Vincente Dalmau Cebrián-Sagarriga, Count of Creixell, the owner of Spain's famous Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta, came to the Taberna del Alabardero in Washington DC to introduce us to his wines. This was a rare opportunity to taste 5 Spanish wines that differed quite substantially in terms of style, with the benefit of the very lively, educational and entertaining comments of the winemaker.
The dinner was prepared by Chef Javier Romero, who came directly to Washington DC from Madrid about 2 years ago, and was ably orchestrated by Sommelier Gustavo Iniesta. Cost: $95 per person (inclusive of tax and gratuity).
Taberna del Alabardero
The Taberna del Alabardero is a renowned Basque restaurant in Madrid owned by Luis Lesama - a Madrid classic. The Taberna Del Alabardero in Washington DC (opened in 1989) is his only venture abroad (after he closed Seattle); it is arguably the best Spanish restaurant on the East Coast of the US.
In addition to the superb menu and wine list, the decor is impressive and almost screams you'll be treated like royalty. We dined in one of the private rooms that feature dark walls, gold embellishments and a pretty chandelier.
Wine Producer Spain
Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain totals over 1 million hectares of vineyard land. Italy, France and Spain are the leading trio of wine producers in the world. Wine making in Spain began many centuries ago, even long before the Romans came.
Spanish wines are classified according a five-tier system, which - starting from the bottom - comprises: (1) Vino de Mesa; (2) Vinos de la Tierra; (3) Vino de Calidad Producido en Región Determinada – all entry-level wines for day to day consumption; (4) Denominación de Origen (DO - for the quality wine regions, comprising nearly 2/3 of the total vineyard area in Spain; and (5) Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa - a step above DO level, given to only 3 regions so far: Rioja in 1991, Priorat in 2003, and Ribera del Duero in 2008).
The 4 most common aging designations are Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. (1) Joven are easy-drinking wines with little or new barrel or bottle aging. (2) Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. (3) Reserva red wines are aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak. (4) Gran Reserva wines typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years aging, 18 months of which in oak.
Major Spanish wine regions include the 3 DOCa regions Rioja, the Priorat and Ribera del Duero; Jerez, the home of the fortified wine Sherry; Rías Baixas in the northwest region of Galicia that is known for its white wines made from Albariño and Catalonia which is the home of the sparkling wine Cava.
The country has an abundance of native grape varieties, with over 600 varieties planted throughout Spain though 80 percent of the country's wine production is from only 20 grapes. Tempranillo is the most widely planted red grape and is an important grape in the Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Penedès regions.
Rioja is in north-central Spain. The three sub-regions are Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. Rioja totals 57,000 hectares of vineyard land, of which 85% is red, mostly Tempranillo.
First introduced in the 18th century by Bordeaux influenced winemakers, the use of oak and the pronounced vanilla flavors in the wines has been a trademark of Rioja wines, although winemakers, including Marqués de Murrieta, are experimenting making wines less influenced by oak.
Rías Baixas is a DO in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain. The Rías Baixas DO was established in 1988 and owes its acclaim to the white Albariño grape; it is the only exclusively white wine DO in Spain.
Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta
Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta was founded by Luciano Francisco Ramon de Murrieta in 1852. He spent his youth in Peru and then moved to London. In 1844, Luciano settled in Spain and decided to make wine. In 1878, he purchased the 300-hectares Ygay Estate in the Rioja Alta. Queen Isabel II made him Marquesado de Murrieta; and so the estate of Marqués de Murrieta was born.
In 1983, Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta was sold to Vicente Cebrián-Sagarriga, Count of Creixell, the father of Vicente Dalmau Cebrián-Sagarriga. Today, Vicente's son, Vicente Dalmau, who came to Washington DC is in charge, with his sister Cristina, together with their technical director Maria Vargas.
Since taking over, Dalmau has been on a campaign to update his wines stylistically: “We refused to change the identity. But we added more fruit to the wine, we release the wines sooner, we use newer oak and we leave the wine in oak less time.”
The vines are dominated by Tempranillo, accounting for 75% of the vineyard, with Mazuelo, Garnacha and Graziano largely making up the rest and with lesser quantities of white varieties, including Viura, Malvasia and, unusually, Garnacha Blanca.
