Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tasting Note: Marqués de Tomares Rioja Gran Reserva 2001

Before I layed me down to sleep
I prayed my decanter my wine to keep
If it had died before I woke
I wouldn't have found it a funny joke!

Today, New Year's Eve 2011, I tasted at 12:30PM in a gorgeous Bottega del Vino glass from Verona, Marqués de Tomares 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva. It was in great shape *phew!*, and I wrote a tasting note following the Wine and Spirit Education Trust guidlines I was indoctrinated with while practicing for my 4 tries before passing the Unit 3 tasting exam (just one less try than the number of road tests for my NYS Driver's License)

Marqués de Tomares Rioja 2001 Gran Reserva is a limited production run of 10,423 numbered 750ml bottles (today I opened bottle number 1158) and 960 Magnums. It's 90% Temrpanillo and 10% Mazuelo, a less heralded but very important grape variety that is one of four red varieties legally allowed in Rioja wines. It's known as Carignan in France, and job is to contribute a little seasoning to a blend.

Gran Reserva is a term regulated by the Consejo Regulador, and can be applied to wines made in only in very execptional vintages from the top vineyards of the region. White Gran Reservas exist, but they are even more rare than red ones. The law requires they are aged for a minumum of two years in oak barrels and they are not allowed to leave the winery until six years after vintage, although in practice they are usually treated to much more aging - this particular Gran Reserva had nine cellared years at Marqués de Tomares winery before it arrived on US shores. It rested thirty months of that time in American Oak barrels (customarily the oak of choice in the region) and spent the rest of the time louging in bottles in the cellar. The 750 ml bottles arrived in handsome wooden cases (six to a box), while the magnums were packed in individual branded wooden coffins. Wine swag!

I first tasted this wine in the summer of 2010 while considering it for purchase for the shelves at my shop, the erstwhile wineLIFE Wine Shop in New York. I retasted it in November of that year and wrote a very simple tasting note:
Appearance - Garnet (in WSET terms, garnet is more of a reddish brown, normal for old world wines and wines from older vintages, while ruby would define a red leaning toward purple or blue, normal for young wines)
Nose - Earthy, Green Pepper, Black Olive
Palate - Complex, layers of cinnamon, coffee, spice, green tea... and I wrote acidity, which in wineLIFE speak indicates that the wine's acidity was surprisingly fresh for its age (this was a tasting note jotted quickly while standing in front of the wine's importer, James Turney of Parador Selections, in my store)
I gave the wine five stars. It was a freshly opened sample, not decanted.

The next time I drank it, we were having ribs, baked macaroni and cheese and other wonderful comfort foods on July 5, 2011 for the birthday of my long time friend Wil Otero - we drank magnum number 342. It was an epic summer celebration!

So last night around 11:00PM, I gently poured the wine into a Riedel Merlot 750ml decanter* (see end note). While doing so, I remembered an interesting piece of wine history, very old, simple technology that I could see last night still works. The bottle this wine was packaged in is the traditional Bordeaux shape, that is straight sides with shoulders. The original purpose for the design of that bottle was so that while you pour, the shoulders would catch any sediment so you wouldn't have to chew on polymerized tannins in your glass while drinking. I could see this happening as I poured - the shoulders were indeed holding back the sediment!

I let the decanted wine stand in my kitchen overnight, in a shady, relatively cool corner. For lunch I had it with a grilled cheese sandwich and took a thorough tasting note a little over 12 hours after decanting. As I write this post at 4:00PM I'm still sipping it and it is still giving up lots of delish goods. Now, withouth further ado, today's tasting note on this wine:

Appearance - Deep garnet, mahogany core fading to a brownish rim

Nose - Clean, deep and intense with a bouquet of leather, sage, dried raspberry, cherry and fig, caramel, cedar/ciagr box, cured black olives

Palate - Long length with beautifully balanced alcohol and acidity, silky fine graned tannins. It reminded me of a charred sirloin steak off the grill, cooked medium rare, or jerk seasoning minus the peppery kick, and that cedar/cigar box aroma played in my retronasal passage (accessed from inside the mouth while tasting). Hints of herbal flavors of rosemary, bayleaf and green olive laced the profile and there was an underlying flavor of black trumpet mushrooms (trompettes de la mort)

The wine still gets five stars - it is in amazing condition and decanting showed me the mature side of The Dreamgirl, with all her contures. Complex, this wine is a picture of power and soul. She could hold off the Klan with a shotgun to protect her children one day and cry while watching a love story the next.

A rare and wonderful experience to end this rare and wonderful year and usher in the promise of 2012. Cheers, Happy New Year, thanks for reading. Please share, tweet, post and comment to your heart's content!

*Riedel Merlot Decanter is a model name. While its probably true that Riedel made this specific decanter with Merlot's best interests at heart (they are known for specialist varietal glassware) it still worked just fine for the Gran Reserva. In fact, I have other decanters that are wider and would have spread the wine out more, but I chose this one because while I wanted to aerate the Rioja, I didn't want to assault it with too much oxygen. This decanter kept the wine in close quarters. By the 24 hour mark, it was starting to fall to pieces.

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