Tag Archives: spain

What I Did While I Was Away Last Week (with a couple reviews thrown in)

Sorry for the absence.
I know you missed me.
I missed you too!

I was on a much needed vacation. Away from Chicago. Away from work. Away from everything except family and a few friends. 
It was fun. I guess there’s not a ton to report other than that. There were some wines consumed. Some beer. Some Sake. Good times all around.

Tonight I want to talk about a couple wines. A bit of a roundup so to speak. We have a Garnacha, Malbec, and Malbec blend.

So without further ado…



Quadrum – Binny’s Exclusive 2012 Garnacha (Garnacha/Tempranillo blend) – 14% alc – about $10

This first one is a Binny’s Exclusive. Pours Deep red/purple. Full of crisp and bright fruit flavors. Cherry, raspberry, blueberry, a little plum. Moderately drying. Very tasty. Very worth it. End of the Sip and finish taste decidedly of pie crust. Yum.




Michel Rolland – Clos De Los Siete 2009 Malbec – Mendoza, Argentina – 14.5% alc – about $17 – blend of 57% Malbec, 15% Merlot – 15% Cab Sauv – 10% Syrah – 3% Petit Verdot

Looks deep red fading to pink on the edges. Aroma of red and dark fruits (cherries and blueberries mostly with a hint of strawberry). Also detecting oak with small hint of vanilla. Heat is noticeable. 

Taste is of oak and cherries. Thought it needed more time to open up, but this follows through even to the second day. Very dry in an extremely oaky way. Medium body. Pronounced heat. Finish is all heat and oak with some berries. 

Honestly it’s not as bad as this is sounding but it’s certainly not memorable and definitely not worth my $17 again. I’m sorry to say..

(Pay no attention to the Grenadine in the background….)



Bodegas Y Vinedos – Urban Uco Malbec 2012 – 14.2% alc – Argentina – about $10

Had this awhile ago. Bought it again to take home to my parents’ house to share with them over dinner. Worth it both times.

Bright fruit. Moderately drying. Not incredibly complex but definitely an easy drinker with nice flavor that pleased everyone at the table. 


Next time we are going back to Argentina. And then probably one more time after that… Hmm, maybe we’ll do a double review on those two. Yeah, that’ll be the plan for now.

Soon after, we’ll take a trip to Ohio. It’s gonna be fun, I swear.


A 2005 Rioja. Classy or Bust?

Tonight we travel back to Spain, as promised. This being a 2005, it’s the oldest wine I’ve had. Yeah, I know, it’s really not that old. I need to get out more.. or spend more money at the store. But a milestone is a milestone and here we are.

It’s a fairly standard blend: mostly Tempranillo (65%), with Garnacha taking up another 25%, and Graciano and Mazuelo rounding out the rest at 5% each.

It’s also a Crianza, so it spends a decent amount of time in Oak and in the bottle before release. This particular wine spend the better part of 2 years in American Oak and then 2 more years hanging out with its makers before being released into the wild.

In my experience with beer and barrels, many times the beer can end up thinner than the maker intended, so I was curious to see what the mouthfeel would be like in this wine. Although, I don’t know the intentions of the winemaker in this particular case.. Anywho it’s just something to think about.



R Lopez de Heredia – 2005 Vina Cubillo Crianza – 13.5% alc – Rioja, Spain – about $23


I’m the type of person that is extremely influenced by expectations.

For example, I honestly was not expecting to like the movie “The Hangover.” Frankly, it looked stupid to me. However, when I finally got around to seeing it (on DVD no less because I didn’t want to spend the Million Dollars it takes to get into a movie theater to see a movie I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing) I LOVED IT. It was really funny. And I think I really only liked it as much as I did because I didn’t expect to like it at all, when in fact it was a pretty decent comedy by all accounts.

I have plenty of examples to illustrate the other side of the coin as well but we’ll leave them for another time.

I mention all this because I was very very excited to open this bottle. Due to my blooming love affair with Spanish reds and the fact this is the oldest wine I’ve tried thus far, my expectations were quite high. Also, I liked what I had read about it.

(Ed. note:  What Iain is getting at is that if he likes this wine, it must meet or exceed his high expectations.  When he says he is influenced by expectations, he truly means it.  Ask him about the movie Kick Ass.)


(Iain Note: As an aside, this has got to be one of the best bargains for the price if you consider the fact this is an 8/9 year old wine for $23.)

So I poured this thing into a glass. This wine started out almost burnt-orange and then became a deep, dark red as it filled the glass. The burnt-orange stuck around towards the outside of the glass. I’d like to think that attributes to the relative age of the wine.

Smelling it I got bright juicy red fruits, a slight sour note, tobacco, what I at first thought of as Cedar that then revealed itself to be that of a Cigarbox, and some spices. Pretty nice and tidy. Day 2 reveals much of the same.

