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 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.

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 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: 2011 Calvente Moscatel Guindalera

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 Calvente Moscatel Guindalera.  It’s another wine we enjoyed on our recent trip to Spain.

The Winery

Horacio Calvente, owner/winemaker of Bodegas Horacio Calvente is a native of the Andalucia region, not far from Granada.  He hails from a farming family, and used a successful fruit business as a springboard to pursue his dream of making wine.

For Horacio nursing the plots back to health was simply a matter of the hard work of pruning, tilling the land and clearing invading brush.

It’s cliché to say that “The best wine is made in the vineyard”.  In actuality, the best wine starts in the vineyard.  And Horacio Calvente, with his farming  background, and passion for identifying and reviving old-vine mountain vineyards in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Granada make him ideally suited to producing great fruit from what was once neglected plots of old-vine Moscatel (Muscat of Alexandria) - a variety of Muscat has strong historical and cultural ties to the region. So, reviving the vineyard also brings a sense of cultural pride to Calvente.

 

calvente_in_guindalera_vineyards250

Horacio Calvente explains the quality of the very old vines in this Guindalera plot at 1073 meters. Note the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background.
Photo: Justin Berlin © 2012 Spanish-Wine-Exclusive

Bodegas Horacio Calvente started very modestly.  His first vintage in 1992 yielded just 700 bottles of white wine.  He learned with each harvest, continually improving his techniques for elaborating wine and investing in state of the art equipment.  These days the winery produce about 5,000 cases of both white and red wines.

The Wine

If you’re like I was, a dry Moscatel will come as a bit of a surprise.  Nowadays virtually all of Spain’s Moscatel de Alejandria  is used for blending, and typically ends up fortified dessert wine.

“The wine has a powerful and focused fruit expression… where a most harmonious balance is crowned on the finish by the characteristic bitterness of dry-fermented Moscatel.” 1001 wines To try before you Die.

This wine is made from 100% Moscatel de Alejandría (a.k.a. Muscat de Alexandria), sourced from the eponymous La Guindalera vineyard. The vineyard’s bush vines are between 50-120 years old. The vines, at 1,073 metes (3,500 ft), bake during the day, but the temperature drops drastically at night.  That diurnal temperature variation results in the grapes preserving their natural acidity and brightness of flavors.  Add to that old-vine intensity, and you’ve got some great fruit!

Once perfectly ripe, the fruit is hand-picked and brought down the mountain by mule. The fruit is fermented in stainless steel, and undergoes battonage to add texture to the wine.

Calvente Dry Moscatel

My tasting notes follow:

Pale yellow-green color with stone fruits, lanolin, mineral, and a bit of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, fresh, expressive and silky smooth with peach, apricot, citrus, mineral and spice flavors. Medium finish. It spice notes remind me a bit of Gewürztraminer, but with better acidity. 12.5% alcohol.

Rating: A-:  The wine was among those listed in book, The 1001 Wines You Must Try Before you Die, by Neil Beckett.  I’m glad I did! This is a wine I’d buy again too!

Pair with: We enjoyed this wine twice while in Spain. The first time we enjoyed it with Mojama – Spanish dry-cured tuna fillet and Spanish Marcona almonds.  The second time we enjoyed it with Japanese food.  It’s definitely a food friendly wine!

>>Find this wine<<

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!

Wine of the Week; 2011 Bodegas Basilio Izquierdo B de Basilio Blanco

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 Bodegas Basilio Izquierdo B de Basilio Blanco.

The Winery

My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Basilio Izquierdo and tasting through some of his wines at his micro-winery in Laguardia (La Rioja) Spain.   Bodegas Basilio Bodegas  is one of several personal projects of Basilio, who is originally from La Mancha.  He was the Technical Director (head winemaker) of CVNE for over thirty years.  Since 2006 he has been producing his own wines.

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.

Bodegas Basilio Izquierdo elaborates two white wines, a rose wine and two red wines(about 10,000 bottles annually).

In a nutshell, Bodegas Basilio Izquierdo is focused on

  • Making vin de garde - wines that age well
  • Wines that are balanced
  • Elaborating wines using traditional methods from the 60s, and 70s.

Easier said than done, I’d say, but after tasting though a few samples of his yet to be released red wines and this wine, I’d say he’s hitting the nail on the head!

