Celebrate the arrival of Spring with Rioja!!!

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I have a soft spot for the wines of Rioja. When I first got into Spanish wines, I started drinking wines from the south. However, with time and tasting experience, I went further north in Rioja  searching for  the elegance and harmony that only continental climate wines can provide.

Spring is a difficult time for me. I suffer from something called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While most people get the winter blues because of the cold weather and the dark days, for me is the opposite. When I have my down days, I cheer myself up with music, light walks and of course making food and drinking wine.  Before I was a wine lover, music was my passion. I am able to enjoy all kinds of music but I am specially fond for vocal jazz and flamenco.

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One of the advantages that Spring offers me is that I can cook more outdoors using the BBQ. I love grilling all kinds of meat in a hot BBQ from marinated plumper chicken breasts to fancy cuts of reds meat such as Filet Mignon or Flank Steak. In the weekdays, I use the gas BBQ but on the weekends with more time I turn to the charcoal grill.

Rioja has a perfect affinity for BBQ meats. Basically, you want a wine with enough power to work with a chicken leg with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce or a well-charred steak. Something big but not too much overpowering, not too dry and austere, and the most important factor: easy to drink.

Here are my top five Riojas to get you started for BBQ season:

ijalba

Ijalba Graciano 2015. SAQ # 10360261,$21.50

On the nose aromas of graphite, dry blueberries and black seaweed. On the mouth, fresh tasting with an excellent balance between concentration and acidity. Lovely flavors of sandalwood and black licorice complemented by firm and muscular tannins. Drink now or keep for the next 5 years.

riscal

Marqués De Riscal Reserva 2013. SAQ # 10270881, $24.40

Fine tuned nose of cassis jam, wild oregano, iron and licorice. On the mouth, quite structured with a good acidity and chunky tannins. This reserva from Riscal shows a modern interpretation of this traditional Riojan producer.

caceres

Marqués de Caceres Reserva 2012. SAQ # 00897983, $22.55

Lovely nose displaying resonant notes of wild blackberries with balsamic nuances of licorice and star anise. Silky with fine tannins and long flavors reminiscent of spice bread pudding. Best reserva that I have ever tried from this producer.

faustino

Bodegas Faustino, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2005. SAQ # 10483026, $28.45

Textbook classical Rioja aromas. On the nose, predominant notes of vanilla, tobacco with cloves leading to a crescendo of ripe strawberries and raspberries. On the palate, it has an incredible depth of flavours and elegance. However, it needs to be decanted for a few hours to show its best. Drink now or keep for the next decade.

valpiedra

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2010. SAQ #  13566687, $31.50

Powerful with nuances of espresso, smoke, dark chocolate leading to  fig and cassis jam aromas. Very suave with finely woven tannins. Long finale.

Happy Arrival of the 2018 BBQ season!!

 

 

Two Hearty red wines to complement your meat fix

Yesterday, I was BBQ a tough piece of pork loin in the BBQ. I did a marinade of tamari, brown sugar and sambal olek with a touch of bourbon and sesame oil. It was stunning and it was a perfect match for two previous reds that I tasted in the morning. One from Ribera del Duero and Toro.

Yaso 2012. DOP Toro. SAQ # 12298975. $21.25

Charming red fruits and spice. Full body, nice freshness with ultra fine tannins. Not too much oak with pleasant notes of flowers such as roses and violets. Long and very elegant.

Senorio de los Baldios Crianza 2009. DOP Ribera del Duero SAQ # 12417807. $22.10

Very spicy nose. Quite aromatic bringing to mind cloves, anise, stewed prunes. On the mouth, structured and potent. Cocoa, cofee with lots of lush new wood. Grainy tannins. A beast of a wine. Excellent candidate for a cellar.

And I pair these with the below picture. The Yaso worked better complementing and bringing a certain freshness to the asiatic notes of the pork. The Ribera del Duero was good too, specially with the charred parts of the meat but it had a bit too much power for the meat. It would have been better with beef.

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BBQ is Barbacoa, an American- Spanish thing

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As the weather gets warmer in these parts of the worlds, the cooking moves from the indoor kitchen to the outdoor patio.

No one is really sure where the term barbecue originated. The conventional knowledge is that the Spanish, upon landing in the Caribbean, used the word barbacoa to refer to the natives’ method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform. The practice of barbecuing in America came as a result of the introduction of domesticated livestock by Spanish and Europeans settlers in the 15th and 16th centuries. This technique involves putting meat in an iron cast grill and put directly on a fire.  It is something very common to find in Latin American and Spanish Gastronomy.

The best Parrillas are made in Northern Spain. It is not surprising since most of the livestock that ends up in a grill comes from those parts.

I came to know the gas bbq when I moved to Canada. Up to the age of 15, I only BBQ with the coal system. In Venezuela, this cooking method is called La Parrilla.  This was a very social thing, since it was done with a group of family and friends on a weekend. It involved large quantities of meat and some organs too.  It also involved large quantities of booze involved. During those years, I was not a wine drinker. In a Parrilla, it is custom to have beer or scotch. There is not really a wine culture in Venezuela

When choosing a wine for La Parrilla, you need a full body red wine with bold flavors and maybe a bit of oak. Otherwise, the charred and smoke impregnated flavours will dominate everything. My top choices for Spanish wines, include wines from the two R’s, Ribera del Duero and Rioja. I also very fond of Garnachas from Calatayud specially with blood sausages or morcilla .

The latest SAQ Cellier offers some excellent Spanish  wines, to get you in the mood to start barbequeing.

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Bodegas Balbas Ardal Reserva Ribera del Duero 2010. SAQ #  12806984. $31.50

Decadent fruit on the nose, showing lots of depth and concentration. On the mouth, very structured with savoury animal, mineral and smoke flavours. Hefty tannins, this wine with get more civilized with a few years on the cellar. Perfect with a charred T-Bone steak. 93/100

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Celler la Muntanya Negre 2010. SAQ # 12818109. $20.45

This wine is  a blend of Monastrell with some 25% Garnacha, 20% Garnacha Tintorera and a hint of the local red Bonicaire, an almost extinct variety they are recovering from 40-year-old, head-pruned vines vines. Big nose, bringing to mind lots of earthy and herbal characters such as mountain scrub, ripe black fruits and aromatic fresh herbs. On the mouth, the wine is full body, with a restrained balance and a interesting elegance. A very nice. 90\100

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Burgo Viejo Rioja Crianza 2012. SAQ # 12848308. $17.00

Red ruby  hue with violet tones. On the mouth, it is a  well-balanced with old style black fruit, vanilla and coconut flavors. Powerful, complex and silky smooth. Traditional Rioja with a friendly pocket price. 91/100