Showing posts with label Rioja. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rioja. Show all posts

Monday, June 8, 2020

A Rioja Rosé For The Summer Of Separation

Rosé season, if there really is such a thing, is in full swing despite pandemic measures.  Social distancing is designed to help stem the growth of the virus in our communities, and it really puts a wet blanket over a backyard party, or so I hear.  But rosé is made for backyard parties.

I bellow so much about how pink wines are great any time of year that I’m starting to feel like the old rosado codger.  Rosé wines are as good in December as they are in June.  But since it’s June, let’s have a glass on the patio.  Six feet apart.

The Beronia Rioja Rosé was made from 70% Tempranillo grapes and 30% Garnacha.  Previous vintages had sometimes been heavier on the Garnacha.  Alcohol is easy going and so is the retail price - $13.

I pick up a lot of herbal influence along with some terrific strawberry and cherry aromas.  The fruit plays large on the palate, too.  There is a ton of minerality and a hint of pepper in the sip.  Acidity is fresh, nearly ripping, and the finish is all about the red fruit.


Monday, June 1, 2020

Brilliant Rioja Red Blend Priced Right

La Rioja, in northern Spain, is the oldest Denomination of Origin in the country.  It is also the coldest region in Spain, with an average high temperature of 68 degrees F.  The Ebro River Valley, surrounding mountains, cool climate - the arrow signs all say "Great Wine Region This Way."  Follow the signs.

It was Spanish wine that started my own interest in the broad spectrum of vino.  The juice of Rioja dragged a self-described "beer-only" guy into the wide world of wine after attending a tasting of Spanish wine on a lark.  I think about that tasting every time I have a glass of Rioja.

The Beronia Reserva 2015 is composed of three grapes - 95% Tempranillo, 4% Graciano and 1% Mazuelo.  Aging happened over a minimum of three years, in oak and the bottle.  Alcohol kicks in at 14.5% abv and the wine sells for about $20.

This very dark wine has such a rich nose it's almost enough just to smell it.  Almost.  Aromas of black currant and blueberries are colored up nicely by all the oak.  Clove and tobacco notes are sweet and - incredibly - not overpowering.  The palate is brawny and full of dark fruit.  It's loaded with minerals and acidity and firm tannins - just waiting for an unsuspecting ribeye to come along.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Rosado - Spanish For Pink Wine

Spanish wine is a thing unto itself, but I suppose one could say that about French wine, German wine, Portuguese wine, Israeli wine, and on and on.  But it seems especially true for Spanish wine.  It was the wine of Spain that originally got me interested in the wine world.

The 2019 Viña Real Rosado is produced by the big Spanish wine company CVNE, which stands for Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España.  The outfit was founded in 1879 in the Rioja town of Haro by two brothers and is still run by their descendants. 

Under the CVNE umbrella, the first Viña Real wines were released in 1920.  The winery says the vineyards run from the mountains of the Sierra de Cantabria down the slope towards the Ebro river basin.  They say "the mountains protect the Rioja Alavesa subregion, where the Atlantic climate is combined with calcareous and clay-based soils."

The 2019 Viña Real Rosado is made from Garnacha, Tempranillo and white Viura grapes grown in Spain's Rioja region.  Alcohol tips only 12.5% abv and the retail price is $14.

The 2019 growing season was reportedly a healthy one in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.  Rains resulted in less fruit, making the grapes more concentrated and earlier ripening.  The grapes were given several hours of skin contact in stainless steel tanks - enough for the salmon pink color - but they were not pressed. 

The nose carries plenty of ripe, red strawberries with a hefty herbal influence, as if the green stems are included.  On the palate, the fruit elbows the green out of the way, but a lovely, earthy apricot flavor is introduced.  Acidity is good, if not ripping, and the wine’s finish is rather lengthy and very pleasant.


Monday, April 6, 2020

Monopole: Rioja Blanca Wine

Spanish wine is a thing unto itself, but I suppose one could say that about French wine, German wine, Portuguese wine, Israeli wine, and on and on.  But it seems especially true for Spanish wine.  It was the wine of Spain that originally got me interested in vino - in fact, Viura was one of the grapes that initially caught my attention.

The 2019 Monopole is produced by the big Spanish wine company CVNE, which stands for Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España.  The outfit was founded in 1879 in the Rioja town of Haro by two brothers and is still run by their descendants.  The Monopole name harkens back to a wine they used to make some 40 years ago, one that featured Manzanilla sherry blended with the white Viura grapes and aged in oak casks. 

This wine is not so complex - made fully from Viura grapes, in stainless steel tanks.  The grapes were harvested from mid-September through mid-October, on the heels of a terrible drought.  The region got ample rain over the winter and spring of this vintage.  The packaging is a little unusual for the Rioja region - a tall, slender Rhine-style bottle is used.  Alcohol tips 13% abv and it sells for under $15.

