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International #TempranilloDay 11.8.18!

30 Oct

Did you know November 8th is International Tempranillo Day?
Well,  NOW YOU DO!

Bodegas Lan Rioja Gran Reserva 2010; Fuenmayor, Spain. 13.5%ABV, SRP $23/bottle.


Color is ruby with magenta edging. The nose is vast and expressive with red cassis and plum, tobacco leaf, eucalyptus, cigar box,  and forest floor. On the palate is a lively series of dark red fruit with so much spice: mocha, vanilla, oak, licorice, leather, and spice box. Medium bodied, full-flavored, and so much fun to drink!


This lusty, vibrant red is a blend of primarily (94%) Tempranillo with 4% Mazuelo(aka carignan), spending 24 months in oak barrels before maturing 36 months in the bottle. The time spent aging this shows quite nicely, and is well worth the effort -especially at this price point.

I poured a glass, thinking it would pair well with my grilled meat & vegetables. Oh, it did, but one taste and immediately I felt like I was in Barcelona again. I just wanted to put my nose in the glass to inhale the luxurious and lengthy nose, then relax and take sip after sip to enjoy the sunset. Delicious, and a lovely value!

And did I mention, it also pairs beautifully with grilled meats, savory dishes and cheeses. Where can you find a decent aged red blend for under $25? #Rioja !






à votre santé!!


Vivanco Reserva 2010 Rioja

13 Jul

Vivanco Reserva Rioja DOC 2010; Briones, Spain. 14%ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

Color is deep garnet with purple edging. The nose offers a rich, full-bodied basket of dark fruit, spices and gravel. On the palate:  red cassis, plum, and a beautifully decadent mouthfeel precedes a comforting heat across the front and top palates. Secondary notes of cumin, vanilla, allspice, and forest floor are followed by grippy tannins, with gravel and calcium-rich clay, the moderate finish has some lovely expression of black currants as an afterthought. I can’t believe this wine is priced at this level when it drinks like a wine at twice the price! This is a blend of tempranillo (90%) and graciano (10%), but the graciano pushes dark flavors forward in a really wondrous fashion- cheers to the winemaker!

Pair this rioja blend with either grilled or mediterranean dishes,  -even vegetable crudite with dips- this is a gorgeous wine to drink with food, or by itself. But the darker flavors prefer something to play against, so even a cheese and cracker, a chocolate bar, or a few pieces of fruit would be useful when enjoying this. You won’t regret it: this wine is so delicious, I tasted this on three separate evenings, enjoying the nose and flavors so much I refused to write my tasting notes. If you want an introduction to Rioja, tempranillo blends, or the wines of Spain, you have found a perfect candidate, at a killer price. 

 à votre santé!

Señorío de P. Peciña Cosecha 2013 Rioja

12 Jun

Señorío de P. Peciña Cosecha 2013 Rioja, DOC, Spain.  13% ABV, $13/bottle average online price.

Color is a bright purple with ruby edging and good clarity. The nose features powerful blackberry with notes of  forest floor and stone. In the mouth, blackberry, plum, black cherry and eucalyptus meet solid tannins and acidity, making a nice balance for this young wine. Notes of earth, peat, calcium and chalky clay show on the top and back palate before the medium-short finish. The grapes used in this blend are primarily tempranillo with tiny percentages of garnacha and graciano. I find this Rioja to be a pleasure to drink and a solid value as a food-driven wine. It is a perfect red for summer nights and barbecued meats, but capable of driving a winter roast as well. At this price, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more from this producer, and remind myself of the advice I give to others about “the great value spanish wines offer”. This one is spot on!



à votre santé!

Senseless about Great Buys: Sensible Tudela De Duero Tempranillo

2 Jun

Isaac Fernandez Selection’s Sensible Tudela de Duero 2013 Tempranillo (Spain).
14% ABV; List @ $12.99 /bottle, purchased from Garagiste at $7.99/bottle!


“Wishing I had bought more” is a tasting note that I should celebrate (for finding a great wine) instead of being frustrated. Alas, sometimes you realize you missed a great opportunity. Well, this wine is still a bargain at the street price, so don’t you worry!

A Spanish delight! Color is a murky ruby with purple center. The nose shows black fruit, a hint of kiln dried wood and minerals. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberries, smoky black pepper, secondary notes of vanilla, cedar, forest floor, halite and some gravelly chalk on the full and savory finish that resounds with a tight, tannic mouthfeel.


