Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Happy Holidays from The V.I.P. Table

As usual, The V.I.P. Table will be suspending updates through December. Happy Holidays to all of my readers and thank you for making this my biggest year ever, with over 300% growth in readership. It's great to know that people out there are listening and there's a lot in store for 2014. The success of The V.I.P. Table is the greatest gift that anyone could have given me.

Happy Holidays to you all!!!

Also, for regular tasting notes, seasonal pairings and wine gift ideas through the Holiday Season, you can on Twitter.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Difference a Vintage Can Make

Two very different wines and two very different vintages,
both beautiful for different reasons.
Any reader of mine will know that I am a huge fan of Chianti Classico. Years of trail and error, let downs and happy surprises, have left me with some very firm opinions about Chianti and Sangiovese from Tuscany in general. For one thing, many of these wines can age, as we will see from 2010. Yet, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with young Chianti, when made in a more open style or from a more accessible vintage, like 2011.

This brings me to San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico, which is traditionally styled Chianti made from Sangiovese (95%) and a small amount of Canaiolo (5%). I decided to do a little side-by-side comparison tonight of the 2010 and 2011 vintages. Two very different wines, both marked by the vintages from which they hail. However, there’s also a little something more. In 2011, portions of the grapes added to the wine were whole clusters (stems and all), a practice found often in Burgundy, but seldom in Tuscany. The difference is quite noticeable and worth tasting for exploratory purposes alone.

In the end, these are both beautiful wines, for very different reasons, and I look forward to following them throughout the years. I would hope my readers would give them a chance as well.

On To The Notes:

2010 San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico – The nose was radiant and dark showing rich black cherry, hints of cedar, undergrowth and crushed fall leaves. On the palate, it was tight yet focused with tart red fruits, spice and herbs. Vibrant acidity kept the mouth watering, yet this wine needs a couple of years in the cellar to unwind. The finish showed a bitter twang with drying tannin coating the senses. This was enjoyable, but more for it’s, possible, future potential than it’s performance tonight. (90 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher! (avg. cost $20)

2011 San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico – The nose was bright and vibrant, showing tart cherry, stemmed strawberries, and autumnal spice with hints of pine. On the palate, it caressed the senses with soft red fruits accompanied by textbook Sangiovese acidity. This wine practically sizzled on the palate, with notes of cedar, herbs and spice. The finish was refined, showing hints of structure, yet fully enjoyable today. (91 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher! (avg. cost $20)

The 2010 is tight and tart, a wine that I’d love to revisit in a few years. If the fruit unwinds and catches up with the absolutely beautiful bouquet, then this wine could one day be gorgeous. The 2011 is more open, yet still a stern, acid driven Sangiovese. Today, I’d reach for the 2011, without question. Yet, I have a feeling that the 2010 will improve for years to come.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Good Wine Can Suck Too!

So I was drinking a wine tonight from a producer that has become a bit of a darling of some critics I respect. The time came to give the wine a score. I thought hard about it. The nose, the palate, the finish and the overall impression came into play. In the end-- 88 points!

For a moment I felt bad. WHY? Because we are all somehow trained to feel that even in an off vintage, we should give handicap points to good producers… God forbid we hurt their egos, right?

Let's think about this for a minute. If we have a great vintage, and the wine scores 96 points, then we all feel good about it. However, we then have just a good vintage, and the wine scores 96 points. Somehow, it's glossed over. Then we have a bad vintage, and the wine sinks to a whopping 94 points, and we are then told to buy the producer, not the vintage. But what if the vintage really did affect the wine? What if it's short, diluted, uninteresting or just simply bad?

This reminds me of 2003 Barolo. How can a wine that's simply "okay" to drink today still score 93 points? I'd rather drink anything at 87-90 points, than most 2003 Barolo.

Hail Damage
I guess that in the end, this is a rant. But it's a rant because I stand in a happy place while scratching my head. A place where I know the best producers aren't giving me free wine, so I don't have to worry about them taking away their free wine. I don't have to worry about people comp’ing me plane tickets, drivers, vacations, or a case or two that fell off the back of the truck and into my trunk.