The nose is full of citrus - lemon, lime and bit of orange, a splash of grapefruit - with some excellent minerality and salinity on the other side of the scales.  The palate follows suit, with an acidity level that is nice, but not quite as racy as I expected.  Minerals linger on a finish that serves as a lovely reminder of a beautiful sip of white wine.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Rioja Red Blend Ages Well

Bodegas LAN takes its name from the first letters of the three provinces in the Rioja wine region: Logroño (now La Rioja), Álava and Navarra.  Founded in 1972, the winery sits in a bend of the Ebro River, where winemaker and technical director María Barúa and her team work with grapes grown on vines which are 40 to 60 years old.

The 2012 Lanciano Rioja Reserva was made using 90% Tempranillo grapes, 8% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo, all taken from a single estate vineyard.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks and reportedly aged for eight months in Russian oak barrels, another 14 months in French oak and yet another year and a half in the bottle.  Alcohol clicks in at 13.5% abv and the wine sells for less than $25.

This seven-year-old Rioja is showing black plums and leather on the nose, with equally dark and savory flavors on the palate. The tannins are no longer youthfully toothy, but still have enough bite to handle a ribeye steak.  The wine will also pair well with fall and winter stews.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Spanish Wine: Rioja To The Rescue

It was Spanish wine that started my own interest in the broad spectrum of vino.  It dragged a self-described "beer-only" guy into the wide world of wine after attending a tasting of Spanish wine on a lark.  I think about that tasting every time I have a glass of Rioja.

Under the umbrella of Bodegas González Byass, Bodegas Beronia operates sustainably in La Rioja as well as Rueda.  The 2013 Beronia Rioja Reserva was made from 95% Tempranillo grapes, 4% Graciano and a 1% dash of Mazuelo.  The wine was aged for three years, in French and American oak barrels and in the bottle.  Alcohol is pretty reasonable for Rioja, at 14% abv and it sells for about $20, not bad for a wine of this quality.

The Beronia Rioja Reserva is a dark garnet in the glass, with a nose of black cherries and plums, abetted by leather, vanilla and a nice oak spice.  The palate is rustic and savory, its age showing already.  Black fruit tangles with tobacco and earth notes.  There’s a good tannic structure and a lengthy, savory finish.  Pair it with pork, sausages and Manchego cheese.


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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rosés For Spring: A Spanish Rosado

Hey, is it rosé season already?  Maybe it creeps up on me because it's always rosé season at my place.  We are taking a couple of weeks to spotlight some worthy pink wines which will help get us in the swing for spring.

Founded in 1970 by Enrique Forner, Marqués de Cáceres is now run by his daughter, Cristina Forner, the fourth generation of the wine family.  The bodega is located in the community of Cenicero in La Rioja Alta region of Spain.

The 2018 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Rosado is made from 96% Tempranillo grapes with a 4% splash of Garnacha Tinta.  Alcohol clocks in at 13.5% abv and it sells for less than ten bucks.  It isn't a terribly complex rosé, but it is quite tasty and ready to be chilled for picnics and barbecues.

This dependable rosé is a rich, pink salmon color, with a mineral-laden nose featuring strawberry and cherry aromas.  The palate is dry, fruity and laced with minerals.  A good acidity provides for excellent food pairing and a refreshing demeanor on its own.  There's a touch of orange peel on the finish.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

E Is For España

Great wine is all about location.  The location of the vineyard makes all the difference in the end product.  Locations is an experiment of place for winemaker Dave Phinney, of Orin Swift fame, in which he makes wines from all over the world.  These wines are labeled only with a big letter or two, depicting the place of origin - F for France, P for Portugal, I for Italy, and E is for Espana, much like those European bumper stickers.

Phinney sold the Locations brand this past summer to Modesto's E and J Gallo, two years after selling off the Orin Swift brand.  A price wasn't announced, but Phinney will reportedly stay on as the winemaker "indefinitely."

E5, the fifth vintage for his Spanish red blend, combines Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell and Cariñena.  Those last two you might know better as Mourvèdre and Carignan.  Phinney says unabashedly that E5 is all about the "interplay of provenance, artistry, freedom, and creativity" with the Iberian peninsula as a backdrop.  Five regions are represented by the grapes in this wine, Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero.

That guy Parker loved a previous vintage, throwing around adjectives like full-bodied, opulent and voluptuous in his wine-porn style.  The wine was aged in barrels for ten months and hits 14.5% abv for alcohol and retails for about $20.

For starters, this is an aromatic wine.  The nose blasts dark fruit and a drawer full of savory aromas.  There are cigars, trod-upon leaves, tar and an old catcher's mitt in that dark liquid.  Herbs abound, with thyme, sage, nutmeg and peppers leading the way.  On the palate it's blackberryland, with a heapin' helpin' of currant and licorice.  The flavors are rough-cut and rustic, as is the tannic structure.  This wine needs a big, fatty steak to give it something useful to do. 


