Wine of The Week: 2001 La Rioja Alta “904” Gran Reserva #TempranilloDay

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2001 La Rioja Alta “904” Gran Reserva

The Winery

La Rioja Alta, S.A. was founded in 1890 when five Riojan and Basque families who shared a passion for wine, founded the ‘Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta’. According to importer Michael Skurnik, “Few dispute that La Rioja Alta S.A. is the leading quality orientated producer in the Rioja. With more than 50,000 casks and 6.4 million bottles stored at any one time, the equivalent of about 8 years sales, La Rioja Alta S.A. is unique in its ability to supply large quantities of fully mature wines of world-class quality“.

La Rioja Alta rose to prominence at a time when vineyards in France were ravaged by phylloxera, and wine lovers were looking elsewhere for fine wine.  La Rioja Alta was one of the wineries in Rioja  that capitalized on the opportunity.

The Bodega’s first winemaker was a Frenchman, Monsieur Vigier, and the first wine he produced was what is today known as “Gran Reserva 890”, their flagship wine.

They will celebrate their 125th anniversary next year!

I was discovered La Rioja Alta a couple of years ago when I read some of the reviews about the 2001 Viña Ardanza.  I picked up a couple of bottles.

So often in a situation where a wine is hyped up, it’s not unusual for one to be let down because expectations have been built up.

Not so for the 2001 Viña Ardanza.   It lived up to the hype and delivered for me.

My other experience with La Rioja Alta was when I traveled to Spain last year.  When we arrived at our hotel –  Los Augustinos Hotel, we were starving.  The first thing we did was grab a bite to eat.  They was a special on a combination cheese plate and a bottle of Viña Alberdi Crianza.  What a great introduction to the wine and cheese of Rioja!  It was such a memorable meal! The wine and the cheese were perfectly matched.

Fast forward to this year.  When I saw my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants had a nice selection of wines from the 2001 vintage – one of the strongest vintages in Rioja in recent memory, it was a “no-brainer” for me to pick up a couple of bottles of this wine because I’ve had great experiences with other wines from La Rioja Alta.

The Wine

In 1904, La Rioja Alta absorbed Bodegas Ardanza, which was owned by Don Alfredo Ardanza.  This wine commemorates this important milestone in the company’s development.  Originally referred to the “Reserva 1904”, it is now known as the “904”.

These wines offer a wonderfully complex bouquet, rich flavours, a seductively smooth texture, and are all ready to drink on release.

The “904” is a blend of Tempranillo and Graciano. The base grape is Tempranillo (90%) from vines over 40 years old grown in the municipalities of Briñas, Labastida and Villalba, perfectly complemented with 10% Graciano from our Melchorón I and II vineyards in Briones and Rodezno.

After fermentation, the wine was aged 4 years in custom-made American oak barrels, that were racked twice a year, and then further aging in bottle.

12.5% alcohol $50 Retail


My tasting notes follow:

Slightly bricking tawny color with alluring baked cherry, balsamic, tobacco, vanilla, spice and sweet floral aromas. On the palate, light-medium-bodied with a freshness that belies its 13 years.  It’s  shows great finesse, concentration and is impeccably balanced with tart raspberry, cherry, vanilla, spice and mineral flavors. Long finish. [Note: I aerated the wine for 90 minutes]  >>Find this wine<<

Rating: A; Highly recommended!

Pair with: Grilled lamb chops with Patatas a la Riojana, or Chorizo and lentil stew with Morcilla (Spanish blood sausage)

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
Other posts you might enjoy:

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2009 Viña Eguía Rioja Reserva

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  This week’s wine, the 2009 Viña Eguía Rioja Reserva is a great value!

The Winery

According to importer Quintessential Wines the Viña Eguía winery and vineyards were established in 1973 in Elciego and purchased by Father and Son, Jose and Julian Murua of Bodegas Muriel in 2010. Elciego is a town in the Rioja Alavesa, which borders the Spanish “Basque” region, and the language spoken there often includes Basque words, such as “Eguia” which means “truth.” The brand is symbolized by an open hand over the label, which is in the shape of an open book, analogous to putting one’s hand on a bible to swear to the truth of what one is saying.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine, which is 100% Tempranillo, were sourced from vines with a median age of 30 years from the Rioja Alavesa region, which along with Rioja Alta has a reputed for producing Rioja’s finest grapes.

The wine is classified as a “Reserva”.  Based on Spain’s strict labeling laws that means a “Reserva” red wine must be aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak.  In the case of this wine,  it was aged 24 months in American and French oak barrels were it ages for 24 months, then aged an additional two years prior to release.

So how does Spain do it?  How is it possible to produce a wine aged for four years that sells for under $15? I’m not sure, but when I look for killer value, I look to Spain first!

photo (54)

My tasting notes follow:

Dark ruby color with appealing red fruit, tobacco, vanilla and spice aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with soft tannins, and good acidity. It shows fresh dark red cherry, vanilla,and spice flavors. Long finish. It’s drinking well now, but will likely award cellaring an additional 2-3 yearsAlcohol-13.5%; SRP-$15

Rating: B-:  This wine is the truth when it come to value! We picked up three bottles based solely on how much we enjoyed the 2007 vintage (and the fact it was on sale at Costco for $7.99!).  After opening up this one and tasting it, we went back the next day and bought three more!  Tip: Let it breathe 30 minutes or so to maximized enjoyment!