In the end, I write what I think about wine. Good or bad, I don't care. I buy 50% of what I taste, and that which is given to me receives the same treatment. If the person who submits the sample doesn't like what I have to say--I don't care.

So, yes, good producers can make bad wine.

Now, in all fairness, this is not a bad wine, but it certainly isn’t a 91-93 point wine. If I found it in a bargain bin for $20, I’d buy it. I’m sure after this post I won’t ever see any free samples from them… Oh well.

2005 Podere Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione Alta Valle della Greve IGT - The nose showed a mix of small tart berries with savory spice notes, herbal tones, animal musk and graphite. On the palate, it was silky and accessible with dark red fruits, mocha and spice. The balanced acidity kept things lively, yet this fell slightly short toward the close, finishing with tart red fruits that faded quickly.

Admittedly, my expectations were high, and so my judgment may be slightly obscured. With that said, the bouquet was amazing, but this vintage simply lacks any serious structure and staying power. At $20 this would have been a 90, but with the higher price tag, I can't buy into the hype. (88 points)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Black Cat

This time of year is always rough, my work nearly triples and it always hurts my ability to post on the blog. At first, I thought it best to let it go and post a "please forgive my absence in this busy time" sort of post. However, the more a I thought about it, the more I realized that we are beyond that, and I believe my readers would enjoy knowing what i'm drinking in the little free time I have--even if it's not the most well thought out post to the blog.

And so, here it is and I hope you enjoy, because it's totally unadulterated and exactly what's on my mind as I pull wines from my cellar at a very busy time…

The Black Cat

For years I've wondered why I haven't seen any professional tasting notes on EMH Black Cat. Are they too small? Do they refuse to submit samples? I don't know. What I do know is that this tiny wine was one of my most prized discoveries from a trip I took to Napa a few years ago. Out of all the wineries that I visited, there were only three lists that I bought wines from, and this was one of them. Coming from a single acre vineyard in Calistoga, which makes for a great study through the vintages, since it's always from the same small parcel. Tonight I revisited the 2005, and it was drop--dead--gorgeous!

2005 EMH Cabernet Sauvignon Black Cat - The nose was refined yet intense with cherry cola, minty herbs, spice, rose-infused dark chocolate and hints of sweetened lavender. On the palate, it was plush and weighty but with great finesse and brisk acidity. Never overwhelming or overdone, instead perfectly balanced. Ripe black fruit, currant, cola and holiday spice danced on the palate and gave way to juicy cherry, which lasted through the long finish. This wine has remained one of my favorites from Black Cat and is in a great place right now. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Eccoci: Drinking in The Carbon Footprint

By: Eric Guido

I think by now we've all heard of the carbon footprint. Each and every one of us creates a quantifiable amount of harm to our atmosphere, or planet in general, every day of our lives. We all take, in some way shape or form, and it's through this constant abuse (multiplied by 7 billion people) that our planet is slowly declining into toxicity. It's difficult to see how a single person can make a difference against these staggering numbers. Yet, to do nothing is to simply be another cog in the machine that's polluting us all. It's a pretty grim thought, but the fact is that the idea of a zero carbon footprint is catching on. It's pretty simple really; if you can estimate how much a person or business takes from the earth--then you can estimate how much they can give back in exchange to make up for it.

So what prompted my tree hugging sermon today? Believe it or not, it was a winery: Eccociwine. By now, all of my readers know that I'm a big fan of natural, sustainable, organic and bio-dynamic wines. I'm certainly not someone who would shun any winery for not following these principles, but it is a noble cause--and in my opinion, it shows in the finished product. That's where Eccociwine comes in.

Eccociwine is located in the province of Girona, Spain, about two hours north of Barcelona, at the foot of an inactive volcano and surrounded by a natural park preserve. It's a winery that is built on the principle of restoring an equilibrium with nature while creating wines of inspiring quality and focus. Wines that reflect the land, from soil that has never been treated with chemicals or subjected to industrial abuse. Call it virgin terroir, if you will. From what I've tasted, and considering that the vines were only planted in 2004, there will be great things coming from Eccociwine in the years to come.

