This tasting happened February 18, 2005 at K&L. I was eager to go since I told someone I would find him a good, light (read: traditional) Tempranillo and every time I picked up a bottle, it ended up being a big, black-fruit, Parker-styled beast of a wine, and not at all what I wanted. I started thinking that I had been imagining lighter Tempranillo styles but finally came across an Izadi Rioja that I thought was exactly what I wanted, even though I figured I would check out this tasting as well. Funnily, the Izadi was included in the tasting and it was, of the 13 wines tasted, my favorite, still. So the tasting was maybe pointless but it was a fascinating tasting nonetheless, and I realized a few things:
1- I mentally categorize red wines into "black" or "red" based on general fruit profile and overall flavors (in this case I was looking for a red and not a black. Only two of the wines we tasted (well, three) counted as red to me, so it is good one of them worked out.
2- Tempranillo, at least what we tasted, is a lot darker than I remember (I am guessing my memory really sucks).
3- I don't like it when Cabernet Sauvignon gets into my Tempranillo. Well, sometimes.
4- 2001 was a better year for Spain than 2003.
It got crowded as it always does these days, and you have to juggle around and taste and write your notes on your clipboard (or on the counter, if you get there early like me and can stake out a good spot). Like Italian wines, Spanish wines really need food, so tasting them this way isn't ideal, because a cracker every now and then isn't really real food. Life is hard, sometimes, isn't it?
2004 Bodegas Y Vinedos Luna Beberide Mencia, Bierzo - 100% Mencia - ($13) From the area of Spain directly north of Portugal. The Mencia grape is possibly related to Cabernet Franc. Dark purple with a soapy, violet, blackberry jam nose, it is strong and tannic in the mouth. There is black fruit and some rocky minerality there but it wasn't very exciting and I wasn't thrilled by it, although I realize it had the misfortune of being the first wine tasted and that wine is always at a disadvantage. Also, it definitely needed food. 7.
2001 Viña Izadi Crianza, Rioja (Alavesa) - 90% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano - ($15) Light burgundy in the glass and with a goregous nose of cherries, it plies you with a lot of sour cherry in the mouth and finishes with a very slight cough drop/cardamom flavor. It has a rough, warm finish... not tannic, but nicely astringent, probably a result of the 14 months it spent in American oak. 9.
2001 Bodegas Y Vinedos Pujanza, Rioja (Alavesa) - 100% Tempranillo - ($25) Darker burgundy than the Izadi, I found it was hard to get much off the nose...some lead and tobacco with some cherry down underneath somewhere. There is black fruit but not much of it, and the finish is all leather and tannins. 7.5
2003 Artadi Viñas de Gaín, Rioja (Alavesa) - 100% Tempranillo - ($22) Blackish purple in the glass, really dark. A wacky almost floral nose that has a strange element of hazelnut in it (I am thinking, since to me it smelled like nuts and plastic, and I mean that in a nice way). It has a lot of fruit up front and an oaky softly tannic finish with lingering plum and cherry. It's a very feminine wine and very pretty. 8.
2004 El Quintanal, Ribera del Duero - 100% Tempranillo - ($11) First bottle had a must problem of some sort where it tasted and smelled musty. We got out a second one to check, and indeed, it was much cleaner. It's dark purple with a nose of thyme and herbs and is very black cherry-like and placid in the mouth, with a burst of herb, oak, and fruit at the finish. The nose is what I think of as shiny and hard... it's not rough and warm but has very precise smells in it. It's a savory-type wine, and for the price it is very nice. 8.
2001 Arzuaga Crianza, Ribera del Duero - 100% Tempranillo - ($26) Brownish-purple and with a nose full of tons of black fruit, along with leaf litter and tobacco. Loads of black plummy fruit in the mouth and some tobacco and oak on the finish. Very pleasant. 8.
2003 Finca Luzón Altos de Luzón, Jumilla - 50% Monastrell, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Tempranillo - ($14) Burgundy-black, smells like a Cab to me... lots of mocha and blackberry and currant. Has a nice spicy peppery finish, but feels heavy and dull after the previous wines. 7.
2003 Pago Florentino, La Mancha - 100% Tempranillo - ($17) Made by the Arzaga people. All about black fruit. Dark in the glass, dark in the mouth. Has a nice astringency. I really liked the first taste, but the second proved to be cloying and I wasn't so sure. Had a little too much jam in it for me... kind of Australian in sensibility. 7.5.
2003 Celler de Cantonella Cervoles Tinto, Costers del Segre - 41% Tempranillo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Grenache, 11% Merlot - ($25) This is the second of the "red" wines, and is medium burgundy in the glass. This one is all cough syrup all the time. It's pleasant enough, though, since the slightly-medicinal sour cherry thing works for me. It also has a slight bitterness on the finish that lingers. The Cabernet isn't as noticeable here. 8.
2003 Vetus, Toro - 100% Tempranillo, maybe - ($20) Made by the Izadi people, and sports a pretty spiffy minimal label. Dark, black, with a lot of rough tannins and could probably sit around for a while to good effect. In the same rough, warm style as the Izadi. 8.5
2004 Bodegas Quinta de la Quietud "Corral de Campanas", Toro - 100% Tinto de Toro, maybe - ($22) From the former owners of Château Cheval Blanc. Dark purple and with a lot of oaky tinderbox and hope chest smells in the nose along with some mocha and cherry. Lots of big, extracted fruit descending to a prickly acid finish. A huge wine. 8.
2001 Quinta de la Quietud Muestra, Toro - 100% Tinto de Toro, maybe - ($35) Reddish black, dark. Smells like an attic filled with old papers. Lots of very ripe brambly blackberry and raspberry in the mouth. Very pretty and elegant overall. 8.5.
1996 Arzuaga Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero - 100% Tempranillo, maybe - ($125) This was a bonus bottle opened up because everyone in the store wanted to try it. Very brown/brick red and showing that it has some age on it. Not much fruit left at this point, mostly toasty wood, tobacco, and spice in the mouth. The finish is languid and super smooth, and I really liked the finish, since I am all about the finish when it comes to wine. 9.
Tasting quote of the day:
Kirk (hosting the tasting) to me, when I didn't appreciate the Cabernet in the Finca Luzón: "Cabernet in the glass is like having your mother-in-law in your house... you don't have to see her to know she's there."
I ended up going home with the Izadi Rioja and the Vetus, even though I will probably pick up the El Quintanal at some point and possibly a couple of the others.