Visit to Vega Sicilia
June 25, 2009
We got home last Friday night after visiting fourteen Spanish wineries in twelve days. Twelve long hedonistic days of a no-holds-barred food and wine tasting extravaganza. Exactly my kind of travel. Now home, our cleansing diet of salad and water is already wearing thin…
Stay tuned for the next few weeks, because there’s a ton of great news from our trip. We visited Bodegas Jose Pariente and Martinsancho in Rueda; Emilio Moro, Bodegas Mauro, Bodegas Conde and Protos in Ribera del Duero. We spent the last 4 days in Rioja visiting Bodegas Muga, La Rioja Alta, R. Lopez de Heredia, Bodegas Ramon Ayala e Hijos, Remelluri, Bodegas Contino and Vinedos Sierra Cantabria.
I will never forget driving into the legendary estate of Bodegas Vega Sicilia. Established in 1864 when 18000 vine shoots from Bordeaux were planted here, they have been producing one of the world’s best and most mythical wines since 1915. No expense is spared in the pursuit of perfection, from the immaculate fermentation rooms, new French oak barrels which are replaced every year, down to the best available corks which are laboratory tested before using. Its 15000 kilo French oak fermentation vats are replaced every 5 years by a crew which is brought from Bordeaux. There is no resale market for the used vats so they are made into wooden boxes for the wines. The manicured grounds buzz with prosperity and quiet confidence.
Vega’s vineyard contains 19 different soils, four grape varieties and plots with varied microclimates. They continue to innovate. A new facility soon to open will house 64 fermentation vats, allowing micro vinification with each vat mirroring the vineyard plot.
The wines of Vega Sicilia
Three wines are made on Vega Sicilia’s estate in Ribera del Duero. Unico, only produced in great years, is typically made from 85% Tempranillo and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Unico is aged for 7 years in a combination of large oak vats and small French barrels. It can be cellared for up to 50 years. Valbuena is made each year from Tempranillo, Malbec and Merlot and can be cellared for 25 years. Reserva Especial NV is a blend of three vintages, produced in very limited quantities.
2001 Vega Sicilia Tinto Valbuena ($176.00) Unico was not made in 2001, so the best Tempranillo grapes were put into Valbuena. “Wonderfully perfumed, sharply delineated aromas of fresh red berries, cherry, rhubarb, roasted coffee and vanillin oak. Supple, lush and sweet, with medium to full body, a complex array of red and dark fruit flavours, exotic spice accents and fine-grained but firm, youthful tannins.” 92 points Stephen Tanzer, 93 points Robert Parker
1996 Vega Sicilia Unico ($366.00) Vega Sicilia is characterized by unbelievable finesse, silky tannins, black fruit, structure and balance. “Complex, heady bouquet of kirsch, candied plum, cured tobacco, licorice, dried rose and cedar. Pungent herbal notes build with aeration and repeat on the palate, adding complexity to the deep, ripe cherry and dark berry liqueur flavors. Remarkably elegant wine with precise cherry/berry flavors and a slow-mounting mocha quality on the long, sappy finish. There’s a very impressive interplay of fruit and tannins here.” 94 points Stephen Tanzer, 93 points Wine Spectator
1998 Vega Sicilia Unico ($400.00) ” Exotic aromas of red and dark fruits, iron, dried flowers, cured meat and tobacco are strongly reminiscent of a top vintage of Chateau Haut-Brion. Luscious cherry and cassis flavors display a superb balance of depth and structure, offering noteworthy power but a weightless quality that is simply uncanny. Candied flowers, smoky minerals and vanilla bean add complexity and extend through an endless finish. I’d love to sneak this into a tasting of 1998 Saint-Emilion and Graves wines in ten years or so.” 96 points Stephen Tanzer, 98 points Robert Parker
2003 Pintia, Toro ($50.00) Made from 100% Tinto de Toro, this is from Vega Sicilia’s estate in Toro. The first vintage was 2001. ” The 2003 Pintia (100% Tinta de Toro aka Tempranillo) is a powerful, opaque purple effort that spent 12 months in new French oak. The expressive nose offers toast, vanilla, charcoal, and blue and black fruits which jump from the glass. There is a boatload of tannin but more than enough fruit for balance. Currently the 2003 is tight, firm, and a bit austere but a few years of bottle age should bring things into harmony.” 92 points Wine Advocate
Pulque La Lucha– Frieda Kahlo’s drink of choice!
Framani brand Salametto Piccante chorizo: Brick-red in color and seasoned with pimenton de la Vera. Piquant and slightly smoky. About 12 inches long, 3/4 pound. Slice in 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick pieces.
Zoe Meats Chorizo, Locally Made, No Nitrates: We sold out of our first order in 4 days and quickly reordered. A favorite of local chefs, Spanish Table customers and staff! Rich red texture, smoky, earthy, sweet and tangy. Perfect for tapas, paella and Bocadillos.
Our Favorite Queso Reggianito is finally back in stock! $9.99/lb
Garrotxa Bauma is a special young Artisanal Garrotxa from Catalonia. This particular Garrotxa is exceptional with nuances of nuts and flowers and hints of thyme and rosemary. The texture is smooth and velvety with a long grassy finish.
Vallee d’ Aspe is a wonderfully earthy raw milk sheep and cow’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees. This mature Basque region artisanal cheese has well balanced hay tones with a vibrant tanginess.
Bottarga is the salted and dried roe of gray mullet and tastes of iodine and light fermentation. It is a flavor agent that plays off other ingredients, great on summer salads, pastas, or beans. “Try it sprinkled over fresh oysters.” Eric Stone
Matiz Fig cake ($7.99). A perfect complement with sheep milks cheese.
Veigadarte, now $22.99/lb. The soft ripened tangy goat cheese from Leon.
Fermentation vats at Bodegas Alion
2002 Alion, Ribera del Duero ($48.00 special price!) One wine is produced at Vega’s separate estate, Bodegas Alion. 1991 was the first vintage of this Bordeaux-style modern wine made from 100% Tempranillo. Half of the grapes come from the Vega Sicilia estate; the other half from Alion vineyards. “While 2002 was a lesser vintage, you would never know it from tasting the 2002 Alion, Saturated purple in color, it offers up an exotic nose of coconut, espresso, herbs, black currants and cherries. Rich and complex on the palate with lots of glycerine and layers of black fruit flavours, it has a pure, long finish that goes on and on.” 94 points Wine Advocate
2004 Alion, Ribera del Duero ($82.00) “The 2004 Alion is inky purple-colored with an alluring perfume of toasty oak, lavender, violets, mineral, blackberry, and blueberry compote. This is followed by a full-bodied, rich, opulent, wine with incipient complexity, and notes of licorice, mocha, and espresso emerging on the palate. The lengthy finish is pure and persistent. Give it 3-5 years in the cellar and drink it through 2025.” 96 points Wine Advocate
Last call for Padron Pepper plants! We’re waiting for the crop in Oregon to get ripe so that we can offer these tasty peppers. In the meantime, we’re harvesting padron peppers from our own plants, thanks to the warm June weather. We’ve still got a few plants left. $4.99 each.
Stop in soon and we’ll give you some travel tips for Ribera del Duero and Rioja.
Sharon Baden & Steve Winston, Owners