Pair with: Grilled lamb chops, Patatas a la Riojana, aged cheeses or a plate of wild mushrooms sauteed in Spanish olive oil.

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
Other posts you might enjoy


Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Best Wines To Pair With Tapas #SundaySupper

I was pretty excited when I saw this week’s #SundaySupper tapas theme.  That’s because my wife and I recently returned from a 17-day trip to Spain! Our itinerary included visits to Barcelona, La Rioja (Spain’s most renown wine country), San Sebastian, Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, and Granada.  One of the highlights of our trip, of course was Spain’s food – especially the tapas, which we ate almost daily!  We were very impressed by the integrity and freshness of the ingredients in most of the food we enjoyed.

The notion of perfect and delicious little bar snack has now taken wing from its humble beginnings, developing into a worldwide gastronomic delight perceptively different from the usual restaurant experience..while still maintaining the feel of convivial food

We did our most serious tapéo (tapas hopping) in Barcelona, and San Sebastian.  But the cacophony of clanking glasses, fast paced chatter and the shuffling of tiny plates filled the atmosphere in every tapas bar we visited.

photo (47)

Each experience was unique and memorable in its own way.  For example, the experience in Haro, the wine capital of Spain, had a much more intimate feel than Barcelona, which was, as one would expect, was more frenetic.  Some of the tapas were the same from place to place, but we also enjoyed some regional specialties.

One of my favorites in San Sebastian - Bar Bergara.  Image courtesy of

One of my favorites in San Sebastian – Bar Bergara. Image courtesy of

The gastronomic highlight of the trip for me was San Sebastian (which has a well deserved reputation for being the culinary capital of Spain)!  It’s the most famous city in the Basque Country, and the local word for tapas is pintxos. 

Check out some of the tasty tapas we enjoyed in Spain…

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Pairing Wines with Tapas

I’m a big proponent of the wine and food pairing guideline that says ‘what grows together, goes together“.  In other words, pair tapas with Spanish wines.  The wide gamut of Spanish wines are naturally well-suited to the broad spectrum of Spanish foods.  My recommendations include many well know Spanish wines that are great with tapas, including Cava, Albariño, and Rioja, as well as the lesser well-known, but no less fantastic with tapas, Txacholi (Chacoli).

Another classic, but unsung hero of Spanish wine worthy of your consideration is Sherry.  Despite, the belief that Sherry country is where tapas were first created, Sherry remains mostly underappreciated, and misunderstood. It’s not just the libation of old ladies.  For example, relatively few people understand that Sherry ranges in style from bone dry to rich and very sweet (Here’s a great primer on Sherry).  Fortunately Sherry is becoming more popular outside of Spain because of its food friendly nature and exceptional quality/price ratio.  I count myself among those who believe that Sherry is their quintessential accompaniment.  Not sure about giving Sherry a try?  Try a half-bottle!

Tip: Since tapas are “small plates, you may find yourself ordering a wide assortment.  Consider ordering your tapas in two waves – those that work with white wine (Cava, Spanish white wines, or Sherry), then order tapas that work with red wines (meats, or mushroom based ones).

Check out the mouth-watering assortment of amazing tapas at the #SundaySupper virtual tapas bar and my wine pairing recommendations! :

Pair these dishes with Cava, the Spanish equivalent of champagne, made mostly in Catalunya by the same exacting standards as in France.  It has a wonderful palate-refreshing qualities also make it ideal with broad range of Spanish tapas.  Look for  El Xamfra Mercat Brut Cava.  It has an intriguing floral, stone fruit, citrus, and toasted nut character

Try this dishes with a slightly sweet Cava.  Look for Segura Viudas ARIA Extra Dry. It shows off-dry tropical fruit, apple, pear, honey and a bit of citrus flavors with crisp palate cleansing acidity and effervescence.

Pair these dishes with a Fino Sherry.  Fino is a light-bodied, very dry type of Sherry that is excellent with olives, almonds, ham, and chips and dips.  One of my favorites is Valdespino “Inocente” Fino. It has a complex, elegant, chalk, aromatic herb, and salted almond character.  These dishes will also work with the El Xamfra Cava.

Pair these dishes with an Amontillado Sherry. It’s an off-dry medium-bodied style Sherry with a richer, nuttier character than Fino.  Look for the Lustau Amontillado “Los Arcos” Solera Reserva. It has an off-dry edge, and an almond paste, date, spiced orange, slightly honeyed character. These dishes will also work well with the recommended Rioja below.

Pair these dishes with a Rosé.  Spain make some fine Rosé.  Most are Tempranillo and/or Grenache based.  But check out the 2012 Raventos i Blanc “La Rosa”. It’s made of Pinot Noir, and has a lovely, dry tangy mixed red berry and watermelon character.

Pair these dishes with an Albariño, the racy, refreshing white wine originating from the small wine region of Rias Baixas (ree-ahs-buy-shuss).  Look for the 2011 Condes de Albarei Albariño.  It has expansive aromas, a silky texture, and peach, citrus, and mineral flavors.

Pair these dishes with a Txacholi, a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol produced in Basque country. The wine is produced from an indigenous varietal of grape grown in vineyards that overlook the rugged Cantabrian coastline and are perfumed by the salty sea air. It’s fantastic with seafood.  Look for  the 2012 Zudugarai “Amats” Getariako Txakolina.  It has a zippy, crisp, tart green apple, citrus and mineral character. 

