About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lopez de Heredia

This month our wine group met at Divina Ristorante in Caldwell, NJ.  It was my turn to bring the wine and I selected wines from Lopez de Heredia of Rioja, Spain.  I also included a wine from CUNE, also from Rioja.  Emil was in the queue for dinner.

In my opinion, Lopez de Heredia wines embody the essence of what great wine is all about. They are consistently delicious. I do not believe there is a better producer of traditionally made Spanish wines in all of Spain. The wines are aged a minimum of 4-6 years in 100 year old large oak barrels, followed by at least another 4 years in the bottle before being released (no wine is released before its tenth birthday). They last seemingly forever. Maria Jose de Heredia the cellar master does not recommend decanting any of her wines. “You will miss them if you do”, she says.  In fact the beauty of these wines is to experience them as they open and evolve in your glass. We missed nothing tonight as each wine showed beautifully as they kept evolving and soaring from the glass with each sip.

With appetizers that consisted of greaseless and tender Fried Calamari, Clams Oreganata and fresh Burrata Cheese with Roasted Peppers and Prosciutto, I poured 1997 Vina Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva and 1976 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Blanco Gran Riserva.

The Rosé is a blend of Tempranillo (30%), Garnacho (60%) and Viura (10%) and was aged in old barrels for 4 years and then for another 6 years in the bottle before being released. This is not like most Rosés you have ever had. The pedigree of the estate is present in each sip.  It is superbly balanced and complex on the palate. In short it is a round and delicious wine. It is hard to believe that this wine costs about $25 a bottle. The ’97 will be hard to find, but the 2000 is readily available at the same price.

The Blanco is a blend of 85% Viura and 15% Malvasia.  At 37 years of age this was a magnificent and compelling wine. The wine possessed a beautifully developed bouquet and had tons of vibrant fruit and complexity on the palate and finished with considerable length.  A truly remarkable wine! While available, it will set you back about $200.  The 1991 is available at about $70 and the 1998 at about $35.

With our pasta course of Mario’s lighter-than-air Gnocchi with a light Bologenese Ragu, I poured 1998 Vina Tondonia Reserva Rioja and 1976 CVNE (pronounced Cune) Vina Real Gran Reserva Rioja.
Gnocchi Bolognese
The Tondonia is a blend of 75% Temranillo, 15% Garnacho and 10% Graciano and Mazuelo. This too was superb with an enticing earthy bouquet, amazing purity and complexity on the palate. The wine also evolved in the glass with each sip.  $35.

The CVNE Real is one of the top selections from one of Rioja’s oldest wine producers.  While today’s wines have begun to follow the more modern approach to wine making and lack the elegance and finesse of days past, the 1976 is steeped in tradition and is a spectacular bottle of wine.   It was remarkably young for a thirty-seven year-old wine.  It possessed a spectacular earthy bouquet, a full-bodied and complex palate, soft tannins and a lengthy and gorgeous finish. This wine has at least another 15 years of life left.  $200.

Veal Holstein
With main courses that included Veal Holstein (German style breaded veal cutlet topped with two sunny-side up eggs) and Lobster in white wine sauce oreganata, I poured 1976 Lopez de Heredia Vina Bosconia Gran Riserva and 1970 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Riserva.

The Tondonia and Bosconia vineyards are the estates two most important vineyards.  The blend is slightly different in the Bosconia vineyard wines with Tempranillo making up 80% of the blend and Garnacho, Graciano and Mazuelo comprising the remainder.

The Bosconia was life changing.  The consensus wine of the evening, it had everything one can ask for in a wine; terroir, pure fruit, complexity, balance, elegance and finesse.  It was deliriously delicious.  The wine soared from the glass and evolved with each sip.  $350.

Lobster in White Wine Sauce
The 1970 Tondonia Gran Reserva was almost its equal on this night. Another superb bottling from Lopez de Heredia, it fell a bit short with respect to the vibrancy and elegance of the Bosconia.  $650.

One of the most amazing aspects of all the red wines was the gorgeous red hue each possessed.  The browning or bricking usually found in older wines was not to be found here.

I think it is worthy of note that while these older wines can be quite expensive, I paid a fraction of these prices when I purchased them.  Upon release, and for some time subsequent, these wines are very affordable.  They just age forever, become scarcer over time, and as a result the prices increase. Current vintages of all these wines are in the $25 to $40 range.  If you have never tried them, I encourage you to do so.

Emil thanks for dinner.  Until next time.


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