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The other night I had the pleasure of tasting the latest releases from Tinto Figuero Winery at Solera in NYC. This family run winery is located in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain which neighbors the Rioja region. Like Rioja, the majority of wines in this region are made from the Tempranillo grape. At Tinto Figuero, it is the ONLY grape, or varietal, that they use in crafting their wines… and they do a hell of a job!
In Rioja wines are classified by how long they are kept at the winery, as well as how long they are aged in oak, before they are released. For example, a Rioja that is classified as “Crianza” means that it has spent a year aging in oak and at least two years overall at the winery before release. Tinto Figuero just lets you know how long it’s been aging in oak. So they call their version of Crianza simply 12 months in barrel. It’s very direct, and will help those confused by the classification system that may think Crianza is a region or a grape. Let’s face it, if you don’t know about Spanish wines it is a very easy mistake to make!
Now on to the wines. We tasted their 2007 4 month in barrel, which was a very pleasant and approachable wine. Good dark fruit and a bit of a meaty aspect, which I dig. Next we tasted the 2005 12 month in barrel, or their Crianza, and it was a little tight (it needed some air to bring out the true aromas and flavors) in the beginning. But after some time in the glass, the oak aspect and tannins started to mellow, and the berries and cream started to come out. It finished with subtle liqourice flavors….reminiscent of anisette.
Then we tasted the big dogs. First was the 2004 15 month in barrel, their Reserva, and this one was the star of the night. Just an extremely well structured wine. The cedar and vanilla, which come from the aging process in the oak barrel, combined so well with the dark fruit. The tannins were soft and supple and it ended with a long, fruit filled finish. It also paired very nicely with the Roasted Duck dish prepared at Solera….delicious!
Lastly, we tasted their 2004 Noble (pictured above) which is aged 21 months in oak and another 15 months in the bottle in the cellar! Even after being decanted for 3 hours prior to tasting, this wine was still very young, but you can tell it will be something special…and at $130 a bottle it should be! Very fresh cherries and blackberries on the nose, with nice hints of cedar and cigar box type aromas. This one had some really cool chocolate and eucalyptus flavors that paired quite well with the chocolate served after the meal. Again, this is clearly a serious, special occasion wine that needs another few years of aging before its real potential can be realized.
Having tasted many wines from this region before, I have to say that Tinto Figuero’s are now certainly among my favorites. They are somewhat new to the US market so keep an eye out at your local wine shop or favorite Spanish restaurant for their selections. These wines are not what you would call inexpensive (price range from $19-130), but they provide true quality across the board.
I understand that Station Plaza Wine in Bronxville will be carrying at least one of their releases. Below are links for the winery, Solera and Station Plaza Wines.
For as long as my wife and I have been together, we always try and take a winter trip to Lenox, MA in the Berkshires. Aside from the picturesque landscape, its old world charm and close proximity to many ski resorts and spas, it is also ideal for the Westchester foodie and wino!
We like to stay at The Birchwood Inn which is a classic Colonial B & B built in the 1700’s. There are fireplaces in most of the rooms and it’s walking distance to the town of Lenox. The Innkeeper Ellen is definitely the hostess with the mostess. Not only does she make you feel comfortable and at home, but she can cook up a mean breakfast that will leave you satisfied until dinner!
Just down the road in Lenox there are a number of dining options to choose from, all quality! There is everything from a Wine Bar (Alta), an upscale Italian Steakhouse (Prime), a Spanish tapas joint (Firefly), a couple of traditional Italian restaurants (Café Lucia and Frankie’s), a classic style cafe (Church Street Café) and a lively French Bistro, Bistro Zinc.
The menu at Zinc is French in nature, but not too aggressive so that it is still very approachable to those who are not fans of the hardcore French fare. The French Onion soup and Mussels were definitely the highlights for the apps. For the entrée I went with the Steak Frites. I asked for it rare and it came it basically mooing (NICE!!), and my wife said the Grilled Salmon was the best she had ever had….literally!
The wine list is obviously French in nature, however it’s small enough not to be overwhelming yet has enough variety to be appealing. We ordered a bottle of 2005 Chateau Garraud Lalande de Pomerol (a Merlot based Bordeaux) which was outstanding!! In a store that bottle goes for about $28-35 if you can find it. The full bottle was $60 and the half bottle was only $28. Most of the wines were only about 2 to 2 ½ times what you would pay for it in the store, which has value written all over it.
I am focusing on Bistro Zinc as we have eaten there a couple of times and really enjoyed it. However the food and wine value is found throughout the Berkshire restaurants, including all the ones mentioned above. If you are looking for a real historical place to check out, you can hit The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. Built in 1713 it is filled with history, friendly staff and an option of eating in a classic dining room or a tavern that looks like it hasn’t been touched since it opened. Their burgers and sandwiches are delicious and they serve beer crafted by the local Berkshire Brewing Company which makes for a tasty combo.
Nothing finishes off a meal, or even starts one off, like a nice chilled glass of dessert wine. These white wines are made with grapes that are picked off the vines much later in the season, which is why they are also called Late Harvest wines. Because of this, they tend to have higher sugar levels which makes for some sweet and tasty juice.
One of the best values I have found is the Nederburg Special Late Harvest from South Africa. It’s made from mostly Chenin Blanc grapes and at around $10 for a full 750 ML bottle (most dessert wines are sold in 375 or 500 ML bottles) it’s tough to beat this deal. Sure it’s a little rough around the edges, but it still has those floral and honeysuckle components that you want in a dessert wine.
Selaks, a winery in New Zealand, makes a very tasty and affordable Icewine which you can get at most places for around $15….but it is only a 375 ML bottle. Both can be found at The Westchester Wine Warehouse on 119 in White Plains.
Two of the most respected and highest rated wines in the world are actually dessert wines. Sauternes from France and Tokaji from Hungary are made from grapes that are affected by a fungus, which is nicknamed the noble rot. This rot causes the grapes to raisin a bit making the wines delightfully sweet.
These classic dessert wines tend to come with a hefty price tag, but if you are willing to spend a couple of bucks there are some values out there. As far as Sauternes go they range from around 15 bucks to thousands of dollars for the really classic Chateaus such as D’Yquem. However, Chateau Guiraud makes a great one for under $30. The ones that run around $15-20 can be good as well, they will just be a little lighter in texture and flavor. Zachy’s in Scarsdale has a nice selection of Sauternes….
The Tokajis demand around the same price as the Sauternes (except for the really high end Chateaus), but for $30-40 you can grab the Royal Tokaji Wine Company Red Label, which is almost always in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines. It has amazing honeysuckle, cinammon and apple flavors that will also pair well with a variety of hard cheeses. But you really can’t go wrong with any Tokaji you find in the $15-20 dollar range as well.
In California, Dolce is King of the dessert wines. It is produced by Far Niente in Napa and they use the same grapes (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon) and techniques used in Sauternes. It is absolutely delicious, but you need to dig deep for the ”Liquid Gold” as it is usually priced around $50-70 for a 375 ML.
There is a small winery in Sonoma called Moshin Vineyards that puts out a wine very similar to Dolce called Moshin Poshin No. 7. I had the chance to taste it next to the Dolce and they are very comparable. However, at around half the price it is definitely a favorite of the WWG. You can’t find this one at many stores, but the link is below if you want to order directly from the winery. (If you do, try some of their Pinots as well…..great juice all around!)