Pair these dishes with Rioja, named for Spain’s preeminent wine region.  The workhorse grape in Rioja is Tempranillo.  The supple, earthy, and often refined wines bring to mind Burgundy in some respect for me.  Look for the 2010 Bodegas Bilbainas “Viña Zaco”. It shows perfumed floral, red fruit, and spiced vanilla aromas with ripe black cherry, plum, vanilla flavors supported by well-integrated tannins.  

Pair these desserts with an Oloroso Sherry, a denser richer style of Sherry.  Look for the Lustau East Indian Solera. It’s a provocative sweet creamy Sherry with a toffee, fig, caramel, raisin, and baking spice  (cinnamon and clove) character. 

What’s your favorite wine to enjoy with tapas? Salud!

Sunday Supper Movement Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our#SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy! You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Superb Rioja Tasting…And Talking To God!

Last month I attend one of the best tastings I’ve ever been to. And certainly the tasting with the highest “return on investment”..ever!  The tasting was held at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City.  It was billed as a Special Rioja Tasting featuring a Cune & Contino Library Tasting with Winemaker Jesús Madrazo.

The following point can not be overstated…

There were 7 bottles of wines with a total value of $1,545 being poured.  The cost to taste was $5 (somebody pinch me!)

Here’s what the K&L flyer stated…

Jesús Madrazo, winemaker of Contino, will be here to pour the 1974 Contino, the first ever vintage for this legendary Rioja estate!.  As his family has also been involved in the ownership and direction of Cune, we will also be featuring some older Cune wines as well as a few more recent examples.  Jesus is one of the best winemakers in Spain, has a great palate, and should be an excellent guide to not only walk you through these older vintages of two of Rioja’s most storied wineries, but all things Rioja as well.



Rioja is Spain’s preeminent wine region.  It is subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions. Though Rioja Alta, the coolest of the three regions, is generally regarded as producing the best and most age-worthy fruit.

Tempranillo is the great indigenous black grape of Spain. Traditionally, red Rioja wines are a blend of (mostly) Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo (Carignan), and/or Graciano.

In general Rioja’s traditional red wines are aged longer before they are released than any other wines in the world. That’s because the aforementioned traditional blend  of grapes can age at an incredibly slow pace.

Here’s a crazy example. The renowned estate of Marqués de Murrieta released their 1942 Gran Reserva in 1983!

These days the philosophy about the benefits of long aging are changing in Rioja.  Some bodegas have veered away from tradition and are now aging their wine for a shorter periods.  Wine drinkers today, have  a choice between traditional Old World style well-aged earthy wines, and more New World fruit driven wines.  Of course there are wines throughout the spectrum. 

Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España

Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (“CVNE.”), or Cune [pronounced COO-neh] as it is known among Rioja lovers, is one of the most historic and renowned bodegas in Spain.  It was founded 1879 by the two brothers, Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asúa.  With their combination of traditional roots and innovative vision, they have been one of Rioja’s most reliable sources for high quality wine.

CVNE is composed of three separate bodegas: Cune, Viña Real, and Contino. The company is still run by descendants of the founders. The CVNE and Viña Real bodegas are run today Victor Urratia Ybarra, a member of the Real de Asua family, who is CEO of CVNE, and President of Contino

Spaniards talking about making wine use the verb elaborar, to elaborate, not fabricar, to produce or manufacture.  To elaborate something, Spain’s winemakers say, implies consciousness, time, and the labor of creation and nurturance.

Cune is the winery where the company began in 1879. Today it still sits on its original site, in the wine district, Barrio de la Estación, in Haro.  Their flagship wine is the Imperial Gran Reserva.  It is housed in one of its historic cellars was built by Gustave Eiffel.  Grapes for their wines are sourced from Rioja Alta, and Rioja Alavesa.

Contino makes single-estate Riojas from their 62 hectares of vineyards located in  Rioja Alavesa.   It is owned 50/50 by CVNE and the Perez Villota family.

The estate, situated on the northern bank of the river Ebro, includes a farmhouse that dates back 200 years along side their state-of-the-art wine-making facility.You’ll also find some of the oldest vines of Graciano, an indigenous Spanish grape variety, in Rioja.  Graciano is used in the estate wines, and Contino also produces a 100% bottling of Graciano.

wine maker jesus de madrazo mateo

Contino Winemaker Jesus de Madrazo Mateo with L-R; 2005 Cune Imperial Reserva, 2005 Contino Reserva’ 1995 Cune Imperial Gran Reserva, 1988 Cune”Vina Real” Gran Reserva, 1988 Cune “Imperial” Gran Reserva, 1976 Cune “Imperial” Gran Reserva, and 1974 Contino Reserva

Jesús de Madrazo Mateo is a fifth-generation member of the Real de Asua family. They founded and still own a controlling share of CVNE.  His father, Jose Madrazo Real de Asua, who was on the CVNE board of directors and GM of Viña Real brand, conceived the idea of creating the first single estate Bodega in Rioja, and founded Contino

Jesús studied viticulture at Madrid’s prestigious University of Agriculture, and is an Agricultural Superior Engineer. He started training at CVNE in 1988, and took his first paid position in 1995 in the CVNE technical department as an assistant winemaker.  He’s been the head winemaker for Contino since 1999.

