Rioja + Stew = Wine & Food Love

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

I posted yesterday about how, on the Monday of President’s Day weekend, I went for an early hilly run before spending the afternoon watching the 2014 Olympics, knitting, and enjoying the Selkirk Abby Infidel.  While I was being lazy, Hubby made a new beef stew recipe in the slow cooker.  As the condo started smelling more and more delicious throughout the day, I had the idea that it would be fun to not only pair dinner with my beer, but also to try it with wine.

2011 Viña Zaco Rioja

2011 Viña Zaco Rioja

The 2011 Viña Zaco Rioja (winery, snooth) is a red wine by Bodegas Bilbainas made in Rioja, Spain with Tempranillo grapes.  The wine was a deep purplish ruby.  On the nose, there were black cherries, plums, and blackberries with hints of violets, fennel, vanilla.  In the mouth, there were black cherries and blackberries mixed with hints of vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, and coffee.  The wine was medium-to-full bodied, with medium-to-high acidity and tannins.

While it’s probably not surprising to those of you who regularly do beer pairings, the stew was amazing with the Infidel.  In fact, when I first tasted the two together, I had no doubt that the beer was going to win the food pairing taste-off.  And, then I tasted the Viña Zaco with the stew…and wow.  On it’s own the wine was very fruit-forward, but when put together with the stew, the spice-focused characteristics really came through.  In fact, pairing the two really brought out a depth of flavor in each, emphasizing the cumin and bay leaf in the stew, as well as the clove, nutmeg, and coffee in the wine.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  With an SRP of $15, this is a wine worth buying several bottles of—both to enjoy now and to cellar for the next several years.  For wine lovers who like to puzzle through a wine, this one offers a lot of complexity that begs for another taste while trying to identify each characteristic.  For wine lovers who prefer to just sit back and enjoy, this wine is well-balanced and food-friendly, so it is easy to do that, too.   The Viña Zaco Rioja is an all-around solidly good wine that is affordable and tasty.

Question of the Day: When you open a wine or a beer, do you think about the food you’re eating with it or do you generally choose your drink independent of food options?  

Suggested Retail Price: $15
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4 Corks

Travels & Tapeña

***I received this wine as a sample***

2008 Tapeña Tempranillo

It’s unusual for me to travel for work, so when I was offered the opportunity to go on an overnight trip with colleagues from other offices, I jumped at the chance.  Last Monday was a travel day, but Tuesday was an action packed workday.  There were 15 of us being driven around Madison, WI, on a white shuttle bus.  After each site visit, we piled back onto the shuttle, eager to discuss what we just witnessed.  Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, the discussions revealed that there were a number of different interpretations of what we saw, and in some cases, the visits lead to more questions than answers.  After 7 hours of touring, our group climbed onto the shuttle for the last time and headed to the airport to return to DC.  By the time I walked in the door of our condo, it was after 10:30pm.  I opened a bottle of Tempranillo and eagerly sat on the couch to tell Hubby about everything I learned during my 36-hour trip.

The 2008 Tapeña Tempranillo (winery, snooth) was 100% Tempranillo and a deep, purplish ruby color.  On the nose, there were plums, earth, and a hint of tobacco.  In the mouth, there were dark fruits and earth with a hint of tobacco and violets.  The wine had medium tannins, acidity, and body.

Is this worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll have a decent, reliable glass of wine. At a suggested retail price of $10, this wine is an inexpensive and very solid, food-friendly choice.  It doesn’t have the strong savory characteristics that I generally love in a great Tempranillo, so if that is what you’re looking for, this wine isn’t for you.  However, if you’re new to the grape or looking for a Tempranillo with a good quality-price ratio, the 2008 Tapeña is worth considering.

Price: $10 (suggested retail)
Received as a sample
Overall: 3 Corks

Wines from Around Catalonia

After learning about and tasting Cavas during the second day of The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course, Jesus Bernard powered through the various areas within Catalonia. Considering that Catalonia includes well-known Spanish regions like Penedès, Priorat, and Monstant, there was not only a significant amount of viticulture and vinification information, but also a lot of history that significantly impacted this wine growing region. It was very interesting, but admittedly slightly overwhelming.

Because these regions within Catalonia have their own microclimate, soil and vinification techniques, after discussing each regions unique qualities, we did three back-to-back tastings of wines from Catalonia. The first was a more general region overview.