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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Lopez De Haro Rioja Reserva

The Bodega Classica vineyards grow along the river Ebro in the Rioja village of San Vicente de La Sonsierra.  They are not endless stretches of green, but hard-scrabble, rocky soil which forces the plants to dig deep for their survival.  Along with the century-old vines are archeological remnants of winemaking which took place two-thousand years ago.  The property is topped off by a castle on a hill. 

This Rioja red is made from three grape varieties: 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha and 5% Graciano.  The aging took place over a year in French and American oak with additional time in the bottle.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv.

The 2013 Bodega Classica Lopez de Haro Reserva is medium dark in the glass.  The nose is aromatic with violets, cigars, ripe plums and earth.  On the palate, we find big, dark fruit, oak spice and a meaty black olive note.  Tannins are firm and the acidity is lively, so it's great to sip as well as to have it with some steak.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rioja Rosé

Rosé season is in full swing, if there really is such a thing.  I bellow so much about how pink wines are great any time of year that I'm starting to feel like the rosado hombre gruñón.  Rosé wines are as good in December as they are in July.  But since it's July, let’s have a glass on the patio.

The 2017 Bodegas Beronia rosé is a Rioja blend of 40% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo and 30% Viura grapes.  It hits only 13% abv on the alcoholometer and it sells for under $15 in most places.  Bodega Gonzalez Byass exports this and many other fine Spanish wines all over the world.

The grapes were given just a few hours of skin contact for color, then fermented, and bottled in January.  The 2017 vintage had frost in the winter, hot temperatures in the summer and August rain saved the day.

This beautiful Rioja rosé strikes a pose of vibrant salmon in the glass.  It has a beautiful nose, too, rich with cherries, strawberries, greens and flowers.  On the palate, light fruit leads, with a backbeat of savory herbs coming through.  Acidity is zippy, but not overpowering, while the finish is medium and very pleasant.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rioja Red

The Vivanco dream began, according to the website, 100 years ago when Pedro Vivanco González started a four-generation - and counting - business. Today Santiago Vivanco leads the business side and and Rafael Vivanco Sáenz makes the wine. The winery is where it has always been, in the La Rioja town of Briones.

The Vivanco 2013 Rioja Crianza is all estate Tempranillo, grown in Rioja Alta, on vines that range from 15 to 20 years old. The crews were able to wait until early October to get the fruit off the vines. Aging lasted 16 months, in French oak barrels. Alcohol runs at a reasonable 13.5% abv and I see the wine selling for about $15.

The art on the label is a 1974 Joan Miró work called, Le Troubadour. The bottle was inspired by an 18th century vessel, which is on display at the Vivanco Museum of the Culture of Wine.

The dark Spanish wine gives off a heady whiff of black and blue fruit with an overlay of leather and black olives. A little smokiness creeps in after it sits awhile. On the palate, it has a vivacious acidity that makes my lips smack. It also features plums, blackberries and currant in a slightly savory, earthy framework. I want a pork chop with this, or a lamb shank.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Spanish Wine Comes To L.A.

The Familia Martínez Bujanda winery was established in 1889. Today, it's run by Carlos Martínez Bujanda and his sister Pilar. The family has estate vineyards in Rioja, La Mancha and Rueda. I recently had the great fortune to meet Marta Bujanda, Pilar's eldest daughter and the first of the fifth generation to join the family business.

Marta is the export manager, an important position for a wine producer which sells 70% of its wine abroad. Marta came to Los Angeles to pour her wines for a few wine scribes like me, Anthony Dias Blue and Brett Anderson. A swingin' night out with that crew may sound like a full-on vacation, (pause for chuckles) but Marta was in work mode. She enjoyed herself, it was clear, but I believe that had less to do with table mates and more to do with the chance to expound on her family's wines.

The Bujanda wines poured at dinner - at Michael's in Santa Monica - were all single-vineyard wines, driven by their respective terroir. From Rioja, there are the Viña Bujanda and the Finca Valpiedra wines, from Rueda comes the Finca Montepedroso line and out of La Mancha are the wines of Finca Antigua.

I got to the restaurant a little early and had the chance to enjoy a drink from Michael's bar. I opened with a barrel-aged Martinez, 47 day.  It's gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino, angostura and orange bitters with a lemon twist. It has a lovely cherry red color, and flavors of black cherry, herbs, citrus and vanilla spice. For this cocktail, it should be Christmas.

Here are my impressions of the wines poured during the dinner.

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2009 - A Tempranillo from Rioja, made by winemaker Lauren Rosillo. It's a Graciano and Maturana blend. Great tannic grip, beautiful fruit, savory notes. This is the steak wine. $40

Cantos de Valpiedra 2013 - 100% Tempranillo from Rioja.  Perfumed and delicious. Smooth, with 22 months on oak.

