Last night I went to a wine class at The Wine Authorities called Rioja: Tempting you with Tempranillo. I learned so much -- there are actually excellent white Riojas -- and tasted some great wines that are a super value like the $9.99 Cruz de Piedra Garnacha Calatayud 2005.
These guys really have a passion for wine and amazing knowledge. What's great is that you couldn't meet two more unpretentious guys. They make wine accessible, they want to share their knowledge, and they are always very happy to make recommendations to people who visit the store. Snobbery is obnoxious and thankfully you won't find that at The Wine Authorities.
Craig and Seth design their classes themselves. The Rioja class began with an overview of the wine history of Spain, the growing regions, wine designations, and the varietals. Then the tasting began as a deeper exploration. We tasted two whites. I especially enjoyed the Bodegas Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco. It was a rich ambery gold in color. The bouquet was cheesy at first and moved to spicy and sherry-like. By the end of the evening, it reminded me of toffee. I could drink this by the bucket but it would give me a headache. It costs $23.99.
We moved on to the reds next sampling five wines: one 100% tempranillo, one 100% garnacha, and three blends. Two of the blends were traditional in style and production methods. The third represented the modern styles of wine making in the region.
I enjoyed all of them, but especially worth mentioning is another wine from Bodegas Lopez de Heredia, the Vina Tondonia Rioja Gran Reserva 1987. It was an amazing color. I've not seen anything like it: rich brown red, almost rust in color, but translucent. It reminded me of dried fruit and sherry. It is priced above the $50 upper end of the wines Craig and Seth carry in the store, but they can order it.
The other red I really enjoyed was the one made in the modern style: San Vincente Rioja Tinto 2002 priced at $49.99. It is a dark, inky red more like a Bordeaux than a traditional Rioja. 2002 was not a great year but Seth and Craig pride themselves on not being vintage prejudice. If there was a great wine made in a bad year, they will not shy away from it just because the year is wrong.
There is a class on wines from central Italy on December 20. More classes to come next year.
For me this has been quite a week for food and wine. I am going to take a break for a couple of days but will be back soon with an easy recipe that won second place in a dessert contest!