An Extremely Long, Memorable Wine Tasting: Part Two (#7-11)

1 Mar

Finally some free time in which to write about the remaining five wines from last Saturday’s Mission Wines tasting!

7 | 2004 Arzuaga Navarro Crianza | Ribera del Duero, Spain | $29.99
This was the seventh wine of the series, second round of overtime. Dave from Mission Wines was kind enough to pour the party a tasting of this really excellent tinto fino (as tempranillo is known in this region) from the dry river of Duero. Being a crianza, it was aged for thirteen months in oak. I was expecting it to be huge and powerful, expecting some forceful tannins (I’ve found tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is “stronger” or more assertive than those from Rioja), but this wine was surprisingly smooth. Plummy, a little hint of leather. I think this wine probably benefited from my having tried the tannic firebombs of the Barrel 27 and the Tejada beforehand.
I would love to compare this one to the Tinto Pesquera, which is another wonderful tinto fino from Ribera del Duero.

(95% tinto fino, 3% merlot, 2% cabernet sauvignon)

8 | Sean H. Thackrey “Pleiades XVI” | Bolinas, California | $23.99
This is a crazy wine. Dave poured this for the party and told us to try and guess what it was. I sniffed and got menthol. A lot of menthol, as in eucalyptus. I also detected a bit of anise as well as other herbs.


This picture is from an older vintage, but you get the picture.

The taste was amazing and yet, very polarizing. No one else in my group liked it at all. Erica compared it to drinking rubbing alcohol. Someone else said it was like Listerine. I can understand: the menthol did impart a bit of a fiery element to the wine, and it did have a fair level of acid. However, it was complex and unlike any other wine I’ve ever had. Tar and citrus, earth and fruit. I don’t know quite how to describe it other than it’s probably the most interesting wine I’ve had in a while and one that every “serious” wine drinker should pick up.

I guessed syrah, though the color was way too clear for just syrah. The color made it look like a pinot noir or gamay, but it didn’t have any of those varietals’ flavor profiles. Maybe some Italian wine–nebbiolo or barbera. I was thinking maybe a blend. And I couldn’t explain the menthol.

Dave put it together for us. It WAS a blend, of everything from syrah, barbera (yes!), carignane, petite sirah, sangiovese, and viognier, among others. And the intriguing part is that this blend was fermented in open-air vats that sat under–what else–eucalyptus trees. Wow! The Pleiades XVI is, obviously, the sixteenth iteration of this particular blend and was bottled in January 2008.

Now, the “tasting” was over, but we weren’t ready to throw in the towel. We picked up two bottles of wine to drink:

9 | 2006 Amancaya Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon | Mendoza, Argentina | $19.99
Yikes! This was more expensive than any other malbec I’ve ever had in my life, but then again, it had unparalleled lineage: Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) of Bordeaux. This wine combined the power of Argentine malbec and the finesse of Bordeaux. It was purple, but bright and not brooding. Black cherry, plum, licorice. Good tannin. Overall, the combination of 50% malbec and 50% cab was win-win.

10 | 2006 Elizabeth Spencer “Special Cuvee” Pinot Noir | Sonoma Coast, California | $32.99
Probably shouldn’t have had a pinot noir after all the strong, tannic wines, but eh. The Elizabeth Spencer was still good. I already wrote about this wine earlier, so I’ll just link to my previous review.

Then Kirk, one of the regulars, came around with a bottle of zin from a recent trip to Paso Robles:

11 | 2005 Minassian-Young Estate Zinfandel | Paso Robles, California | $20.00
I’m not too familiar with zinfandels. It seems that a lot of them are just overly jammy and simplistic. This zin, from winemaker David Young, was delicious. Yes, it was jammy but not cloying. It had a good structure of tannins to keep it from becoming something you’d swill from a jar. A lot of boysenberry, evocative of Fig Newtons. Long, long finish. Great wine from a very new vineyard.


So there you have it. One of the best–and longest–tastings I’ve had ever. Actually, the second-longest: my first consisted of 24+ wines, when I was a barista / runner at Adagia. That was crazy.


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