It was my turn to host our wine group in January, and since my wife and I had been enjoying some inexpensive Spanish tempranillo recently (see the post on it here), we decided to make the wine theme Tempranillo. By making the theme just Tempranillo and not Spanish Tempranillo, I knew we would get some domestic wines as well as the Spanish variety. I have really enjoyed some of the domestic producers of Tempranillo and I wanted to see how they would compare to the Spanish.
To go with the wines, my wife concocted a Spanish chicken and chorizo dish – the chorizo gave the chicken a little kick, but not too much. We wanted the additional flavors to pair with the wines, but didn’t want it to be too hot and spicy and ruin the mouth-feel of the wines and our taste buds. It ended up being a great match.
It was kind of hilarious to watch the reactions of the group as they tasted through the wines in two flights. The first flight was the older, more traditional Spanish Tempranillo, and you could get the age and burnished notes from it, which many in the group liked, though they also seemed to struggle with truly enjoying this varietal. So when we moved to the younger, bolder, more new world versions, they were not shy in judging them more skeptically. My wife and I have actually had some of these “newer” Tempranillos before, and we both agree that they are great wines – but primarily with food, due to their often high acidity. By the time we were on our second flight, we had not only tasted the older wines first, but we had also finished dinner – I’m not sure the second flight of wines got a fair rap that night.
It certainly was an eye-opening tasting experiment, however. I don’t think any of us would have guessed just how different the Tempranillo grape could taste across the board.
Here are the wines we had, starting with a great white:
2005 Domaine Ramonet – Chassagne Montrachet – Vergers – Ripe yellow orchard fruit and what I call flinty mint on the nose. Flinty mint is a smell that I associate with Ramonet’s wines and it really comes out with about an hour of air time. In the mouth, ripe peach and melon, limestone minerality and a fresh minty lift on the long sweet fruit finish. The 2005 is drinking really well today. I have been drinking the 2005’s before the 2004’s, as the 04’s are still a little tight, but I don’t see any reason to wait any further on the 05’s. (94 pts.)
1981 Lopez de Heredia – Bosconia Cosecha – Brick in color, beautiful nose of sweet & spicy fruit, baking spices and burnished wood. In the mouth very smooth, lots of baking spices mingle with ripe red fruits, good acidity still keeping everything lively. Nice long smooth spiced fruit finish. This is a beautiful wine that is drinking very well, holding up and still has time. Fully mature, but in no rush. (94 pts.)
1996 Faustino – Tinto Grand Reserva, Spain – Darker fruit nose with spices and a little Band-Aid. Nice dark fruit and baking spices combine with very good acidity, to give a lively and constantly changing flavor profile. Nice long dark spicy fruit finish, with some tannins kicking in on the finish. This is a big deep wine that still has some tannins but also a great sense of balance. Still young, this wine should be really good after another 5 years in the cellar. (95 pts.)
1996 Hacienda Monasterio, Spain – Dark earthy fruit nose. In the mouth, smooth dark black/red currant fruit and some spice. It is earthy and rustic in character, with tannins kicking in on the medium long fruit finish. (92 pts.)
2001 Marques de Riscal Grand Reserva, Spain – Very nice black fruit and spices on the nose. In the mouth, the black fruit combined with some baking spices has some lively acidity that makes this wine very savory. Nice long, dark fruit and spicy finish, with the tannins kicking at the end. This is a very nice wine that is still very young, but will be beautiful when it reaches maturity. It can be enjoyed now with a lot of air time, but try after 2020. (93 pts.)
2008 Gramercy Cellars – Inigo Montoya Tempranillo, Walla Walla Washington – Dark black/red fruit and spice on the nose. In the mouth, black and red fruit flavors mingle with baking spices and a little earth. Very good acidity makes this a very lively wine in the mouth and gives it a savory aspect to the fruit. This wine has a beautifully long, dark, spicy-fruit finish. There are tannins present, but they are subtle because of the wealth of spicy fruit. I personally think that Gramercy’s 2008 Tempranillo is one of the best Tempranillo made in the US. I have loved this wine since release and I so look forward to seeing what it has to offer after 2020. Greg and Pam Harrington have made some really incredible wines at Gramercy Cellars. This is a wine to search for. (95+ pts.)
2003 Altocedro – Desnudos, Argentina – Sweeter dark fruit on the nose. Very sweet dark red/black fruit in the mouth with very high acidity. Noticeable high-octane fruit and alcohol, 15.9% compared to 13.9% for the Gramercy. This wine seems like a just a combination of smooth sugar and acidic pin pricks in the mouth. Lots of dark fruit, sugar and alcohol on the medium-long finish, with some tannin kicking in on the end. (89 pts.)
2007 Cayuse – Impulsivo, Walla Walla Washington – Very dark fruit with some spice on the nose. In the mouth, rich lush very dark red and black fruit, some baking spices and good acidity, smooth in the mouth. Rich decadent dark fruit and spice on the long finish, with a little tannin at the end. A very nice wine, that is drinking well, but also very modern in style. (93 pts.)
We finished it all off with a nice dessert wine:
2005 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume, Loire France – Beautiful floral white peach, pear and spice on the nose. In the mouth, ripe white peaches, pear, some melon and baking spices, but with a stony aspect to the fruit. This wine has excellent acidity and a very long stony white peach/pear and spiced fruit finish. This is really an excellent wine that is drinking great and is a little bit more open than the 2004 version. (95 pts.)
It was a wonderful evening, with some very interesting wines and lively conversations. It’s a great group of guys who are always willing to pull something unusual out from the dark recesses of the cellar.