Our lunch group met recently to enjoy some fine Spanish Rioja Gran Reservas from 2005 and older at our monthly venue, the Santa Barbara Club.
Although we usually do some form of Spanish wines around this time of year in honor of the local Spanish Days celebration, we moved it up a month since Monica Nogues of Think Global Wines and a representative of R. Lopez de Heredia from Spain is back in town and able to attend.
Chef, Humberto Perez, is especially adept at preparing Mexican food and on this occasion, he put together a fantastic menu to oblige our theme with an all Spanish menu. As a friend seated nearby stated, this is the best Mexican restaurant in town. That may be a stretch, but I have been blessed with many wonderful dishes aside from the set menu to respect my preference for lacto vegetarian fare and the tamales, enchiladas and green chile pepper dishes are to live for. I can honestly say, it`s as good as any of the better local Mexican restaurants.
The menu for the masses:
Gazpacho Amarillo and Dungeness crab
Beets/ arugula salad with fried goat cheese and lemon pepper dressing
Lamb lodoso stew with fingerling potatoes
Mar`y tierra paella shrimp, mussels, clams, sausages and grilled salmorego
Smoked idiazabal mitica, gorgonzola picante mitica igor, queso Sudado Don Mariano, murica curado mitica, mitica mahon young, manchego, tipsy toast and iberico
Flan and homemade churros with chocolate sauce
The wines for the masses:
First flight of 3 whites:
2001 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA TONDONIA BLANCO RESERVA RIOJA- herbal, almost Sauvignon Blanc like aromatics with a hit of lanolin and talc, apple and pear fruit served up in a creamy texture and contributing to the long lasting finish; very fine wine.
2002 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA TONDONIA BLACN RESERVA- similar and yet different from the 01`, this had lemon lime grassy notes and a slight hint of petrol along with a similar lush and creamy texture and delayed ending.
1948 LA RIOJA ALTA RIOJA BLANCO EXTRA- not similar to the first 2; it had a golden brown color, was a bit oxidized, but not to deter from some fine attributes including aromatics of nutty caramel, tastes of peach, butterscotch and almond butter and an ultra creamy rich mouthfeel which was almost syrupy but not quite; there`s much to like here.
Second flight of 4 reds:
2004 LA RIOJA ALTA GRAN RESERVA 904 ROIJA- very fine spicy cranberry and red cherry fruit which dissipated a bit by mid palate, but still held on to please for the fruity component; again the hallmark was the so creamy texture and long finish.
2005 LA RIOJA ALTA GRAN RESERVA 904 RIOJA- 1 of 2 bottles with this one opened and poured; lots of wild red cherry notes with some dark chocolate and coffee accents; a step more complex than the 04` and another one with such wonderful mouthfeel.
2005 LA RIOJA ALTA GRAN RESERVA 904 RIOJA- decanted in advance; I got some tart red cherry at first before it moved into a sweet red cherry expression with similar chocolate and coffee notes; delicious as was the first bottle as well as being delivered in a creamy rich texture; not much difference between the 2 with a slight edge for this one.
2004 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA TONDONIA RESERVA RIOJA- this had a totally different profile than the 3 above it and for the better; the nose had some dried red cherry notes and the taste was redolent of spicy cinnamon sweet red cherry berry fruit; it was lush and creamy with a long finish; best of the 4 wines by far especially from the tasty sensory element.
Third flight of 4 reds:
2004 HEREBAD de BAROJA GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- lots of fruity goodness here with a special slant toward talc and sandalwood laced red and black cherry/ berry notes with sweet, oaky red cherry dominating by mid palate on; wonderful soft and creamy texture and a lingering finish.
2001 FAUSTINO GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- presented in the traditional and readily identifiable frosted green glass bottle with the wire cage wrapped around it, this seemed fully mature from the darker color and more evolved fruit profile; the nose was suggestive of an Amarone, the taste had more spicy raisiny mature flavors and the viscous texture coated the palate with a significant soft and lush mouthfeel.