At Eccociwine, the grape varieties are French, not Spanish. This was a decision made after completing an analysis of the soils and climate. What's more, the vineyards are planted facing north, in an attempt counteract the change in climate resulting from global warming, as well as the naturally high temperatures in Spain during the summer months. With a mixture of vineyards, some with volcanic and others, alluvial soils, plus a Mediterranean climate with continental influences, the wines at Eccoci are unique, intense, juicy and unquestionably balanced with just enough oak influence to excite the senses.

They are all fruity, yet structured with a soil and mineral core. The tinto premium is sexy and forward, looking for a party. While the Super Premium is dark, mysterious and beautifully backward, it is enjoyable now, but demanding of some time in the cellar to show off its true potential. And as for the Estate White, it’s class in a glass—floral, spicy, soft, yet tense and balanced. This is a winery to watch.

On to the Tasting Notes:

2011 Eccociwine Estate White - The nose showed lemon and lime with sweet white floral tones, spice and moist minerals. It was fresh with weighty textures on the palate and flavors of sweet apple, spice and inner floral notes which lasted into the refreshing finish. (90 points)

2008 Eccociwine Empordà Red Wine Premium Girona - The nose was lush with ripe black cherry, hints of dark wood, black earth, herbs and dark chocolate. It splashed onto the palate with sweet blackberry, juicy yet medium-bodied, showing citrus, apple and mineral tones. This was remarkably fresh and clean throughout while remaining concentrated and intense with a beautiful "drink me" personality. The mouthwatering finish begged me to take another sip. Well done. (91 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Eccociwine Empordà Eccomi Tinto Super Premium Girona - The nose showed intense, savory cherry, a dusting of sweet spice and cocoa with grounding notes of dark earth and minerals. On the palate, it entered firm, yet opened beautifully with masses of concentrated red and black fruits enveloping the senses along with dark chocolate, a note of cherry syrup and black licorice, which lasted throughout the long, dark finish. This was an intense wine, with a refined structure that promises future development. It can easily be enjoyed now but will likely benefit from another year or two in the cellar. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumpkin Risotto: Perfect Autumn Comfort Food

A Recipe & Pairing by: Eric Guido

What is it about pumpkin and how each time I serve it, it makes people swoon? Nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a powerful tool in the chef’s arsenal. It’s a direct line to the hearts and minds of your guests. It's that smell from mama’s kitchen. It's that flavor, which will always remind you of home. Or that memory of togetherness around a family table, the food you ate and the happy memories you shared. Would it surprise you to know that nostalgia is a topic taught in culinary school? Well it is, and for very good reason because with nostalgia you can create a dish that will not only taste divine, but also speaks to the diner’s soul. That’s how pumpkin risotto ended up on my menu.

Pumpkin risotto is an extremely versatile dish that combines sweet earthy flavors with rich, creamy textures and a salty, spicy snap at the end of each bite. The pumpkin adds a weight to the palate that takes this from being just another rice dish to becoming a centerpiece of the meal. It’s warming and speaks to that part of us that loves home cooking, yet it easily translates well into fine dining.

When it comes to a wine pairing, you could go with an earthy Italian white with brisk acidity or a Barbera, but I wanted something a little different and I’m glad I chose the route of exploration. Ever since I first developed this recipe, I've been looking for an opportunity to pair it with a Zinfandel.  Let's just say, I was not disappointed.  The Ridge Paso Robles Zinfandel, accentuated the sweet spice in this dish, while taming the heat from the pumpkin seeds.  Add to that, a slightly firm structure and pop of acidity that cut through the pumpkin stock and rich butter--and you have a match made in heaven.

