Each participant brought a bottle, all wines were served blind.
We started off with a Tio Pepe Fino in Rama sherry. Outstanding: so rich and fresh some thought it Manzanilla. Turns out to be a special anniversary bottling. Per the back label: This year we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Manuel Maria Gonzales, the founder of Gonzales Byass, in 1812. He and his uncle Tio Pepe laid down several Fino soleras and to commemorate...this year's Fino in Rama comes from the finest cask of each of the four soleras...Tio Pepe Fino en Rama is unclarified, unfiltered Tio Pepe inspired by the days when fino was enjoyed straight from the cask...best enjoyed within three months of bottling...." Per the retailer who brought the bottle, this fino was airshipped to the U.S. recently and he was lucky to get a six pack. I had him set aside two bottles for me. If you love dry sherry, hunt this down.
Next up, with a peach gazpacho (recipe recently posted on FLDG) a la Eleven Madison Park, was a 2001 Lopez de Heredia blanco (my bottle). I must have been busy with kitchen stuff, because I took absolutely no notes on the wine, which I remember to have been everything we hope for from a (non-Reservea) LdH white.
The reds were served at random. It was known that one non-qualifying red wine was in the queue.
Crayola, black licorice, modern, no obvious American oak, concentrated sweetness on the palate, plush and full bodied, very youthful, very attractive and clearly very high quality even if rather international in style. On the palate, not obviously Rioja but then not obviously anything else. Most thought Priorat, but indeed it was Rioja, a 2001 San Vicente (my bottle).
Ripe, new world nose and palate. No complexity and no varietal typicity. Tastes like a $12 wine. Can't call it a ringer, but more like an interloper, and indeed this was that bottle. It's a 2009 CHC 'The Garage' wine made by a popular local DJ who hopes to go commercial with this project. Hope he has enough fans to get him started, but he's not going to get any love from anyone with even moderately higher end tastes.
Rare roast beef, huckleberry, dirt and dust, good spice, more Rioja-ish in spite of the black fruit than Ribera del Duero, though it was the latter. Not as youthful as the San Vicente above, but more pleasantly middle-aged in terms of secondary nuances, tannins and acidity. Drinks very well now. 2001 Flor de Pingus (my bottle).
Now this one's weird. Herbaceous with a sharp nasturtium kind of sharp attack on the raspberry fruit, very cab franc-like without the tea spices and mineral core. More acidity than tannins. so a near-term drinker. We can't make sense of it within the context of Spanish wine. Turns out it IS a Spanish Cab Franc, the first one any of us had ever had or known about. 2008 Aljibes Cabernet Franc, from some inland high plains north of Alicante per its owner. Interesting academically, but I would not buy it.
OLD! Mature nose, canned tomato, slightly pruney, short mid-palate, overweight on acid, stewed fruit. In a word, cooked. And that's too bad because it's a 2001 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia. What's especially alarming is that the wine was brought by a distributor of the brand, and this was from a just-received shipment (into the state from a warehouse in L.A., not sure of its actual arrival on our shores).
Good nose of minerals with plenty of sea salt, toast and strawberries, soft acids, barely medium weight. I presume it's grenache, and it's owner agrees that it sure seems more like grenache than what it is, a 2008 Marques de Caceras Rioja. Eh.
Next day, retastes of the only wines left, the CHC, Aljibes and Marques de Caceras all confirmed handily that the previous night's lack of enthusiasm for them was justified.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov