Wine Country Wanderlust: A Photo Essay

Spring is a great time to visit wine country.

There is a rebirth underway in the vineyards.

The weather is more agreeable (well at least it is in California, where I’m based;-)

It’s less crowded in tasting rooms. And rore hours of daylight mean tasting rooms are open longer.

Vineyards are carpeted with brilliant yellow, purple and green cover crops

Here are some of my favorite photos that take me right back to the vineyards (and cellars) I’ve visited around the world

Rioja

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The 200 year old farmhouse at Bodegas Contino in Rioja

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A stellar lineup of wine we enjoyed with an amazing picnic lunch in the estate vineyards of Bodegas Contino in Rioja

The vineyards of Bodegas Puelles in Rioja

Champagne

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This lovely pond was adjacent to the estate vineyard at Champage Jacquesson in the town on Dizy in France between Épernay and Rheims

On outcropping that shows the chalky soils typical in Champagne

On outcropping that shows the chalky soils typical in Champagne

In the cellar at Champagne Roger Coulon

I got a little fancy with this photo in the cellar at Champagne Roger Coulon

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The estate vineyards of Champagne Roger Coulon

California

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Empty bottle of the iconic Ridge Monte Bello at the Ridge Monte Bello property.

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The Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs vineyard

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The vineyards at A. Rafanelli winery in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County

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Picnic tables adjacent to the Amista estate vineyards in Dry Creek Valley Sonoma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Wines For Picnic #SundaySupper

View from the picnic area at Gustafson Family Winery in Geyserville, CA (Sonoma County)

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View of the Russian River Valley from the Copain Winery in Sonoma County

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A gorgeous view of the Golden Eye estate vineyard in Mendocino County

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A sign pointing toward the spiritual home of Tablas Creek Vineyards – Domaine de Beaucastel in Chateaunuef-du-Pape

Flight of Mumm White and Red Sparklers Overlooking Their Beautiful Vineyards

Flight of Mumm Napa White and Red Sparklers overlooking their beautiful vineyards

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Yours truly in the vineyards in Napa Valley

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Old vine zinfandel in Lodi

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a road trip to wine country! Sonoma, Napa, Santa Cruz Mountains, Livermore Valley, Lodi are all within a 2 hour drive!

Who’s with me?

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As 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 Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

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

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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:
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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 Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2005 Marqués de Riscal 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.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2005 Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva.

The Winery

Herederos de Marqués de Riscal, founded in 1858, is one of the oldest wineries in Rioja.  Over their long, and storied history they have been on the forefront of various innovations. They were the first winery in the Rioja to produce wines following the Bordeaux method and in 1972, it was the first winery to promote the Rueda Designation of Origin, where it produced its famous Marqués de Riscal white wines.

A benchmark winery in Rioja for more than 150 years, this producer’s recent visionary moves changed how the wine world sees Spain – Wine Enthusiast 

Marqués de Riscal sells its products in over 100 countries and its wines have enjoyed the highest international distinctions as well as numerous awards including being named the 2013 European Winery of the Year by the Wine Enthusiast.

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The Hotel de Marques de Riscal, in the heart of the City of Wine. Image courtesy fo Marques de Riscal

In addition to their world-class wine, they are also renown for their world-class hotel, and spa the Hotel Marques de Riscal (click here for a virtual tour). Designed by Frank O. Gehry, it’s an architectural marvel at the heart of City of Wine.

The Wine

A blend of Tempranillo, Marzuelo and Graciano sourced from 70-year-old vines in Rioja Alavesa.  It was fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged in American oak for 18 months.  It was aged in bottle another two years before being released.

13.5% alcohol; Retail – about $20 Drink: Now

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My tasting notes follow:

Dark brick color with appealing cherry, tobacco, vanilla, and spice. On the palate, it approaches medium-bodied, and is layered and fresh with polished tannins, and dark cherry, plum and spiced vanilla flavors. Medium + finish. This is a wine that was even better on Day 2. It picked up some earthy, savory notes and showed a hint red currant. 13.5% alcohol. >>Find this wine<<

Rating: A-: A Reserva with a bit of age on it like this one is a great introduction to traditional Rioja wines!

Pair with: Stews, Wild Mushroom Risotto, Leg of Lamb or Turkey Chili

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
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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 Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

#DrinkPink Rosé of the Week; 2013 Bodegas Ostatu Rosado

Rosé season is in full bloom, although truth be told, it’s Rosé season for me pretty much year-round for me!  With that in mind, I’m cranking up my annual series of weekly “Drink Pink!“ Rosé tastings.  It’s my quest for the best Pink Porch Pounders for $20 or less!  This week’s rosé is the 2013 Bodegas Ostatu Rosado.