Viña Bujanda Gran Reserva 2010 - 100% Tempranillo from Rioja, fermented in steel and aged 24 months in French and American oak, 39 months in the bottle. Smooth, helluva 30 dollar wine.

Vina Bujanda Crianza 2014 - All Tempranillo from Rioja. It spent a year in American and French oak. Grapes from 20-60 year-old vines. Red fruit and vanilla spice, beautiful with the Bronzini.

Finca Antigua 2013 - Cabernet Sauvignon from La Mancha. $10. Here's where you do a double-take. Response at the table was "Ten buncks? Get out!" Fresh and fruity. Fermented in steel, aged 10 months in new French oak. Great structure.

Finca Antigua 2016 - 100% Viura from old La Mancha vines. Grapefruit nose, flavors of distinct earth and citrus. Very savory white wine. Spent five months on lees.

Finca Montepedroso 2016 - 100% Verdejo from the Rueda vineyard named for its "mountain of stones." Grapefruit and lime, less savory than the Viura, but just a little. 2500-foot elevation vineyard planted in 1980. Five month on lees.

Both whites age well, according to Marta, over 12 years at least. Virua is the better ager, she says, and it even picks up some petrol notes with age.


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Friday, January 30, 2015

Whole Foods Rioja Works For Super Bowl Chip/Dip

If you live near a Whole Foods Market that features a wine department, you have it better than a lot of folks.  Whole Foods holds virtual wine tasting events from time to time, in which you can pick up a bottle of a featured wine at the grocery and join the hashtag stream on Twitter.  I was invited to join one of these Twitter tasting events during the holiday season.  One of the wines featured was the 2012 Leyenda del Castillo Rioja, which goes just as well with a Super Bowl chip'n'dip as it did with a standing rib roast.

The wine is very easy to drink, and it scores a reasonable 13% abv on the alcohol meter.  Pricing is just as reasonable, selling for under $15 per bottle.

Some great wine lovers took to social media to explain how the Leyenda del Castillo Rioja impressed them.  @WFMWine tweeted, "loving the nose here, a bit of dust, cherries, what you'd expect of Rioja."  @NaturalMerchant commented, "Love a good Tempranillo - Rioja Rocks."  I'd have to agree with that.  @Bepkoboy chipped in that "This Leyenda del Castillo Rioja definitely goes well with rosemary roasted chicken.  I know for a fact!"  From @RickGriffin, "LOVE the balance of the Leyenda del Castillo Rioja - fruit & earth! Unbelievable value."

Someone tweeted that the Rioja disappeared so quickly that a leaky glass was feared.  @RickGriffin fired back, "I’m not taking chances - drinking the Leyenda del Castillo Rioja right out of the bottle."  The "Metaphor of the Day" award went to @EsteHawk, who called this Rioja  "a ride downhill on a smooth road in a Cadillac you can't get rid of for nostalgic reasons."  Couldn't have tweeted it better myself.

This Rioja doesn't overwhelm, but plays its part very well.  Like the good, solid drummer who lacks flash and sizzle - but always keeps the beat and has a nice fill to throw in - it's what you would call "dependable."  No one is falling off the couch in a state of disbelief - it's no Keith Moon - but no one is pouring it down the drain, either.

The nose of this wine puts forth some nice cherry aromas cloaked in cigar tobacco, leather and white pepper.  The palate displays great fruit and a savory side that tries to stay out of the way, but can't.  The acidity is as fresh as a five a.m. donut and the tannins lay back a bit.  A finish that does not call it quits too early caps this quaff with considerable class.  Pair it with manchego cheese or a pepper steak and you will be quite happy.


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Friday, November 28, 2014

Holiday Wines 2014: Whole Foods Market part 2

Another holiday season is upon us, and the fine folks at Whole Foods Markets have another selection of wines that are perfect for the holidays. Not only are they holiday-ready, but they are on the shelves at wine-equipped Whole Foods stores.  As usual, they are priced so you can splurge a little on the turkey, or the ham, or the standing rib roast, or whatever you have in mind to highlight your holiday feast.

Ashley Hawkins, a representative of Whole Foods Markets, says this year's WFM holiday picks, "showcase a wide variety of wines from a perfect-for-turkey-and-ham silky Sonoma County Pinot Noir to a French Chardonnay-Viognier with a round, fruity softness that pairs well with yams and cranberry."

Some of the the wines were tasted in a virtual tasting event on Twitter a couple of weeks back, and another Twitter Tasting is set for Thursday December 4, 2014. See the wines below.  I'll be writing about the wines separately, but you can get an idea of what to expect with the descriptions from Whole Foods, shown below, along with their favorite food pairing for each.  “*” denotes a wine which is available only at Whole Foods Markets.