The Wines Tasted

All the wines came from vintages rated as “good” by the  Rioja’s regulatory body, the Consejo Regulador de Rioja, except for the wines from the 1995, and 2005 which were rated as “excellent”

Four off the seven wines tasted were from the highest quality classification, “Gran Reserva“, while others were classified as “Reserva”. See below for the minimum (many producers exceed the minimum) aging requirements:

  • Reserva – Reds are aged 3 years with 1 year in oak.
  • Gran Reserva – Reserved for wines from phenomenal vintages. Aged a minimum of 5 years before release with 18 months of oak aging. Most producers will do 20-30 months in barrel.

The quality of the lineup, which spanned 30+ years was remarkable.  All the wines showed substantially complex aromas and flavors, with plenty of acidity and structure to enable them to continue to age gracefully for many more years, if not decades. All the wines were fabulous!

My very favorite wines of the tasting were 1974 Contino Reserva, and the 1976 Cune Imperial Gran Reserva.  They were both beautifully mature wines that possess an almost ethereal elegance.

My complete tasting notes follow:

1976 Cune Imperial Gran Reserva

1976 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 
Brickish red with a dark orange hue and a pale meniscus. It’s aromatic, and complex with savory, dried red fruit, roast meat, tobacco a hint of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s exceedingly silky, elegant, and well-balanced with dried cherry, tobacco,and a bit of dill flavors. Long finish. (95 pts.) – $299.99

1974 Contino Reserva Rioja

  • 1974 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Reserva 
    Garnet color with a brick hue and thin meniscus. Shows complex aromas of dried cherry, orange peel, camphor aromas. On the palate, it’s exceedingly smooth, elegant, and Burgundian with dried cherry, spice flavors with a savory undertone. Long finish.(94 pts.) – $649.99

Tasting mature wines such as these is such a rare treat. And, for me, tasting beautifully mature wines is  the apogee of the wine experience.

If you’re looking for mature wines without three “B” (Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Barolo) sticker shock check out Rioja, where mature wine can be found without paying exorbitant prices.

One of the joys of being a wine lover aside from, of course, the wines is sharing in the experience with others.  Jesús Madrazo struck me as being remarkably humble, sincere and engaging.  When I mentioned that my wife and I plan to travel to Spain in June, he offered up his contact info, and immediately extended an invitation to visit his winery.  He also offered a some great suggestions on where to eat in San Sebastian.  Meeting him was another part of what turned out to be an experience that exceeded my wildest expectations.

The Spanish have a saying when they are tasting extraordinary wine…”Beber este vino es como hablar con Dios” – Tasting this wine is like talking to God...Indeed it was!


Related Posts You Might Enjoy:

Wines of Spain Smackdown – 8 Spanish Reds under $20 Blind-tasted!

The theme for the most recent gathering of the Pacific Point Wine Club (“PPWTC” was “Wines of Spain”.  The PPWTC is entering its third year, and going strong.  Initially we met every couple of months, but based on popular demand, we now meet every 6 weeks or so. It’s been so gratifying to see folks grow in their knowledge of wine while having fun, and making new friends.  We’ve even had  a “field trip” last year  when we got together at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company for a day full of food, fun and wine!  We’re planning a  Bocce ball night next month.

We changed things up a bit for the “Wines of Spain” theme.  It was our first time geographic rather than varietal theme, and we also changed how the wines for our blind-tasting were acquired.  Rather than folks bringing bottles, I purchased all the bottles for the tasting. That way we could ensure a more consistent quality in the wines tasted, there would be no duplicates, and we could capitalize on the opportunity for regional diversity that Spain is all about.

The Food

We always get the night started with food and fellowship.  Everyone is asked  to bring an appetizer or dish that will pair with the wines we’ll be blind-tasting.  Since our theme was ” Wines of Spain”, the two main entrees were of Spanish origin.

We enjoyed Seafood Fideuà (pronounced FID-a-wah, but a.k.a “Fideo” and pronounced FI-day-o), a dish that originated in the Valencia region of Spain.  It’s similar to Paella except it’s made with toasted noodles instead of rice.Wines of Spain - Fideua

The other main dish was this fabulous Paella…

Wine of Spain - Paella

Other culinary delights were homemade lentil salad, homemade sweet tamales, and a plethora of other appetizers.  And what’s food without wine? We always have few bottles of “starter” wines on before the main event.  For this gathering all the wines Spanish including:

Spanish Wine Overview

Spain has about 2.8 million acres under vine, making it the most widely planted wine-producing nation in the world.  It’s in perennial third place among wine-producing countries behind Italy and France, and ahead of the U.S.

The main grapes are Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache) (reds); Airén, Viura/Macabéo, Verdejo,  and Albariño (white). But there are over 200 different varieties of grapes grown in Spain! Aside from still red, white and rose wines, Spain also produces sparkling wine called “Cava” and one of the world’s most underrated wines, and miraculous wines- Sherry. 

Spain is in the midst of a wine revolution which has seen an explosion in the styles of wines, modernization of wine-making techniques, brands, and regions. As a result, Spanish wine are enjoying an worldwide surge in popularity. Eric Asimov of the N.Y.T. says

The wine universe has been expanding at an accelerated rate over the last decade or so, and no place illustrates it better than Spain.  New appellations have joined historic names.  Forgotten regions have reinvented themselves.

