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Day 5 – May 6th
Today is a very exciting day for me because up until now, from our tastings, Marques de Riscal has been one of my favorite wines to taste and we are going to their winery today! Marques de Riscal is a prestigious winery; it was the first winery to be built in La Rioja and the first to receive an award of quality. It was redone and given a facelift by one of my favorite architects and designers, Frank Gehry, who also designed the Guggenheim and the EMP building in Seattle. He uses pure titanium and used the colors purple, silver and gold to represent the different earthy colors of the surrounding vineyards. We arrive early and wander the grounds. The gardens are gorgeous and very well kept. There is a stream flowing through underneath a quaint bridge. The entire scene is very peaceful and picturesque. We finally get to enter the gift shop and it is one of the most elegant shops I have ever seen. Bottle placed in museum-like nooks in the walls, lit up for show. We spot a Frank Gehry priced at 242 Euro. They even have jewelry and beauty products, which we will later learn is a new trend in beauty regimen; wine bathing and scrubs.
The guide arrives and escorts us towards the center of this “Riscal town.” It truly is like a compound with the old world feel of a town, but as we walk towards the clock in the middle, we see that it has been modernized to some extent. As we continue our tour, we step outside into something resembling a garden, or showcasing of old vines. They are each separated and potted into different stone vases and as we look closer, we see that they are carved with the names of each grape variety. This is my first experience seeing vines and I am very impressed, almost tearing up with emotion. I have never seen a vine, let alone the different grape varieties. I touch them all and snap photos. This is a very important moment in my life as I am meeting the source of my passion. We continue on our tour and get to the stainless steel fermentation tanks and presses. We take a look at the barrels and get blown away by how many there are. Then we get to see the Reserva barrels hidden underground. I love everything about this winery, the smell and feel of the humid cold air doing its job at keeping these wines stored. We then get a very pleasant surprise and are allowed to enter the oldest cellar, carrying vintages dating back to 1862!!! This “Botelleria,” has bottled covered with dust and spider webs. It is dark and humid and you can feel the history in these living, breathing bottles. It is very intense. We then get to see the bottling line and watch the process.
We end with an amazing tasting in the tasting room at Riscal with tapas of tortilla espanola and jamon iberico with
cheese. We try two wines; a Sauvignon Blanc 2012 that has a floral aromatic nose (not grassy at all like most Sauvignon’s) with white rose, lemon zest, gardenia and jasmine. It has a full body, great acidity and a long, dry finish. We also try a Finca Torrea 2007, a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano, with a dark ruby almost slightly resignated and opaque color. Aromatic notes of dark cherry, cedar and chocolate with a taste of vanilla, good tannin, slightly dry and creamy mouth feel. The finish is long and the fruit recedes to the back of the mouth. I give it a 95!
We thank our guide for the amazing first tour and head to Ramon Bilbao.
A short bus ride later we arrive the Bodega de Ramon Bilbao. Our guide Paula, a very pretty and serious woman, greets us. We begin our tour and see that this winery has no new world influences, just an old world feel. It is much smaller in production than Riscal and we quickly make our way through the winery and cellars. We head to our tasting and I am excited that our first wine, Volteo 2012 is blend of 60% Verdejo and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, a blend that I have never tried before. It has a gorgeous and curious white gold color with a nose of green apples and honey, white peach and white citrus. The taste is similar to a Sauvignon Blanc for me, grassy, well balanced, and semi-dry with medium acidity and low astringency and a long finish. A good seafood pairing wine. We compare Volteo to the next wine, a Monte Blanco 2012, 100% Verdejo. It is straw yellow with greenish hints and aromas of vanilla, floral notes and white peach. It has less acidity than the Volteo, a fuller body and medium fruit with a medium to long finish. It definitely has a fuller body and creamier mouth feel than the Volteo. Next we try a Gran Reserva 2005 (we were told that 2005 was an excellent vintage in Rioja). This wine is 90% tempranillo, 10% graciano & mazuelo. It had a complex nose of green pepper, tobacco, smoke, raspberries, bay leaves and licorice. It has high acidity, good tannin, and notes of leather, stewed fruits and cedar. It is very expressive with a long, tannic finish. Last, but not least, we try the much-anticipated Mirto, a wine that does not fall under any classification under the DO, but into its own independent classification. This 2008 vintage is an intense ruby with purple highlights. A nose of leather, cedar/pine with cherries, bay leaves, eucalyptus and French oak. I tasted French vanilla and the wine had a solid structure with higher tannin and a wonderful complexity.
All in all a wonderful first winery tour and tastings!
Journal written by Nicole Lindares vindepresse.com
Nicole Linares is a student at the Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality, USA, an active member of her schools Wine Academy and budding wine writer