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Beat the Heat With high value Spanish Wines!

31 May

When summer begins to swelter, we find ourselves reaching for something to cool off with. Most people go for a light white wine, some people prefer a chilled rosé. But when I toured the Mediterranean and was impressed with how refreshing the wines of Spain can be in the heat!

Spain is covered with grape vines, most of which are quite old. Age means deep vines, which which equates to small grapes with a robust flavor profiles: rich, acidic reds, and delicate, herbaceous whites.

 

Start with Albariño. In several years of tastings, Paco & Lola from Rias Baixas have consistently been in the top picks. There run from under $20 to low $30’s for aged Albariño. The 2012 pictured below, right, is gorgeously concentrated and a stellar aged white for serious oenophiles.

 

The bright polka dots of Paco & Lola are easily distinguished in a wine store. Take a bottle home and tell me if you don’t adore it!

 

 

 

 

Garnacha Blanca (White Grenache) and Verdejo are two wines that are lesser-known in the USA, but extremely popular in Europe. Some of Spain’s finest wines are made from Verdejo, with delicate flavor and beautiful structure.

 

 

Viura-chardonnay blends like the one below from Faustino are easy to find, herbaceous with bright white fruit, tasty in the heat, and easy on the wallet – around $15/bottle.

 

 

Bright, delicious reds like these old vine ’15 Garnacha and 2016 Cariñena (below) are delicious by themselves slightly chilled, and pair with food easily. Believe it or not, they can often be found for under $10/bottle, but drink well compared to other bottles you might find for twice the price.

 

 

Last but not least, you can often find aged Rioja and Gran Reserva wines that are beautifully aged reds, in the $30-70 range. These offer rarity and great age at a tremendous value.

 

 

Try wines from Spain’s Rioja and Cariñena regions this summer- slightly chilled to beat the heat- and let me know how you like them, and what your favorite pairings are!

 

 

à votre santé!

#OTBN 2019: R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco ’96

26 Feb

#OTBN is a wine drinker’s holiday. OTBN (Open That Bottle Night) is a concept created by wine writers/critics Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher  in which you open a bottle with significance or meaning that you have been holding for a special occasion. After years of celebrating with friends electronically, I finally got my act together and invited a small group of industry folks to enjoy together!

With wine, as in life, not everything goes as planned. I broke a cork when we got to the aged reds (this was on bottle 8 or 9 of 16, to be accurate) then I spilled some of the 1996 Smith Haut-Lafitte when decanting it! But the wine I expected to be past is prime wasn’t, and the one I thought that would hold the line, didn’t. Or so I thought.

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 1996, Rioja, Spain. 12.5% ABV.  

Made with 90% viura and 10% malvasia grapes, I first tasted this wine at Le Bernadin when one of Aldo Sohm’s wine team suggested it as a pairing for a fish dish served with a saffron-based sauce . Need I mention, it was heavenly? (It was!) I knew Viña Tondonia for their red wines, but the aged white blend was new to me back then, and I quickly sought out a few bottles and tasted one every five years or so. This was my last bottle, and a great choice (or so I thought) for #OTBN.

My mistake on #OTBN was to open this fifth position. We had already tasted stunning wines with powerful fruit and acidity, and this wine showed slightly flat and dull in comparison. I was disappointed. Of course, in retrospect, I did not decant. I should have decanted, and I should have given this bottle more time to air. Because on day 2 of this bottle being open, I tasted it again with tahini and grilled chicken and was very impressed by the flavor profile and thought, “did I simply miss this yesterday?” On day 3 of being open, the nose was present, the acidity and umami notes were right where I had hoped they would be (but weren’t) on opening!

 

 

 

Color is dark gold. Aromas of toasted almonds, sherry, and dried herbs make themselves known over time. On the palate, dried fruit and lavender are dominant with a strong acid backbone. As the wine resolves in the mouth, the savory and umami notes appear, pushing more sherry notes into the nasal passages. This is a wine that is beautiful to pair with lightly cooked fish, fresh salads,  avocado, and mediterranean dishes like eggplant, tahini or hummus, or by itself with a range of cheeses and fresh fruit.  

 

In retrospect, I realize that I had initially not giving the bottle a chance to really show its true colors. I tasted it right away and thought, “Yeah, its Viña Tondonia, but it might be past it’s prime. Maybe it had poor storage before it got to my cellar?”  Well, that’s not the case now. The wine is showing beautifully after a) getting enough air, and b) when my palate is fresh. And I still have another full pour left in the bottle to try tomorrow!

We live, and we learn. Remember that wine is a living, breathing, constantly changing entity.

 

And pour more slowly if you decant through a very fine strainer. Some fine wines require time to express themselves properly.

 

à votre santé!

 

Oh- as for the spilled wine…

I only spilled a half an ounce. But still, it felt like a crime, as this 1996 Smith Haut Lafitte was delicious!
Tonight I drank the last few ounces with grilled steak and was in absolute heaven. 

 

#WIYG? And did you #OTBN? What did you open? 

 

Spice Is Nice, WOW at this price! Your BBQ Rioja is here!

23 May


Finca Valdeguinea Rioja, Spain; 2012. Ltd Edition (15,000 bottles), 14% ABV. Astor Wine & Spirits, $7/bottle.

Made from 100% tempranillo, the color is violet with ruby edging. The nose is of black plum and cherry, while in the mouth blackberry, sour cherry, and black plum flash the palate along with nice acidity. Additional notes of spice, vanilla bean, licorice, new leather, and tart vegetation on the back palate with a nice finish that was longer than I expected. Great for pairing with spicy food, held up beautifully to my spicy chicken fajitas, but will also work well with pizza, any tomato sauce, or red meat. Delightful on the palate and a good value at this cost.

Simply put, a great BBQ wine. I should buy more for the summer. And I love the tongue-in-cheek label, it looks like so many white tablecloths I’ve ruined. You, too?

photo-1

à votre santé!

 

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