The Wine

This is a unique wine for  the Rioja region of Spain, which is well renown for its red wines.  Much less so for its white wines. And of its white wine grapes, the predominant grape variety (upwards of 90%) is Viura (a.k.a Macabeo).  So, a white wine that is predominately Garnacha Blanca (Grenache Blanc) is rare.

Garnacha Blanca is a minor grape in Rioja.  There are approximately 26 hectares (out of a total of 67,000 total hectares)  of Garnacha Blanca planted in the Rioja D.O.

Not only are wines made with Garnacha Blanca relatively rare in Rioja, but how Basilio Izquierdo “elaborates” this wine is unique.

Whole clusters of grapes for this wine were loaded into the basket of the Bodegas Basilio Izquierdo wine-press…

la foto

Whole cluster grapes being prepared for pressing

Then very gently pressed (only 40 litters of grape juice from a 100 kilos of whole clusters) in its19th century grape press.

la foto (2)

The pressed juice from the Garnacha Blanca and from the Viura are fermented, separately in 600 litre French oak barrels.

Then the wine is manually stirred (a technique referred to as “battonage‘) on its lees for 9 months in order to enhance it’s fruit flavors, and minimize the effects of fermentation in oak barrels.

The wine is blend of 67% Garnacha Blanca and 33% Viura.

photo (40)

My tasting notes follow:

Lovely stone fruit, citrus, and a touch of white flower aromas.  On the palate, it medium-bodied, surprisingly viscous, well-balanced, and persistent with focused  stone-fruit, citrus , and mineral flavors.  Long finish. 

Rating: A-: This is an excellent wine that will age well for at least another 10 years!

Pair with: Grilled seafood, grilled shrimp,  and spicy Asian preparations of chicken and fish

>>Find this wine<<

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!

Related posts you might enjoy:

 

Wine of the Week And Great QPR!; 2011 Herencia Altes Garnatxa Negra

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 Herencia Altes Garnatxa Negra

About Herencia Altes 

Herencia Altès is a project a long time in the making. For generations Nuria Altes and his family have been grape growers, with vineyards dispersed around the village of Batea. Now, Nuria have decided to give these grapes their own personality in the form of these handcrafted wines. While Terra Alta is not yet a well-known region – tucked away in the southeastern corner of Catalonia it borders Aragón and Valencia – it is one of the largest areas in Catalonia under vine. Built upon Roman and Moorish foundations it preserves a beautiful historical center and its grand church is testament to its past glories. In terms of viticulture, it is the most important village in Terra Alta accounting for over 50% of its entire grape production. Most of the grapes are sold to cooperatives or large companies outside the region. Herencia Altes is Nuria Altes’ dream to put Terra Alta on the map and show the true quality of these wonderful old vines.

[Overview of  Spanish Wines]

This wine is a custom cuvee made for wine importer Eric Solomon by proprietor Nuria Altes. It is 100% garnaxta negra (grenache) raised on its lees in concrete vats.  The fruit is mix of very old garnaxta bush vines, which is balanced by the youthful intensity of younger vine fruit. .

Herencia Altes

My tasting notes follow:

Crimson color with black cherry and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s intense, medium-bodied with medium acidity and soft tannins. It shows cherry, pomegranate, mineral and spice flavors and a lengthy finish. 

>>Find this wine<<

Rating: A-

This wine is a great example of why Spain is unbeatable for wines that offer incredible value!  It drinks like many wines I’ve had in the $30-40 range. Sometimes the best thing you can say about a wine is “I’ll buy again”  And I have! Pair with grilled meat, lamb or goat

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 13.8% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork.
  • AVASpainCatalunyaTarragonaTerra Alta
  • Varietal(s): 100% Garnaxta Negro (Grenache)
  • SRP: $8.99
  • Ageability: Drink now, or hold for 2-3 years

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.

Wine of the Week and Great QPR: 2010 Teso La Monja Romanico

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 2010 Teso La Monja “Romanico”

Winery

Bodega Teso La Monja was founded in 2009 by the Eguren family, who sold their very successful Numanthia-Termes winery to luxury-goods giant Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) in 2008.  The Eguren family, which hails from Rioja where it own three other wineries, were instrumental in putting Spain’s Toro region on the world wine map with its high-end cuvées Termanthia and Numanthia.   The winery is located in the  Denominación de Origen (DO)Toro, not too far from its more well-known neighbor, DO Ribero del Duero.

According to Spanishwine.com

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.

The key to Toro’s quality is its altitude, at 2,000 to 2,500ft above sea level the region’s growers can depend on cool nights to “set” color and flavor in the grapes ripened in the torrid summers.

