Rioja – Pepper, Spice and All Things Nice!

With a unique portfolio of over 100 Spanish wines, Ole Imports has taken pride in their journey to find and represent fine wines through key fundamental elements of: terroir, quality fruit, exceptional wine making and priceless value.  I was lucky enough to try some of their finest sought after wines from the Rioja region and hosted a Rioja Wine Tasting Event on my dear friend’s wonderful terrace under a remarkable sunset looking over the city that never sleeps, New York City.  By the end of the night lips were purple, all were dancing, and everyone was completely happy! My, what an effect an exploration into the Rioja world has!

I set up the tasting with a variety of cheeses to pair, wine crackers to cleanse the palate, and some carrots and hummus to munch on.   The tasting went from light to dark and I started off with a bubbly to get everyone in the mood! Since many of us had not experienced wines from this region, I decided not to do a blind tasting but walk everyone through the tasting process and education of each wine.

So please, step inside this magnificent region of spice and submerge yourself into what you are about to read.  I advise you to grab a glass of Rioja yourself and enjoy!


Wine #1 Casteller Cava Brut N/V
Grape: Parellada, Macabeo, Xarello
Tasting Notes: Dry, clean and crisp, citrus, hints of green apple
Quotes: “Smoother than other sparkling wines, not too sweet or too bubbly, very drinkable and delicious!”, “Smells like a fun CELEBRATION”, “REFRESHING”, “Great drinking sparkling wine!”

Wine # 2 Bodegas El Indiano El Brozal Blanco 2009 (Single Vineyard)
Grape: Tempranillo, Granacha
Tasting Notes: Biodynamic wine with great tannic structure, dry, and filled w/ spice.
Quotes: “Acidic/Bitter”, “Unexpectedly tart” “Could be good wine for Sangria”, “Buttered Popcorn taste?”

Wine #3 Cortijo Rioja Blanco 2010
Grape: Viura
Tasting Notes: Sweet on the palate, nectar flavors
Quotes: “Delicious, fruity yet light” “Great Value”, “Appley”, “Color is similar to a sugar cookie” “Fruity with a twist, LOVE”, “Great with cheddar cheese”

Wine #4 Cortijo Rioja Rosado 2010
Grape: Tempranillo, Granacha
Tasting Notes: Citrus, full of fruits, a bit tannic, very delicious and refreshing
Quotes: “Bold berries”, “Amazing taste”, “Might be great for Sangria”, “Very refreshing for summer or spring!”

Wine #5 Don Sancho Londono 2008 ‘Calma’
Grape: Tempranillo, Graciano
Tasting Notes: peppery, dark cherry, mocha, tannins for a strong finish
Quotes: “Best wine of the tasting”, “Tastes a bit licoricey”, “Amazing with goat cheese”, “A classic Spanish wine”, “Relaxing and great to sip on”, “Peppery and spicy”

Wine #6 Bodegas El Indiano El Brozal 2009 (Single Vineyard)
Grape: Tempranillo, Syrah
Tasting Notes: Spice, peppery, tannin that grips the finish
Quotes: “Very rich”, “My favorite”, “Big and bold, “Love this one, this is what I think of when I think of Rioja”, “Deep Finish”, “This was amazing with the dark chocolate”


Wow, that was intense! As you can see lots of spice, pepper, citrus, and drinking wines capture some of the Rioja region.  A very lovely night of tasting fine wines from Ole Imports turned all of these wonderful ladies in to regulars.  I am already getting questions about the wines we tasted and where to find them to buy for house warming gifts! 

Thank you Ole Imports and thank you to my wine lovers for participating in this fabulous tasting!

Vibrant Rioja Grand Tasting

To continue my Spain/Rioja journey last week, I had the opportunity to taste supple yet powerful wines of Spain at the Vibrant Rioja tasting hosted by  Tempranillo, mazuelo, granacha were grapes tossed around all night while sipping, slurping, and rolling around wine in our mouths.  Lots of vibrant fruits like strawberries, black cherries and raspberries with a hint of spicy elements were apparent after about two tasting tables.  Spanish inspired food and music were also lingering in the background adding that authenticity and custom flair.  Loved sipping on a Grand Riserva enjoying a nice slider – of course tapas inspired!

