2005 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva

The 2005 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva kicked off our “after party” last night, a rich red Rioja that carried notes of chocolate, leather, and spice from the first taste to the last of the bottle. This bottle continued a fun evening, one that started with a fantastic crostata (prosciutto and cheese with roasted red peppers!) and a great production of A Christmas Carol. A few random Dickens facts conveyed by our playbills:

  • Christmas was not always a day off for workers; Scrooge’s question to Crachit, “You’ll want the whole day off tomorrow, I suppose?” helped create this expectation for us all.
  • The first commercially produced Christmas cards were printed in 1843, the same year Charles Dicken’s novel was published.
  • There is no Christmas tree in A Christmas Carol, and his characters do not exchange gifts–a tradition usually reserved for New Year’s Day celebrations in that day.
  • In the early 1800s (and thanks in part to the Puritans), Christmas was celebrated more like Halloween is today–as a time for merriment and feasting.
2005 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva

2005 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva, Rioja, Spain

Okay, now back to the vino. This 2005 is a red blend of 90% Tempranillo, and 5% Graciano and 5% Garnacha and hails from Bodega Classica. The winery is located in San Vincente de la Sonsierra (on the south of the Cantabrian Mountain Range and the Tolono mountains) and irrigated by the River Ebro. With good rainfall during the winter, protection from the wind and humidity, and excellent “calcareous clay” soil, Sonsierra seems particularly conducive to growing Tempranillo. Bodega Classica ages their 2005 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva for 20 months in French and American oak. The product of this care? An aromatic, full red that is nearly chewy on the palate.

I could see this as a great accompaniment for cheeses, for a black-and-blue burger, or perhaps a cracked pepper accent on a grilled chicken salad or steak. It stands on some big legs. If you’re after some experts’ thoughts, allow me to present tasting notes from Parker’s Wine Advocate:

“It has a beautiful, rounded, sensual bouquet with hints of over-ripe Satsuma and gravel. The palate is medium-bodied with a touch of piquancy on the entry. It has crisp acidity and taut tannins on the dry, dusky finish but it remains extremely well-focused.”

It’s been some time since we covered a 2005 in Notes and glad to share on this occasion! Holiday fun to be sure.

2012 Ergo, Martín Códax Rioja

Just finishing an enjoyable glass of 2012 Ergo, a last cocktail for the weekend. Fitting, perhaps, as the Ergo also ushered in our Friday evening. Like a few other youthful wines we’ve had of late, the Ergo smelled tart at first…an acidic sharpness that was not actually present in the drink itself.

2011 Ergo, Martín Códax, Rioja, Spain.

2011 Ergo, Martín Códax, Rioja, Spain.

My wife picked this wine out, possibly to accompany a Mexican chicken soup that we had earlier in the week (at which time I opted to finish an open Pinot instead), and had the same vibe as to the Ergo’s tart notes. You can also smell dark cherry and maybe just a hint of pepper in this mix of Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes?

I liked it very much. You think you’ll have a tough finish when you get a whiff of this wine’s acidity, but it’s much smoother and lighter. At the same time, it was able to muscle up nicely to thin grilled steaks–which featured a new spice rub that is still much the topic of debate in our house. (We are not sure if the rub worked or not.)

My initials jump right off the label, so I knew I was going to be a fan from the start. I have no decent photo to share this evening…at least of the 2012 Ergo. Give this wine a shot and taste for yourself.

2008 Ondarre Reserva Rioja

My brother has good taste in wine, though he’s perhaps less interested than I in breaking down all the specific flavors a given bottle may convey to its consumer. This Tempranillo from Spain’s Rioja region is a good example–a bright, fruity red that finishes easy and comfortably for your Saturday night dinner. He picked it because it sounded good, I’m sure; I’m describing it here on Notes because he was right.

2008 Ondarre Reserva Rioja, Spain.

2008 Ondarre Reserva Rioja, Spain.

So what steak, what beef did we consume with the 2008 Ondarre Reserva Rioja? We actually cut against the grain and, after sampling it first during hors de oeuvres, continued on with it for our main course. Mom pulled out a gem of a shrimp dish that included butter, olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, red pepper flakes (some welcome heat!), and fresh minced rosemary. The kitchen smelled fantastic at this point, and the entire dish was roasted in the oven beside slides of lemon and ultimately finished with salt, pepper, and squeezed lemon juice.

All that goodness we ate with a side of cous cous and peas, plus the Ondarre. The red didn’t quite blend with the sauce on the shellfish but both the wine and the shrimp entre stood loud and proud by itself. Bearing the Reserva title from the Rioja region, we know that the grapes were oak aged for at least three years. With three of us drinking this wine for the evening, it did not age long in our glasses–a good thing.

This wine is solid. It can serve as the foundation for a good evening of wine drinking and certainly for smiles among family members enjoying a visit at Christmas. May yours be merry and bright…and thanks Steve for the nice contribution!

2010 Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza Red

The Marques de Caceres was introduced to me some time ago by great friends, friends with a penchant for amazing food and great fondness for Spanish reds. They love the Riojas and served us a 2008 at their house in Raleigh; this 2010 we opened at our place to help usher in some Christmas merriment.

2010 Marques de Caceres Crianza Red, Rioja, Spain.

2010 Marques de Caceres Crianza Red, Rioja, Spain.

Like the 2008, this 2010 Crianza is deep ruby red and packs in a hearty berry burst that you’ll really enjoy if you like reds even a little. There’s some cherry here, or maybe even red raspberry flavor, but the truth is you really won’t much care. This one is not about the notes as much as the emotional response it will create for you. It’s delicious, easy to drink, and sure to cheer up the occasion you’ve decided to celebrate with this fruity Spanish gem.

Forgive the brevity of this particular entry; I’ve offered all the praise that I can for both this vintage and the 2008 Marques de Caceres. Pick one up today and start enjoying for yourself.

2012 Rio Madre Rioja Graciano

For a Friday evening meal, there’s little that I enjoy more than this classic ritual: glass of interesting red (okay, maybe glasses), delicious steak from the grill, and crispy salad. Throw in a potato of some kind–it was roasted potato tonight–and you’ve got yourself a veritable feast.

And on this particular Friday, the part of the red was played by the 2012 Rio Madre Rioja Graciano. I don’t remember where we got this red, luscious beauty but it was a good one. Rich, deep red in the glass, and lots of cherry in the taste. Do you get a hint of spice or something in the finish? I can’t place it but pretty sure it’s there and you’ll know it when you taste it too.

I am positive the 2012 Rio Madre Rioja Graciano is my first sampling of a Graciano grape, and it was a great experience. This Graciano is aged for 11 months in French oak, by the way, and that’s probably where some of its subtle flavors are engendered. If the other Rioja wines are as good, then I’ll have something beyond Tempranillo to look forward to from Spain. Some reviewers advocated opening this and allowing it to breath for a full year; it may have set for a mere hour (or less) in our home. Ran through nearly the entire bottle tonight and wish I had another waiting in the wings.