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#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? 

 

Gallery

Why Wines Deserve a Second Chance: #MWWC22

19 Jan

 

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Yesterday was a day I planned for months and worried about for weeks in advance. It was a wine tasting of a group of wines outside my normal scope of expertise. Traditionally when I host a tasting, I do ONE thing specifically: I serve wines I know personally, whose vines and trellises I have paced aside, whose barrels I have touched, whose flavors and colors I know intimately.

This was not one of those times.

Sure, on my ten wine list I hand-picked a few bottles that had been waiting in the cellar for just such a day. But by in large, I researched and shopped regions I didn’t know as well, and looked more closely at wines that often get a bad rap. For examples, the wines we scoot past quickly in a restaurant list when we see them. Such as: Italian white wines, and chianti.

“Why?” you cry out, outraged and distressed, “What have Chianti and Italian white wines done to you?”

Nothing.

That’s exactly it, they did nothing for me, and nothing TO me.

And it’s my own fault.

Because we first taste these wines in a family-style Italian restaurant where cheap wines are served by the gallon. We learn, early in age, to be dismissive of cheap pinot grigio and cheap chianti. As a result, later on in our lives,  we don’t even bother look for quality versions of these same things. It’s as silly as hating cars as an adult, just because your first teenage car was a cheap junker that smoked from the exhaust, had bald tires, and barely got you where you needed to go. It’s not the fault of the vehicle, to be honest.

It’s time to give these wines a second chance.

For white wines, I turned to Friuli-Venizia Guilia.

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I served these four white wines, in order:

Venica 2013 Malvasia from Collio,

Borgio Del Tiglio 2011 white blend from Collio,

I Clivi 2014 Verduzzo from Collio Orientali del Friuli DOC, and

I Clivi 2001 Galea from Collio Orientali del Friuli DOC.

These four wines changed all our preconceived notions of Italian white wines. Crafted with obvious expertise, love and care, these wines displayed depth, complexity, minerality, and body. They told stories. They enticed our palates, and they left us wanting more.

The 2001 Galea showed its age, grace, and deep color beautifully, on par with some of my revered and aged Bordeaux or Burgundian wines. The color alone was stunning; photos just don’t do it justice.

Clivi Galea

I found it funny: one of my guests (almost as a rule) dismisses white wines. He was not as quiet as I expected during these first four bottles, and eventually, I learned he was impressed and enjoying himself! And he made a point to speak up and admit both of these points to the group.

And we moved on to the red wines, and we laughed, and we loosened up. And at the 9th bottle, I poured a chianti.

But not just any chianti.

Thought a relatively young wine, I served a Chianti Classico Gran Reserva Selezione, a DOCG wine with the tell-tale black rooster on the bottle. I said little about the wine, and I said nothing about the Rooster.

Chianti rooster

 

 

 

My guests said it all for me. They told me this wine was stunning, eye-opening, not what they expected from a chianti. They shared pairing notes, talked about the color, the nuances they found.

Even after I served the 2000 Brunello Di Montalcino, we ooh’d and ahh’d about it and thoroughly enjoyed it… but eventually we went back to discussing the chianti.

And I thought that maybe it was really us who needed the second chance.

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à votre santé!

Submitted to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #22

 

Vintage Tunina: a classic white blend goes large!

18 May

Silvio Jermann “Vintage Tunina” 2009 white wine blend, Venezia Giulia, IGT, Italy. 13.5% ABV, Purchased from Garagiste.com at $40/bottle, sourced locally at $64/bottle, online as low as $54/bottle.

Color: warm amber center melding into deep straw. Nose of wildflowers, stone fruit, and baked apple. On the palate, individual fruit flavors give way to the notes of specific grapes used in this blend: sauvignon, chardonnay, ribolla gialla, malvasia, and picolit. Gentle secondary notes of honey, flowers, limestone, and young wood come forth from the huge mouthfeel of this wine with its supple acidity and lengthy finish. If you love rich and creamy whites, this is a wine you will want to try. Be warned, you might fall in love! 

This bottle fits well into the “massive wine” category that few white wines can fill. It is an example of expert winemaking taking from both Italian and Austrian heritage. As a fan of the Bordeaux blend, it’s plain to see why this creation from Silvio Jermann is a big wine that is easy to adore. The intensity and size of the wine cries out for a perfect meal to pair it with to accent the flavor profile and allow the huge finish to linger on your palate.

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My only regret with this wine is having not purchased more of it when I found it at  a superbly low price from Garagistes when it sells for $64/bottle locally, and more recent vintages are even pricier. It’s worth the cost to get a couple of bottles- one to taste and try with your recipes, and one to share with friends.  It will pair beautifully with first and second courses as well as with white meat entrees, and handled a grilled salmon with a sharp green herb sauce beautifully.

If you’ve tasted Vintage Tunina, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

 

à votre santé!

 

 

A Dry White Season

23 Feb

Two dry white wines, one new and Austrian, one vintage and Spanish; both deserving of your attention.

Fritsch “Windspiel” Grüner Veltliner 2012, Wagram, Austria. Purchased from 67 Wine, $12.99. ABV12.%.

Pale straw in color with a tinge of green, the nose is barely detectable of distant wildflowers and herbs. In the mouth, crisp acidity with lemon-lime citrus and under-ripe white pear are dominant.  As it warms on the palate, the tartness expands and secondary notes of white orchid, minerals, and white pepper are exposed. A gentle, dry, and pleasing finish begs for the for the next bite or sip. An ideal match for light dishes and seafood, this wine has enough acidity to complement spicy or savory flavors. Impressive value with flexibility in pairing. Website: http://www.fritsch.cc/

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Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanca 1996. Rioja, Spain. Purchased from Astor Wine and Spirits, $45. ABV 12.5%.

This white Rioja is blended from 90% viura and 10% malvasia. Aged for at least five years in barrels before bottling, this is a precious older wine that is both widely appreciated and able to be sourced and purchased at a reasonable price.

Golden color with a nose that needs a moment to allow the funk to burn off. Afterwards, the nose resolves with notes of dried floral arrangement and tangerine peel. In the mouth, dried apple and dried apricot flavors are accented by touches of vanilla and orange zest,  giving way to a very direct acidity. A perfect match for savory fish, poultry, egg, and truffle dishes. Focused but not singular, this is an unusual, special wine that is perfect to keep a few bottles and have on hand for that dish that needs a certain “je ne sais quoi”. Commonly rated in the low to mid 90’s, you might be amazed how an older white wine can pair so well with savory dishes. The answer in in the aged fruit, focused acidity, and short, dry, clean finish.  Website: http://www.tondonia.com

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à votre santé!

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