2010 Bodegas Muga Rioja Blanco

2010 Bodegas Muga Rioja BlancoPrice: $13.00 via Bodegas Muja*

What They Said:

Per Wine Library “The 2010 Blanco is a blend of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia fermented in new French oak where it remained sur lie for 4 months. White flowers, mineral, melon, and mineral notes inform the nose of this tasty, lively, impeccably balanced wine. This lengthy effort is an outstanding value for drinking over the next 3-4 years.” – 90 Points, Jay Miller The Wine Advocate

What I Think:

(13%) 90% Viura, 10% Malvasia – Ripe, lifted citrus blossoms on the nose. Fuller bodied, juicy and lush on the palate with peach, tangerine and melon flavors. Turns a bit oily with a mineral driven acidity before the oak imparts a pleasant vanilla creaminess which leads to a tart, spiced, finish that lingers nicely. An interesting use of oak (this one is barrel-fermented) as it is clearly present but interplays well with the vibrant, ripe fruit. The end result is a wine that strikes a nice balance between the fruit, richness and acidity. At $13 or so retail this one shows some nice QPR.

Wine Geek Notes: 90pts Wine Advocate, 88pts Wine Spectator

Rating: Interesting (this one had a unique appeal that I look forward to trying again)

*This wine was received as a press sample.

Vina Valoria Rioja Flight with Vinos Unico

Vina Valoria Rioja Tasting MenuNow those of you that know Luis Moya (the founder of Vinos Unico) know that he is tireless. Be it touring on the 25 grapes bus, looking for new wineries to add to his portfolio or making more of his own wine he is always up to something… I’m guessing his friend knew the same when he decided to store the Vinfinity wine vacuum system in his garage while he looked for a new home for it here on the west coast. It didn’t take Luis long to start thinking about how he could put it to use. And boy aren’t we glad he did!

So what did he come up with? How about a flight of Rioja spanning 4 decades? How about being able to taste the whole flight for ~$25? You can count me in! As I’ve yet to find my wine sugar daddy with that well stocked cellar that is looking for an apprentice to teach, if you are out there do leave a comment ;), I rarely get to taste aged wines. Given that we had two on offer here the pre-dated my birth and this was certainly quite the unique opportunity. The best news for those local to the bay area? This wasn’t a one and done event. These will be on offer at Sabor of Spain in San Rafael (tasting menu above) through the end of the year. A perfect way to treat yourself during the holiday week! If you do make it out there or have had these wines before I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And now to my notes starting with the white…

  • 2004 Viña Valoria Viura Rioja Crianza – (12.5%) 100% Viura – Dry and medium bodied with lively acidity and crisp apple and lemon flavors. The mid-palate shows a firm mineral structure with an interesting beeswax overtone. This one sees some neutral American oak which integrates nicely on the finish with hints of spice. Definitely a food friendly offering this one would go well with some seafood off the grill. If you aren’t familiar with the style of Rioja Blanco this one can serve as a classic introduction…

And now (via photo) allow me to introduce the reds…

Vina Valoria Rioja Flight with Vinos Unico
  • 2005 Viña Valoria Rioja – (12.5%) 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, and 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) – Medium colored with meaty notes, a bit of musty oak and loads of dark fruit, mint and spice on the nose. Juicy cranberry flavors greet you on the palate with nice acidity. The mid-palate is dry and leather with some tannic bite around the edges. The finish is warm and comforting. This one would have showed better had it been paired with food and will very likely improve with a few more years in the bottle.
  • 1992 Viña Valoria Rioja Gran Reserva – (12.5) 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, and 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) – Medium red in color at its core this one turns orange around the edges. Such a fantastic nose with layered subtleties I could smell this one for hours. Light to medium bodied this one is classic Rioja with dried cherry and cranberry flavors. From there a tart, acidic structure emerges with underlying mineral notes that keep this one nicely balanced throughout. The finish here shows pepper, sage and nice tingly tannins. Smooth, round and delicious! I hope to encounter another glass, or better yet bottle, of this on sometime soon…
  • 1973 Viña Valoria Rioja – (12.5) 70% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano, and 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) – More fruit on the nose here than the ’92 but much less complexity on the palate and almost lacking in acidity. This one comes across as one dimensional and a bit flat. My thought was that it was beyond its peak but according to those in the know it is more likely this one has just shut down for a while and will be back to drinking well sometime soon. Based on others tasting notes it appears that may indeed be the case…
  • 1968 Viña Valoria Rioja – (12.5) 70% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano, and 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) – Brick red at its core turning to orange on the edges. A nice nose, reminiscent of the ’92 but much more subtle belying its age. Delicate on the palate this one showed layered flavors (meat, mushroom and more) on the palate with a soft acidity and mellow dark fruit on a smooth, lasting finish. Still so vibrant if you tasted blind you’d likely guess it was six years old before the 40+ years old it is…

And there you have it! In retrospect the two things I remember the most are the nose of the ’92 and the youth of the ’68. Hopefully I can make it over there to experience these one more time before they disappear. As mentioned above, if you do the same let me know your thoughts…

2006 Campo Viejo Tempranillo Crianza

2006 Campo Viejo Tempranillo CrianzaPrice: $9.99 imported by Pernod Richard

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “This blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo is an intense ruby red wine with aromas of black fruit and vanilla. Velvety and elegant, it’s an old world wine with a new world attitude, and it is downright addictive with roasts and firm cheeses.”