Marques de Murrieta produces also a wine in Galicia: Pazo Barantes, in the small appellation of Rias Baixas. The sixteenth-century Galician palace, Pazo de Barrantes, has been in the Creixell line for the last 4 centuries. In 1991, Vicente Dalmau and Cristina’s father, Don Vicente, established a state of the art winery amongst 12 hectares of pergola-trained vines on the estate, to produce only Albariño.
Assortment of Tapas
Sardinas Marinadas con Asadillo de Pimientos - Marinated Sardines with a Roasted Bell Pepper Salad
Esparragos Verdes y Bacon con Salsa Remoulade - Green Asparagus and Bacon with "Remoulade Sauce"
Crema de Boletus con Rabo de Toro - Cream of Boletus with Braised Ox Tail
Pazo de Barrantes Albariño 2010 D.O. Rias Baixas
Debuting with the 2010 vintage, the new Pazo Barrantes logo reveals the wine's floral characteristics: fresh fragrances of white flowers, camellias, hydrangeas and leafy white petals.
Dalmau explained: “This low-yield, concentrated vintage underwent a slow, cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks, without grape skins, and was left on lees for five months to build texture. Pazo de Barrantes Albariño is fresh, citrusy and creamy. There are mineral, almost seashell notes, with riper characters of peach, apricot and golden delicious apple and firm acidity on the grippy finish.”
Crema Ligera de Judiones con Setas y Almejas - Fava Bean Cream topped with Wild Mushroom and Clams
Marqués de Murrieta Capellania 2006 D.O.Ca. Rioja
This wine was quite different from the first one. 100% Viura. Dalmau: “Fermentation takes place in a temperature controlled, stainless steel tank. The wine then spends 15 months in American and French barriques.”
Golden in the glass, notes of fennel, almonds, spices on the nose; a slightly oxidized character, but the wine is not oxidized, as Damau explained, broad, warm and creamy on the palate. This is not a wine for seafood, but would go well with foie gras, paella, smoked and grilled fish.
Taco de Atún sobre Vizcaína Clásica, Zanahoria y Rucula - Tuna Steak in a Red Pepper Sauce with Carrots
Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2005 D.O.Ca. Rioja
A classic Rioja red: 84% Tempranillo, 13% Garnacha, 3% Mazuelo. Dalmau: “During fermentation, the wine is both pumped over the cap of grape skins at the top of the tank (remontage), and also the cap is pressed into the fermenting wine every second day (pigeage). Both these processes ensure maximum color and aroma, without producing excessive tannin. The wine is aged for 22 months in new and used American barriques, with at least 8 months in new wood and a minimum of 12 months in bottle before release.”
Garnet in color, with a traditional sour cherry and oak scent, herbal and vanillin notes, good structure, smoky tannins, good finish.
Codorniz Escabechada sobre Crema Ligera de Puerro y Tallarín de Verdura - Lightly Marinated Quail over a Leek Cream with Vegetable Noodles
Castillo de Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2004 D.O.Ca. Rioja
The traditional flagship wine of Marqués de Murrieta . Made only in exceptional years. Grape varieties: 93% Tempranillo, 7% Mazuelo. Was 29 months in American oak, new oak for the first 10 months. Bottle ageing: 3 years before being released to the market. Limited in production and sought after all over the world, it’s one of Rioja’s greatest wines.
Rich, savory and ripe, with plenty of succulent black fruit, good depth, concentration and balance.
Entrecote de Búfalo, Revuelto de Ajetes y Mollejas con Salsa de Cabrales - Buffalo Strip Loin with Sweetbread and Scallions scrambled in a Blue Cheese Sauce
Dalmau 2004 D.O.Ca. Rioja
Like many Rioja wineries, Murrieta also makes a red wine in a modern style — darker, richer, with tannins imparted by French oak: Dalmau, which Dalmau calls “a modern concept of Murrieta.”
Dalmau is different because of the inclusion of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend and because of the use French barriques, in which the wine is aged for a period of 23 months.
Vineyard: Canajas single vineyard. A more than 50 year-old single vineyard within the Ygay Estate. Grapes: 86% Tempranillo, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Graciano. While Tempranillo ferments in a stainless steel, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Graciano ferment individually in a wooden vat.
A youthful purple hue, notes of black fruits combined with notes of rose petals on the nose, sweet, creamy style on the palate, hugely rich, a more international style.
Tabla de Quesos a Mi Manera - Spanish Cheese Selection "Chefs Way"
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