1994 LAN CULMEN RESERVA RIOJA- the aromatics had some veggie, bell pepper character which lasted only in the nose before being replaced by nice oak infused black cherry/ berry fruit which turned this around and made for a pleasant treat; it was medium to full bodied and stayed on the palate for a grand finale.
1991 MUGA PRADO ENEA GRAN RESERVA- this was a taste treat full of spicy sweet red cherry showing up in the nose and continuing on; nice feel and length as well; good wine.
Fourth flight of 2 reds:
1970 FRANCO ESPANOLAS ROYAL GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- one of my favs of the day, this was in perfect condition with wonderful balance and a high degree of elegance; medium bodied, it gave modest amounts of plum and cranberry fruit, had a pleasing texture and length; amazing wine.
1989 LA RIOJA ALTA GRAN RESERVA 904 RIOJA- excellent wine; spicy vanilla laced red and black fruit in nice balance with a medium to full body and a consistent sensory treat all the way through; has the structure and backbone to age for a long time with continued treasures forthcomoing.
Fifth flight of 3 reds:
2010 HNOS PEREZ PASCUAS VINA PEDROSA LA NAVILLA RIBERO del DUERO- 100% Tempranillo; a deviation from our Rioja GR 05` and older theme and brought by Monica as this and the following wines are in her portfolio; young, vibrant fresh red and black fruit forwardness that should balance out in time; it had good structure and I expect this will mature into something special down the line.
2009 HNOS PEREZ PASCUAS VINA PERDROSE GRAN RESERVA RIBERO del DUERO- 90% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; this was big and full bodied with generous amounts of fresh black cherry, black currant and a bit of dried cherry notes accentuated by vanilla, mocha, wood oak and spice; it`s delivered in a lush creamy texture and although very good now, there`s lots more to come.
1991 VEGA SICILIA UNICO GRAN RESERVA RIBERA del DUERO- unbelievable wine with everything going for it; expansive fruit profile, finesse and power wrapped up in the same package; perfectly balanced, it gave and gave up its treasures from the nose through the tail; sweet tannins, vanilla and spicy red cherries and more; it was an absolutely fabulous, complete experience; my WOTD.
Sixth flight of 3 reds:
1981 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA VINA BOSCONIA GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- almost on the edge of some bricking; delightful, fruity, dark cherry/ berry with a streak of wildness peaking through; it seemed this bottle was just a bit closed and perhaps has some major benefits to offer at another time; it is certainly worth a second look and bottle variation to be considered as well.
1954 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA VINA BOSCONIA GRAN RESERVA- this bottle had an amazing still young and viable deep dark purple color; the fruit profile had some nice black currant as well as some sweet grapey notes that were delicious; it finished somewhat on the dry side; but offered enough joy for long enough to make for a good experience.
1991 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA VINA BOSCONIA GRAN RESVERA- this was really good giving some peppermint, wild cherry berry notes which carried on through the finish; it had good texture, depth and complexity and was a fruity taste treat.
Seventh flight of 2 dessert wines:
2007 KRACHER TBA #10- 375 ml; another gift from our prince of sweets, this bottle had a mid maple brown color and a taste of apricot nectar; it was thick and creamy and sweetness on top of sweetness.
1930 OLIVARES DULCE MONASTRELLE JUMILLA- 750 ml; made from Mourvedre as we know it, this bottle had a dark brown color, serious butterscotch and maple flavors with a nutty almond overtone served up in a sticky, gooey substance that coated the palate and finished like a cream sherry; it might have been better served with a teeth scraper.
Just another day at the office for more Spanish wine explorations from young to old and back again. Frequent sharings by Monica throughout the lunch provided much welcomed education and furthered my study of wines from Spain. One of the revelations she shared had to do with the wire covering many of the bottles had. It was one of the means to protect the original bottles from being tampered with as well as to hold the cork in place. It`s considered bad luck to remove them; I had done so on a few occasions previously and will not do so in the future.