Tempranillo Friends

This is my entry for the MWWC#11 The topic this month is Friend

I came to the class early to get a seat up front. Scheduled monthly, I like to take advantage of the wine classes that Total Wine offers, not so much for the grape and region information. Although I always learn something, generally, the information is pretty basic. Mainly, I go to the classes for the opportunity to taste through the wines.

As I sat down, a woman about my age sat next to me and introduced herself. We spoke a bit before the class began. She had just recently moved here from San Francisco. I offered my condolences and let her know that I, also had just moved here, er, gosh, has it been 13 years, already?! Our conversation continued easily and jovially for the few minutes before class began.

Then it was time to head to Spain and Portugal. The wines were the familiar offerings of the Iberian Peninsula. The Vinho Verde was produced by Nobilis and was crisp and pétillant, with tropical fruit aromas.

For the Albarino from Spain we tasted Val do Sosego out of Rias Baixas. It had a bit more body than the Vinho with aromas of peach and grapefruit peel.

After the whites we delved into the Tempranillos, first in the form of rosé by Bodegas Eguren. With flavors of rose water, cherry lollipop, watermelon and a sloe gin finish, this was indeed a refreshing rosé.

And then came the beautiful stars of the evening, four red Tempranillos, one after another. Two were from Rioja, one from Toro and one from Ribera del Duero.

Cincuenta Ugarte is 100% Tempranillo and oak aged for 10 months. It is a beautiful ruby-red color with flavors of tobacco, blackberry, licorice and spice. At $14.99 this gorgeous wine was definitely the best value of the evening.Cincuenta, 2009

Our second Rioja was by Valserrano. It was 95% Tempranillo with just a smidgeon of Graciano and Garnacha making up the difference. With dark fruit aromas, vanilla, cassis and chocolate this full-bodied red had a nice, long finish.

From Ribera del Duero we had a wine produced by Ninin that had aromas of dark cherry, vanilla and spice with a nice acidity. The tidbit of information that I learned about this region is that as in the Maremma region of Italy, the wine makers of Ribera del Duero would rather make wines their way than follow the rules of a DOCa rating. Our teacher called them the ‘Hipsters’ of Spain. The results, as with the Super Tuscans are high-quality, elegant wines without the DOCa pricing.

From Toro we had a 100% Tinta de Toro (aka Tempranillo) made by Liberalia. This wine had an intense dark fruit aroma with notes of violets and Chinese five spice.

We, also had a Monastrell (aka Mouvedre) made by Tesoro de Bullas. With medium acidity and ripe tannins, this wine presented aromas of lavender, blueberry, blackberry and dusty oak.

We ended the night with a Douro red made with the classic grapes of a fortified Port. Produced by Quinta do Vale Maeo Meandro, it had softer tannins than the Tempranillos with some sour cherry and raisin fruits flavors and a whiff of chocolate.

When the class was over, Mary and I spoke at length about the wines, some local politics, our previous jobs, and I don’t know what else. It was when the teacher left the room that Mary gave me her card and suggested that we get together for lunch.

I loved spending so much time with a few Iberian wines, especially the Tempranillo. Drinking several side by side really gave me a chance to get to know the grape a little better.

It isn’t often that I immediately hit it off with someone I’ve just met. I’m looking forward to getting to know my new friend a little better.

Why Do We Love Wine?

Cincuenta, 2009‘This is like watching a golf match,’ our host commented as we all sat swirling, inhaling and tasting in complete silence, focused only on the wine. ‘She holds the glass. Her nose goes down into the bowl, inhaling deeply,’ he said with the hushed reverence appropriate for said golf match.

I’ve fallen in with a group of CS’s and CSW’s who get together monthly to explore and learn wine, one grape at a time. December was Syrah. January was a religious experience (aka Nebbiolo.) I’ve hosted wine tastings with my friends, and I love it. It gives me a chance to try new wines, share something I’ve learned and try my hand at food/wine pairing. But with my ‘normal’ friends, the conversation winds around to books, kids, trips, and ultimately away from the wine. With my new group of wine obsessives, we never stop talking about the wine, that is, once we take our noses out of our glasses and start talking. These people say things like, ‘I can taste the iron in the soil. It must be from Washington.’ I am learning so much. But, why, I wonder, do we love wine so much?

Yes, reader, I am including ‘you’ in the ‘we.’ You must think about, write about, study, swirl, smell, and taste wine on a fairly regular basis with a fair amount of obsessive passion, otherwise, I do not think that you would be here in this growing circle of wine, shall we say, philosophers, theorists, perhaps? At any rate, here we are, obsessing about wine each in our own way, but why? What is it about wine that has captured our respective imaginations?

It seems that often those who love wine, also love food, and also love to travel. Because wine and food are associated with particular regions, they become a way of travelling, visiting a country, a culture, a people, learning their likes, their climates, their daily joys from a dish and a glass. Spain may be a long plane ride away, but an evening spent enjoying some chorizo with a glass of Cincuenta Rioja with its crisp cherry and spice aromas with just a hint of leather might get us a little closer.

Not everyone who loves to travel, also loves wine. But I have, yet to meet someone who loves wine, but does not love to travel. Be honest. When was the last time you had a glass of Tannat from Madiran and did not get out a map to see exactly where Madiran is? Wine and place are inextricably entwined, not just viticulturally, but, (dare I say it?) spiritually. That is to say, the close association of wine and place is the strong pull of wine for those of us who are obsessed with it. We are explorers in a world where there is little left to be explored. Yet, wine, with its myriad of grapes, regions, soils, aromas and climates leads us tantalizingly with, always, more to discover.