Pick up a bottle or two and join the social media crowd for both of these Twitter tastings.  Follow along in the hashtag #WFMWine to get the full effect of the fun that can be found while tasting and tweeting.

Thursday December 4, 2014, 7-8 CT
* Globerati Sauvignon Blanc

"From the Central Valley of Chile, this bright, fresh white has aromas of lemon and grapefruit with a hint of honeysuckle, and mineral notes are balanced with a green apple acidity.
Pairings: Mitica Campo de Montalban, Manhattan clam chowder, shrimp cocktail, mussels, sliced pears."

* Bubo Cabernet Sauvignon

"Surprisingly fruity, pleasant and approachable with a touch of green pepper aroma, this red has flavors of blackberries and ripe plums that accentuate the juiciness of this easy drinking wine.
Pairings: Ford Farms Seaside Cheddar, cranberry turkey sandwiches, veggie lasagna, cassoulet, beef enchiladas."

* Charles and Charles CL Merlot Red Blend

"There is an attractive baked biscuit aroma in this inky, hearty red. Black and blue fruits come forward and then recede into a rich, elegant, full-bodied finish.
Pairings: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, steak and Guinness pie, twice baked potatoes, buttery pastry crusts."

* H&G Priorat


"Earthy, herbaceous aromas in this brick red wine lead to a refined minerality and complex dark fruit flavors. The terroir of Priorat, Spain proudly shows in the glass.
Pairings: Guilloteau Fromager d’Affinois, barbecue, hearty veggie stews, Brunswick stew, grilled ribeye."



on November 13, 2014
Pizzolato Organic Pinot Grigio

"Stone fruit aromas give way to an enticing minerality and vibrant acidity in this organically grown Italian white.
Pairings: Oro del Tiempe Piave Vecchio, delicate seafood, shellfish, lemon vinaigrette, citrus fruit salad"

* Sea Pines Russian River Chardonnay

"Subtle aromas belie big flavors of green apple, lemon and vanilla bean. A pleasant richness hints at the use of just the right amount of oak for a lovely balance.
Pairings: Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, poached turbot, Cornish hens, chowders, lobster bisque, cream sauces."

* Bodegas Belgrano Malbec

"With aromas of warm spices and stewed blueberry flavors that mingle with woodsy hints of smoke, this textbook Argentine malbec has a roundness that makes for an easy drinking classic.
Pairings: Hennings Cranberry Orange."

* Leyenda del Castillo Rioja

"Mineral, earthy aromas are found in this deep garnet Spanish red. With bright, sunny fruit flavors like ripe cherries, this Rioja has a lingering, well-balanced finish.
Pairings: Mitica Mahon, grilled meats, pork chops, eggplant marinara, charred steaks."



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Muga Rosé 2011


A good rosé is an awesome thing.  Bodegas Muga makes an awesome rosé, which is a very good thing.

Many wine novices think that rosé wine is made from mixing red and white grapes.  Actually, rosé is usually made by limiting the skin contact when the grapes are crushed - a grape’s color is in the skin.  In Muga’s case, there is a 12-hour period when the juice is in contact with the skins.

This Spanish wine from Rioja, however, is made with both red and white grapes:  60% Garnacha, 30% Viura and 10% Tempranillo.  The wine is fermented 25 days in American oak and aged two months in same.  It cost $8 by the glass at Tender Greens.

The color is quite pretty, showing a very pale salmon hue.  A whiff of watermelon and cherry is in the forefront, but the oak does not come forward.  On the palate, flavors of melons meet an herbal quality, a sort of greenness.

I paired it with the herb-brushed albacore, grilled Brussels sprouts, spinach salad with feta and hazelnuts and mashed potatoes.  The Muga rosé was a worthy match for all the food on the plate.  By the way, a nice, dry rosé is a great thing to have around the house if you are expecting to serve any sandwiches.  Sandwiches made from leftover turkey and ham are what I am thinking about right now.


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Monday, April 23, 2012

Spanish Wines From Whole Foods Market, Part Two


Whole Foods Market invited me to take part in a Twitter Tasting event featuring some of the Spanish wines they have in stock for the spring.  The event - on April 19, 2012 - took place over social media giant Twitter.  I and the other participants broke out the bottles supplied by our local Whole Foods, spread bottles and glasses and smartphones and computers across the kitchen table and went to work.  If you’d like to see how the conversation went, it’s here.


We tasted the wines and tweeted our findings, comparing notes with the others.  Here is how they tasted to me:


Castell de Raimat Albariño 2011


This Albariño is produced in Costers del Segre region near Lleida in Catalonia.  Costers del Segre is unusual for a wine region, in that it is made up of several different sub-zones which are scattered about the area in the northeastern corner of Spain, unconnected to one another.  The Whole Foods sommeliers informed us that Raimat is the biggest family-owned, single vineyard estate in Europe.


