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.

My Dinner with Balthasar and Pedro

Last night we had friends over for dinner. She and I are in wine group together. Our husbands work together. So, we had lots to talk about. I felt the wives’ conversation was much more interesting than the husbands, but that may well be because I am a wine nerd rather than a computer nerd.

Our guests have some dietary restrictions, no meat or wheat. When they apologized for their specific requirements, I assured them that it is much more fun for me to cook within guidelines than to be wide open to anything. As Tracy Lee Karner puts it, ‘constraint spurs creativity.’ This is true in any medium, whether it is cooking, writing, or any of the arts.

Balthasar Ress Riesling

Balthasar Ress Riesling

For dinner we began with a gazpacho soup that tasted like a bowl full of summer garden. It paired well with Balthasar Ress Kabinett Riesling, 2007 which is very tart like a granny smith apple but juicy with just enough off-dry, honeyed richness to offset the spiciness of the soup. Full disclosure, I am distantly related to the Ress family. My maiden name is Ress. The owners of winery are my fifth and sixth cousins. But even if this wine were not the nectar of my ancestors, I would love its crisp, tart, honeyed richness. It is an elegant and beautiful wine. It also paired well, as a good Riesling will, with the spicy cauliflower ceviche that our guests brought, and the sweet and spicy bean and pineapple salad that I served. Riesling is a great match with spicy foods.

Our entrée was eggplant coated in cornmeal with basil, oregano and parmesan cheese, quick-fried in olive oil and butter to a golden crisp and served with fresh grape tomatoes tossed with basil, olive oil and salt. Paired with the eggplant we had Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano Crianza, 2010. Layered, crisp and lush with flavors of cherry, cedar, leather and pepper. Ninety percent Tempranillo and ten percent Mazuelo, this beautiful wine would pair well with any earthy foods such as eggplant, sausage, or mushrooms. Valserrano-Crianza

Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sherry

Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sherry

For dessert I made a pumpkin mousse and served it with Osborne Pedro Ximenez. This dark, thick sweet sherry had aromas of chocolate, caramel, coffee and raisins. It was perfect with the pumpkin spices.

I loved planning this menu. I will admit I had to google whether or not corn had gluten in it. But coming up with a menu that met some restrictions was more engaging than working without constraints.