I love drinking Gran Reserva Rioja. I can’t think of a category that offers such great value- sometimes the prices are so low that they leave me scratching my head. Can you imagine telling your banker that you are going to make a wine, and then wait 16 years before selling it? And then the punch line- it is going to retail for $29.99! It doesn’t seem to make economic sense, but what a great opportunity for those of us who love mature wine!
Cinnamon and I enjoyed a bottle of the 1998 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos Gran Reserva Rioja ($29.99) this weekend, and it was nothing short of inspiring. It comes from some of the best plots on this family owned 65 acres vineyard, all of which are farmed without chemicals. The entire property is in Rioja Alavesa, with some higher altitude parcels in El Villar. The vines are planted on chalky clay with a little iron. The Gran Reserva is composed of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Mazuelo and sees thirty months in barrels that are on a 7 year rotation- so less than 15% new oak.
We paired it with the prime tri tip in the picture above, the famous “Fred Steak” from Schwab’s in Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. This marinated-until-it’s-black cut is ideal with full bodied wines… It is what Cinnamon served me the very first time I came to her place for dinner, and I brought Rioja (and Ridge Zin!) then, so we usually do one or the other each time we enjoy a Fred Steak. On this occasion, Cinnamon also prepared a big batch or roasted beets with Bijou goat cheese, and we had left over paella for our starch from the night before. It was quite the feast!
I love grilling on my little Lodge cast iron hibachi, and it reliably makes great tasting food. Fred steaks call for a lot of vigilance however- the dark marinade makes it hard to see when the steak is giving up its juice. I stood over it with a glass 2002 De Meric "Cuvée Rene Millesime" Brut Champagne, to make sure it didn’t get over cooked. In the meantime, the Lesmos had been airing in the decanter for about an hour.
This tried and true pairing came through again. The Lesmos had a gorgeous vanilla cake nose from the long elevage in American oak, without the dill pickle elements that one sometimes finds from this type of cooperage. It also had lots of ripe, brambly black fruit aromatically, and on the palate. The bouquet was made all the more lovely and complex by savory, leathery elements that were also present in the mouth. The texture was broad, but the finish was focused. This wine had it all, and I plan on buying a case this week… It is fresh enough to last for many years to come, but totally ready to drink at 16 years old. What more could you want for $29.99? This is luxury I can afford!
A toast to you!