Each bottle was distinctive to it’s provenance and message.  Beautiful wines suited their bottles as they all had a very aesthetic elegance and prestige look to them making some seem very intimidating while others had a more casual spin and less serious image that were fun and playful to drink!    Overall a lovely event full of color and liveliness.  My reco is to try and embrace all types of Rioja (white, red, rose) and enjoy the vast history and story that comes with every bottle… So grab a glass sit back and enjoy the slideshow!   ¡salud!

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Look closely, the netting on the bottle is custom to Spanish wines..

Wine Essentials – Class # 4 – Spain

It was a week of Spanish wines for me last week and I was able to enjoy a variety of warm climate wines where tastes of robust ripened fruits are extremely apparent.  A lot of oaky notes are pungent in Spanish wines as the majority of wines ferment in oak barrels vs. steel.  There are a tremendous amount of wine producing regions in Spain however, one blend typically stands out when talking Spanish wine, Rioja which is a blend of various grapes and can be white, red or rose.  Sherry also is a typical Spanish fortified wine usually served as a pre or post dinner drink.  I had the pleasure of trying a nice range so the tasting notes will hopefully paint a clear picture of the different tastes of the various wines.

When looking for Spanish wines it is easy to figure out if you are getting a “woody” deep and ripened fruit wine through their Spanish Labeling Laws listed below:

Spanish Labeling Laws (these will appear on the bottle)

  • Joven: A very young wine with little aging.  DRINK THIS RIGHT AWAY!
  • Crianza: A child of about 2 years of aging with at least 6 month in Oak.
  • Reserva: At least 3 years of aging with at least 1 year in oak and bottle
  • Gran Reserva: Extreme above average vintages typically requires 5 years of aging, 18 months in oak, and 36 months in bottle
Now, on to the good stuff!!  We did a circle around the region and tasted some magnificent wines!  Enjoy!
Tastings (wines I liked bolded)

Jerez, Mazanilla, ‘La Gitana’, Bodegas Hidalgo, NV. – Retails $23 (Sherry, Fortified Wine)

  • Notes: Smells of dry fruit and strong apple smell; Does not taste sweet but dry, acidic, very bitter lingering taste, earthy and nutty… A complex wine
  • Pairings: This should be served before dinner as an appetizer with a few salty nuts

Rias Baixas, Albarino, Legado de Conde 2009 – Retails $22 (Albarino grape)

  • Notes: Bright citrus in smells; very lemony, green apple, clean and ‘minerally’ in taste
  • Pairings: A fresh and young wine makes it nice drinking wine on a hot summer day; most definitely a wine you could drink by itself

Condrieu, E. Guigal 2009 – Retails $50 (Viognier grape)

  • Notes: A very floral and fruitful smell; tastes very bitter and citrus with a peppery after taste
  • Pairings: Another great white wine that would go well with a shellfish dish or a lobster with cream sauce

Rioja, Vina Tondonia Blanco Reserva, R. Lopez de Heredia 1990 – Retails $50 (Viura and Malvasia grapes)

  • Notes: Smells oaky, hazelnut and almost “buttery”; In taste it is very complex with tannins, dark bitterness, brown butter, nutty with acidity – it almost changes in the mouth
  • Pairings: This traditional Rioja would go great with roasted chicken, Veal w/ wild mushrooms or an assortment of aged cheeses

Les Baux de Provence, Rose, Mas de la Dame 2009 - Retails $18 (Various grapes including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault)

  • Notes: Unripe peach, herby smell with a citrus edge; Tastes full of acidity, not super lemony w/ little tannin, very bright and refreshing
  • Pairings: Great on a summer afternoon by the pool or with an early dinner of seared tuna enjoyed outside on the roof

Rioja Crianza, Luis Canas 2006 – Retails $18 (Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo)

  • Notes: Smells of deep cherry, plum, refreshing and young; Light/mature red fruits in taste, simple cherry
  • Pairings: Enjoy this light wine with pasta and a light red sauce!