2010 Ridge Zinfandel Paso Robles - The nose on the 2010 Paso Robles Zinfandel is like a basket of mixed berries baked in a tartlet shell with sweet holiday spices and a hint of mocha. On the palate, it’s fruity and vibrant with intense concentration that is made fresh by brisk acidity. The wine literally coats the entire palate and then slowly melts away to reveal a hint of dry tannin. The finish is fresh, yet long, showing dried red fruits. It’s immediately enjoyable and hard not to keep drinking. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $31)

Pumpkin Risotto (with peas and spicy pumpkin seeds)
Serves 4

5 oz. unsalted butter
1⁄4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 quart of chicken stock
1 cup of water
1⁄4 cup white wine
1 shallot (chopped fine)
15 oz. pumpkin puree
1 1/3 cups risotto rice
3/4 cup English peas (can use frozen green peas)
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated fine
3 Tbls. Pumpkin seeds
Salt and pepper
Fresh sage (garnish)

To cook the peas, prepare an ice bath and pour the chicken stock and one cup of water into a pot and bring to a simmer. Pour the peas into the simmering chicken stock and allow them to heat through for four minutes. Then remove them from the pot and place into the ice bath for two minutes before removing them to reserve for later use. Lastly, whisk (10 oz.) of the pumpkin puree into the warm stock and set aside for when you are ready to cook the risotto.

In a sauté pan over a medium-­‐low flame, melt two ounces of butter. Once the butter has melted and come up to temperature, add the pumpkin seeds, cayenne pepper and a hefty pinch of salt. Raise the flame to medium and toss the pumpkin seeds in the butter and pepper mixture. Once the seeds have toasted, pour them into a bowl and keep them in a warm location until ready to use.

When you are ready to make the risotto, place a medium size pan over a medium-­‐ low flame. Add two ounces of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the shallots, a pinch of salt and allow the shallots to sweat. When the shallots have sweated and begun to turn translucent, add the rice and stir to coat the rice in butter (if the mixture looks too dry, you can add a little more butter before adding the rice). Raise the flame to medium and continue to stir vigorously for about one to two minutes. However, do not allow the rice or shallots to take on any color. Add the wine and stir it into the rice until it cooks off. Return the flame to medium-­‐low and add the last half (5 oz.) of pumpkin puree, the cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to combine completely and add your first ladle full of stock.

At this time, the risotto should take anywhere between 17 and 19 minutes to finish, and throughout that time you should be stirring regularly. After adding the ladle of the stock and pumpkin mixture, stir the rice slowly but regularly. Be careful with heat management with this recipe, because the pumpkin puree can burn if not stirred regularly up from the bottom of the pan. As soon as the first ladle of stock has absorbed or evaporated, add another ladle full. Continue like this for 10 – 12 minutes and add a good pinch of salt to the rice. Add more stock and continue to stir. As you approach 16 minutes of cooking time, taste the rice to test the degree of doneness, all the while continuing with the process of adding stock and stirring. At 17 minutes, add the peas, stir in completely and taste again for doneness.

When the rice is done (al dente), add the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the last of the butter. Stir to combine completely and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed. (Seasoning is what really brings out the pumpkin flavor in this recipe. Without it, it will seem bland.) If the rice seems too thick, add a little more stock to loosen it up.

Plate the risotto into warmed bowls and top with the toasted pumpkin seeds and a rough chop of sage leaves. Serve.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Morellino: The Drink Me Now Sangiovese

Sangiovese comes in many different forms, the most well--known being Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile, and Brunello. These wines all have a number of things in common and each have their own virtues. Chianti Classico walks the line between tart to ripe fruit and earthy wood tones, with tannins and acidity that usually need a little time to balance out. Vino Nobile adds a dollop of violet floral notes, slightly less acidity and a broader structure. Brunello is all about structure and restrained power, and because of this, requires patience. However, there’s one thing that all of these wines are usually missing, and that is early accessibility. Allow me introduce you to Morellino di Scansano.

Morellino di Scansano fills a niche that was truly missing in the Tuscan lineup of Sangiovese-based wines. The average Morellino (which is the name or synonym for Sangiovese in the Maremma), is a young, ripe and rich Sangiovese with all the accessibility you could ever hope for. It’s not a wine that you have to be afraid of when opening a bottle at a party or for a group of wine neophytes.

What makes Morellino so different has a lot to do with location and aging requirements. The Maremma is located in the coastal hills of southern Tuscany, with a warm Mediterranean climate, which promotes easier ripening. What’s more, the maritime influences regulate the Maremma on hot summer days, so that the ever so important ying yang of warm days and cool nights, which is so important to the production of quality wine grapes, is ever-present.

