I love wine tasting–actually going to a wine bar to try a flight of different wines. Unfortunately, I don’t like WRITING about the tastings afterward because there are just so many to list. I can’t imagine how Robert Parker and Kermit Lynch do it (though, of course, they get paid $$$ to do so).
I took a few days off of work just to chill out and get my second wind, so to speak, before heading off to law school in July. Thursday and Friday were spent with the family doing nothing in particular, so Saturday afternoon was ripe for something fun: Mission Wines with the co-workers was in order.
The official lineup for the day was:
The first, the 2006 Josef Leitz Drachenstein (Dragonstone) riesling was billed as a delicious, decently-priced riesling from the Rheingau region of Germany. The Rheingau isn’t as famous as the Mosel, but it is home to the highest proportion of riesling vines in Germany. It was a full, fat riesling, with lower but still substantial acidity and a fair bit of sweetness. Overall, a fair-drinking riesling that, around $12-$15, is a safe bet for summer fare, Thai, or lovin’.
I was really looking forward to the 1996 R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia, which is a traditional-style white rioja made of 100% viura.
Viura is a Spanish grape that apparently has a nose of flowers and the taste of green apples and nuts. It also is best consumed young in most cases, as the grape is supposed to lose its nose and taste rather easily. This fact makes the Vina Gravonia that much more unusual: it is deliberately stored by the winemaker for years until it is “ready”. This prolonged aging in oak barrels sets Lopez de Heredia apart from many other Spanish wineries and, in fact, from many other winemakers period.
Unfortunately, I could not taste the magic of this wine. The nose, indeed, was like a bouquet, and the taste was tart, with heavy hints of green apple. However, there also seemed an acetic taste of banana, and a bit too much oak. A bit too much acidity. In fact, I likened the end taste to licking a AA battery (you’ve never done that? My friend, you’ve never lived!) Overall, it was a disappointment, despite its renowned pedigree.
I think that the Vina Gravonia destroyed my taste buds and ruined the next two wines–they had a really bitter aftertaste that I would never expect to find in a Bordeaux or any red wine, for instance.
The last wine on the official tasting list was the 2005 Ridge Lytton Springs zinfandel, which is composed to 77% zin, 17% petite syrah, and 6% carignane. It was strong enough to withstand the devastation of the Vina Gravonia, with firm tannins and nice structure. Berries and cherry, maybe some licorice. Jonathan detected a hint of menthol on the nose, which I sensed as well. I was very pleased with this wine: it lived up to its prominent name.
Then, true to fashion, Dave poured two bonus tastes: the 2006 Cavallotto Dolcetto d’Alba from the Piedmont in Italy, and the 2006 Anthill Farm “Peters Vineyard” pinot noir. The Dolcetto was very nice–smooth, a bit tannic. Nice blueberry, a bit gamey–it threw a fair amount of sediment in my glass (though mine was the last glass poured). The Anthill Farm was very, very light: almost clear, with the classic taste of cherry. Very focused for such a clear-looking wine!
After the tastings, we had two bottles of wine on our own: the 2005 Ch. W. Bernhard Hackenheimer Kirchberg Scheurebe Spätlese and the 2005 Pago Florentino Tinto.
The first was an utterly entrancing riesling from the Rheinhessen region of Germany. Peaches, nectar–a gorgeous honeyed texture evocative of waves of silk. Autumnal, evocative of the first golden falling leaves and the cold. At around $22-$25, an excellent value for the pure hedonism of the wine.
The Pago Florentino, from the La Mancha appellation of Spain, is made of 100% tinto fino (tempranillo). Overall, inky, with pronounced tannins. Classic tempranillo–good price for a good example of this varietal for around $20.
We weren’t done, though. We shared two 750 mL bottles of beer: the Delirium Tremens, which is a Belgian strong pale ale produced by Huyghe Brewery in Belgium. It clocks in at a pretty strong 8.5% ABV. It was a clear, golden color, light and pleasant. It was like Hoegaarden but hoppier.
It was pleasant, but no match for Unibroue’s La Terrible (profiled two posts ago): this dark, 10.5% ABV monster destroyed any lingering bitterness from the wines and also destroyed the rest of my sobriety. Delicious, delicious, and almost the last beer save a comped taste of Craftsman Brewery’s Biere de Mars (Beer of March). Mission Wines has three of Craftsman’s beers on rotation at the bar. I’ve previously had quite a few of their beers, including the memorable Cabernale from the holiday season.
The Biere de Mars was good–interesting, and good. Strong licorice taste, hoppy. Medium color, and high level of acidity. Very refreshing.
Now I leave you with some pictures of my coworkers and I: I’m the Asian guy in the blue “whale” shirt. Enjoy!