Dinner with 15 Spanish wines, some older, some younger, all good

A special dinner was planned around the bi-annual return to Santa Barbara by a dear friend, Monica Nogues, who reps for and lives near R. Lopez de Heredia in Spain. She has her own import wine business, Think Global Wine Selections, housed in SB.

Opal Restaurant was chosen as the venue and a tailored menu to pair with Spanish wines was put together by another dear friend and co-owner of the restaurant who has hosted us many times before.

The menu:

Opal`s sopa de ajo

1st appetizer
Duck confit and portobello mushroom ravioli with a sage brown butter sauce and toasted macadamia nuts

2nd appetizer
Sauteed fresh tiger shrimps and bay scallops scampi on a fresh herb risotto

Main courses
Beef short ribs ossobuco braised in a natural jus on a saffron risotto with fresh steamed vegetables

Pan seared fresh salmon filet with a tomato artichoke ragout with artichokes, Kalamata olives, red tomatoes, roasted garlic and homemade pesto served on a soft polenta

Vegetable Napoleon with a gorgonzola potato cake and wild mushrooms with grilled eggplant, seasoned garlic, spinach, grilled polenta and a roasted tomato sauce and fresh grated Parmigiano regggiano

Tahitian vanilla bean cream brûlée

But first champagne:

2014 JOSE DHONDT BLANC de BLANC BRUT mes VILLES VIGNES GRAND CRU OGER in magnum- my first 2014 and it showed pretty well; it had lots of sweet citrus notes delivered in a creamy lush texture; it had bright acidity and seemed quite sweet, but research discovered it was disgorged in May, 2016 with a dosage of 6 gpl; I would have guessed much more, say 10 gpl; nonetheless, it was rich and full bodied and a good palate prep for all to come.

2008 MESTRES CLOS NOSTRE SENYOR GRAN RESERVA CAVA- this had lots of Sauvignon Blanc like character early on with grassy and herbal notes as well as somewhat dry fruit; by mid palate, some nice and relatively sweet citrus shows up and then it all dried out at the finish.

I looked up the sugar grades and found: “Cavas come in a variety of sweetness levels and are classified into the following (in ascending order of sweetness):
Brut Nature: Contains 0-3 grams per liter of residual sugar where no sugar has been added to the bottle.
Extra Brut: Contains 0-6 grams per liter of residual sugar
Brut: Contains 0-12 grams per liter of residual sugar
Extra Seco (also – counterintuitively – referred to as Extra Dry): Contains 12-17 grams per liter of residual sugar
Seco (also referred to as Dry): Contains 17-32 grams per liter of residual sugar
Semi-Seco (Semi-Dry): Contains 32-50 grams per liter of residual sugar
Dulce (Sweet): Contains more than 50 grams per liter of residual sugar

The Cava name comes not from a place, grape variety or winemaking technique, but from the stone cellars (cavas) in which the wine is matured.

2008 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA ROSADO VINA TONDONIA GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- 60% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo, 10% Viura; red salmon color; it was graced with nice spicy mild red fruit notes in the nose and some sweet lemon zest joined in on the palate; served with a good chill. it was very refreshing and savory.

2006 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA VINA GRAVONIA BLANCO RIOJA- very light yellow color; this was notably sweeter than the Rosado and had a different taste profile which included mild strawberry, watermelon and chamomile; it was refreshing and easy on the palate and a great candidate for a mid summer hot day quaffer.

2015 FRORE de CARME ALBARINO RIAS BAIXAS- 100% Albarino; bright yellow color; also refreshing and elegant, this had nice chalky citrus notes with honey dew melon hints in the background; lemon lime was especially dominate and it finished on a high note.

1970 FAUSTINO V RESERVA RIOJA- made with Tempranillo and Cariñena {Carignan}; this got off to a good start with nice dried cranberry, cherry flavors; past mid palate, it dried out some and finish quite dry.

1973 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA VINA TONDONIA GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- as I understand it, Gran Reserva was not shown specifically on the labels for a certain number of years and just assumed to be, but I do not recall the time period; that is the case here where it was not noted; the color on this bottle was a bleached light red; the nose however, had much more promise with red cherry bursting forward; the taste profile did indeed have tertiary red fruit, but it was savory and enjoyable all the way through.

