C.V.N.E., the Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana, pronounced Cune, is one of the oldest Rioja bodegas, having started life in the 1870s. Today they make wines under three labels, Vina Real, Imperial, and Contino, which the oldest single-vineyard wine in Rioja, having been established in the 1970s. We were able to taste a good range of their wines at the newish Kabila restaurant, just beside the popular M Café across the main entrance of the Ayala Museum. Kabila is part of the Raintree group of restaurants, which include the popular Chelsea Market, Momo, Mr. Jones, Stella, and Rocketroom. Kabila, in contrast to the other outlets of the group, serves up Filipino dishes family style and creatively presented using a lot of stone. While the look may be unconventional, the flavors are definitely comforting and familiar. As I had never been to Kabila before, this would be a good opportunity to reacquaint myself with the wines of CVNE (a friend used to import this wine but the current importer is Straits Wine) and try out a new restaurant.
To stat us off was the CVNE Monopole Viura 2011 – Light and fresh, with green apple and a touch of honey. Dryish finish with good length. The grapes for this wine are harvested from a hillside vineyard at about 600 meters altitude. A second white was presented together with the first set of food. Vina Real Barrel Ferment 2010– Also 100% Viura but from grapes grown on a plain. Presents a light smokiness, no doubt from the oak. The wood is quite muted but it gives the wine a nice rounded texture. Perhaps a touch more weight than the previous wine and a little more complexity as well. I had a slight preference for the Barrel Ferment but the group was pretty much split down the middle between these two wines. Accompanying the wines were sinuglaw or kilawin (ceviche with coconut milk), lumpia (vegetable egg roll), and Excelente Chinese ham. Surprisingly, the best dish for the wines was the ham, the saltiness of which played up the fruit ripeness in the wines.
On to the reds. First up was the CVNE Crianza 2008 – A light, rather simple wine. Dry, but with a nice enough nose of forest berries. Together with this was also served the Vina Real Crianza 2008 – Quite similar to the CVNE Crianza although this had a touch more heft to it. Interestingly, I thought the lighter CVNE went better with the food than the Vina Real. Served with these wines were “M”panada (empanada and a play on the M Café next door), BBQ “sa tabi-tabi” (pork barbecue skewers in the style of street food vendors ) and Pork crackling sisig (chopped pork face and crackling on a hot plate). The BBQ was the most successful dish for the wines. The sisig was very good; with bits of crackling giving textural contrast. Perhaps the least interesting dish of the whole dinner was the “M”panada. Cleverly named but bland. This needs a bit of work, I think.
From a couple of rather simple reds we moved on to the more serious Reservas; all from the great 2005 vintage. Vina Real Reserva 2005 – Dark, blackberries, toasty oak framing the wine. This medium-bodied wine shows the fruit quality of the vintage but the wood is a little distracting. Perhaps some more time in the bottle might integrate it better. The Imperial Reserva 2005 accompanied the Vina Real. The Imperial shows a wonderful purity of fruit and integration of oak. The wine is still youthful and will no doubt continue to develop complexity. The finish is still quite firm but the wine is so good it can definitely be enjoyed now. This was my favorite wine in the entire lineup. The dishes with these wines were a Pinaputok na labahita (deep fried butterflied surgeonfish), a tender US Beef adobo, and Pot of Pinakbet (vegetable stew). The fish was very good but perhaps not really meant for the wine. I did appreciate that the restaurant showed us what they could do with fish. The adobo matched the wines quite well. A light touch with the vinegar no doubt helping the pairing with the wines. The pinakbet didn’t do anything for the wines and I thought the dish itself seemed a bit too sweet; possibly from the squash. Still, it was thoughtful of the organizer to make sure that a wide variety of dishes was presented to show the capabilities of the restaurant.
The next wine wasn’t supposed to be in the lineup but was a welcome treat. Imperial Gran Reserva 1999 – This bottle had been opened in the morning and was poured from throughout the day for sampling. Fortunately, about a third of the bottle remained that evening and it was enough for our table to get a taste of it. Very deep flavor, currants, blackberries, tobacco and leather. Some sweet spice as well. By far the most complex wine. There’s a bit of an acid streak in the finish which can be jarring but otherwise a very good wine.
Lastly, we had the single vineyard Contino Reserva 2006 – 85% tempranillo, 15% graciano. The graciano gives high acidity and deep color to the wine. The nose is rather muted. This is a big wine with a syrupy texture. Blueberry jam comes to mind. It’s a little difficult to make out this wine. I think it’s closed and needs some serious decanting time before opening up.
For dessert we had a Malagos cheese platter and Leche Flan turron (deep fried wonton wrapped flan). Malagos Farms is the artisanal cheese maker based in Davao making a wide variety of fine cheeses. We had some hard cheese, camembert, some fried soft white cheese, and cottage cheese with fruit. The turron was original and excellent, especially with the chocolate/peanut dip. We will certainly be back at Kabila to try the rest of the menu.