As you can see from the map below, Spain has wine growing regions pretty much everywhere.  But that is part of Spain’s advantage – a winning combination of altitude and latitude.

There are over 60 different wine growing regions known as “DO’s” or Denominaciones de Origen (with two exceptions – DOC Rioja, and DOQ Priorat – considered to be the flagships of Spanish wine making).  Such diversity certainly presents a challenge in terms of getting to know the regions, and the types of wines produced there.

I like the way the Wines of Spain USA simplifies the process, by classifying Spain’s wine regions into six climatic categories on the mainland – Green Spain, North Central Spain, Ebro River Valley, The Meseta, the Mediterranean Coast, and Andalucía.  Each  of the climatic regions contains specific DOs . 


Image courtesy of

We ended up with wines from 4 of the 6 climatic regions identified above.  From those 4 climatic regions we had wine representing 7 different DO’s.  Four of those 7 DOs are considered “major”. Here’s what says about the 4 major DOs.

“DOC Rioja – Old and traditional one on hand, and modernistic on the other.  Suave reds based mainly on Tempranillo but also Graciano and Garnacha blends.  Heavy use of oak for long ageing, which is a signature Rioja style.

DO Ribera del Duero – More modern, full-bodied and slightly more rustic wines than Rioja, though the regions are close in proximity.  Ribera wines are mostly all Tempranillo, darker and purpler, able to appreciate with age.

DO Toro – near Ribera del Duero, similar landscape, similar grapes, but Toro claims its own clone of Tempranillo the Tinta de Toro variety.  Toro reds are chewy, inky reds, massive with oak, or unoaked, with a signature spicy Toro note. Home of very old vines, some of the oldest in Spain.

DO Yecla – an area further South, on the Mediterranean coast and also home of the Monastrell, or aka in French Mourvèdre.  The variety thrives in this hot, arrid climate, most often in bunch vines.  Monastrell wines are distinctive, often young, with a spicy, peppery character and affordable price. ”

The Wine Tasting

All wines were purchased from K&L Wine Merchantswhich has a fantastic selection of Spanish wine.  Five of the eight wines were denoted as “Top Pick” on the K&L website.  The wine purchased ranged in price from $7.99 to $17.99.

Five of the eight wines were from the most well-known wine-producing regions identified  above.  There were two wines from Rioja, and one each from Ribera del DueroToro, and Yecla.  The other wines were from Campo de Borja D.O.,Valdeorras, and Alicante.  One of the wines was a “Reserva” level wine ( for red wines –  aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak).

The Wines of Spain theme brought out a crowd.  There were 20 tasters.  The wines were rated based four criteria – aroma, body, taste, and finish – each scored on a scale of 1-5.  All tasters were required to evaluate and score all the wines.  The winner was based on the wine receiving the highest median score.

It’s a pretty diverse group wine experience-wise, though I would say the majority are pretty casual wine drinkers, rather than serious “wine enthusiasts”.

wineup for wines of spain

Wines of Spain Night- The Blind Tasting Lineup including laptops at the ready!

The eight wines we blind-tasted (listed in the order tasted) and my tasting notes follow (click on the links for details about each wine from the K&L Wine Merchant website) :

  • 2010 Montebuena Rioja Cuvée KPF – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja Garnet color with moderately aromatic red fruit, oak and a hint of spice aromas. On the palate, it light-bodied with ripe spiced cherry flavors and powdery tannins. Medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja Tres Picos – Spain, Aragón, Campo de Borja Violet color with aromatic smoky dried herb, spice and red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and intense with cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Medium long finish. Made from 100% Garnacha aged in equal parts stainless steel and French oak.  (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Viña Eguía Rioja Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja Ruby color with moderately aromatic spiced leather, red fruit, and a hint of tobacco aromas On the palate, it’s between light and medium bodied, and elegant with layers of cherry, spice, mocha, clove flavors nicely balanced with supple tannins, and good acidity. Long finish. (91 pts.)
  • 2011 Bodegas Torremoron Ribera del Duero Tinto – Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero Dark almost opaque violet color with candied cherry, raspberry, and hints of anise, and pepper aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and dusty tannins,and ripe slightly tart cherry, raspberry, and mineral flavors. Long finish. Made with 100% Tempranillo (80-100-year old vines); aged completely in stainless steel. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Señorio de Barahonda Barahonda Barrica – Spain, Murcia, Yecla Garnet color with mixed black and red fruit, earth and spice aromas. On the palate, it s medium-full-bodied with cherry, plum, dark chocolate, and spice flavors, and good acidity. Long finish. Blend is composed of 75% Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvedre)and 25% Syrah aged in a combination of French and American oak for six months. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Telmo Rodríguez Mencía Valdeorras Gaba do Xil – Spain, Galicia, Valdeorras Dark garnet color creamy fresh cherry, floral, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with red cherry, blueberry, spice and a bit of mineral flavors. Medium-long finish. 100% Mencia from Galicia region of Spain (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Bodegas Volver Monastrell Tarima – Spain, Valencia, Alicante Dark violet color with tight nose showing aromas of mixed berry,and leather aromas. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, and focused with a creamy mouthfeel, and black raspberry, and black cherry flavors supported by good acidity. Medium-long finish. Fruit is from 40-75 year old Monastrell (Mourvedre) vineyards (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Teso La Monja Toro Romanico – Spain, Castilla y León, Toro Nearly opaque purple color with black and red fruit, coffee, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied focused, and round with black cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Long finish. Very good QPR at $15! 100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) aged in 100% new French oak for six months (91 pts.)