Wine

This is the entry-level wine from Teso La Monja.  The wine is made from 100% Tinta de Toro (the local clone Tempranillo) aged in 100% new French oak for six months. The fruit for this wine come from vineyard between 15-20 years old.

It’s definitely a “New-World” style – less rustic, and a more fruit-forward higher alcohol style.

Wine of the Week and Great QPR 2010 Teso La Monja "Romanico"

2010 Teso La Monja “Romanico”

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque purple color with black and red fruit, dried tobacco, and anise aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied focused, and vibrant with blackberry, cassis, bittersweet chocolate and spice flavors. Medium-Long finish. Great QPR at $15!

Rating: A-

Pair with: Tapas (olives, jambon, chorizo, sardines, marinated mushrooms, Spanish cheeses), Paella Mixta, Mexican fare (tacos, nachos, and chile relleno), and grilled meats.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA:> SpainCastilla y León> Toro
  • Grape Varieties: 100% Tinto de Toro
  • Cooperage: Six months in new French Oak
  • Retail: $15
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: Now – 2016
  • >>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.

 

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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Best Wines to Pair with Paella?

Every cuisine has at least one – a one-pot meal, a dish of humble origins that is the quintessential definition of that place and people. There’s Gumbo, Cassoulet, Risotto, Irish Stew and Pad Thai to name a few. And the Spanish? Well, they have paella.  March 27th is National Paella Day.

Paella originated Valencia region of Spain. According to The Paella Company

Paella was originally farmers’ and farm labourers’ food, cooked by the workers over a wood fire for the lunchtime meal.  It was made with rice, plus whatever was to hand around the rice fields and countryside: tomatoes, onions and snails, with a few beans added for flavour and texture. Rabbit or duck might also have been added, and for special occasions, chicken plus a touch of saffron for an extra special colour and flavour. Paella was also traditionally eaten straight from the pan in which it was cooked with each person using his own wooden spoon.

There are three main types of paella; Valencian consists of rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck, pork), land snails, beans and seasoning; Seafood replaces meat and snails with seafood  such as prawns, mussels, and clams and omits beans and green vegetables, and Mixed, a combination of meat, seafood, vegetables.

Paella Valenciana (image courtesy of daytondailynews.com

Paella Valenciana (image courtesy of daytondailynews.com

In addition to the three main types of Paella, two other popular variations are Vegetarian, which typically contain vegetables like artichokes, lima beans, red and green peppers,and Paella Negra, which is typically seafood, cooked with squid ink, so it looks black.

Paella Negra (image courtesy of piospaella.com)

My personal favorite – Paella Negra (image courtesy of piospaella.com)

When pairing paella with wine, I recommend keeping a few food and wine pairing guidelines in mind:

  • What grow together, goes together – I prefer to pair with wines from Spain, Portugal, or wine from the neighboring Languedoc-Roussillon region in  Southern France.  Outside of Spain or France, consider Sangiovese or Pinot Noir for red wine.
  • Pair humble with humble, great with great – Paella has humble origins, I generally pair with inexpensive wines unless it’s a special occasion.
  • Sparkling wines go with almost anything – Pair Valencian, Mixed, and Negra paella with  rosé Cava and Seafood and Vegetarian with Brut Cava

Here are my wine paring recommendations by type:

 Valencian, and Mixed 

Pair with a chilled dry rosé. or an inexpensive red Rioja, other Tempranillo or Grenache. Here are a few I like (click on the link for where to buy):

Rosé

Reds

Tip: Avoid high alcohol ‘fruit-bombs’ or overly alcoholic, tannic reds.

Seafood 

Pair with Albarino, white Rhone blend, Brut Cava, or Rueda.  Here are a few to look for (click on the link for where to buy):

Vegetarian 

If vegetables include asparugus and/or artichokes, pair with New World Sauvignon Blanc, otherwise, chilled dry rosé, white Rhone blend, Pinot Gris, or Brut Cava will be nice matches.

Need a recipe? Check out his great recipe for Mixed Paella from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen.

I  hope you’ll join me in celebrating one of world’s most well-known and beloved dishes.  Have your favorite paella and a glass of wine today!

Viva Espana y Buen apetito! 

 

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.

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 . 

wine_spainmap

Image courtesy of www.decanterwines.co.uk

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 Spanishwine.com 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 meeting..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

Conclusion

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)!

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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.