Private Tasting: Rioja

By Kori ~ February 18th, 2008.

In previous posts, I have reported on our monthly wine tasting dinners. During these dinners, we taste six wines blind. The guests are only told the wine’s region and varietal. For example, our February dinner featured Washington Syrah. For more information on how we set up these dinners, please visit our Tasting Dinners page.

When the Wine Peeps get together for dinner during the week, we generally do a private tasting with just two bottles. The setup for these dinners is slightly different from our monthly dinners. Periodically, John and I sack up pairs of wines that we would like to blind taste against each other. We label the pairs with a letter (A, B, C, etc.) to keep them together and also indicate on the sacks if they are red or white. After sacking up anywhere from six to ten pairs, we put them away. By the time we pull them out of the cabinet for one of our family dinners, even we have forgotten what the wines are. Depending on the meal that is being prepared, we grab either a red or white pair. These tastings are considered double-blind. While the foodies out there probably would scoff at this method of food and wine pairing, we have learned a lot about wine in the process. During these dinners not only are we trying to determine our favorite between the two wines but we are challenging ourselves to identify the wine’s region and varietal.

20080218_spain-small.jpgLast week, we had one of these private tastings which turned out to be a pair of wines from the Rioja region of Spain, the 2001 Conde de Valdemar Rioja Reserva and the 2003 Finca Allende Rioja. Rioja, located in north-central Spain and only 200 miles from Bordeaux, is considered one of the most prestigious wine regions in the world. The primary varietal used in Rioja is Tempranillo. Both wines were good but all four of us preferred the Conde de Valdemar. We really enjoyed this tasting and the Ribera del Duero tasting [Spanish Ayes! post] we had in January as one of our goals this year is to learn more about Spanish wines.

2001 Conde de Valdemar Rioja Reserva: 85% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo. Very pleasant earthy aromas with a hint of asparagus. A lot of fruit up front, especially black cherries. Medium-bodied, well-balanced, and a nice long finish. (Note: In Rioja, Reservas must spend at least one year aging in oak barrels and at least another year aging in the bottle.)
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop – Eastside (Seattle area), $13.49; K&L Wine Merchants (California), $16.99

2003 Finca Allende Rioja: 100% Tempranillo. Barnyard aromas mixed with scents of wildflowers give way to black fruits such as dewberries on the palate. Medium body with smooth tannins.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop – Eastside (Seattle area), $20.15; The Wine Country (California), $21.99

Filed under: Red Wine, Spanish Wine, Tempranillo, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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