The Winery

Bodegas Ostatu is a family winery located in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa region in La Rioja, Spain.

The winery is owned and operated by the Saenz de Samaniego family, who have been in the area for many generations.  Most of that time they grape growers who sold their grapes to other wineries. But in the late 60s Doroteo Asunción made the decision to make and sell his own wines rather than selling his grapes on to other wineries.

The Sáenz de Samaniego Family Photo by Steven Alexander

The Sáenz de Samaniego Family
Photo by Steven Alexander

The vineyards, which are protected by the Sierra de Cantabria range, are composed of ochre coloured chalky clay soil, with an average age of 50 years. The estate is composed of over forty hectares of vines located in and around the town of Samaniego.

According to importer De Maison Selections Inc, until recently, all Ostatu wines were produced using the carbonic maceration process. Such wines are made to be consumed young and are popular with many locals.  However that philosophy changed when Frenchman, Hubert de Bouard de Laforest of Chateau Angelus saw the unique potential of the terroir of Ostatu vineyards. As a result, wines are now produced using traditional fermentation, and yields in the vineyards have been reduced in order improve the quality of the Ostatu wines.  As a result Ostatu is able to produce wines which live up to their full potential.

The Wine

This wine is one of Ostatu’s latest projects.  Fruit for the wine was sourced from some of Ostatu’s oldest and highest elevation vineyards, this wine is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, and 30% Garnacha (Grenache Noir). It was fermented in stainless steel vats.

13% alcohol | Retail – $14

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My tasting notes follow:

Deep pink color with generous watermelon, raspberry and wet stone aromas. On the plate it approaches medium bodied, and is dry, lively and refreshing with tart cherry, raspberry, and subtle spice flavors underscored by an appealing minerality. Medium finish. 

Rating: B+ This has everything you want in a Pink Porch Pounder.  It’s clean, crisp, fruity, dry, and food friendly. And  the price is right at under $15. Recommended! >>Find this wine<<

Pair with: I enjoyed this with Spinach, smoked turkey and burrata salad!

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
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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 Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2001 Marques de Legarda Gran 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.  For this week, my Wine of the Week is the 2001 Marques de Legarda Gran Reserva Rioja.

The Winery

Marqués de Legarda is one of two labels sold by Bodegas de la Real Divisa.  Founded in 1367, Bodegas de la Real Divisa is one of Europe’s oldest wineries.  It is located in  the Rioja Alta village of Ábalos.

Along with Marqués de Riscal and Marqués de Murrieta (with which I’m familiar) Bodega de la Real Divisa is one-third of the trinity of the region’s most storied wineries.  In the 1860s, they were the first in Spain to age their wine in oak barrels, as the French did. They were the first winery in Rioja to receive a medal at the Exhibition of Bordeaux in 1895.  The winery is still owned by its founding family.

The Wine

Marqués de Legarda , is produced in very limited quantities. Gran Reservas, such as this wineare only made in exceptional years and come from the very best vineyards.  In fact, the previous vintage of Marqués de Legarda was 1995.

It’s a blend of 91%Tempranillo, 7% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo 2% from estate vineyards. It spent 37 months primarily in used American oak, with about a 30% portion of used French oak, before being bottle for an addition 3 years!

Retail – $30; Drink now or hold for another 7-10 years!

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See the plastic netting around the bottle? Early in the 20th century as some of Rioja’s producers had made great improvements and offered wines far superior to others, unscrupulous merchants started to paste labels from the top wines onto undistinguished bottles. To prevent this, the wineries started putting wire mesh around their bottles. Today it is a tradition that still holds for many wineries.

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with leather, red fruit, damp earth, balsamic and spiced vanilla aromas. On the palate it’s light-boded and elegant, yet intense, with harmonious strawberry, mixed ripe and sour cherry, spiced vanilla and mineral flavors. Long finish. Gains complexity with time in the glass. 13% alcohol.  >>Find this Wine<<

Rating: A-Outstanding value at $30!  This is a traditionally styled Gran Reserva from a spectacular vintage.

Pair with:  Sauteed mushroom, Duck confit, Roasted Squab or Pheasant, or fall or winter stews.

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
Related posts you might enjoy:
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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 Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All 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!

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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 Blog.com. 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.

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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 vamonosdetapas.com

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

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.

Wine of the Week; 2001 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial

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.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2001 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial.

The Winery

La Rioja Alta is one of the most renowned producers of traditional Rioja wine. Their history dates back to 1890 when it was founded as the Sociedad Vinicola De La Rioja Alta by five viticultural family’s from both Basque and Rioja regions of Spain.  No long thereafter the name was changed to La Rioja Alta.

