Rewarded by Rioja Gran Reservas
May 28, 2009
My definition of rewarding: Scouring Madrid’s back alleys under dim street light, clutching a map, and finally stumbling into Casa Botin, the oldest restaurant in Europe. But alas, it’s full of tourists, and we start backing out the door. Then we spot the porcine room: shelves lined with splayed baby pigs in piglet-sized cazuelas. We are definitely eating here!! We order a Faustino Gran Reserva and discover that there is no better match for roast suckling pig than a Rioja. We eat. We drink. And, since that day in 1985, we are forever fans of Gran Reservas from Rioja.
Gran Reservas are not for fans of powerful, fruit forward wines. But for those who appreciate nuance, elegance and texture in their wines, there is absolutely no substitute. Every sip of a Gran Reserva is a history lesson, going back to the influence of Bordeaux winemakers in the 1800’s. But last week at the Vibrant Rioja tasting in New York, experts were predicting that in 5 to 10 years, probably no bodegas will be producing Gran Reservas! What, you exclaim, how can that be? The wine world is changing. And it is incredibly expensive and risky to craft a wine that will be aged for years before sale. So if you are a fan of these wines, get them while you can!
One of my best days ever was last week’s Vibrant Rioja event in New York. We tasted through 15 Rioja Gran Reservas from vintage 1964 through 2002, including the best recent vintages of the century (1964, 1981, 1982, 1994, 1995, 1996). We are lucky enough to have a couple of these in stock:
1964 Faustino I Gran Reserva ($189.00) 1964 was a miracle vintage. Consistently across Rioja’s varied terrunyo and microclimates, each bodega produced great wines in this vintage. The 1964 Faustino Gran Reserva is a stellar example of the classic Rioja. Seductive and elegant, its subtle flavors of cherry and plum are well integrated with soft grained tannins and a persistent finish that slowly fades. Wonderfully balanced with acidity, this the ultimate wine to serve with lamb.
2002 Campo Viejo Gran Reserva ($19.99) Great value! Campo Viejo has flavors of dry cherry, plum and baking spices which expand and gain complexity in the mouth. With moderate tannins and balanced acidity, it finishes smooth and long. Serve this with grilled pork tenderloin.
We have other outstanding Gran Reservas, including a 1968 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva ($327.00), 1991 Paternina Gran Reserva ($85.00), and a 1994 La Rioja Alta 890 Gran Reserva ($135.00).
Mezza Country Olive Hummus
Kalamata, black, and zesty green Mediterranean olives provide a complex flavor to this fresh silky textured hummus. A perfect summer afternoon snack $3.49
Anjou Bakery Fruit and Nut Crostini
The world’s best crostini comes from Cashmere, Washington. Who knew? These toasted wonders are made with a perfect blend of wholesome grains, nuts and raisins. My favorite way to enjoy them is with soft-ripened cheeses like Odre, the Catalonian sheep’s milk cheese. $8.49
Fine Cheese Co. Crackers
These savory crackers are a unique range of flavored artisan crackers that are designed to partner with specific cheeses. These are perfect complements for everything from Velvety Monte Enebro to full-throttle Valdeon. 5.99 ea.
Quicos de Chocolate
Chocolate covered corn nuts dusted with cocao. Need we say more: salty, sweet, crunchy, chocolatey and totally addictive. 9.99 lb.
Matiz Torta de Aceite Sugared with Almonds
These are our favorite Torta de Aceites. Now $5.99, usually $7.99.
NEW WINES THIS WEEK:
2008 Casal Garcia Rose Vinho Verde ($8.99) We love this rose! A beautiful raspberry color, it has the slight effervescence of a vinho verde with dry strawberry notes. Crisp, refreshing and lively, this is wonderful with spicy Thai food.
2008 MonteNovo Godello, Valdeorras ($12.99) The fruity and well crafted MonteNovo is fresh off the boat from Spain, and just in time for Seattle’s white wine season! Bright, with mouth filling minerality and lush stone fruit flavors, it is dry and crisp. The D.O. Valdeorras is in Galicia which is the epicenter of the Spanish fishing industry. MonteNovo is superb with any type of shellfish.
2006 Protocolo, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla ($7.99) Protocolo is a perennial Spanish Table customer favorite and the 2006 is a stunning bargain! The Eguren family are top winemakers who produce Sierra Cantabria wines in Rioja and until this year, Termes and Numanthia wines in Toro. Protocolo is a red table wine produced by the Egurens who have applied their top-notch winemaking skills in the land of Castilla. With warm aromas of berry, this 100% Tempranillo has a depth of vibrant black cherry flavors. Low tannins are balanced by acidity and a finish of licorice notes. Perfect for a backyard party or on a weeknight when you want a wine that won’t blow the budget.
2007 Paso A Paso Tempranillo, La Mancha ($9.99) The 2006 vintage was a fantastic under-$10.00-wine and quickly sold out. We’ve been waiting for months for the new vintage and it’s finally arrived! With all of the balanced fruit and robust aromas of the 2006, it is “Vivid purple. Complex aromas of cherry, anise, cracked pepper and pungent herbs; not many $10.00 wines have this much going on. Rich cherry and dark berry flavors are modestly concentrated but strikingly pure, showing impressive mineral snap…” 89 points Stephen Tanzer
2007 Espelt Saulo, Emporda ($9.99) This is a lot of wine for the price! A smoky nose with black fruit flavors, it made of 60% Grenache and 40% Carignan. “Strongly mineral aromas of vibrant cherry, blackberry, graphite and cracked pepper. Brisk and sharply focused, with racy cherry, mineral flavors and fine-grained tannins. A clean, brisk wine that offers impressive clarity and energy for the money.” 90 points Stephen Tanzer
For information about travel to Rioja, go to http://www.vibrantrioja.com/home.html
EVENTS THIS WEEKEND:
Flamenco: Carmona Flamenco and Guest Artist Ana Montes are performing at the Solstice Cafe on Saturday May 30 at 8:00 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. For information:(206) 932-4067 or visit http://www.fanw.org/
Pike Place Market Street Festival May 30-31: A benefit for the Market Foundation, the street will be filled with handcrafted artwork, live music, and delicious food. For more information, visit http://www.pikeplacemarketstreetfestival.com/
Have a great week, and we hope to see you soon!
Sharon Baden and Steve Winston, Owners