Wine Around Town? In Vino Veritas!

21 Jan

A friend and business associate invited me to an informal wine tasting based on grape. I’ve been to tastings, but this was really a fun get-together of friends called “In Vino Veritas” (translation from the Latin: “In Wine, There is Truth”, attributed to Roman philospher/naval commander Pliny The Elder). It was a modern, intimate social media event. Jimmy (the host and event creator) wrote about the get-together to the (closed) group in his invitation:

I admit I know very little about wine, but I know what I like, and the reason I know what I like is I put as many versions of the same grape in front of me and sample them all. This is what this event will do. We’ll get together and all bring a bottle of the same type of wine (merlot, syrah, pino, etc) with you. Everyone will hopefully bring wine from different vineyards and of different vintages, so we can get a large sampling. The more people come, the more wine we get to taste. And don’t feel pressure to spend lots of money: if the wine is great AND cheap, it makes it that much better a find! If you want to pair up with someone and go in on a bottle together, please do!

It was quite straightforward. First I got the invite, then the indication of which grape was- tempranillo! Then, the location and time. Finally, the day arrived. I fretted about choosing the wine to bring, and settled on a Rioja I picked up from Morrell Wine, which is a shop that has a nice variety and is conveniently close to my current work. I went and looked at their selection of tempranillo wines, narrowed it down to three possible bottles, and then asked a salesperson for help. I showed them my choices, and explained that 1) I was looking for a good value on a great drinking wine, 2) did any of these wines fall into that category, and 3) were there other bottles I should consider?

The salesperson was very nice, expressed approval at my choices and described the qualities of two of them they had tasted. I chose a wine whose name is as much of a mouthful as the wine is itself:  La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Rioja Spain 2001. On the shop’s website, this wine boasted a Robert Parker rating of 94 points with a review calling it “medium-bodied, velvety-textured, and already complex” and sounded like a mature wine I’d appreciate that might be very different than what others were bringing. Off I went to the gathering!

I arrived at the appointed location and was quickly introduced to those I did not know. As is always a good idea when tasting both to cleanse the palate and assist the body’s ability to process wine, we got some food and water along with our wine glasses and then opened the bottles one at a time to taste. Yes, just to taste, as in sample, not drink! There were five bottles in total, each of a different vineyard, and varying vintages. What fun!

We poured a sample, passed the bottle, looked in the glass at color, smelled the bouquet, tasted, and shared our thoughts openly. It was great fun to attend a tasting when you have no clue where the bottle came from, who bought it or what it cost, and no pressure to buy the wine, or to even enjoy it! A couple of sips and some discussion, and we were on to the next wine. I have to admit that it was even more fun not knowing what kind of stores these were from, or the price range. Everyone had their own personal reactions, some people dumped glasses quickly, others sipped delicately, thoughtfully. No one left drunk or even tipsy. Here’s the list of the wines we tasted, with a tasting note and a link for your enjoyment. I’m including my terrible camera-phone pictures for label reminders.

1. Zumaya Ribera del Duero Crianza Tempranillo 2003

Garnet color with brown edge. Zingy nose with acid and sugar- like a cherry cola, to me indicating possible TCA (aka trichloroanisole, or cork taint). Very fruit forward, overly ripe cherry on the palate– but seems the wine is tainted or at least, turning, possible in the bottle from lack of temperature control. Overall, this was our least favorite wine. $17/bottle.


2. Termes, Numanthia 2009

Deep red in the glass with a nose of black fruit and menthol. Blackberry and black plum, touch of leather & oak. Nice texture, tannins were slow to kick in with a long, lingering finish, making the wine feel slightly provincial, thought I sense a lot of care and thought went in to making this wine. I will try the 2009 in a year, and decant first.  $30/bottle


3. Vinaguerena Denominacion de Origen Toro Barrica 2008

Nice ruby color, nose of cherry and green grass, hint of cedar. In the mouth, the cherry is forward with some raspberry and a hint of red cassis. Decent acidity but a short finish due to tannins being tight.  $16/bottle


4: La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Rioja Spain 2001

Garnet color, nose of cherry, red plum and a distinct odor of dill. In the mouth, the cherry and plum still mix together with black plum, spicy pepper, black cassis and a long finish with oak, spice box, a hint of smoky mint- perhaps cardomom. This wine does show differently than the others due to age (and the flaw in the Zumaya wine being turned) $32/bottle from Morrell, as low as $25/bottle online.


5. Grupo Yllera Tempranillo 2006

Bright ruby color with a browning edge, nose of fresh red cherry, strawberry, and sour raspberry. Hints of cacao, and oak.  Structure is good, finish is balanced. I went back for another taste (twice). $11/bottle


Of the five wines, I personally enjoyed #4 and #5 the most, but I do wonder if it was partially my palate and the process of tasting the three wines prior to #4 that assisted in that development. No matter, as I truly had a great time- this was a lovely evening and I felt honored to be brought into this group of like-minded people who all enjoyed the method of tasting and discussing without drinking to excess on an early work night. If I didn’t work most evenings, I’d want to set up an evening like this in my neighborhood, and I highly suggest that you try this with friends. The idea of tasting several bottles of a specific type of grape makes for a lot of fun, as well as being educational. It gently takes people away from their comfort zones into a playful area of exploration with no pressure to buy anything or answer to anyone in a safe environment. To me, the enormous success of this evening proves that Jimmy chose the name accurately.

In Vino Veritas Est! 

à votre santé!


2 Responses to “Wine Around Town? In Vino Veritas!”

  1. talkavino January 21, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    You had an excellent choice of wine – 2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especialle is one of the very best Rioja you can get for the money. Tempranillo by itself has a great range of expression, even in Spain alone you can compare main areas such Rioja, Ribera Del Duero and Toro, and find them all very different, but the you can add California, Texas and Portugal, and take it even further.
    You can also try to make your tasting blind – that takes it to the next level in the assessment, as it removes the visual of the label and “I brought this” from affecting your “like/don’t like” decision.



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