The lightly tinted white has a beautiful bouquet of pineapples, pears and flowers.  It’s a fairly intense nose, with aromas showing themselves plainly.  A slight fizziness shows in the glass.  Succulent lemon and lime flavors dominate the palate, and a zippy acidity feels playful in the mouth.  A lime zest flavor lingers after the sip.  12.5% abv.


Faustino Rioja 2010


The Rioja region is in northern Spain, where the strong winds can present a problem for grape growers.  The Cantabrian Mountains help protect Rioja from the nasty wind and also help keep the temperatures moderate.  The Ebro and Oja Rivers figure into the region’s geography.


This Rioja red is amazing.  It’s a fairly dark ruby color and the nose knocks me out.  Blackberry and cassis come forward in strong fashion, with a trace of oak notes in the background.  The palate is just luscious, and it shows cassis even stronger than on the nose and features a slight hint of chocolate.  A great acidity livens up the silky mouthfeel.  This is a very good Tempranillo. 13% abv.


Más de Leda Tempranillo  2008


This wine is labeled as Tierra de Castilla y León.  Adding “Tierra de” to the region’s name allows the bodega the freedom to source grapes from outside the appellation if they so desire.  These Tempranillo grapes come from old vine, low-yielding vineyards in the Duero River Valley of northern Spain.


Medium-dark ruby in the glass, the nose is a delightful mix of cherry candy and anise.  Black cherry and blackberry are most noticeable on the palate, with a spicy streak running through it.  The finish has black licorice and cinnamon notes lasting quite some time.






Whole Foods Market featured Spanish wines include:
Hermanos Lurton Verdejo from Rueda
Castell de Raimat Albariño from Costers del Segre in Catalan
Spartico Organic Tempranillo from Valencia 
Protos Tinto Fino from Ribera del Duero 
Faustino Rioja from Rioja
Maximo Tempranillo from La Mancha 
Más de Leda Tempranillo from Castilla y León 
La Vendimia Granacha Tempranillo from Rioja 
Cellars Can Blau Blau Cariñena Garnacha-Syrah from Priorat 
Monte Oton Garnacha from Campo de Borja
Castillo de Monséran Garnacha from Cariñena
Castaño Organic Monastrell from Yecla 




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Friday, March 30, 2012

Wines For The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction

rock and roll wineThe Rock And Roll Hall of Fame will induct new members on April 14, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.  It's the 27th annual induction ceremony, the 27th time rock fans get to yell "It's about time!" or "Where's KISS?"  With all that shouting, we're going to need something to soothe our nerves.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the 2012 inductees and pair a wine with each.  Our pals over at the excellent rock music blog 30 Days Out have had this post up for a while now, with some tasty pics and music attached.

Performer category:

Beastie Boys
If you're singing along with “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” it's a good bet you're doing jello shots or drinking beer from a glass with quarters at the bottom.  The Beastie Boys' blend of funky rock, rap and hip hop need not be reserved for the lesser beverages.  In fact, Beastie Mike D has dabbled a bit at wine criticism.  Not surprisingly, he likes wine with a bit of funk.  Root around a bit in the Côtes du Rhône aisle and pop for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  You should be able to find a wine that brings enough funk to get a party started without fisticuffs.
 
Donovan
Donovan's music is poetry, a delicate flower at one turn, a handful of psychedelics at the next.  His lyrics abound with references to wine, including a lovefest for the "maroon-coloured wine from the vineyards of Charlemagne."  Sounds like a Burgundy is about to be opened.  Bonneau du Martray should do nicely,  from the Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru.  You may want to select a white wine, as Charlemagne's wife is said to have preferred her royal hubby not mess his beard with the red stuff.  You are probably a much neater drinker than Charlemagne, though.

Guns N' Roses
In the mid-1980s, when Guns N' Roses exploded from L.A. with a balls-out Sunset Strip strut and an Appetite For Destruction, they redecorated a rock and roll landscape that had become rather tired and listless.  G 'N' R offered up a brashness which made other acts seem like they were mailing it in.  You may be tempted to go with a beer for them - a cheap one, in a bottle you can hurl at something - but California has a wine worthy of the Guns N' Roses brand of excess in old vine Zinfandel.  Both winemaker Joel Peterson and his Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel are brash enough for rock and roll.

Laura Nyro
If any one of these inductees screamed for a wine pairing, it would have to be Laura Nyro.  It was, after all, she who suggested we go "down by the grapevine, drink my daddy's wine."  She also suggested "there'll be lots of time and wine,"  but, sadly, her time ran out.  Lift a toast to her with Schramsberg's 2008 Brut Rosé.  It's complex and dry and will fit with anything you bring to a Stoned Soul Picnic.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
BloodSugarSexMagik would be a good name for a wine, if the Red Hot Chili Peppers hadn't already claimed it as their own.  Their funky guitar rock and throbbing sexuality certainly puts one in the mood for a glass of something nice to pair with their spicy gastronominal moniker.  Chili peppers call for something a little on the sweet side, like a nice Spätlese Riesling.  Dr. Loosen' Mosel-Saar-Ruwer efforts in that vein should provide enough ripe fruit sweetness to offset the power of the pepper.

