Posts Filed Under wine review

Raiders Of The Lost Art (Tasting Not-So-Recent Releases At La Rioja Alta, S.A.)

Vinted on September 6, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

There’s a scene at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark (please don’t tell me you haven’t seen it… it’s only the greatest action/adventure flick yet made by humans) where an unnamed warehouse worker wheels a large box, presumably containing the Lost Ark of the Covenant (which turns out to be a WOMD) into a massive storage complex, through what appears to be miles of boxes stacked dozens of feet high.

Walking through the enormous barrel storage rooms at venerable Haro producer La Rioja Alta, S.A., anyone who remembers that closing scene from Raiders is bound to experience an eerie sense of déjà vu. Same goes for those strolling through LRA’s underground walkways and barrel storage areas – there are literally millions of bottles of wine slumbering in that quiet earth.

In fact, just about everything at LRA’s Haro location, aside from the tasting room (one of the few Rioja producers who even have one, and one which demonstrates a clear design love affair with high-gloss surfaces at that), feels oversized; from their display cases and production museums, down to the cask rooms and wooden casks themselves. Even their private tasting area has a huge open space smack dab in the center of it, as if a god with a magic iPhone had grabbed the corners of a normally-proportioned conference room and pinched-and-slid it to expand it to three times its normal size.

All of which makes it all the more interesting to a wine geek, weaned on the notion that truly great wine is only made in tiny quantities, that LRA’s large (okay, ginormous) production volume doesn’t get in the way whatsoever of the quality of their wines.

In fact, in tasting the wines from La Rioja Alta, one gets the sense that every hour of their near 125 years of winemaking experience has somehow been put to good use; the lineup includes not only some of Spain’s most long-lived and elegantly complex (and expensive) reds, but also one of Europe’s most stunning red wines bargains

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Hey, Road Warrior: You Taste Wine Differently In-Flight (A Master Somm’s Business Class Vino Selections)

Vinted on August 23, 2012 binned in crowd pleaser wines, wine review

Last week, I had the pleasure of taking part in a Google+ video hangout chat hosted by Master Sommelier (and general dynamo/spitfire) Andrea Immer Robinson. Andrea asked me to participate in the hangout as part of select group to taste through wines that she had picked for the in-flight business class selection one of Delta Airlines’ cross-country routes (apparently I’m to get a free trip on that route as part of the deal to test the wines in flight myself, so this was a promotional chat sponsored by Delta).

More on Andrea’s picks in a minute; first, I want to talk about something that Andrea brought up in the context of the hangout discussion (a video recap of which you can watch below after the jump). That event got my wine brain juices flowing, and not only because I was treading water, trying not to look like a complete hack in front of a group of mostly Master Somms, many of whom have individual taste buds on their tongues with more collective wine tasting experience than I possess.

What intrigued me was something that Andrea mentioned about plane travel that impacted her choices of wines to include for the biz class long-haul journey: we (as in all of us, not just those banished to coach class) taste food differently in-flight versus when we’re on terra firma.

Specifically, she wanted to pick wines that had big aromatic, textural, and flavor profiles because wines and food taste duller in the air. At first I thought that Andrea was just going on common sense borne from personal experience (she flies the routes to taste how the potential wine picks fare in-flight), but it turns out there’s some potentially solid science behind that approach. And I care because, like probably many of you reading this, I’m a wine lover who’s also put in a butt-numbing amount of miles and hours sitting in an airplane seat this year…

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Old House, Old Vines, New Styles (Tasting Izadi Recent Releases In Rioja)

Vinted on August 16, 2012 binned in kick-ass wines, overachiever wines, wine review

To get a feel for how important the culture of the vine is in the tiny and picturesque hilltop town of Villabuena in Rioja Alavesa, consider this: Villabuena has roughly 317 inhabitants, and just over ten percent of them (about 40) are wineries; so the town hosts 1 winery for every 8 or so people.

Looking out from the back patio of an old house owned by one of those winemaking residents – Bodegas Izadi– and taking in the quaint images of hanging laundry, satellite dishes, and brick-colored rooftops in the shadow of the mountains, Villabuena proffers an odd locale for a winery. But there must be something to the nearby sloping hills that suits the vine – particularly Tempranillo – to explain the preponderance of wineries that call the town home.

Izadi was founded in the late 1980s by restaurateur Gonzalo Anton, following the dual urges of creating wine good enough that he could serve it to his friends, and wanting to produce wines in a more modern style – clean, and approachable – than those that being produced by other members of his members.

It’s ironic, then, that their most compelling wine (in my view, anyway) is the one that has the greatest nod towards Rioja tradition, and is made from the 100-year old vines planted so haphazardly a short drive from the old Villabuena residence that Izadi now calls home

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