I was kind of disappointed with the first sip, to be honest. It hit me hard with that sour note. I seriously got flashbacks to the last wine I reviewed. My stomach sank.

Then it occurred to me I may not have let it breathe as much as I needed to. It had really only been open 30-40 minutes. So I set the glass down, let the bottle breathe, and watched another episode of Supernatural before going back to it.

That made all the difference. This time, big cherry flavor, then sour and oak intermingling. Spices hit at the beginning and then very end of each sip. The balance of sweet, sour and oak is really nice. Nothing too forward. Nothing out of balance really.

Giving this even more time to breathe (this is especially true on the second evening spent with it), candied oranges and lemons and a slight hint of honey come in somewhere in the midpalate. This is certainly finely crafted.

It is, however, delicate. Put this next to some big Napa Cabs or even many Pinot Noirs and it’s barely a blip on the radar. Give this a night out alone and take your time with it. Get to know it. It’s really got a lot to say.

The mouthfeel is on the lighter side of medium (winemakers choice or all that time in oak?), but it definitely works here.

Finish is medium length with that cigarbox and red fruit carrying the load. The dryness will sneak up on you the more you drink, slowly enveloping the mouth.. all sneaky-like.


Black Slate lacks faith in itself

Tonight and through the weekend, we’re gonna take a trip through Spain! “Where the beer flows like wine…” 

Oh wait.. That’s Aspen (bonus points if you guess the reference). 

Spain! Where the wine flows like, uh.. well. Wine I guess.

Okay, tonight’s wine is a Priorat by Black Slate. From what I’d read, I was expecting to fall in love with it. Big, full and a lot going on. Hard to argue with that, but does it work (for me at least)?


Black Slate – 2011 Porrera Vi de la Vila, Priorat D.O.Q. – 14.5% alc – Porrera, Spain – about $20


Two nights. 
One bottle.
First night: Pours thick and dark. Deep garnet colored. Syrupy and heavy in the glass. I gotta say it looked like a big wine, which I was anticipating. First sensation that I noticed upon smelling was a big hit of savory soy sauce notes. Those quickly gave way to Luden’s Cherry Cough drops (I felt like I was back in middle school eating those babies like candy), black cherries, menthol and a bit of brambly bushes. It definitely took me off guard.

The taste was sweet up front, with a big hit of balsamic (almost acetone-like) in the middle. Cherries, chocolate.. cough syrup? Drying to the back of the mouth after swallow. The mouthfeel?  Sticky and thick . Medium finish with chocolate covered cherries poking out of the cough syrup. 

And I gotta say, night 2 was much of the same, possibly even falling off a bit more. Just sweet all the way through with that distracting sour note in the middle, then the oak on the back of the tongue. 

This seems like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. I liked the thickness for the most part, except the balance is way off. I really can’t go through more than a couple glasses, to be honest. For some this may be perfectly fine. If you’re a fan of sweet and sour it might hit the right spot for you.

Unfortunately, I can’t justify the price. The $20 would be better spent somewhere else I’m afraid.


Next time we’ll take a trip through Rioja. Let’s see how that one does over the next few nights.


Shotgunning some Yes/No’s to pass the time..

Today I’m gonna do some shotgunned mini-review-style Yes’s and No’s as I work my way through tomorrow’s full-write-up review..

The idea here is to go over some recent wine purchases and say a few words for each and give it a rating.
Yup. Reviews. Shotgun style!


Dreaming Tree – 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.7% alc – Napa Valley, California – about $13:
Light, easy drinking, lots of berries with a hint of vanilla. Does a body good and doesn’t break the bank. 

Barista – 2012 Pinotage – 13.5% – South Africa – about $14:
Bacon! A little espresso and dark chocolate. Spend a little more time with it and you’ll find ripe dark cherries hidden under those smoked meats. If you want something interesting and want to go against the grain with an oft-maligned varietal, try this Pinotage.

Santa Ema – 2010 Merlot Reserve – 13.5% – Maipo Valley, Chile – about $13:
I gotta tell you I was avoiding Merlot for awhile. This guy brought me back to the camp with it’s fun vanilla spices and soft, silky texture. Seriously worth a look.

Bodegas – Luis Canas Crianza 2009 – 14% – Rioja, Spain – about $17:
This made me want to try more spanish wines. Damn. Tempranillo is a special grape when you get it in some wood for awhile. Not the most complex thing out there but what do you want for under $20? Oh, right. A good wine. Yeah, this one’s good. 

Oro De Castilla – 2011 Hermanos del villar Verdejo – 12.5% – Rueda, Spain – about $15:
Okay, it smells amazing. And then tastes mostly like cat pee. Letdown for sure.


Well there we have it. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s full write up!