Very satisfying on the palate and a lovely complement for food. I had forgotten everything about this wine and pulled it out of a mixed case for a dinner with family, and my brother-in-law and I both loved it on first taste, then more with a little air, and I continued to appreciate it for several days. Not until a week later did I realize this was a $13 bottle I had acquired for only $8 and made the mistake of only buying two. Live and learn… a few cases would have been perfect, but maybe Fernandez will do even better with the ’14 and ’15. Keep your eyes peeled.

à votre santé!


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?


à votre santé!


Your First Rioja!

29 Apr

Too many of my friends admit they haven’t tried rioja. I have found an ideal “first time” rioja for you!

Terra Milenaria, 2012,  Rioja, Spain. Purchased from Astor Wine and Spirits, $8/bottle. 14% ABV.

Light purple color, nose of boysenberry, wild blueberry, saddle leather and tar. In the mouth, a blend of black cassis, blackberry, and black plum dominate with secondary notes of saddle leather, limestone and shale. I enjoyed this on my first tasting, then refrigerated it for later and enjoyed it over several days, enjoying how the fruit slowly paled over a series of days  but remained tasty and enjoyable a week after opening. This dry Spanish red is the perfect entry- level bottle that costs less than a glass does in most establishments. A great value both in tempranillo and in red wine.



à votre santé!

Historic Spain, in a Bottle

6 Oct

Herederos Del Marques de Riscal Reserva, 2007. Rioja, Spain.  Mayfair Wine and Sherry Lehman, $16/bottle. ABV 13.5%.

Color is deep ruby with garnet edging. Nose of pepper, dusty rose, and black plum. On the palate I found cassis,  spice box, black pepper with notes of burnt wood, saddle leather, granite and limestone.  A full-bodied wine with elegant structure and a mid-long palate, it drinks like a wine that has aged ten years and costs three times the price.  This reserva is primarily tempranillo with a small amount (under 10%) of graciano and mazuelo grapes. This well-made blend demonstrates both complexity and character and offers a flavorful glimpse into the sunny and historic spanish countryside.

The savory front palate, relaxed acidity and mature tannins join to make this wine shine. It pairs wonderfully with several types of food, but flavors such as spicy sauces, cured and roast meats or chocolate will truly shine with this wine. One of my current favorites at home with massive value for quality versus price, and a great gift wine. I have enjoyed the 2006, the ’06 and ’07 and expect to continue to see this wine find a greater market share, and the corresponding increased price.


à votre santé!

Wine Around Town? In Vino Veritas!

21 Jan

A friend and business associate invited me to an informal wine tasting based on grape. I’ve been to tastings, but this was really a fun get-together of friends called “In Vino Veritas” (translation from the Latin: “In Wine, There is Truth”, attributed to Roman philospher/naval commander Pliny The Elder). It was a modern, intimate social media event. Jimmy (the host and event creator) wrote about the get-together to the (closed) group in his invitation:

I admit I know very little about wine, but I know what I like, and the reason I know what I like is I put as many versions of the same grape in front of me and sample them all. This is what this event will do. We’ll get together and all bring a bottle of the same type of wine (merlot, syrah, pino, etc) with you. Everyone will hopefully bring wine from different vineyards and of different vintages, so we can get a large sampling. The more people come, the more wine we get to taste. And don’t feel pressure to spend lots of money: if the wine is great AND cheap, it makes it that much better a find! If you want to pair up with someone and go in on a bottle together, please do!

It was quite straightforward. First I got the invite, then the indication of which grape was- tempranillo! Then, the location and time. Finally, the day arrived. I fretted about choosing the wine to bring, and settled on a Rioja I picked up from Morrell Wine, which is a shop that has a nice variety and is conveniently close to my current work. I went and looked at their selection of tempranillo wines, narrowed it down to three possible bottles, and then asked a salesperson for help. I showed them my choices, and explained that 1) I was looking for a good value on a great drinking wine, 2) did any of these wines fall into that category, and 3) were there other bottles I should consider?

The salesperson was very nice, expressed approval at my choices and described the qualities of two of them they had tasted. I chose a wine whose name is as much of a mouthful as the wine is itself:  La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Rioja Spain 2001. On the shop’s website, this wine boasted a Robert Parker rating of 94 points with a review calling it “medium-bodied, velvety-textured, and already complex” and sounded like a mature wine I’d appreciate that might be very different than what others were bringing. Off I went to the gathering!

I arrived at the appointed location and was quickly introduced to those I did not know. As is always a good idea when tasting both to cleanse the palate and assist the body’s ability to process wine, we got some food and water along with our wine glasses and then opened the bottles one at a time to taste. Yes, just to taste, as in sample, not drink! There were five bottles in total, each of a different vineyard, and varying vintages. What fun!