However, growing perfectly ripe Sangiovese is only one part of the equation; it’s what the winemaker does with those grapes that makes or breaks the final wine, and that’s where Morellino is truly set apart. Without any required aging included in the DOCG regulations, Morellino can go from harvest to fermentation and then release by the March following harvest. This makes for an incredibly pure expression of ripe Sangiovese, which makes up at least 85% of the final blend for any Morellino. The wines are affordable and intended for early consumption, but that’s not to say that these are simple wines. Don’t confuse value and early accessibility with lack of character. In fact it’s quite the opposite, as many of these wines will continue to improve for three to five years in the cellar.

So I ask you to go out and find a bottle of Morellino di Scansano. It may be one of the most enjoyable and affordable Italian reds that you’ve had in a while. To get you started, I’ve included my tasting notes of some of my favorites, which are all available at retail. There is something for everyone.

On to the Wines:

2011 Fattoria Le Pupille (Elisabetta Geppetti) Morellino di Scansano – The nose was fresh with ripe strawberry fruit, hints of dusty spice and violets. A rich meatiness seemed to peak out from the background along with saline minerals. On the palate, it was juicy with black cherry fruit, a hint of citrus and blackberry. It was persistent with an excellent balance of acidity. Dark red fruit lingered on the finish with inner floral tones, leaving a refreshed sensation with a slight tug of tannin on the palate. This is a very enjoyable wine that is highly recommended. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $18)

2011 Poggio Morino Morellino di Scansano – The nose was showy and intense with concentrated red and blue berries, cocoa, dusty spice box, dark wood and minerals. On the palate, masses of ripe dark fruit washed across the senses with a balanced wave of acidity keeping it juicy and fresh. Hints of pepper and spice along with meaty-savory notes and a saline minerality were left in its wake. Dark fruits and black pepper remained on the finish with an unexpected mouthwatering quality. This is an excellent wine where the Syrah component really shines through in a positive way. Well done and a great value. (92 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $16)

2011 La Mozza Morellino di Scansano I Perazzi - The generous and fruity nose showed dusty tart cherry, sweet spice, tobacco, hints of pepper and mountain herbs. On the palate, it was lush and juicy with ripe dark fruit that turned spicy and brighter toward the close. The finish was slightly firm, yet in a very pleasurable manner as it offset the ripe, juicy personality of this wine. (90 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $14)

2010 Mocali Morellino di Scansano – The nose showed sweet cherry and strawberry, with wood spice, dark chocolate, cedar and saw dust. On the palate, it was silky smooth with ripe cherry and currant fruit on a medium bodied, juicy frame. The wine finished fresh, but it was a little short with tart red fruit, yet remained juicy throughout. With its mass appeal and easy-going structure, this would make for a great weeknight sipper. (88 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $14)

2011 Fattoria il Palagio Morellino di Scansano – The nose showed spiced cherry, pomegranate, dark wood tones and a hint of barnyard. On the palate, it was juicy with cherry fruit and rustic, herbal notes. The finish showed hints of tannin, which added character to the otherwise soft, fruity experience. (87 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $16)

2010 Tenute Le Preselle Morellino di Scansano – The nose showed ripe black cherry, minerals, dusty Tuscan spice and herbs with a rustic, yet fun personality. On the palate, it was juicy with soft textures, showing blackberry, cherry and a hint of cedar. The finish was clean and fresh, leaving only a hint of structure behind. This was easy-going and fun to drink, a great bridge wine for someone looking for a youthful introduction to Sangiovese. (86 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $15)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Autumn Craves Red: Ribera del Duero

With fall comes red wine, and I could not be happier. Don't get me wrong, I love a good Sauvignon Blanc, but red is where my heart is, and by the end of the summer, I feel like a thirsty man crawling out of the desert. However, you can't just jump right into big, rich Cabernet or robust Barolo; you need a bridge wine. A red that will be there for you on the moderately warm, early days of September, yet also appease on the nights when those cool breezes are blowing in through wide-open windows. I'll often turn to Sangiovese for such a wine. But this year, I've had to make room for another red in my heart—the red wines of the Ribera Del Duero.