The company owns two wineries with the original building located in Haro.  The second, modern winemaking facility was built in 1996 at Labastida just 1.5km to the north-east.   The estate covers 360 hectares of vines with parcels in much of the best parts of the Rioja Alta subregion of Rioja.  The estate is planted primarily to Tempranillo, along with small amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo, along with 63 hectares of Garnacha (Grenache) vines in the Rioja Baja subregion.

The winery has its own cooperage producing barrels from oak imported from America and dried for two years.

The Wine

The Viña Ardanza Reserva has been elaborated by La Rioja Alta since 1942! it is named after one of the founding families. It is only produced in the best years, and  the 2001 vintage was rated “Excellent” by Rioja Control Board.  La Rioja Alta thought so highly of this wine that it called it Reserva Especial, only the third time one of its wines has earned that designation, along with 1964 and 1973.

The wine is made up of 80% Tempranillo from thirty year old vines from their vineyard in Fuenmayor, and 20% Garnacha coming from very old, goblet-pruned vines 600 meters above sea level in Rioja Baja. The Tempranillo spends 36 months in American oak. The Garnacha spends ‘only’ 30 months in oak to preserve its freshness.  The  components are blended and bottled. The wine receives a further four years  of  bottle aging. Aging wines this long in American is virtually unheard of!

You can find this wine here.  The wine was produced in 2002, or 2003 the current release is the 2004.  I’m definitely going to check that out.  I’m also going to seek out some other wines from the monster 2001 vintage!

Wine of the Week; 2001 Vina Ardanza

My tasting notes follow:

Dark brick garnet color with intriguing earthy, leather, smoke, dried red fruit, fresh meat, vanilla, cedar wood and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s light-medium bodied,  wonderfully complex, balanced and fresh with a silky texture, smooth well-integrated tannins and tart-ish cherry, vanilla, spice oak, and leather flavors. Long finish, clean finish.  13.5% alcohol.

Rating: A-; Great value in a mature Rioja at $30, and a superb example of traditional Rioja wine.  If you’re looking to drink aged wines that won’t break the bank look to Rioja!

Pair with: An excellent wine to accompany charcoal-grilled meat, roasts, small game, medium-aged cheeses, Iberian cured sausages, etc.

Sample purchased for review

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

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 Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

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

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!

Salud!

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Wine of the Week and Amazing Value: 2011 Rio Madre Graciano

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.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2011 Rio Madre Graciano.  This week’s wine is something different and a great value too!

The Winery

This wine is produced by Bodegas Y Vinedos Ilurce, which was founded by the Escudero family in 1940. It’s a family operation – the fourth generation of this family of vintners is now working on the wines. All aspects of the wine making process are shared by the entire family.

Wine of the Week; 2011 Rio Madre Graciano

Bodegas Y Vinedos Ilurce Cellar (Image courtesy of the winery)

The winery is located in Alfaro, La Rioja, Spain, where the family owns 60 hectares of old vine Grenache (a.k.a. Garnacha), Tempranillo, and Graciano grapes.

The Wine

This wine is made from 100% Graciano.  Graciano is a grape I’d never heard of before trying this wine.  That’s because it’s primarily used a blending grape in Rioja wines, which are dominated by Tempranillo.

According to Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible

High-quality but not widely Spanish grape, with delicate slightly spicy flavors. Used primarily in Rioja as part of traditional Rioja blends.  Also found to a small extent in Languedoc-Roussillon, where it is called morrastel

From the bottle…

“Graciano is a Rioja grape which adds so much to the Rioja blend: great color, good acidity, wonderful blue/purple fruited lively fruit. Rarely is it bottled as a single varietal wine, but on the rare occasion that it is, and it’s affordable, it is worth checking out.

My first thought when I tasted this wine was it’s delightfully spicy! My second thought was…$10 bucks…Really?!

2011 Rio Madre Graciano

2011 Rio Madre Graciano

My tasting notes follow:

Opaque violet color with spicy ripe mixed berry, cola, licorice, and a bit of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied and fresh with blackberry, pomegranate, cherry, spice, and mineral flavors. Medium long finish. 

Rating: A- (90pts):  This wine is a way over delivers in terms of quality for the prices. The best thing I can say about it, is that I will buy more!  Check it out!

Pair with: Tapas such as spicy cheese and sausage tortilla or Spanish stuffed tomatoes; grilled lamp chops, Beef chili or Pasta Bolognese!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14%
  • Closure: Nomacorc
  • AVA: >Spain>La RiojaRioja
  • Grape Varieties: 100% Graciano
  • Cooperage: 10 months in French oak
  • Retail: $9.99
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: now – 2015
  • >>Find this wine<<

Wine purchased for review.  

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

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 Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.