We poured a sample, passed the bottle, looked in the glass at color, smelled the bouquet, tasted, and shared our thoughts openly. It was great fun to attend a tasting when you have no clue where the bottle came from, who bought it or what it cost, and no pressure to buy the wine, or to even enjoy it! A couple of sips and some discussion, and we were on to the next wine. I have to admit that it was even more fun not knowing what kind of stores these were from, or the price range. Everyone had their own personal reactions, some people dumped glasses quickly, others sipped delicately, thoughtfully. No one left drunk or even tipsy. Here’s the list of the wines we tasted, with a tasting note and a link for your enjoyment. I’m including my terrible camera-phone pictures for label reminders.

1. Zumaya Ribera del Duero Crianza Tempranillo 2003

Garnet color with brown edge. Zingy nose with acid and sugar- like a cherry cola, to me indicating possible TCA (aka trichloroanisole, or cork taint). Very fruit forward, overly ripe cherry on the palate– but seems the wine is tainted or at least, turning, possible in the bottle from lack of temperature control. Overall, this was our least favorite wine. $17/bottle.


2. Termes, Numanthia 2009

Deep red in the glass with a nose of black fruit and menthol. Blackberry and black plum, touch of leather & oak. Nice texture, tannins were slow to kick in with a long, lingering finish, making the wine feel slightly provincial, thought I sense a lot of care and thought went in to making this wine. I will try the 2009 in a year, and decant first.  $30/bottle


3. Vinaguerena Denominacion de Origen Toro Barrica 2008

Nice ruby color, nose of cherry and green grass, hint of cedar. In the mouth, the cherry is forward with some raspberry and a hint of red cassis. Decent acidity but a short finish due to tannins being tight.  $16/bottle


4: La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Rioja Spain 2001

Garnet color, nose of cherry, red plum and a distinct odor of dill. In the mouth, the cherry and plum still mix together with black plum, spicy pepper, black cassis and a long finish with oak, spice box, a hint of smoky mint- perhaps cardomom. This wine does show differently than the others due to age (and the flaw in the Zumaya wine being turned) $32/bottle from Morrell, as low as $25/bottle online.


5. Grupo Yllera Tempranillo 2006

Bright ruby color with a browning edge, nose of fresh red cherry, strawberry, and sour raspberry. Hints of cacao, and oak.  Structure is good, finish is balanced. I went back for another taste (twice). $11/bottle


Of the five wines, I personally enjoyed #4 and #5 the most, but I do wonder if it was partially my palate and the process of tasting the three wines prior to #4 that assisted in that development. No matter, as I truly had a great time- this was a lovely evening and I felt honored to be brought into this group of like-minded people who all enjoyed the method of tasting and discussing without drinking to excess on an early work night. If I didn’t work most evenings, I’d want to set up an evening like this in my neighborhood, and I highly suggest that you try this with friends. The idea of tasting several bottles of a specific type of grape makes for a lot of fun, as well as being educational. It gently takes people away from their comfort zones into a playful area of exploration with no pressure to buy anything or answer to anyone in a safe environment. To me, the enormous success of this evening proves that Jimmy chose the name accurately.

In Vino Veritas Est! 

à votre santé!

Symington Estate Altano Douro 2007

30 Jun

How often do you find a $10 red blend with clout? If you read my wine posts, you know that the best bargains found today in red wine are Portuguese wines from Douro, when the Argentinian Malbecs and Chilean vineyards full of French Cab Suv grapes have been gaining  popularity and as a result, their prices are climbing. The Douro area, famous for port, has become a mecca for phenomenal reds and vino verdes at $10 or under – and when I can find them for $10 in pricey Manhattan wineries, local stores with less overhead may sell them for as little as $7-8/bottle. BARGAIN TIME!

Today’s selection is the Symington Family Estate Altano 2007, made of Tinto Roriz (aka Tempranillo grape) and Touriga Franca grapes. (Please note: The Touriga Franca, aka Touriga Francesa grape is a port wine grape commonly found in Portugal.) This is a lovely blended wine whose nose demonstrates ripe red fruit, tasting of red plum and cherry. A hint of vanilla, oak and earth after the tangy, medium finish, this is a fun wine- its medium body will complement many dishes well. If you haven’t looked into wines from Douro yet- this may be the time, and the wine, to try. It’s a classic example of a great value wine with flexibility.

If you’re still unsure about the concept of Portuguese wines, you can rest easily knowing that these wines have been popular for a long time locally- and only recently have been become popular for export, much like the New Zealand, Chilean and Argentnian wines we find commonplace these days. But  check out their website about their viniculture, sustainable growth structure, and organic wines.

à votre santé!

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