What I Think:

Given I’ve been having a rough patch with Tempranillo of late when I was offered the opportunity to sample this Campo Viejo which is the gold standard for a value offering in this category I didn’t hesitate to accept. Random aside, do you know what Crianza indicates? I didn’t but Wikipedia did. Spanish wines are often labeled based on their ageing. The three most common designations are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Crianza is aged two year with a minimum of six months in oak, Reserva three years with a full year in oak and Gran Reserva five years with eighteen months in oak. That requirement for two years of ageing makes this 2006 the current release from Campo Viejo. There some wine trivia for you. Now let’s get back to the wine.

Dark fruit and spices on the nose with barrel notes omnipresent throughout. This wine is warm and comforting on the palate with soft cherry and floral notes. It almost reminds me of wrapping up in a familiar blanket on a cold winter (or San Francisco summer) night. The mid palate shows a firm acidity to keep this one nicely balanced before giving way to a creamy vanilla finish laden with barrel notes and sour cherries. A simple, enjoyable wine that it is widely available and better yet affordable. Given that you can always consider this a safe choice when you have paella (or a simple BBQ dish) on the menu. Also a great place to start if you’ve yet to try Tempranillo. How about you? Anyone out there have a favorite Tempranillo of their own to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Rating: 12th Bottle

*as indicated above this wine was indeed received as a sample

2004 Montebuena Rioja

Price: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by J & D Selections

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “90 points Robert Parker: “A contender for best value in my Spanish tastings, this delicious Rioja is dark ruby in color, with aromas of earth, spice, and red fruits. It has surprising depth, ripe, smoky, cherry flavors, light tannin, and an excellent pure finish. This terrific bargain can be enjoyed over the next 2-3 years.” (02/07)”

What I Think:

While I gave my guests the option of the Gewurztraminer or this one, there was no doubt which was going in my glass. This was part of the two case set I bought back in early May from K&L. The results for this group had been favorable to date. Given that I had recently red that Rioja and Merlot were the food friendliest red wines I figured with enchiladas on the table we give this one a go. On the nose this seemed hot and showed spiciness with light fruit lingering on top of a drier backbone. On the palate these light fruits continued to lead the way. I caught hints of cherry and some lighter berries flavors that had a light touch of brambles towards the mid-palate. There was no fruit that made it to the finish as this wine faded quickly and ended spicy and dry. A nice wine, but despite what they said there is nothing to get excited about here. It must be a bad career move not to agree with Parker, especially given the praise he lavished above. Fortunately, I have a day job as I much prefer this Barahonda Carro Tinto (to which he also gave 90 points) I had a while back. Perhaps I am wrong. We will get a chance to see soon as there is still another bottle in the rack. I’m guessing Parker is the safer bet for your money in that showdown.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Marques de Caceres Rioja Dry White Wine

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Vineyard Brands

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Very clear and bright straw colour. Aromas of pears, white flowers and mineral notes come through on the nose. Very pleasant in the mouth where delicious flavours of pears and apples blend with finesse with this wine’s fresh racy character. Very good length.”

What I Think:

Hmm, guess I should have looked at these labels along time ago. For at least three years I thought that these bottles were from Marques de Riscal. In this process of this discovery I also once again was amazed at the values TJ’s can offer, this bottle is on sale for $7.99 (from $9.99) on wine.com

Once I sorted that out I needed to figure out exactly what Viura grapes were all about as this one is 100% Viura grapes. It turns out that this is the same grape used to make Cava, interesting. I started off with this one too cold again, after some nice hand rubbing it began to show some character. First thing you notice in the mouth is that it has a nice weight/texture on the tongue. The mid-palate reminds you of everything refreshing. It is fresh, simple and crisp before it fades to a tangy, lemony finish that is quite tart, it make you almost pucker. Initially it reminds me of a poor man’s sauvignon blanc and I get to thinking about what it would look like next to the Kono bottling from New Zealand. The Kiwi offering sure has a lot more versatility. We had this one with seafood and I wouldn’t want to pair it with much else. Given that I know the Kono is better, but by how much? Enough to justify the cost?

I asked my wife what she thought and before I told her the price she said she would buy it again, when I told her the price, she said no doubt! I wasn’t quite as excited as she was but this will obviously find its way home again as she does more of the shopping than I do.

There is still some left in the bottle as I type this, should there be any changes I will be sure to pass them along.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2002 Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva

Price: $11.99 @ Friend/Gift imported by Shaw Ross International Importers

What They Said:

Per the winery “The reserva wines of Marqués de Riscal are made principally from Tempranillo vines which are over 15 years old. This is a variety that ages well in wood, producing wines with a good tannic structure, colour and acidity. The reserva wines of Riscal spend approximately two years in American oak barrels, forming a wine that adheres to the principles of classic Rioja wines.

Aroma: Slightly closed initial impression on the nose but quickly opening up to reveal ripe fruit and vanilla notes.
Colour: Intense colour with a crimson rim and a deeper more concentrated ruby red core.
Palate: In the mouth, the initial impression is of freshness from the acidity with soft ripe red fruits and and American oak on the mid palate. The wine has good concentration and length.

What I Think:

Another wine with which I have an illustrusious history. This was one of the first ever upscale bottles I though I ever bought. At the time I was close to fresh out of college and was living in Germany for a spell. My time there was winding down so I started bringing back some wine with each visit. This one made it home and with the fancy wrap managed to age for some time. At least four years later I made some paella for friends, still might be the best meal I ever cooked, and we had that bottle of wine with it. Ever since I always look at this longingly at TJ’s before moving on because of the price tag. We were lucky enough to have some friends bring it over for dinner and it was certainly good but I seem to remember it being much better. I wouldn’t hesitate to get the bottle againn, but it would have to be to go with the paella.

Rating: Pricey