1970 MUGA GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- amidst a hit of Brett, the taste profile on this bottle was very enjoyable with tertiary dried red cherry/ berry fruit; it had decent feel and length albeit snowing lots of age in color, taste and weight.

1982 LA RIOJA ALTA 904 GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- from the most important vintage since ’64, this was not showing much age with its dark, pretty much primary purple color; it had very nice aromatics with spice and unexpected pepper accented dark fruit which on the palate translated into blackberry and cranberry; it was full bodied, had lots layered depth and complexity and held on for a grand finish; in nice balance, it was my fav red so far.

1995 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA VINA TONDONIA GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano; lots of fruit in this one with spicy undertones; more specifically, it had leather infused red cherry, cranberry and black cherry and my childhood movie going snack, jujube; there’s definitely some power and lots of fitness here; superb wine.

2004 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA VINA BOSCONIA RESERVA RIOJA- 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5% Mazuelo and Graciano; with its more Burgundian like style, I prefer Bosconia over Tondonia most of the time and here it gets paired with the 2 above and was distinctly a different animal; this is really youthful exuding lots of vibrant energy while showcasing its red and fruit forwardness; it was actually close to having a semblance of balance and should easily reach that level state in a few years; right now, its the flavors that standout from the nose through the tail.

2004 LA RIOJA ALTA GRAN RESERVA RIOJA- youthful color, big nose and huge taste profile with sweet and fruity red and dark fruit; lots of energy that time will tame; red cherry/ berry most prominent; needs a couple of decades and should be stellar.

2010 VEGA SICILIA VALBUENA 5 RIBERA del DUERO- made of Tinto Fino AKA Tempranillo with some Merlot; dark, inky opaque color; another big baby here with lots going on and time needed to evolve and mature; black currant, plum and blackberry with accents of cedar and clove; full on and yet has some finesse. Note to self: Do not open for a couple of decades, an example of life’s extension.

2006 HERMANOS PEREZ PASCUAS GRAN RESERVA RIBERA del DUERO- real young and really not ready, but shows so much promise to deliver big time goods once there; its loaded with oaky, smoky, herbal black fruit backed up with very stiff tannins that ensures longevity; it gave lots of early drinking pleasure, but by mid palate, it moved into a shut down phase and ended quite dry. A long decant would have helped.

2004 ALVARO PALACIOS FINCA DOFI PRIORAT- inky dark color; young and vibrant, this gives generous amounts of herbal, chocolate and liquorice laden blackberry and plum; its full bodied with lots of power and an intense tannic structure.

1972 BODEGAS TORO ALBALA DON PX GRAN RESERVA MONTILLA-MORILES- if I didn’t know better, i would have thought this was squid ink or molasses when poured; in fact, molasses flavor captured a lot of the taste profile along with maple; it was syrupy, good and maybe better on pancakes than in a glass; a little drop will do ya just fine.

This was another fine delving into the world of some of Spains finest and Moncia brings that out in us with each visit and embellishes it with lots of editorial comments. I’m becoming more enamored with the wines as time passes which surprises me with the immense amount of oak influence. Aged Spanish wines are the real deal IMHO and we had some beauties on this night.


Interesting …

A great souvenir at the domain in march 2015 :
Lopez de Heredia blanco GR 1973
Lopez de Heredia rojo GR Bosconia 1968

In Donostia, restaurant Ibaï, in 2013, I had an interesting ambitious Rias Baixas Frore de Carme 2009 (thought Pazo Senorans Seleccion de Anada).

Great lineup! Great notes!

I finally consummated a trip to Rioja {and Portugal} next Spring, my first time ever, and am hoping that Monicas connection will allow us to taste some LDH library wines. 68 Bosconia had to be wondrous if a good bottle.

really nice lineup! Great to see people drinking these!

Special report as always, Blake. Very lucky to have snagged 2 bottles of the 05 Tondonia Bianco recently, looking forward to opening one of them soon.

Also been fortunate to have the 04 Rioja Alta 904 on a few occasions. With the Gelbs, post-FallTac 2015:

“Saw this old friend in the store and wanted to try it too—it’s been many years since my last taste. And this unfurls beautifully in the glass. Aida gets a touch of dill and I see that too, but as it gains air, a delectable cocoa element supersedes that and mixes in with plum fruit. On the tongue, chocolate and bits of leather continue around plum and blackberry fruit and all is in its place and balance. This can probably go at least another 15-20 years but is delicious now with a bit of air in the glass. Wonderful with the lamb.”

