It’s nice to get a pleasant wine surprise, especially when you really weren’t expecting much!
In my case it was Spanish wines. Anyone who reads this blog or my Twitter feed knows that I have been increasingly disappointed by Spain over the last few years. Whether it is a change in style or my tastes (or both), most Spanish wines have been coming off as too woody and herbal for me — even the Rioja Reservas I used to love so much. As a result, I rarely buy them to drink or put in my cellar anymore, and the ‘Spanish’ space in the cellar is getting smaller and smaller.
But that may have all changed as of a dinner at Hart House Restaurant in Burnaby, BC on Wednesday. The theme was ‘Spain’, and we (my wife and I) were going more for the food than the wine, based on our recent experience at a Provence dinner (although the wine there was also very good).
The format of these dinners is a wine tasting from 6 – 7, followed by a gourmet buffet dinner from 7 onward — all for $55 a head (plus any wine you want with dinner). It is an amazing deal and, no, ‘gourmet buffet’ is not an oxymoron – how do options like gazpacho, mackerel, paella and roast leg of lamb sound? The food was very good, served family style outside in a beautiful setting.
So we were going for the food…as for the wine, well, I thought a few glasses of Cava (which my wife loves), maybe a half decent Rioja…and that would be it.
Boy was I wrong!
The two Cavas were basic but good values — the NV Segura Viudas Brut Rose and Codorniu Classico Brut. Nice bubbles to get the night started, and meeting expectations.
Then there were a few Roses, very dry, a bit tart, certainly no challenge to Provence or even BC.
Next up were the whites and, as expected, they were nothing to write home about. A couple of Ruedas were okay, especially the ’11 Basa by Rodriguez, but at about $20 retail ($42 on the wine list), I couldn’t say it was worth it.
All that was left was reds…so I took a deep breath and headed over to the first table. And…wow!!!
First up was a 2005 Rioja Reserva from Lopez de Haro. I sniffed — hmm, nice vanilla and currants! But I expected wood and herbs to follow in the mouth — but nope! More vanilla covered ripe black currants, with dusty tannins! It could have been a mid-level California Cabernet! And about $25 retail ($46 on the list). A really nice wine!
They had another red wine, so I tried that too… it tasted younger, but maybe even better! When the guy told me it was Garnacha, I just about fell over…it tasted like a Cotes du Rhone! Which, when he showed me where it came from (the northeast corner of Spain, almost on the French border), made sense. The wine, by the way, was the 2011 Proyecto Garnachas Moncayo (from Ribera del Queiles). And it retails for about $25 as well.
And so it went! Another very nice Rioja Reserva (2005 from Beronia), a toned down version of the Los Rocas Garnacha…and then the star of the night! A 2010 named Pasion del Bobal from Utiel-Requena. It was amazing – big, ripe and smooth! Afterwards I found out Parker gave a previous vintage 91 Points, and I can see why! We both had a glass at dinner.
As we were heading home, I was trying to decide what the night’s wine experience meant.
That I should go back to tasting Spanish reds was the obvious learning. But perhaps more importantly, the lesson might be never to give up completely on a wine!