Friday, May 10, 2013

Wining by proxy...First Acolyte JD tastes Vibrant Rioja...

Once again, the Goddess of Wine had to stay the course at the earth job, so JD manfully took up the mantle of wine-taster-maven at the Vibrant Rioja Trade Tasting on May 7th at Fleming’s Beverly Hills. Ah...the sacrifices we make in order to bring wine education to the masses!

Some background: Vibrant Rioja is a partnership between the DOCa Rioja and Wines From Spain. As the USA marketing and public relations campaign representing all DOCa Rioja wineries available in the U.S., Vibrant Rioja focuses on trade relations and trade education as well as consumer awareness - while distinguishing the DOCa Rioja as a producer of consistently superior wines through unparalleled quality control, tremendous value, style diversity and food-friendliness.

JD's words and highlights:

Easy to find. Easy parking. Simple check-in. There were several wine stations in the front room with the rest in the back room reached through an aisle lined on one side with booths. Sampled a number of wines; not all of course. There were, as is usually the case, too many and there was difficult access to some locations once the place got busy.

For a while I was noticing certain sea-like notes in some of the wines, especially in the front room. Then I discovered that the restaurant was preparing fish dishes to accompany the tasting. Oops.

There was some food, but scurrying among the wines by the time I thought to check on it, it was gone.
BEAUNE IMPORTS. Valenciso Reserva 2006 - Valenciso does not bottle every year, only when they feel the fruit is right. This was one of those very rich-fruited, silky textured delicious years. An elegant wine.

COLECCIÓN INTERNACIONAL DEL VINO. Bodegas Antano - A pair of classic Tempranillos. Conde de Valdemar Rosado of 85% Garnacha, 15% Tempranillo. It had a little barnyard and some floral veggie and was quite tasty.

Inspiración Valdemar - Small scale production with 10% Graciano blended with Tempranillo that softens it. Delicious fruit with a touch of barnyard.

DINASTIA VIVANCO. Distinctive, special made bottles. Nice design. Rosado 80% Tempranillo/20% Garnacha Crianza and Reserva both smooth and well balanced.

EUROPVIN. CVNE Rioja Alta - Higher altitude and Atlantic influence. Rosado, 100% Tempranillo, fresh and smooth.

FARM WINES, JOSE PASTOR SELECTIONS. Hermanos Pecina Joven 2011, good promise, not sharp. Reserva 2001 - excellent delivery with wood, earth, tart cherry.

FINE ESTATES FROM SPAIN. Rio Madre Graciano 2011

FOLIO WINE (a Michael Mondovi company). Palacios Remondo is Palacios’ only white wine and is a fine example of Viura’s fresh floral, stone fruit and spice. It was a refreshing white spots in the midst of all the red of this tasting. 2009 La Montesa, a blend of 65% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo from a higher altitude region of eastern Rioja. Red fruit blend with aromatic herb notes.

La Vendimia 2011, 50% Garnacha Pais and 50% Tempranillo. An inexpensive and balanced young blend.

Artadi Wines - 2009 Viñas de Gain 100% old vine Tempranillo with nice tobacco and earth.

FREDERICK WILDMAN. El Coto Rioja Rosé is a traditional blend of 50/50 Tempranillo and Garnacha. Tangy, red cherry. El Coto de Rioja Coto de Imaz Reserva is 100% Tempranillo. Smoky vanilla, savory spice notes.

The Baron de Ley Group has become by far the biggest owner of non-Tempranillo vineyards. I tasted a 2010 100% Maturana. Now a little known grape, at one time seen all over Rioja, it fell victim to Phylloxera and just falling out of favor. It almost went extinct, was only recently saved and is slowly being brought back. To quote the tasting notes: 'Deep purple color. Intense nose dark fruit, blackberries, coffee, chocolate and tobacco. In the mouth it feels muscular and long. It matches perfectly roasted lamb, red meat and intense game flavors.' I hope it does truly return and there is meat available when I taste it again. I also sampled Baron de Ley’s Rioja Reserva 7 Vinas, a fun blend of 'all seven grape varieties permitted by the D.O. including Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha, Mazuelo and the three white varietals Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanco.'

GOLDEN STATE WINE CO. Vina Herminia, a somewhat veggie Rosado, and a very nice earthy Tempranillo, both 2012.

Among the La Rioja Alta line was a 2004 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial with barnyard and a little spicy heat.

QUINTESSENTIAL WINES. Bodegas Muriel Reserva - Balanced, smooth, spice and berry. Fine representative of Bodegas Muriel’s 100% Tempranillo line.

Having had Vina Eguia before, I had to try their 2008 Crianza. Cherry, oak and a little licorice. Ready now, can wait longer, too, and also reasonably priced for regular drinking.

SHAW ROSS. Marques de Riscal Reserva 2006 with small percentages of Mazuelo and Graciano blended with the Tempranillo to take off the edge. A little barnyard to the nose. Nice balance.

BODEGAS ONTANON. Vetiver Blanco Viura 2010 - refreshing change-up after tasting a lot of Tempranillos. Ecologico 2009 - an organic Tempranillo, quite pleasant and smooth. Crianza, Reserve and Gran Reserva - nice standard Tempranillo assortment.

BODEGAS RIOJANAS. Vina Albina reserve 2005 with 15% Mazuelo and 5% Graciano, and a Monte Real Reserva 2005. These had a stepped wood aging process of a number of months in fairly new oak, then another few months in a more used oak and again in an even more used oak. The result was quite smooth wines. There was also a 100% Graciano with nice earth/barnyard notes.

Final subtle 'dessert' was Viña Albina Semi Dulce 2011, 90% Viura, 10% Malvasía. Delayed harvest with slight overripening. Natural fermentation in new American oak barrels. Four months stay over lees with daily bâtonnages (stirring). Just a touch of sweet but not overpowering in the least.

I skipped a lot of the younger Crianzas and tasted mostly the softer Reservas. I found a number of the wines with small amounts of Graciano, Mazuela or Garnacha blended in which seemed to soften the Tempranillos and add certain earthier notes. There were also a few 100% Gracianos scattered among the tables. Several refreshing Rosados were also around, made not only from Tempranillo but also from the other Spanish grapes and blends.

So thanks again to the ever-energetic JD! Next up, a recap of the Wineaux South African tasting. Cheers!

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