From Atlanta in August 2015:

“This was my purchase, partly because I have one at home I wanted to check on and partly because I know what I’m getting. And no disappointment here. Rich cherry, chocolate and light cinnamon in the nuzzie. To taste, velvet, sweet but smooth, and with a spicy length. Plum and cherry, it’s very good, but needs meat at this stage of its career. No sign yet of any tertiary components.”

At Berto Dorta’s in October 2016

“This did ring my bell, as it usually does. Leather outlines to cocoa and berry scents. Very representative and smooth, it has a stern nobility and tangy and tart berry back-end. Sort of backs into being tasty. For me, a top-grade example of Rioja and many moons yet of life.”

Blake: An awesome lineup, as always! And needless to say quite jealous of the upcoming trip. If my one very memorable dinner hosted by Maria Jose at Cru nyc about 15 years ago is any indication, the hospitality will likely be off the charts.

I have had, or own, several of these wines, and the picture of the 70 Faustino in the glass had my mouth watering.

Earlier today I posted a very succinct summary of some older riojas from last night. As you said, the real deal.

Wow, what a dinner and wine experience. Thanks for sharing!

Good notes, good wines.

I’ve never noticed the words “Gran Reserva” being prominently printed on the labels even with current releases. I see it at the back of the bottle, on Rioja official stamp.

Don’t think Gran Reserva has ever appeared on the front label. Just Cosecha de ____.

Don’t remember the back but as Ramon stated, look on the stamp.

There was also no vintage identification on what has now morphed into the Reserva before I believe the 1982 release, maybe 1981, when there was a change in the DO regs. What I heard recently is Pedro, the current generation’s father, apparently wasn’t fond of identifying vintage even though they kept careful track of vintage internally, e.g., for their 6 Año bottlings.

Appreciagte your notes which are much more detailed and right on Mike.

I like off the charts- looking forward to that being the case.

Enjoy …
Old reds taste like old Burgundies.
Whites ar plenty, balanced with firm acidity, spicy, balsamic … (same fot Murrieta Castello Igay).

Nice write-up Blake! I’ve had mixed results with the ‘70s, but an Ardanza I had last year was still going strong. Have a few in store for a birthday next year, including the Faustino V so thanks for the note!

Did you happen to ask Monica about upcoming production of the Rosado?

I didn’t but will do and get back.

Actually, we had 16 Spanish wines. I left one out of the notes, so here tis:

1995 R. LOPEZ de HEREDIA VINA GRAVONIA BLANCO RIOJA- very fine wine here with nice apple and pear fruit with a hint of ginger, straw and white flowers in the background; it was elegant and easy on the palate with a nice white fruity ending.

great lineup, great notes!

In my notes on the 73` LDH GR, I stated “as I understand it, Gran Reserva was not shown specifically on the labels for a certain number of years and just assumed to be, but I do not recall the time period; that is the case here where it was not noted;”

So, I asked Monica to define this more specifically and here is her reply:

"Regulation started in the 70’s but first vintage really label as crianza etc for Rioja was 1980. If I do not recall wrong Lopez waited until 1982.

Before just said: 3er año, 5 año… meanning years of aging.

So 6 año meant longer aging so more equivalent to gran reserva."

I don’t think her last sentence is quite right. 6 año bottlings were distinct and my understanding is spent less time in barrel and bottle before release than the Gran Reservas (8-10 years in each before release the GR). I’m not sure if 6 Año is closer to today’s Reserva or GR. Although old 6 Año bottlings may very well have been the same juice as GR was otherwise (or different barrels of the same juice).

For example, there is a separate Tondonia Cosecha de 1964 (that’s the GR) and also 1964 6 Año that the winery bottled without putting 1964 on the label (I had it a few weeks ago :yum:). Haven’t had them side by side but my recollection is the GR is a step up in intensity and complexity.

Interesting anyhow.

Great report. Love aged Riojas and I tend to buy whenever they pop up. Still pretty cheap for what you get. I have a couple of CVNE 1970 Imperials and will open one in a couple of weeks. Younger, I get put off by the oak many times, but with age, they all seem to eat it pretty well.