Cosme Palacio y Hermanos 2002

Cosme Palacio y Hermanos 2002

I have walked past this wine a hundred times and dismissed it.  I missed the 01 and I've always thought I'd try the 03, a much better vintage in Rioja.  After all how good can this be for $25, I can't be missing out on much surely?  As it is turns out quite good. I was very happy to find a full, rich wine thats smooth and full of Rioja Alvesa character.  Wines from Alvesa tend to have a lot of fruit, this was no exception.

Things have been a bit quiet on the site for the last couple of weeks, this was a good wine to get back on the horse with.

A deep cherry colour in the glass, surprisingly dark for the vintage.  The nose is just what I am looking for, ripe, dusty cherry with cedary oak and spice.  A middle weight in the mouth, smooth, ripe fruit tannins and good balance.  Open, warm and inviting.  Loads of brambly, cherry fruit, pepper, cinnamon with more of that cedary oak.  By the time I realise I've finished the first glass, the tannins really come into their own with a silky texture and enhance the long finish.  A good wine for a chilly spring night, fresh and well fruited, but warm and enticing. Very good now, but it will develop in the cellar over 5 years. 89 Pts.

Source: Retail Cost: $25 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.habarcelo.es

Stella Bella Tempranillo 2004

Stella Bella Tempranillo 2003I've been meaning to get a bottle of this wine for some time now, it won a gold medal at the World International Tempranillo Competition 2005 and had a few wine writers bellowing about the future of Tempranillo in Margaret River.  Now I've had a taste I can see why, it is the most compelling example I've seen to date.

The vines used for the wine are of an average age of 12 years.  This added with some funky oak treatment in American and French oak and inventive wine making has combined to produce something special.

Inky and dark in colour, the nose opens up with a good show of varietal character: ripe dark cherry and mulberry with licorice and just a pinch of spice.  Fleshy, medium bodied and savory, its open for business from the first taste.  There is a core of brambly dark plum and blackcurrant that really drives this wine, while some licorice and wood herbs add additional complexity.  A persistent finish with a boat load of tannin, but it is soft, inviting and in balance.  World Class.  91 Pts.

Source: Retail Cost: $27 Closure: Screwcap

Web: www.stellabella.com.au

Yalumba Hand Picked Tempranillo + Grenache + Viognier 2005

Yalumba Hand Picked Tempranillo Grenache Viognier 2005Ok, it is quite an odd blend.  Who would think of adding Viognier to Tempranillo and a little Grenache?  I wouldn't, but the folks at Yalumba have and I think they may be onto a good thing.  Your not going to see mass planting of Viognier all over Spain as a result, but it makes an interesting wine.  Its kind of like that Run DMC V's Aerosmith track, DMC's beats with just the Aerosmith guitar riff, its a great tune but I'm not too sure how a whole album would turn out.

The blend consists of mostly Tempranillo (89%) with a shot of Grenache (6%) and Viognier (5%) and sees 10 months in French and Hungarian oak.

What a nose! Some nice raspberry fruit, florals, tobacco, earth and not a trace of apricot.  In the mouth it is smooth all the way, not a lot in the way of tannins, they may be hiding under the viognier influence.  Dark, savory fruit in the mouth, black cherry and dark plum with sarsaparilla.  A lot of Tempranillo varietal character here.  There is a bit of apricot on the finish, this moves on with some time and spicy pepper replaces it.  Nicely balanced and integrated.  A very good wine, I'd like to see it without the viognier, I think they'd have a winner. 89 Pts.

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Cost: $27 Closure: Screwcap

Web: www.yalumba.com

Bodegas Roda Roda Reserva 2002

Bodegas Roda Roda Reserva 2002I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the 2002 Roda wines.  Sure, 02 wasn't the best vintage in Rioja, but I've had some very handy wines from this vintage and it goes to show what good vineyard management and some wine making smarts can do to produce a good wine in even the poorest of vintages.

The 02 Roda (formerly Roda II) is a good example of how good these guys are, the wine is very good, excelent with food in fact.  If there was such a thing as a hardline viticultural movement, the chaps at Roda would be running it. 

Take my advice and repeat my pre-drinking chant: decant, decant, decant.  I popped this in the decanter for 4 hours before drinking and drank it over 3 hours.  It was still opening up during the last glass. 

The nose opens up with a good wack of complexity: raspberries, mulberries, earthy undergrowth, and coffee.  Full bodied to start with, in time it comes down a notch to revel the classic Roda smoothness, balance and plush tannins.  There is no doubting where this comes from, very Rioja in the mouth with a mix of raspberry, mulberry and the Rioja undergrowth character.  Earth and spice appear with more airtime.  The balance is impeccable: acid, tannin, wood and fruit are all in the right place.  It needs time to settle down, in the cellar if you can or a couple of hours in the decanter.  Perfect with lamb. Drink now, or cellar for 5 years for drinking over the following 5. 90+ Pts.

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Cost: $60 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.roda.es

Bodegas Castano Gran Decarada Monastrell 2004

Bodegas Castano Gran Decarada Monastrell 2004Monastrell has an animal/gamey quality that people either love or hate.  This one has a little bit of it, but much more restrained and is more about ripe fruit and tannin than many of the other monastrells that I have had I a look at.  Bodegas Castano are one of the big names in Yecla, so they know their Monastrell.