As the party…er gathering continued unabated,  I tabulated the results…

Sure y'all keep the party going...I'll just be over here figuring out the winner!

Sure you guys keep the party going…I’ll just be over here figuring out the winner!

The envelope please…

The winner was the 2010 Teso La Monja “Romanico” Toro ($14.99)…a 100%Tinta de Toro (a local strain of Tempranillo) from the Toro region of Spain.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about blind tastings is there is always a surprise or two. The surprise for me was that the 2007 Viña Eguía Rioja Reserva, the only “Reseva”, and one of K&L’s best sellers, finished last.  I believe it would have done better had I aerated before hand.  In hindsight I should have…

Wine of Spain Romanico

2010 Teso La Monja Toro Romanico

The results were close. The top 5 wines we separated by a mere point!

The order of finish for the runners-up were as follows:

  1. 2010 Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja Tres Picos
  2. 2011 Bodegas Volver Monastrell Tarima
  3. 2011 Bodegas Torremoron Ribera del Duero Tinto
  4. 2010 Señorio de Barahonda Barahonda Barrica
  5. 2009 Telmo Rodríguez Mencía Valdeorras Gaba do Xil
  6. 2010 Montebuena Rioja Cuvée KPF
  7. 2007 Viña Eguía Rioja Reserva


Our Wines of Spain night was a great success with great food, fun, fellowship and of course wine!

It’s been my experience is that Spanish wines are well made, and you won’t find better value anywhere else in the world (there were at least 4 wines from this tasting that will be repeat purchases for me)! That’s why one of my wine resolutions for 2013 is to buy more Spanish wine.  If you haven’t yet discovered the wines of Spain. What are you waiting for? If you have discovered Spanish wine…drop me a comment and let know our favorite(s)!

Related posts  you might also enjoy:

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  . Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is all about soul warming foods.  You know, those soups, chili, stews, and other soul warming treat we seek when the weather turns cold.

When I first saw the theme, my first thought was of “Soul Food”. I’d  bet that “Soul food” is one of those phrases that if you ask 10 people what it means, you’d get 10 different answers!  Soul Warming foods and Soul food are one in the same to me, and when I think of Soul food, the first dish that comes to mind is Gumbo!  We have a tradition in our family of making Gumbo each New Year’s day, but it’s  a soul-satisfying meal whenever there’s a chill in the air.

Since I’m a Wino with latent foodie tendencies, I decided let my foodie nature rise up, and do a dish, and wine pairings this week!

Here’s my Seafood Gumbo (we …OK make that “I”, call it “Yumbo” – lame right?..but I like it!)

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

For me, there are two things you’ve got to get right to make a gumbo – the “roux” (I prefer mine to be dark brownish), and you must have stock that is chock full of flavors.  Sure you could take a short-cut, and go with store-bought (I’ve done that for a  ” quick and dirty” version of this dish, but the flavors are not as complex and intense for me. If you get those couple of things “right”, it’s clear sailing thereafter!

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Cajun
Serves: 10-12
Adapted from Emeril's Classic Seafood Gumbo recipe
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups finely chopped onions
  • ¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • One 12-ounce bottle amber beer
  • 6 cups Shrimp and Crab Stock
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small Dungeness crabs
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon Emeril's Original Essence
  • 2 cups shucked oysters with their liquor
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped tender green onion tops
  1. Follow directions for cleaning and prepping crab to be cooked (click here, except remove crab legs and claws. Follow directions for Shrimp and Crab stock, except add crab shell and crab butter (roe) along with shrimp.
  2. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, and add the oil. Allow the oil to heat for about 5 minutes, then add the flour to the pot. Stir the oil and flour together with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Continue to stir the roux for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the color of milk chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and Shrimp and Crab Stock to the pot. Season the gumbo with the thyme, bay leaves, crabs legs, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne. Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.
  3. Season both the shrimp with 1½ teaspoons Essence. Stir the shrimp into the gumbo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the oysters to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the gumbo and season if necessary.
  4. Garnish with the parsley and green onions and serve in shallow bowls over white rice.
Recommended Wine Pairings - I paired this with the Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. It would also pair well with Viognier, a dry Rosé, or White Zinfandel. If you elect to go with a less spicy version try a Pinot Noir!


Take a look at the culinary cornucopia the #SundaySupper team has put together for this week’s gathering around the #SundaySupper table! My recommended wine pairings (click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase) are italicized.

Main Entrees: 

Pair these main dishes with Pinot Noir.  Look for the 2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir. It’s a silky smooth Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a core of raspberry  and spice aromas and flavors, with caramel edge. Why it works: Pinot goes with just about everything.  It’s a white wine, in red wine clothing, which makes it incredibly flexible with dishes and methods of prep.  Pinot is sublime with poultry, and complements foods that are slow roasted, or braised.

