This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked with a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.
Vina Alarba, Calatayud, Pago San Miguel, 2001
An oddball I enjoyed as a visit but I’m not sure I’d want a steady diet. Deep dark black-red, with a nose that initially smelled like those vicious cherry-liquor filled chocolates my aunts would force on me in childhood. Thankfully, the palate wasn’t like that at all, more like succulent cherries with a hint of moccha and at any rate, after an hour or so, the chocolate blew off and revealed sweet black cherries, some olives and a hint of boiled cabbage. The tannins are soft, the length is okay, not amazing, and there’s a good acidity that at first seemed to be at odds with all that chocolate on the nose. (May 9, 2005)
I bought this 100% Grenache at Atlanta for around 20 USD in 2005.
Borsao, Campo de Borja, Tres Pico, 2003
A different facet of Grenache than I had encountered before. Very pure red fruit on the nose and on the palate, initially with very little other nuances. Opened up after an about an hour to show some spiciness but that was more or less it. Very modern and utterly unlike the other Borsao wines I’d experienced before. (May 13, 2005)
Borsao used to be imported by WineRoute and they used to quote the Parker score for this wine, which is the one they did not carry. However, the labels WineRoute sold were much more Old World and thus more to my liking, especially the 1996 Reserva. Bought in Atlanta for about 18 USD.
Artazuri, Navarra, Santa Cruz de Artazuri, 2001
A vibrant dark ruby color with no sign of browning. Shows aromas of red and black fruits, camp fire, leather, spices. The palate is disjointed and austere at first and needs 2 hours to open but then is long, rich, minerally and savoury. Still on the young side for my taste and should keep well for 4-5 years. (Apr. 23, 2006)
This 100% Grenache was sold by WineRoute for 150 NIS.
Condado de Haza, Ribera del Duero, 1996
A bottle bought from a very warm store in Madrid. High filled neck, very very damp cork that was starting to push out. A very opaque purple-brown color. The nose is very meaty, with currants and cherries, sweet herbs, cocoa and coffee. Very full-bodied and still tannic at nine years of age, with balanced acidity and a minerally and almost cheese-like finish. After half an hour, the fruit recedes and the nose becomes spicier then the components fall into harmony again. It’s a very thick wine, almost grainy in texture and while similar to the 1999 and 2000 vintages which I’m familiar with, it seems like a monster-truck version of those two vintages and upon pouring a glass, it feels like it’s unceremoniously flexing its muscles before calming down. Has quite a few years left ahead of it. (Aug. 18, 2005)
Sierra Cantabria, Rioja, Coleccion Privada, 1999
Sweet-ish nose:mainly black fruits with some reds, leather, coffee, roasted herbs, maybe chocolate. Balanced ripeness, albeit low acidity, good length. Very modern and seems like a premium-wine-by-the-numbers sort of wine that would have been more impressive had it come from somewhere else; but this being Rioja, you might expect more romance and mystery out of it. But a well-made wine nonetheless. (Nov. 4, 2006)
Sold by WineRoute for about 190 NIS.
Conde de Valdemar, Rioja, Gran Reserva, 1996
A mature color with no signs of fading. A mature nose of cherries, earth and leather. The palate is less complex than the nose, despite a spicy kick on the aftertaste when matched with a good food match. Medium-full bodied with soft tannins, smooth and with good acidity yet lacking some vibrancy. Depending on the food pairing and time after opening, could last anywhere from a year to three. Bottom line: the pedigree is evident yet you feel it is somehow betrayed. (May 8, 2005)
Muga, Rioja, Gran Reserva, Prado Enea, 1991
The nose is a complex mixture of ripe red fruits with a thick overlay of herbs and vegetable stew and some leather, that at first has a faint whiff of balsamic vinegar. The body is medium-sized and elegant, complex and not especially powerful, but very smooth, with the tannins very present yet integrated. (Oct. 10, 2005)
Muga, Rioja, Gran Reserva, Prado Enea, 1994
Mature and complex Old World aromas of black and red fruit, sweet spices, earth, cured meat. The palate is at first all about secondary and tertiary flavors, with the fruit safely in the background; but time brings out the fruit, which strikes a lovely balance with the initial savoury, meaty flavors and hints at citrus fruits. Very smooth texture, the tannins and acidity well integrated in a medium-bodied frame. A better bottle than last time, that focuses on complexity and harmony in favor of power. (Oct. 7, 2006)
God, I enjoyed Muga so much over the years. This last bottle was sold for 60 or 80 NIS by Haifa's Special Reserve during the aftermath of the Second Lebanese War (don't ask).
Castillo Ygay, Rioja, Gran Reserva, 1989
Let’s start off with what’s it’s not: it’s not a blockbuster, it’s not a wine for kings, ministers, brokers or movers. It’s a wine for quiet monks or mediating artists. It has a lovely nose of sweet red fruits, tobacco and a bit of smoke, that gains meaty and mushroomy overtones in the glass. The palate starts of very acidic, not exactly imbalanced but enough to make its appreciation a matter of personal taste. It has good grip and length but doesn’t bombard you with flavors, rather makes you dig in for them. (Aug. 15, 2005)
I know the name of the winery is Bodegas Marques de Murrieta but everyon knows it as Ygay. I bought it in a non air-conditioned wine store in Madrid for about 40 euros. These old style Riojas are so durable...
Bodegas Riojanas, Rioja, Gran Reserva, 1994
Only a second tier Gran Reserva but a very good one. The two years since I opened my own bottle plus the storage conditions at my host’s apartment may have pushed it past its peak but its pedigree is still obvious. The nose has enough mature, albeit somewhat muted, Rioja aromas to tantalyze and only thirty-some minutes after opening does its softening and fraying structure on the palate reveal its age. Its maturity is a matter of taste and Rioja fans will adore it. I did. (July 24, 2005)
About 30 euros at the Madrid duty free.