An Inky deep red colour.  Dark fruits of the nose with a hint of game and walnut. Quite full bodied in the mouth, with ripe dark plums and a slight gamey taste, finished off with some spice.  A raisin influence in the mid palate appear with more air time.  Nicely balanced with fine, chalky tannins.  A kind of "European International" wine, you can tell its from the Old World, but there is almost a Cote du Rhone quality about this wine. Good stuff and a wine I think is very appealing. 87 Pts

Source: Importer Sample Price: Around $20 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web:  www.bodegascastano.com

Importer: Toro Wines/Wood Wines 

Palacios de Bornos Verdejo 2005

Palacio de Bornos Verdejo 2005Spring is just starting in Melbourne, so its warm enough to get stuck into some white wine and really enjoy it in the sunshine.  This is the first wine from Rueda that I have reviewed so far, but if this one is anything to go by there will be many more with summer coming. 

Rueda is one of the few white wine regions of Spain, Rias Baixas being another notable one.  The primary grape here is Verdejo, rumored to be an ancient clone of the great Portuguese grape Verdelho.  Of course given a couple hundred years of evolution it is a very different beast now days.

Bright hay with a greenish tinge.  The nose is full of tropical fruit, passion fruit and mango, with something like raw fennel bulb.  Fresh and lively palate with a very pleasing oily consistency.  More tropical fruits in the mouth and a long finish with a nice bit of bitterness.  Very satisfying on a warm afternoon and would go very well with dishes with a bit of heat like fried peppers or Vietnamese chili and lemongrass dishes.  A bargain too.  88 Pts.

Source: Importer Sample Price: Around $20 Closure: Synthetic Cork

Importer: Toro Wines/Wood Wines

Alto Moncayo 2003

Alto Moncayo 2003The last in my Garnacha trio from Campo de Borja, and I have saved the best for last.  This is the mid level wine from this bodega, the top flight Aquilon was not made in 2003.  A slight step up in price from the Veraton, this wine drinks like it has seem a lot more work in the winery and is built for aging.  Oddly, out of the 3 wines, this needed the least time in the decanter to show it stuff.

Dark ruby in colour. The nose builds with time in the decanter with aromas of  blackberry and mulberry, cinnamon and pepper with coffee and herbs.  A bit more palate weight and concentration than the Veraton but it remains balanced. A great expression of ripe mulberry and blackberry fruit under a strong herbal influence and gamey, animal flavours.  A bit of oak influence and black pepper pops up after about an hour in the decanter.  Rich tannins and a sparkle of acid on the finish.   Again a very persistent finish that keeps going for ever.  If you are looking for something to cellar, I think this will be well worth your time in 5 years. 93 Pts.

Source: Winestar Price: $55 Closure: Conventional Cork

Alto Moncayo Veraton 2003

 Alto Moncayo Veraton 2003Wine number two in the Garnacha Trilogy.  Alto Monayo produce 3 levels of wines, this is the first rung on the ladder.  The venture is the brainchild of Jorge Ordonez who has Chris Ringland doing the wine making.  Again the wine is 100% Garnacha, there doesn't appear to be a lot of oak treatment on this one.  Remember to decant, it seems that the grenacha based wines from this area really benifit from a good hour or so. 

Big heavy bottles seem to be in vogue in Campo de Borja, all three of these wines have thick heavy bottles with big punts and flashy labels.  A real bugger to take of photo of, but they look great.

A brilliant ruby in the glass, with aromas of dark cherry and mulberry, cinnamon and pepper with a wiff of old leather.  Smooth and well balanced in the mouth, there is a core of great mulberry and cherry fruit with some black pepper, herbs and gamey, animal nuances.  Tannins are there, but well integrated and smooth.   The acid was overbearing initially, more time in a decanter and the wine integrated really nicely.  The finish is very long, surprisingly long.  If you want to look at Spanish Grenache outside of Priorat, this is the bottle to pick up. Drink it over 5 years. 91 Pts.

Source: Winestar Price: $40 Closure: Conventional Cork

Borsao Tres Picos 2004

Borsa Tres Picos 2004

This is the first of three wines I tried over the weekend from Campo de Borja.  All three are Garnacha, the leading grape from this region. From the stats I have it looks like most of the wines from Campo de Borja head out of Spain to the US, Parker is a big fan of some of the bodegas here apparently.

From my small amount of experience with these wines, they need a good decant.  Not the thing to pull out when friends drop over unexpected. I found these wines to be all over the shop for the first hour or so, angular and hard with a bit of sweetness and lacking any real nose.  A good 1 to 2 hour decant fixed this up nicely, bringing the fruit to the fore and opening up the nose.

A brilliant ruby in colour, the nose starts of slow with a balsamic character and builds in the decanter to reveal subtle blackberry and mulberry fruit with licorice and sooty, dusty earth.  International in style, but the fleshy, fruit profile makes me think Spain.  More blackberry and mulberry on the tongue, pepper and intense cinnamon develops with air, as does a medicinal herb note (wintergreen and sage).  Good balance, there is a brief bit of heat on the finish.  Built for drinking now I'd say. 90 Pts.

Source: Winestar Price: $40 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.bodegasborsao.com

Valcorso Cultivo Ecologico Monastrell 2005

Valcorso Monastrell 2005Like most wine growing areas in the world, Spain has a number of producers that are looking towards the use of organic principles in the vineyard and winery.  This is one of the many organic or Cultivo Ecologico wines getting around.  From the small about of press I have on it, the vines used for this wine are on average 20 years old and there is no mention of oak at all.

I have found that Monastrell is a variety that people either love or find the wine a bit odd.  I like it.

Lighter than expected, a rich ruby colour.  On the nose we have dark berry fruits with some woody herbs.  In the mouth there is dark cherry with a jammy, dried fruit flavour that I can't put my finger on, perhaps fig or date.  There is some animal type funk and a nice herby finish.  Very smooth and well balanced,tannin is in the background with a good wack of acid.  I liked it a lot, good value at around $20. 87 Pts.

Source: Retail Price: $21 Closure: Conventional Cork