I recommend a Chardonnay for these dishes.  Look for the 2009 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. It’s a medium-full bodied Chardonnay that’s undergone malolactic fermentation, that’s moderately oaked.  The oak aging brings vanilla and caramel notes to the party to go along with its ripe apple, tropical fruit and lemon cream character.  Why it works: The texture, and weight of wine complement the dish, and it has enough acidity to “cut” the dish a bit and prepare the palate for the next mouthwatering bite.

Pair this dish with a Tempranillo from Rioja Spain.  I really like the 2007 Viña Eguia Reserva. It’s shows great balance between oak and fruit with a cherry, dried herb, spice, leather and vanilla character.  Why it works: Tempranillo is an underrated food pairing partner.  It’s tends to be a light-medium bodied earthy red wine. It’s between a Pinot Noir and Cab.  It’s fruity with moderate tannins, and acidity making it a good fit for somewhat spicy fare like Spanish, Mexican and similarly spiced fare.  

Pair this classic Italian dish with Sangiovese.  Try the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, plus a couple of other indigenous Italian grape varieties from Tuscany  It shows juicy red and black berries, with some licorice and spice notes supported by soft dusty tannins.  Why it works: The food of a place and the wine of a place is always a good place to start when pairing wine and food.  On top of that, its high acidity, together with its medium-bodied character enable it to stand up to more substantial dishes.  Sangiovese is a wine that loves dished prepared with fresh herbs, rich thick soups, mushrooms and tomato based dishes

Pair this dish with an Edelzwicker, a blend of the “noble” Alsatian varietals of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  Look for the 2011 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker. It’s an aromatic white wine with a stone fruit, spice, and hint of citrus character. Why it works:  The spicy character of the wine, along with some sweetness (spicy likes sweet) and acidity make a great match!


Pair these hearty dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  One of my favorites is the 2010 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon “H3”  It’s from Washington State, and is a bold wine that delivers delightful floral, dark fruit, cocoa aromas followed by plum, black cherry, vanilla and cocoa flavors. Why it works: Cab works well with red meats, dishes with earthy, herbal elements.  This youthful wine has plenty of fruit which make it a nice complement to longer cooked meats and stews.

Try these dishes these with a Cru Beaujolais (not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau hitting the store shelfs soon), a wine from France made from the Gamay grape. Look for the 2010 Georges Debœuf Moulin-à-Vent with a wild red fruits, and white pepper character that a juicy easy drinker.  Why it works: Like Pinot Noir, the Gamay grape is naturally high in acidity, and is light-medium bodied with low tannins. It pair well with dishes with veggies,earthy flavors. Great picnic wine too! Er..but I digress;-)

Syrah is a good match for these hearty flavorful dishes.  I like the 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz from Australia. It’s has a fruity core of black cherries, plums, baking spices, and vanilla that balanced by some oak.  Why it works: Syrah is an ample full-bodied wine that likes thicker, fuller dishes like slow braises, stews (especially tomato-based), and one-dish meals.

Pair these dishes with the Sangiovese noted above:
Pair these dishes with the Pinot Noir noted above:
Pair this dishes with the Tempranillo from Rioja noted above:


Pair these soul-warming soups with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Pouilly-Fumé region of the Loire Valley in France. Look for the 2011 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc.  It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity.  Why it works: Sauvignon Blanc with its “green” (gooseberries, lime, green olive, papaya character and a mineral component attributable to the terroir of the Loire Valley make this a good match for vegetarian soups, spicy (hot) fare, dishes with acidic ingredients.  It’s a very versatile food pairing partner in that it work nicely as a complement or a contrast.

Pair these satisfying soups with Pinot Gris.  I recommend the 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris Signature Collection from Oregon. It has juicy lemon-lime, stone-fruit, green apple, pineapple and spice character.  Why it works: Pinot Gris likes ethic foods, especially coconut-milk based curries. 

Pair the rest of the soups with the aforementioned wines as noted in parentheses:


Pair this Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (That Skinny Chick Can Bake) with the Terra d’Oro Zinfandel “Port”, a dessert wine made for chocolate! I like the what the Wine Enthusiast says about it…”The first duty of a Port-style wine is to be dazzlingly rich and sweet yet balanced in acidity, and this bottling is all that. Waves of blackberry jam, cassis and dark chocolate are brightened with zesty acidity

  • White Hot Chocolate with Orange – GirliChef

Join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  And join us at 7pm EST, for our live weekly #SundaySupper chat.   All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

And be sure to check out the #SundaySupper Pinterest board. We’d love to feature your Sunday Supper Soul Warming Recipes and share them with all of our followers.

Have You Ever Had a 10 Year Old Rosé?

It’s that time of year in Cali where the last vestiges of Indian summer manifest itself sporadically.  I write this on one of those fleeting, but delightful 80 degrees day in mid-October for which California is famous.  On days such at this, I reminisce about a summer (one that was far too cool for my liking), and on this particular day, I’m thinking about a Rosé truly unlike any other I’ve ever experienced, the 2000 Lopez de Heredia (“LdH”) Rosado Gran ReservaViña Tondonia.

LdH, one of the oldest family owned oldest wineries in La Rioja, Spain, has a reputation for outrageously long aging of their wines, in the barrel and in the bottle.  Consider that the 2000 vintage is the current release of their Rosé, when the vast majority of Rosés are from the 2010 vintage.  The wine was aged 4 years in old American oak barrels produced from their own cooperage, then aged another 6 years in the bottle!  That is simply unheard of for a Rosé.  The source of grapes for this wine is Viña Tondonia, planted between 1913-1914.  And as befits a wine designated Gran Reserva, it’s not made every year.  The most recent preceding vintages were ’93, ’95, ’97, and ’98.

