October 30, 2009

Marques de Caceres - Rioja - 1987

Tempranillo / 1987
Rioja / Spain

Every once in a while a bottle of wine falls through the cracks. The more wine you have, the easier it is to lose one in the mix of racking and case boxes. Annually I go through my wines to try to find these sneaky bottles and get them back to where they belong.

Sometimes I am highly disappointed when I find a nice bottle of wine and realize it has been lost too long, and is probably too old to enjoy. This is a bigger problem with white wines that generally have a much shorter shelf life.

Two years ago I came upon a bottle of Spanish Rioja from Marques de Caceres while organizing my racks. It was a "Riserva" bottling from 1987. I remember purchasing this while in Spain with my wife in 1992. These wines are generally released late, after cellaring at the estate from 3-5 years.

I probably spent $20 on this bottle in 1994. At that time, this was the upper range of what I was willing to spend on a wine, and an indulgence. I thought it would be a nice bottle to open a few years later to remember the great time we had in Spain.

Well, the wine was put on racks when we got back to Annapolis waiting for the appropriate occasion. In 2000, my family an I moved to Potomac, Maryland - and all of the wines got packed in mixed boxes for the move. Once we got into the new home, the boxes (About 50 boxes) sat against the basement wall.

As they say - Best laid plans......the boxes stayed against the basement wall until I build my wine cellar 3 years ago. At that time all of the wines were racked, catalogued, and organized to a degree so I could find the wines I was looking for. This poor Rioja popped out of a box - already 17 years old.

I put this wine and about 20 other bottles on a rack outside of the wine cellar to make vinegar. (Like I have time to make vinegar). There they have sat for 3 years - lonely, dusty and neglected.

Last week I invited some good friends over for wine, food and fun. While trekking down to the cellar for some more wine, my friend Fernando saw the neglected bottle of Rioja on the Vinegar shelf. When I told him the story, he wisely said "Why don't we open it?". Worst case would be it was bad, and we could dump it out. What a fabulous idea!

With much fanfare we opened the bottle. After carefully removing the cork (Which was in remarkable condition), a quick sniff led me to believe we may have gotten lucky. I poured the wine - a little darker then a normal Rioja - but this was older then a normal Rioja. I smelled dark fruit and a touch of prune on the nose. The wine tasted great. The fruit was still there - blackberry, currant and red bramble fruit mixed with leather and a bit of sherry. The wine was certainly beyond its prime. It was very thin and not near as supple as a peak Rioja should be. For 20 years old, it was a winner.

So what is the lesson in all of this? First of all, never assume a wine is bad. It is always worth giving it a try. My friend Fernanado and I now have a good story to share regarding a great night with friends, and a fabulous Rioja that was long left for dead. Depending upon how a wine is stored, you can sometimes get longer life then expected from a wine. If you have a strong vintage, the tannins in a wine may preserve it for much longer then you expect. Once in a while, there is no explanation. Even after sitting for 3 years on the Vinegar shelf, this humble Rioja had its 15 minutes of fame.

October 23, 2009

Review - Juan Gil - Monastrell - 2006

Spain / Jumilla
90pts / $18.00

When you love wine, you can't help surrounding yourself with others with the same passion. I meet quarterly with friends in Virginia to taste wine, eat good cheese and most importantly catch up on each others lives.

Two weeks ago Barbara hosted our quarterly event. The theme was blue cheese and our favorite wine since out last meet.

We had a fantastic time, as usual, but Barbara sent me home with a bottle of wine she was very impressed with. She and I have similar tastes, so I could not wait to try it out.

This wine poured a beautiful dark purple and coated the glass. It had smoky earth, blueberry and violets on the nose. It smelled delicious. The wine was medium bodied, typical of a Jumilla monastrell. The flavor notes were black cherry, tobacco, with dusty tannins. It had good structure and was multi layered. The wine is delicious.

All of the major reviewers gave this wine 90+ points. It has enough structure to last a few years in the cellar, but may be too tempting now. What a great gift, and impressive wine.

The most impressive feature of this wine is the price. I have found it as low as $16.99 online. You can find it locally in DC from $18-$22. Don't miss this budget beauty. Back up the truck and buy it by the case!

October 6, 2009

Casal Garcia - Vinho Verde - 2008

Portugal / 2008
$6 - $9 / 88 points

About once a month I am asked to assist with choosing wines for a wedding. Usually I am asked to suggest "Good, but Inexpensive" wines for the bar and tables. Vinho Verde is always one of my top suggestions for white.

You can't beat Vinho Verde for easy drinking. Literally translated as "Green Wine," this Portuguese beauty, for me, is a white wine staple. Light, refreshing and inexpensive; this wine will change your perception of cheap white wine. It is a low alcohol classic that never ceases to surprise me.

This wine is wonderfully crisp and refreshing. It is light bodied with plenty of acid. It is easy to pair with most snacks and grilled food. Reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc, it has a nose of lemon and lime, fresh grass and a touch of earth. The wine is slightly effervescent. This is the trademark of a vinho verde. It tickles your tongue.

It is a simple wine. Light colored with little body, this wine is easy to quaff. The citrus is refreshing on the front end. There are also some tropical fruit and mineral notes on the finish, with not a lot in the middle. This wine should be served cold.

This wine is generally made from loureiro, trajadura and albarino grapes which are indigenous in Portugal. If the map looks like a persons face in profile, the wine is produced by the eyes and forehead.(See Map) The blend varies from producer to producer, but always includes these varietals. This wine is called Vinho Verde, because the wine is meant to be enjoyed while young. It is important that you check the label to be sure you are buying the latest available. Currently, you want the 2008 vintage.

The vintage on this wine is not found on the front label. You have to turn the bottle around and look for an important looking seal. Within the seal, it will tell you the vintage of the wine. The last time I reviewed a vinho verde, I got lots of e-mails from readers telling me how disappointed they were in the review. When we investigated further, we found they were drinking wine that was 2-3 years old. Believe me, you will love this wine. If you don't, I will give you odds that the bottle you have opened is old.

Have I told you the best news? Brace yourselves. This wine is less then $8 per bottle. You can find it as little as $5.99 if you look hard enough. At this price, you should be buying it by the case.

Vinho Verde is the Rodney Dangerfield of summer wine. Because of it's low price, it "Gets no respect." Don't wait as long as I did to try it. You will be glad you did!