The Small Faces/Faces
This dual-identity entry is remembered more for their hard-rocking, hard-living '70s style than their mod '60s diminutive version.  Rough and rowdy, never afraid to let the rough edges show, The Faces have Tannat written all over them.  Choose a varietal selection from Madiran for that swagger, or pick one blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to dress up the palate like a skinny tie on a sharkskin suit.

Early Influence

Freddie King
The electric blues master known as the Texas Cannonball, Freddie King left his fingerprints all over rock and roll.  He was a huge influence on anybody who ever picked up a guitar and intended to do some damage with it.  So affected by his entire persona, Grand Funk shouted him out in one of their big hits.  Mr. King deserves a vintage Port, full-bodied and luscious, with a whiff of smoke to reference the dance halls and pool rooms of Texas, where the blues is still the king.

Ahmet Ertegun (non performer) Award

The Ahmet Ertegun Award goes to the late Don Kirshner, a songwriter and song seller who played a big part in shaping the pop music side of rock and pioneered the maturation of televised rock concerts.  For good or for bad, he was the creative fire in the hole for The Monkees and The Archies.  Kirshner's wine should be a commercial success - natch - and should carry its years well.  Mouton Cadet is a best-seller from Bordeaux, so you can expect good things from it with age.  It's easy on the pocketbook, too.  A bottle of the current vintage will probably set you back less than a Monkees Greatest Hits CD.

The Award For Musical Excellence

You might not recognize his name, but Cosimo Matassa's New Orleans recording studio was the place from which many great rock hits of the '50s burst forth.  Matassa eschewed gimmicks and audio manipulation, preferring to let the music speak for itself.  The winemaking hasn't changed much at Lopez de Heredia since the 1800s - they didn't like gimmicks and manipulation then, and they still don't.  Their 1991 Viña Tondonia Tinto Gran Reserva is pure Rioja elegance.

As a scientist, Tom Dowd worked on the Manhattan Project that gave us the atom bomb.  As a recording engineer, he worked at the Atlantic Records console and gave us Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers.  Both sides of his career packed a whallop.  Would a fruit bomb be out of place here?  How about a warm-climate Syrah with plenty of depth under all that fruit?  Andrew Murray's 2008 McGinley Vinyard Syrah comes from the hot microclimate of Santa Barbara County's Happy Canyon - and it is the bomb.

British recording engineer and producer Glyn Johns helped nuance storm out of the speakers with acts as diverse as Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Joan Armatrading and The Who.  He could coax a heartfelt ballad out of the recording session as well as bring the thunder and lightning right through those gold-plated wires.  Merlot here, with a silky, mellow side playing counterpoint to the rock and roll smoke and leather notes.





This article ran originally on the excellent music site 30 Days Out.


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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

MONTEBUENA RIOJA 2009


Montebuena Tioja

Wines from Spain get a lot of press lately for being great values.  Reasonable price points and generally high quality have many wine lovers looking to regions like Rioja, Toro, Calatayud and Rias Baixas for great buys.  I recently attended a tasting event in which a couple dozen tables full of Rioja wine were poured.  All of them were of high quality, even the ones retailing for $10 or less.  I had high hopes for the Montebuena Rioja wine which retailed for all of $12.  I picked it up for eight bucks at a Los Angeles wine store sale.

Montebuena is produced by Bodegas Burgo Viejo of Alfaro, in the Rioja's Ebro Valley.  It's a 100% Tempranillo wine with a 13.5% abv number.

Upon opening and pouring, I'm a little disappointed there there's a good deal of alcohol on the nose and palate.  Even on the second - and third - night the bottle is open the alcohol is the dominant aroma.

Bright cherries come across rather uncomplicated otherwise, with just a hint of spice, but the bite is sharp - too sharp for my enjoyment.  The fruit is bright, but with so few supporting elements the palate is on the thin side.  There’s also an astringency to it that helps tip the scales on the side of unpleasantness.

Even as the tannic nature of the wine lessens a bit - after three days - the flavors don’t deepen or get richer, they simply go flat.  Unfortunately, the astringency is still there.  It's not such a shock that an inexpensive wine fails to impress, but it is a disappointment that such a great wine region is so poorly represented.

My guess is that pairing the Montebuena with the biggest, juiciest, fattest piece of beef you can find would improve its lot - at least the tannins would have something on which they could work.  I sipped it solo, and I have enjoyed Two-Buck Chuck more - a lot more.



