Alta was founded in 1890 by the group of five winegrowers in the Haro Station District. In 1941, the winery introduced its Viña Ardanza brand, which became one of the most famous in Rioja. In 1970, Viña Arana and Viña Alberdi were introduced, and since then La Rioja Alta wine had being produced under all three labels – but not in all the years. Each “brand” has it’s own unique source of grapes and grape composition, which is rather expected.

So as I pulled the 2003 La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi Reserva from the wine fridge, somehow the thought came to my head – let’s use wine thermometer. You see, I have this nifty device called VinTemp, which is an infrared wine thermometer – it can perfectly measure temperature of the wine in the bottle without actually touching the wine. While I know that temperature has a great effect on the taste of wine, I practically never use this thermometer – but today I did, so the simple wine tasting became more of a study of the temperature effect on the wine.

According to the producer’s notes, 2003 was a very difficult year, due to the extreme heat and lack of the rainfall in July and August. As the result, only the grapes form the highest areas were used to produce the wine, which is made out of 100% Tempranillo coming from 3 different areas. The wine was fermented for 12 days, following by 26 days of malolactic fermentation and then aged for 2 years in American oak casks. The resulting wine has 13% ABV. That’s it – I’m done with all the technical and general stuff – let’s go to the tasting notes. Ahh, sorry, last detail – the winery notes recommend drinking the wine at 17°C (63°F).

The bottle is opened and the wine is poured. Initial temperature – 16.2°C (62°F). Color is dark ruby red, a color of mature red wine, but without brown hues. Rim variation – practically absent. The rim is clear and noticeable, which talks about some age, but it is clear. Nose: Mushrooms, earth, cherries, touch of barnyard – clearly an old world wine. Palate: Perfect acidity on the sides of the tongue, tart cherries, tannins. Tannins completely covering the mouth, very similar to Barolo, only with the wine been a bit lighter. And then there are more tannins. And they are going. And going. And going. For about one minute forty seconds ( yes, I looked at the clock). First verdict – perfectly dry wine. Need time to warm up and to open.

Second taste – about 20 minutes later, temperature measures 17.6°C (64°F). Nose – unchanged. Palate – more fruit, less tannins. Green notes, the wine almost tastes bitter. Worrying – is this the case of bad Rioja? Tannins are back, killing and overpowering.

Third taste  – about an hour later, 19.3°C (67°F). Nose – coffee and chocolate showed up. Palate – beautiful. Fresh acidity. Bright fruit, cherries, blackberries. Still lots of tannins, but the fruit now comes first. Very round, smooth and expressive. Lots of pleasure.

Final verdict – Beautiful wine. Needs time!! Drinkability: 8

Let’s sum it up, shall we? In my opinion, this wine needs at least another 10 years to open up. And as you can see, the temperature plays key role here – considering level of tannins, the recommendation of 17°C is very surprising – you do need to drink this wine at a room temperature to let it show up in all its beauty.

Our study is complete. Now, can I have another glass? Cheers!

 

 

Spanish Wine Festival, In Pictures

June 28, 2011 3 comments

About 10 days ago, I attended Spanish Wine Festival, organized by PJ Wine in New York. I can give you a summary of the event using only one word: Overwhelming. It is challenging to produce any kind of detailed summary, because there are literally no bad wines in such a well organized tasting event. There are some wines which will leave you indifferent, then there are some which are great, but not ready, and then there is great amount of wines where you go from “wow” to “wow, this is great” and to “wow” again. Therefore, I will simply give you a report in pictures. No, I didn’t get a picture of each and every wine I tried. All the wines shown below are personal favorites, and they are all highly recommended. And the good thing is that PJ Wine regularly carries most of them.

Well, let’s go.

1999 Vega Sicilia Unico and 2000 Vega Sicilia Unico, from Ribera del Duero. These are the wines to be experienced – balanced and luscious:

2006 Clos Mogador, Priorat – powerful and balanced:

Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia Rioja – 1976 Gran Reserva, 2000 Rosado and 1993 Blanco: 18 years old White Rioja and 11 years old Rioja Rosado – both are fresh and vibrant. Wow! And Gran Reserva – beautiful and mature wine, which will still keep going for a while.

Bodegas El Nido line, including flagship 2006 El Nido – gorgeous layered and balanced, and requiring another 10 years to really blossom:

Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero, including full Malleolus line – wines of incredible balance and elegance:

More Rioja – Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 1995 and 1999, as well as CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva 2001

1997 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904, 1995 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 and 2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial – probably the best Rioja wines. Period. Classic and amazing.

Representing Toro: 2007 Numanthia and 2007 Termanthia, silky smooth, balanced and powerful:

More Rioja – 2004 Martinez Lacuesta Reserva, great wine from the great year:

Starring Garnacha from Campo de Borja – 2008 Alto Moncayo and 2007 Aquilon – beautiful, soft and spicy:

Jerez, a.k.a. Sherry  is coming back – take a note of it. All Barbadillo wines were simply delicious, and Colosia Amontillado was also right in the league:

I would like to thank PJ Wine folks profusely for arranging such an amazing line up of wines for the event. And if I can make a suggestion, myself (and I’m sure, hundreds of other wine lovers)  would really enjoy PJ Wine Grand Tasting event in the Fall – we can only hope that PJ Wine will be kind enough to organize one…