The result?  An exquisitely unique, interesting, aged Rosé with great complexity.  So much so that when I purchased it (along with a few other Rosés), I was actually “warned” that it was not a typical Rosé.  I understand why.  It’s a bit of a cult wine, familiar mostly to wine geeks, wine “experts”, sommeliers, and aficionados of slow food movement (including Alice Waters, V.P. of Slow Food Int’l, and proprietor of Chez Panisse where an LdH Rosé has been on the wine list for 40 years).  It’s not for everybody, because rather than youthful primary fruit, this wine has a wondrous multitude of secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors.

2000 Lopez de Heredia Gran Reserva Rosado Rioja - photo courtesy of R. Lopez de Heredia website

The wine is made from 60% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, and 20% Viura.  According to Maria Jose de Heredia, the Viura gives the wine freshness, while the Tempranillo gives the capability of aging.  What I love about this wine is that is built for spicy hot foods such as Patatas Con Chorizo Riojano, Indian, and Chinese dishes.  And unlike many other fine Rosés I’ve enjoyed, this one can handle full-bodied foods as well.

While not for everyone, I highly recommend you try it at least once. If you do decide to give it a try, it’s a Rosé that should never be drunk too cold.  My own experience bears this out.  As the wine got warmer, I picked up more aromas and flavors and it seemed to improve its affinity for pairing with foods.  So take it out of the fridge, let it sit for 15-20 minutes, before embarking on a Rosé journey unlike any other!  And remember, Rosé it’s not just for summertime.  They’re such great food wines.  Drink ’em all year round!

My tasting notes follow:

Coppery onion skin color with great aromatics including slightly oxidative aromas of butterscotch, almond, and spice.  On the palate, medium-bodied, silky smooth, fresh, complex and balanced. Very dry with tart red berry, blood orange, and touch of vanillin flavors.  Long finish.  This is definitely a food wine.  We enjoyed with spicy hot Indo/Paki cuisine and it was a great pairing! – 91 pts

Start the car….I gotta steal!

Just a few short years ago, before the Great Recession, there were many wine lovers, and just plain showoffs who seemed to revel in telling anyone who would listen, or pretend to listen, how much they paid for a bottle of wine.  Well, the tables have turned.  Now, it seems it’s cool to tell folks how little you paid for a bottle of wine!  Even if I were well heeled enough to afford to pay hundreds of dollars or more for a bottle of wine, it’s not my style to to tell folks how much I paid for a bottle of wine, but I’m more than happy to add my voice to “Guess what, I only paid…” chorus!  So…

Guess what, I only paid $10 for what I consider to be an outstanding (90 Points) bottle of wine from Spain. It’s  the 2006 Bodegas LAN Crianza.  It made with  is 100% Tempranillo that spent 12 months in French and American oak by Bodegas LAN, a  traditional Rioja house that makes good-quality wines all along the Rioja spectrum. With 200,00o case produced, this wine should be widely available.  I picked up a bottle at my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants.  After I tried it, I promptly went out and bought a half case! Click here to see my detailed review on Cellar Tracker!.  While you’re there you may check availability and pricing in your area clicking on $$ FIND THIS WINE on WINE-SEARCHER.COM $$ )

If you’re not familiar with Spanish wines here’s a quick primer…

Spain has more land under vineyard acreage than any other wine growing region in the world. It’s also one of the worldwide leaders for producing  “value” wines – wines prices at $15, or less of very good quality.

Like France, Spain has rigid wine laws called Denominacion de Origen (DO) which define and protect specific geographic areas.  There are fifty-four DOs.  In addition, Rioja is the only Demoninacion de Origen Calificada (DOC), or Qualified Denomination of Origin.  To qualify as a DO, or DOC a wine region must meet rigid requirements around specific viticultural, and wine making standards.

Spanish wines are classified based on the quality of grapes and how long the wines are aged.  The hierarchy includes crianza, reserva, and gran reserva.  The red crianza wines are required to be aged at least two years, one of which must be in oak barrels,  reserva wines must be aged at least three years, one of which must be in oak barrels, and gran reserva must be aged at least five years, two of which must be in oak barrels and the remaining three must be in the bottle.  While the law dictates the aforementioned minimums, in practice many are aged much longer, particularly in Rioja, and at the gran reserva level.

Crianzas tend to be easy drinking wines with vibrant flavors.  Reservas are made from better grapes from better sites, and tend to be more lush and concentrated than crianzas, and Gran reservas are only made in exceptional years and come from the very best vineyards.

Rioja has historically been considered Spain’s greatest wine region, and is especially renown for red wine made from the indigenous Tempranillo grape.  Wines from Rioja are aged longer before release than any other wines in the world. The other major wine regions of Spain are Ribero Del Duero, Priorato, Penedes, Rias Baixas, and Jerez (the home of sherry).

So far, Spain has been the source of the international “value” wines I’ve enjoyed the most.  Stay tuned for more on Spanish wines, because I’ll definitely be drinking more!  I hope you’ll try some too!  And if you already have some favorites from Spain, please do share!