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Monday, April 25, 2011

VIBRANT RIOJA TASTING EVENT RECAP


Vibrant Rioja Recap

I wrote earlier about the Vibrant Rioja tasting event in Los Angeles, focusing on the Lopez de Heredia wines.  Here are some of the other taste treats I discovered at the tasting.

Faustino had two wines I liked a lot. The Crianza '07 andReserva Cinco 2005 both show dense dark noses with earthy fruit.  They taste just as rich as the nose leads me to believe they will. The Faustino Gran Reserva '98 is aging well and showing a trace of eucalyptus.

Big flavors came from the Beronia table. The '07 Tempranillo (100%), '07 Crianza of Tempranillo and Garnacha and the '06 Reserva of Tempranillo and Graciano offer big, mineral-driven cherry flavors.  The '01 Gran Reserva shows more depth, having been aged three years in barrels and three years in bottles.  It blends Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo.  Beronia's III a.C. '04 is described as a "Super Rioja," blending Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes.  Pepper, leather and tobacco notes adorn the cherry fruit.

Antano's '09 Viura was one of my favorites, a nutty white with great acidity.  The Conde de Valdemar Rosé impresses me quite a bit - one of the better $6 wines I've tried.  CdV Inspiracion Valdemar 2007 shows a lovely bright cherry flavor.  It's 100% Graciano.

Bodeagas Landaluce poured some great wines, in particular the Tempranillo with the mocha nose and the Capricho de Landaluce '05.  The latter is all smokey and lush, and it's one of the more expensive wines at the event, with a $47 price tag.

Castillo Labastida's '08 Madurado is rustic and full of minerals, while their Reserva 2004 gives a nose and palate full of succulent black cherry.

Navarrsotillo's Noemus Rioja Blanco '09 makes a huge tropical play, Noemus Rioja Rosado '09 is a 100% Garnacha rosé and the Noemus Rioja Tinto '08 blends Tempranillo with Garnacha and Mazuelo.  It has a huge fruit expression.  All three of those wines deliver a lot for under $10 each.  Spend a little more - $19 - for the Magister Bibendi Rioja Reserva 2005 and you get a great red wine with fantastic tannins and no bite.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

VIBRANT RIOJA TASTING - LOPEZ DE HEREDIA


Vibrant Rioja

It was a Spanish wine tasting event that really got me started exploring wine years ago, and I am repeatedly drawn back to events which feature Spanish wines.  The Vibrant Rioja tasting event of April 11, 2011 jumped onto my calendar instantly.  It was held at Hatfield's Restaurant in Los Angeles.

The room was perhaps a little small for the gathering of 20 or so importers, all pouring a number of wines at their tables.  Space was extremely limited and enthusiastic wine dealers, sommeliers and writers jammed the dining area for the afternoon event.

Great wines abounded, and I'll cover some of them in another post.  Today I want to concentrate on my favorite table of the event, the one that was so crowded the whole afternoon I could hardly edge myself in for a few tastes.  That would be the table where the wines of Lopez de Heredia were poured.

Lopez de Heredia was founded in 1877 and is a Rioja institution, still owned and operated by the same family.  They are particularly proud of their Tondonia Vineyard on the right bank of Ebro River, around which the Rioja region is drawn.  Heredia also has three other vineyards, also in Rioja Alta - Cubillo, Bosconia and Zaconia.

The winery is known as much for white wines as for red, maybe more so.  They age their whites and rosés in much the same manner the reds are aged, and they stand as a testament to age-worthy whites.  White, pink or red, this is what old-world wine is all about.

Heredia's Viña Gravonia 2000 Crianza is a white wine made from 100% Viura grapes.  This golden treat is tasting great, with a smokey and nutty taste.  It's nice and dry with great acidity.

Viña Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva 2000 - This brownish peach-colored rosé is a blend of 60% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo and 10% Viura.  The unusual, smokey nose leads to a palate decorated with a nutty strawberry flavor.

Viña Cubillo Crianza 2005 - A red blend of 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha and some Graciano and Mazuelo filling out the rest, this wine offers a hint of anise on the nose and rustic, earthy cherry flavors.

Viña Bosconia Reserva 2002 - Smooth, dusty cherry aromas and flavors dominate this blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha and Graciano and Mazuelo.  It's aged in French oak for five years.

Viña Tondonia Tinto Gran Reserva 1991 - Heredia says 1991 was one of the best vintages in the history of the Tondonia Vineyard, and this wine bears out that claim.  Toasted vanilla notes and a full mouthfeel are featured in this very dry Tempranillo/Garnacha blend filled out with Graciano and Mazuelo grapes.  Aged in barrels for nine years, this wine is old-world elegance defined.

Viña Ijalba Graciano 2007 - Amanda Linn of WineWise was also pouring this new-world style, almost as an afterthought.  Its extreme fruitiness was delicious and served as an excellent counterpoint to the Heredia old-world style.