Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

4 cheers for me! Not 3 cheers, 4 cheers!  This is to toast my 4.0GPA after eight months of dedicated nostrils to the textbooks.  If i can keep my brain sharp over the summer by practicing on the software learned, sketching daily, and trying to get the jump on the material for Term 3 in September, fingers crossed I will succeed.

I have been tasting vino, cooking with vino, sharing vino experiences with friends and discovering many new vinos in the huge wine markets here in Minneapolis – more  than ever available at the LCBO’s largest stores in Ontario.

Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha 2007 is on the very edge of its cellarability and many retailers are trying to clear out old inventory.  This dusty bottle was discovered at Haskell’s in Apple Valley for ~$12.00USD.  Experience tells me this Spanish vino will be big.  Really rich and spicy on the nose but medium on the palate.

About an hour before dinner, I popped this baby open; just in case it needed decanting. Deep dark purple with slow thick legs! Jeepers!! This stuff is potent at 14.5% alc/vol! Rich nose of licorice, black fruits and a lingering whiff of cedar.  The mouth-feel is indeed medium and a little fiery as that alcohol stings the tongue a bit; tannic weight is medium too, so there’s not much puckeriness from that.  Swallow is smooth and slick leaving a moderate finish of chocolate and pepper.   I like it just as it is and it will pair perfectly with dinner, but i WILL decant to mellow out some of the alcohol’s sharpness…

We’ve scored some elk sausages so we’ll be grilling them up and topping them with tomato sauce (roma tomatoes, shallots, garlic and day-old baguette whizzed up in the food processor with a little (a lot) olive oil).  Elk is typically VERY lean, but with these sausages, there’s enough fat to keep the moisture content high.  Grilled just until the juices run clear then let to rest  five or so minutes.

The decanted Garnacha poured out into my now-favorite stemless glasses and passed around the table.  YUM!!!  Soft and mellow in the mouth without that harsh zing of alcohol, cleansing acidity against the sausage fat and tomato sauce.  Awesome.




**images credit:  “Haskell’s, The Wine People”  Reposted and linked in good faith.  Image is not the property of and is reposted under fair-use provisions for product review and critique.

Spain is the third largest wine producing nation in the world. Most notable to this vinoboy’s pallet are the glossy dark reds of Priorat, savory reds from Rioja, and  sparking whites from Cava. My friend “S” pointed this Barrica out to me on our recent trip to the Vintages section of our favorite LCBO.

This vino turned out to be a lot more of a complex challenge that I would’ve thought.  My tasting happened in what turned out to be three stages: immediate uncorked impression, one hour decanted, and next day.

Immediately after uncorking, I sloshed a generous portion of this Garnacha, Carineña, Cab. Sauv blend into a glass.  The deep deep deep red color would be the color of my next car if i had that option.  On the nose, the vino felt simple with basic scents of sour cherry and black pepper. Tannic on the palate with a subtle pine note on the short finish.  Not too bad.

About an hour later after cleansing my mouth with plain melba toast and water, the decanted portion was tasted.  The peppery nose had softened somewhat letting more hints of cocoa and currant come up.  Palate still feels a little grating and there’s a curious minerality on the moderate finish.

Next afternoon, the third-of-a-bottle I let rest in the recorked bottle was examined.  The aroma has definitely unwound to reveal a rather structured nose of raspberry jam and light tobacco.  This tobacco essence, reminding me of a relaxing Latakia-blended pipe smoke, carried through to a lengthy finish where the minerally/metallicy edge was very evident.

What have I learned from this vino?  Not sure yet.  I’m still digesting the notes I’ve taken and will probably add a bottle to my ever-increasing cellar to let rest for a while; maybe 5 years. My vino-peers seem to be mixed on this though – some are saying gulp it now, others are advising to lay down considerably.

Not a bad bit of vino for the LCBO/Vintages ~$17/blt on sale (regular price is ~$22).

Cheers from your just-back-from-vacation…



**image credit – culled from the results offered by a Google Images search.  No ownership is claimed or implied; reposted under fair use provisions for review and critique.

This calculated selection is the product of my enjoyment of Camp Viejo Crianza 2007, Rioja and my personal technique of exploring the various vinos from any particular region.  In this case, having enjoyed the Crianza which is the rich spicy toasty red and pretty much all Tempranillo, the rosé should be less dense, smoother, slightly sweeter and not wooded…

The winery itself is a fourth generation vineyard with the Faustino-Martinez family very much involved with the wine making, preserving the family integrity and unique character within this small region in Northern Spain.  Most prominent on the label is the portrait of who we can only assume is Eleuterio Martinez Arzok, who left his home village in search of a dream. He found it in Oyon, Alava where he bought a house and some vineyards and started making his own wines.

First off, the tall slender frosted bottle is beautiful!  A lovely watermelon pink in the glass, the 13%alc/vol produced some long legging when carefully swirled.  The nose is full of raspberry and light roses.  Almost creamy in the mouth, the raspberry turns jammy and smooth to refreshing finish.

