Monday, May 10, 2010

Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena and Rioja Too!

OK, so the fun continues.

Last week I was invited to two very special events.

The first was the Sherry-Lehmann Master Class, after hours, with Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena fame up on Park Avenue, and I was also invited to the Vibrant Rioja tasting at the Puck Building.

The evening was hosted by the worlds greatest wine educator Kevin Zraly. The two played off each other perfectly. Bo was funny, smart, and passionate. Kevin did a great job of moving the class along, and getting people to understand what they were tasting. The wines went from a big, powerful 2006 all the way back to 1995. An impressive showing.

I have been a fan of Chateau Montelena for a long time, but discovered some of their other wines there, other than their Chardonnay and their Cabernet Sauvignon. I tasted their very small production of Sauvignon Blanc, and their wonderful Petite Syrah. I am a huge fan of the Chardonnay, so I got a bottle of that sign by Bo to my wife Dominique. And then I bought three of the Petite Syrah. The Petite Syrah was fabulous. Big, big deep red wine. Plum, prune, a touch of apricot. Incredible.

Of course, Bo became a cult figure after the release of Bottle Shock, the movie about Chateau Montelena and the Paris Tasting of 1976. He was incredibly passionate about winemaking, and incredibly knowledgeable. He made hilarious comments, and sometime veered off into chemistry that was way above the heads of the folks in the room. He was in short, fascinating! And genuinely likable.

After that I went the next day to the Vibrant Rioja tasting, and met with Ana Fabiano, the trade sales director, and Pia Mara Finkell who is in charge of press. The event was held at the Puck Building. There were many wine stars there. I saw Steven Kolpan. Herriet Lembeck. Thomas Matthews of Wine Spectator. And of course there were many winery owners and winemakers from Rioja!

The wines of Rioja, Spain are pure genius. They're an exceptional value, especially important in tough economic times when both quality, and value really matter. I tried many Crianzas, Reservas, and Grand Reservas all made from the great Rioja grape Tempranillo. I also tried a number of wonderful small production, single varietals unique to Rioja such as Manzuela, Garnacha Tinto, and Graziano. All were incredibly wonderful! I am a huge fan of Rioja wines! They have the classicism of Bordeaux, but the New World influences of varietal bottlings as well.

Here's some my favorites.

One of my favorite Rioja wines is Muga. More about them on another post. All the wines at the Muga tasting table were incredible!

Beronia was new to me, but I really liked it.

Both these two were most excellent.

CVNE Reserva 2004 was exceptional. I am also a huge fan of CVNE.

Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2001 was exceptional! Really, really enjoyed this one as well.

The 1994 Urbina Gran Reserva was a rare and incredible special treat! A big, luscious wine.

So much fun. OK, back to work!