The grape of choice here is Tempranillo, and it shines beautifully through adversity, especially from these high altitude vineyards. But it’s not just altitude that makes these wines what they are; much of it has to do with the extreme climate of the region and its long growing season. The Ribera del Duero sees long, dry, hot summers, followed by hard winters during which temperatures may drop as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. You can imagine that a vine that survives these conditions would be full of character.

The resulting wines are juicy and fresh with incredible depth, showing perfectly ripe fruit, earth tones, great acidity and broad structures that add to the experience instead of drying you out. The expert use of oak is neither too little, nor too much, making the wines of Ribera del Duero appealing to a wide range of palates. What’s more, their vibrant acidity is appreciated at the dinner table, while their intense, fun-loving nature carries them well into the night.

This September, I had a chance to taste through a number of excellent wines from the region, some for a second time. They are all excellent and from every price point.

On to the Wines:

2009 Dominio de Atauta Ribera del Duero - The nose was initially closed up, but with time in the glass blossomed to reveal tart red berries and herbs with a beautiful floral component. On the palate, seductive dark fruit was met by floral tones of violet and lavender with a velvety mouthfeel and refined tannin that sneaks up on you toward the close. The wine turns juicier and brighter on the finish with a slightly bitter twang. It's a refined, pretty and truly unique wine. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $35)

2009 Bodegas AAlto Ribera del Duero AAlto - The nose was showy yet refined with ripe red and blue fruits, floral tones, brown sugar and spice. On the palate, it was tight yet displayed tart red fruits with an herbal note and inner floral tones, which lasted into the close. The finish was structured, yet it was nearly imperceptible, as the tannins were so well covered by the intense fruit that remained. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $46)

2009 Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero Malleolus - The nose showed seductive dark red and blue fruits with a gram cracker crust, yet grounded by floral undergrowth and herbs. On the palate, intense ripe blackberry and tart cherry filled the senses, ushered in by velvety textures. Fine tannin tickled the senses throughout the long fruity finish. This was the second time I tasted this wine, and I found it to be very enjoyable. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $51)

2010 Bodegas Los Astrales Ribera del Duero Astrales - The nose showed slightly vegetal at first, yet quickly swayed to the ripe fruit spectrum with small ripe spiced berries and dark wood tones. It entered soft and velvety on the palate, but intensified as tart red and black fruit was accentuated by firm acidity and a backdrop of stony minerals. Mild tannin remained on the finish, along with concentrated dark fruits. This was the second time tasting this wine, and although I may have taken back a point, the experience was still quite enjoyable. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $29)

2011 Bodegas Vizcarra Ramos Ribera del Duero JC Vizcarra - A more modern effort, showing dark ripe fruit, a mix of plum and black cherry, followed by herbs and spice with a buttery crust. On the palate, it was velvety, filling all the senses with dark fruit and spice, backed by slightly gruff tannin. It finished juicy, pleasant, balanced--a truly enjoyable wine. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $29)

2010 Hermanos Pérez Pascuas Ribera del Duero Viña Pedrosa Crianza - At first showing as sweaty and closed in on itself, the Vina Pedrosa Crianza blossomed with time in the glass to reveal ripe red berry fruit, herbs and an earthy mineral component. On the palate, red fruits and saline minerals combined with meaty, savory notes to form a very complete and enjoyable experience. Dense, concentrated red fruit remained on the palate throughout the finish, along with a linger hint of cedar. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $18)

2008 Bodegas Alejandro Fernández Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva Pesquera - The nose showed sweet, spiced red fruits, a dusting of sugar with floral notes, cedar and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, brisk acidity paved the way for intense, tart red berry, notes of wild herbs and cedar. It finished fresh, yet structured and refined. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $N/A)

2009 Viña Sastre (Bodegas Hermanos Sastre) Ribera del Duero Crianza - The nose showed slightly restrained with red fruit, cacao, wood spice and a hint of apple cider. On the palate, it displayed soft textures with juicy red fruits and a hint of tannin that wrapped around the senses into the finish. It was a simple yet fun wine. (88 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $35)