Stimulating to the appetite, it didn’t take long for my guests and I to polish off this bottle with the baked penne Bolognese I prepared.  Find this vino in the Vintages section at the LCBO ~$13/btl.m  You may have to hunt for it as I’d found this tucked away in the corner of a lower shelf.




**image credit – Google Image search.  Please visit Bodegas Faustino and explore their website (annoying embedded music but can be muted).  Image re-posted under Fair Use provisions for review and critique.

Yay!  I am so excited to review my very first taste of the Rioja appellation from that tiny tiny tiny region in northern Spain. From all the study I’ve done in my vino learning, there exists some 150 wineries in this tiny 500 km² appellation!!¹

Why this vino of all the choices out there to serve with a baked chorizo rice dish served with toasted Bruschetta-topped baguette garnished with prosciutto?  I’ve NEVER had it before – that’s why!  I’ve read about it in various annals, seen it used on cooking programs on the telly, and heard mention of Rioja in a recent motion picture about pirates and their guzzle of choice; this is one vino i just could not bring myself to taste blindfolded.

Lusciously ruby in the glass (a lot lighter in color than I was expecting) a complex aroma of mixed red berries and rich spices, through the 13.5% alc/vol; fills the nose. An underlying layer of toasty vanilla, leather and cocoa compliment this toasty/woody complexity. Astonishingly light on the palate, tart flavors of black pepper soften to smooth velvety tannins and a long herbal finish with note of soft leather.

I can’t get over how smooth and soft this vino feels on the palate!  Certainly the initial shock of cracked black pepper is a drawback, but such a meaty robust red should have at least one ball-peen hammer-like detraction.  But no – this is smooth and easy-drinking, full and subtle with a sense of adventure at decent price tag.  LCBO/Vintage ~$15/btl




**image credit – the winery.  Reproduced under Fair Use provisions for review and critique


Why Spain? Why not? Nondescript labeling, not a shred of anything on the label as you can see by the bottle portrait other than the Spanish region of origin: Priorat.

Like other wines who take their names from the regions they’re made, Bordeaux for example, much of the regions’ traditions and winemakers’ skills are evident in these blends.  To vinify separately and then, in just the right amounts, blend together to create a wine worthy of its namesake? Truly an art seemingly unique to the Old World.

Deep, dense and beautifully red, this artful blend of grenache and carignan is richly scented with black fruits and coffee. Tangy on the palate, these black cherries, berries and darker flavors linger moderately with hints of anise more touches of coffee and tobacco.  The 14% alcohol content is expertly balanced by acidity and flavor and is neither breathy nor bouquet-evident.

As I’d never tried this vino before, I sipped it all by itself.  These big and bold flavors will, much like a good CabSauv, pair perfectly with red meats – maybe even something mushroomy and earthy like venison or mutton.

Please note that this particular vintage is at the upper limit of the vintner’s  suggested drinkable lifespan.  If you find any more of it at LCBO/Vintages for ~$18/blt, grab it, (decant it if you wish) and enjoy right away. Don’t cellar.




**image credit – the winery.  Republished under fair use provisions for review and critique.

For these festive times, your vinoboy is offering part two in my four-part series on Champagne and sparkling vino!

This second non-vintage offering is a sparkling Brut from the Cava region of Spain. Priced at ~$13/blt, this makes it ‘moderately priced’; and as this is a traditional method sparkler, that’s a great price for a hand-riddled vino. (Please see “Glass & Grub” for what this means…)  As with Champagnes, only wines from the Cava region can be called a Spanish “Cava”.  The Codorníu winery has been producing ports and grapas since the mid 1500’s and Cava blends since the mid 1800’s.

As I am not a huge consumer of lobster and scallops and other expensive fare, I normally save the sipping of sparkling vinos for special occasions. At this price-point, a bubbly can now be popped to celebrate any triumph of the day!  Just remember not to chill it too much and mask the flavors. (also remember to uncork in a controlled manner – mustn’t pop anyone’s eye out!!)

An enthusiastic mousse subsides quickly to reveal a moderately gold hue with small bubbles that emanate from only a few points on the inside surface of the flute. An interesting fruity nose is of  apples and pears; not something I’d’ve expected from a bottle second fermentation.  It medium body has flavors of crisp apples and under-ripe pears that carry through to the finish; the effervescence fills the mouth with a soft toasty sensation that’s rather cleansing.

A decent whole meal vino with crackers&cream cheese to start, clam chowder second, roast Cornish hens with an apple&walnut stuffing and a simple dessert of pot-de-Mascarpone & fig preserves.

Startlingly pleasant bubbly and one I have never tried until today. Would certainly recommend.




**image credit – found on a Google Images search, then edited in Adobe Photoshop to add the festive holly trim. There are so many bottle portraits out there, take your pick.