Finca La Planeta Pasa, 2004 – Retails $45  (Cabernet Sauvignon w/ a bit of Grenache)

  • Notes: Tastes of very dark and dense fruit, strong blackberry taste – a very modern style big spanish wine
  • Pairings: One reco – STEAK!

Ribera de Duero, Crianza, Condado de Haza 2007 – Retails $38 (Tinto Fino grape) 14% Alcohol 

  • Notes: Smells of rich dark plum and cherry, earthy and a bit of a petroleum smell; Tastes very rich dried plums, “scrapey tannins
  • Pairings: A great pairing with a strong food – Duck or goose dish

Cornas, ‘Les Grandes Terrasses’, P. Jaboulet 2007 – Retails $36 (Syrah)

  • Notes: Dark fruit, cherry and wood in smell; similarly, dark fruit, wood and spice in taste
  • Pairings: Hard cheeses, roasts, red meats, beef

Barossa Valley, Shiraz, ‘Entity’, J. Duval WInes 2007 – Retails $40 (Shiraz – South Australia)

  • Notes: Smells very peppery and rich in fruit as well as tastes very fruity with lots of tannin an has a hint of peppery after tastes
  • Pairings: This easy drinking wine is a great read to drink by itself!
Jerez, Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo, G. Byass – Retails $66 (Sherry – Palimino, Pedro Ximenez grapes) – 18% Alcohol 
  • Notes: Smells like dry figs, walnuts, raisins, wood, coffee; tastes very bitter with rich dry fruit, almost “walnutty” and astringent in taste
  • Pairings: Great after dinner with a selection of aged cheeses, figs, salty nuts and hard cheese – a great dessert to impress your guests!

Upcoming Wine Events – NYC

Gramercy: Tom Colicchio’s 15th Annual “Toast to the Children” benefit for the pediatric programs at Bellevue Hospital will be May 10 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Riverpark. Tickets are $250 for GA and $450 for Patrons (with a VIP access) for the grand food and wine tasting of fifteen restaurants and thirteen wine purveyors. [Grub Street]

Sign up for to be eligable for the fabulous tastings below!

Vibrant Rioja’s Grand Tasting

May 5 2011, 6:00 – 8:30 PM EST
608 West 28th Street

Snooth Exclusive:
FREE TASTING EVENT—only for Snooth Users!
For the first time ever, Vibrant Rioja, the organization that promotes The Rioja wine region of Spain, is opening its doors to a grand tasting event normally only open to folks that work in the wine biz—and we’ve got tickets!
We’re bringing the first 250 Snooth Users who RSVP with us to get an inside look—and taste—of:

  • Over 300 wines from top producers
  • Cuisine from all over the world in a global food lounge
  • Live DJ

Read more:

GA + Snooth Media Wine Tasting Series: Juslyn Vineyards Napa Valley Vertical Tasting
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM (ET)
New York, United States

Medi Winebar – Muriel Rioja

I enjoyed a great glass of red Rioja last night in Hell’s Kitchen @ the new Mediterranean fusion spot – Medi Winebar with a very close friend and marathon STAR!

We sat down and we’re immediately told about the restaurant’s concept, the wine and cocktail list!  Not only is it reasonably priced food wise it has an extensive wine list for very low to moderately priced wines which is perfect for an after work glass with a few appetizers (which is exactly what we did).   They have about 25 white wines to choose from and over 50 reds from many regions including: Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Turkey, Montenegro, Lebanon, Israel, and a few more!  We were in the mood for a nice red, not too expensive that would be enjoyable for our catch-up convo!  They did a great job at recommending and suggested the Muriel Rioja Crianza 2005, a Spanish wine that had a very smooth finish at a great price.  We were very pleased and they even offered to top us off with a half glass of wine each so we didn’t have to get another full glass and rush at the end of our meal.

The inside of the wine bar was also very cute and Mediterranean looking with dark wooden decor, chalk-grey wooden tables, and a white marble bar.  A very nice addition to Hell’s Kitchen wine bars!    Bravo!

Style: A little fruity with a hint of cherry.  Spicy and textured.  Very smooth with a long lasting taste

Medi Wine Bar: $9 per glass, $18 per craft, $26 per bottle

Retails: Around $15 in store


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