Monday, June 18, 2007

An Old Rioja

The other night I was drowning and who came to the rescue? Deetrane, that’s who. He’s sort of like a wine superhero. Wine Man, if you will. He rescues flailing wines from the murky depths of the secondary market, whisks them off to the safety of the dinner table, just when you need them the most.

When BrooklynLady and I had Deetrane, his wife PJ, and their friend from LA over for dinner on a recent Wednesday night we served the following menu (and PJ is vegetarian, hence the distinct lack of animal):

Red lentil soup with mint
BrooklynLady’s Portobello lasagna
Greens with fresh goat cheese
BrooklynLady’s home made ice cream sandwiches (she baked molasses cookies and used them to sandwich ginger and green tea ice cream. Utterly ridiculous. I could have eaten 17 of them).

We went with a Bisol Prosecco with the soup – bubbly seemed like a good match for the earthiness of the soup. Plus, it’s fun to drink sparkling wine. So far so good. I wanted to open a 2005 Burgundy with the mushroom lasagna, made with béchamel, somehow rich and light at the same time. I decided on the new Bourgogne from Voillot, a wine I LOVED last year. Shouldn’t 2005 be even better?

Maybe, but the wine was completely green and unpleasant. Decent enough on the nose, with some fleeting raspberry fruit, but all wrong on the palate. Off bottle? I don’t think so, cause it wasn't corked or cooked. It was just bad. It happens sometimes - wines that are great some years are not as good in other years. Confusing that in a great vintage this wine would be so much worse than it was in a so-so year. Anyway...

So we’re having a very nice evening, great company and delicious dinner, but no one can stomach the wine. BrooklynLady has discreetly placed her glass out of arm's reach, everyone else was sipping and literally wincing in pain. A cruel wind began to blow. Hark…is that Wine Man I see? Yes, Deetrane happened to bring a bottle of well aged Rioja with him that evening, tucked into his utility belt. Out came the cork and our evening was saved!

Deetrane and PJ visited La Rioja Alta on their honeymoon and loved the whole experience. La Rioja Alta is an old school producer, cellaring their wine for many years until they feel it’s ready for release. They make many wines, including the Reserva 890 and 904, their top bottles. The Vina Ardanza Reserva shoul cost between $25-30 upon release (but I’m sure Deetrane got a good deal).

I am a neophyte in Rioja in general and certainly with La Rioja Alta, this was the first time I tasted their wine. But based on this bottle, I will definitely be back. And by the way, the Wine Doctor recently reviewed this same wine the other day, but the 1999 vintage, and enjoyed it very much.

1996 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva, price unknown.
Pretty dark garnet color. Aromas literally burst from the glass upon pouring. Vibrant and rich smells of black cherry with a bit of chocolate, something herbal underneath. Very enticing – demands that you take a sip. The wine is just delicious – juicy, rich and mouth-filling, but light and lively on the palate. Black cherries with undertones of chocolate, earth, and herbs. I loved this wineand it pared perfectly with the lasagna.

I found a few bottles of the 1999 vintage at a store I don’t usually go to, and I’m deciding whether or not to dive in…


John Holk said...

Homemade Ice cream sandwiches? Now you're talking! Go Brooklyn Lady!

Joe said...

Too bad about the Burgundy...never had a Rioja Alta (many Riojas, but not this one). From the label it looks like it was rescued from a dumpster!

Brooklynguy said...

Hey John - she does rock, my wife.

Joe - Deetrane brought this wine. That's all you need to know, eh?

Wicker Parker said...

You're "deciding" whether or not to get the '99? Don't be a damned fool! It's explosively aromatic (dried sour cherry, lavender, cinnamon, sage, dill, and walnuts) and it's fresh, elegant, and balanced in the mouth. The spice is gorgeous, too. To not buy at least one bottle is to commit wine malpractice.

Sidenote: I was not so taken with their leathery 2001 Alberdi, which was brown, oxidized, and raisiny (and not in that good northern Italy way). Not sure if it was the bottle -- I read somewhere that it's supposed to be brick red -- or the style...

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Mike - thanks for the impassioned plea on my behalf to the wine gods. I will heed your advice and avail myself of at least one bottle. Don't know what I was thinking. Thank you again for helping me to not screw myself over.