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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!