La Rioja

DSC00021One night, two days, three estates, four total visits, five + hours on the bus (each way) and … over 120 students. I’ve already been to Spain twice this summer but this was my first wine tour and I got two experience both La Rioja and Navarra. While there were a lot of things I found frustrating about the trip and it wasn’t how I would have chosen to do things, I got to drink some awesome wine and enjoy a night out in Logroño.

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Tasting at D.O. Navarra

Our first visit, and one of the best of the trip, was at the D.O. Office of Navarra. We sat through a short presentation and then enjoyed a great tasting of white, rose, red and sweet white wines. The director we spoke with was very passionate about his work and his enthusiasm was contagious.

Next, after a slightly disconcerting lunch, we made a stop at Marco Real. Part of a large family group that has estates in Argentina and Spain as well as a spirits production branch, Marco Real is based in Navarra. With a gleaming modern facility, one of the best aspects of this visit was the aromatics room. With over 70 essential oil diffusers this room is all about exploring the unique aromas that can be found in wine.

Cathedral in Logrono

Cathedral in Logrono

That night, despite my initial reservations, we spent a lovely evening at a seminary in Logroño. And of course… we wen’t out on the town. We had a couple of bottles of wine in the shadow of the lovely cathedral and then moved on for a tapas tour. I’ve had some amazing Spanish food over the years and enjoyed some amazing tapas. But I had, hands-down the best tortilla I’ve ever had. I’m still having dreams about it. Le sigh…I guess I’ll just have to go back and find the tiny little bar again.

Frank Gehry's Amazing Hotel at Marques de Riscal

Frank Gehry’s Amazing Hotel at Marques de Riscal

Then Friday morning, we dragged our slightly sorry, hungover buts out of bed and back onto the bus. I will confess this is where my group was especially lucky. We got to visit two estates instead of another D.O. Office and an estate. The first stop: the internationally celebrated Marques de Riscal. With stunning architecture and impressive production facilities, this estate encapsulated some of the best Rioja has to offer. Although I have to say I was a little disappointed by the visit…the estate was beautiful and we got to see some of the behind-the-scenes sites, but it almost felt too perfect. Clearly a well oiled machine, Marques de Riscal has turned the winery tour into an almost conveyor-belt like process.

Vat tasting at Marques de Teran

Vat tasting at Marques de Teran

But our second stop…was a completely different story. The best visit of our trip by far, Marques de Terán, was a unique experience characterized by passion and endless enthusiasm.  Our tour guide: the CEO. Utterly dedicated to producing the best possible wine and remaining both unique and eco-friendly, his excitement was contagious. Our tasting included two wines from the vats and a stunning 2009 Crianza. Not your typical Rioja wines, I liked them so much I bought three bottles.

We then stopped for a lovely three course lunch – that included more of the fabulous Marques de Terán wines. And then unfortunately, we were headed back to Bordeaux and real life. I’m looking forward to going back and getting a chance to do more exploring. Also there seems to be some tortilla calling my name… In the mean time, click below to see my tasting notes from the trip or click here to see the full range of photos.

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Vino Juguera 2013 

A Granache saignee rose from the Navarra D.O. this wine had a very deep rose color that could almost be called strawberry. In fact, I would say strawberry was the theme for this wine. The nose smelled of strawberry shortcake with hints of cream, vanilla and of course ripe berries. The aromatics were mimicked in the palate without being sweet. Well rounded with good weight it was underlined with a slight hint of tannins.

IMG_1327Otazu Chardonay 2013 

A very pale lemon yellow color with a brilliant crystalline aspect, the reserved nose delivered grassy notes with an underlying citrus character of grapefruit and lemon curd. Medium bodied and well balanced with good acidity this wine is ready to drink quickly. Slight hints of citrus and flirty minerality make this an easy sipper.

IMG_1329Principeé de Viana Tempranillo 2013

With a stunning purple ruby color this wine was noticeably oaky on the nose. But the bouquet also struck me with its heavy and meaty character, underlined with black fruit and currants. The wine was young but opened nicely with aeration. The palate was a continuation of the nose with a slightly spicy character. Smooth and balance with a medium to long finish.

IMG_1330F. Olimpia 2010

A Crianza aged for at least nine months in oak, this old vine grenache is a pale ruby color with slight hints of orange around the edges. Spicy on the nose with ripe plummy red fruit and hints of smoky oak. Smooth and with a hint of heat on the palate, the body is lighter than expected. Not an oak bomb despite its long aging the wine is acidic and fresh with ripe tannins and spicy red fruit.

IMG_1331Pagos de Araiz 2011

Another crianza this wine is a blend of Merlot, Temperanillo and Syrah. Slight softer on the nose it delivers lovely red and black fruit with underlying notes of vanilla, licorice and white pepper. Medium ruby in color this was my favorite of the Navarra reds with a well balanced and smooth mouthfeel. Refined body and soft tannins are defined by good acidity and freshness.

IMG_1332Piedmont 2012 Moscatel 

A late-harvest Moscatel from Navarra this wine was a very pleasant surprise. Sweet with notes of orange marmalade and peaches this wine remained savory and intriguing on the palate. Lacking the syrupy factor and huge weight of most sweet whites this wine was nevertheless incredibly smooth in the mouth with a lingering aromatic profile.

IMG_1333Homenaje 2013 

The most interesting thing about this wine is the label, which changes yearly and is designed by the winner of a competition at Madrid fashion week. Made of 100% Grenache the deep pink raspberry color yielded a bright and intriguing nose. However the palate was overly simple and subdued. A bit boring to be perfectly honest.

IMG_1334Marco Real Crianza 2010 

A deep ruby color with very slight orange highlights this wine was also very disappointing. Hot and sharp on both the nose and the palate the wine lacked originality. Primary notes of cherry and vanilla dominated the over oaked palate.

 

Marques de Riscal Verdejo 

I unfortunately didn’t catch the year or a photo of this bottle or the red we drank. However, given the larger scale production of Marques de Riscal the wine remains a characteristic representation of the house style year after year. That being said, I loved it. Crisp and clean, bright and fresh this wine is approachable and easy to drink.

IMG_1341Marques de Teran Crianza 2009 

Deep purple in color this wine has a pronounced nose of oak, smoke, spice and charcuterie with subtle hints of black fruit. The finish was long and incredibly smooth with black fruit, vanilla and subtler oak integration than the nose would suggest. Balanced with tannins, fruit and freshness this is a great wine to enjoy with a meal.

 

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