Tasting #3 on Day 2

2.5 Corks

2006 Raimat Viña 32 Cabernet Sauvignon (winery, snooth)
Medium-to-dark ruby
Cocoa powder, blackberries, nutmeg, black pepper, and a touch of green pepper on the nose
Blackberries, black pepper, and blackcurrant leaf in the mouth
Medium acidity and medium-to-high tannins

3 Corks

René Barbier Mediterranean White (winery, snooth)
40% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeo, 30% Parellada
Pale lemon with a green tinge
Green apples and herbaceous on the nose
Lime, green apples, and a touch of thyme and basil in the mouth

3.5 Corks

2005 Crev de Lauit Segura Viudas
Pale gold with big legs
Peach, pear, and green apple on the nose
Wet stone, pear, and green apple in the mouth
Silky with medium acidity and a medium body

2006 Raimat Viña 43 Tempranillo (winery, snooth)
Medium ruby with flecks of purple
Very berry, licorice, and a touch of nutmeg, violet and smoke
Good tannins and medium acidity
Nice finish

Castilla y León and Ribera del Duero in the Evening

The first day of The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course ended with a comprehensive look at Castilla y León. For more than an hour, we watched videos, discussed the climate and soil types, learned about the white and red grape varieties, and talked about various food pairing options that match both the wine and the culture of the area.

There are 6 major regions of Castilla y León, all of which make wines that are worth a second look. Whether it’s the reds from Ribera del Duero, from Toro, from Bierzo, and from Arlanza; the rosé from Cigales, or the whites from Rueda, this region of Spain is one for the wine world to notice. Admittedly, wines from Rueda, which are made from the Verdejo grape, emerged as one of my new favorite types of wine, so expect to see more in the future. These wines were reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc, but with a little more body and very strong acidity.

Tasting #4 on Day 1

Castilla y León

The Whites

3.5 Corks

2008 Analiva Pagos del Rey (snooth) from Rueda
Pale lemon gold
Pronounced grapefruit and lemon zest, plus grass, white pepper, and granny smith apples
Lime-like acid, very dry, medium body, long finish

4.5 Corks

2008 Shaya Old Vine Verdejo (snooth) from Rueda
Very pale lemon
Fresh cut green grass, grapefruit—overall, very light on the nose
Bright lemon and grapefruit, green apple, wet stone, minerals—overall, very rich in the mouth

The Reds

3 Corks

2006 Segundo Motivo (winery) from Toro
100% Tempranillo
Deep ruby with big legs
Black plums, smoke, cedar, earth, dust—almost dried out
Medium tannins and acid

2007 El Arte de Vivir (winery, snooth) from Ribera del Duero
100% Tempranillo
Deep ruby with flecks of purple
A little closed on the nose, so could have used decanting
Leather, raspberries, and violets on the nose
Sour cherries in the mouth
A little rough, not elegant, but enjoyable

3.5 Corks

2006 Tercer Motivo (winery) from Bierzo
100% Mencia
Very deep purple with big legs
Cherry, blackberry, mint, rosemary, and licorice
Fruity, but not complex
Medium tannins and acidity
A little different

2005 Condado de Oriza Crianza (snooth)
Very purple
Strong red fruit aromas—strawberry and raspberry—with a touch of white pepper
Big strong tannins and high acidity
Would pair well with lamb chops

Tasting #5 on Day 1
Ribera del Duero

2 Corks

2003 Valdubón Crianza (winery, snooth)
100% Tempranillo
Nice ruby color with garnet rim
Raspberries, strawberries, white pepper, and smoke
Medium tannins and acidity
Short finish—it just falls off a cliff

2003 Valdubón Reserva (winery, snooth)
100% Tempranillo
Ruby with garnet rim
Paprika, spices, and strawberries
Medium tannins and acidity
Something funny on the finish
Missing personality

3.5 Corks

2004 Honoris de Valdubón (winery, snooth)
100% Tempranillo
Deep purple with flecks of ruby
Vanilla and cherry
Strong tannins and high acidity
Long finish
Could definitely spend some time aging and will likely be beautiful in a few years
Pairing with heavily flavored meat might make it less aggressive

4.5 Corks

2005 Neo (winery)
Deep purple
Smoke, cedar, blackcurrant, blackberries, and touch of leather
Flavors border on jammy
Medium tannins, high acidity, surprisingly light in body

…and that was the end of Day 1 of my Spanish wine course!