Tasting: Ramon Bilbao Crianza Rioja

Guest blogger Daniel Eddy is a wine consultant in our Gainesville store (Newberry Road).

I’ve been wining professionally for over 23 years, and now I find that the wines that jump out at me are the wines that have something novel or surprising about them. Yes, really good ones tend to jump out at me too, but new experiences in wine tend to trump even my decadent favorites. At our last in-store wine tasting, I had one of those “aha” moments with a little Rioja from Spain, the 2007 Ramon Bilbao Crianza Rioja, Limited Edition. Last year’s vintage garnered a Wine Spectator 90, so I was interested in trying the new vintage with some of our regulars. This is a 100% Tempranillo, rather than the usual Rioja blend, and it has all that fresh tobacco and spice box character of typical Spanish Tempranillos, as well as the color, a dark garnet with hints of pretty purple at the edges.

My first distinct scent was of cedar shavings, and as soon as I commented such, everyone around me chimed in, “Yes! I smell cedar too.” This Tempranillo has loads of complexity on the nose, and each whiff brought me different nuances, from the cedar, to tobacco to spice box, to almost an herbal bouquet, like fresh Herbs de Provence, to dried fruits. This Rioja is still quite young, so I might recommend decanting it. On the tongue I got tart acid fruits, like red currants and cherries, becoming green Picholine olives, to finish with a toasty oak smokiness that I found very intriguing.  Perhaps only logical since it spent 15 months in French and American oak barrels. I get a hint of mocha or licorice on the final finish, again revealing a vast range of aromas.

As always this wine will be better with food, especially considering its dense, acid structure. First, I’m thinking of smoked cheeses, like a Smoked Pecorino or a Smoked Gouda, to harmonize with the wine’s smoky characteristics. Salty Spanish cheeses like Idiazabal and Manchego would also pair very well, as the mineral bite of these sheep’s milk cheese will bounce off the herbal notes in the wine. Since I perceived olives, a nice bruschetta with an olive tapenade would make a perfect pairing, or some grilled or roasted eggplant, which would harmonize with this wine’s deep and rich flavors. The omnivore in me begs for a classic Mediterranean roast leg of lamb, with plenty of rosemary and garlic, after some marinade time in olive oil and red wine. Osso Buco would pair well with this wine, or even a pork tenderloin with an herbal rub.

The 2007 Ramon Bilbao will evolve in your glass throughout the evening, bringing us back to my original point of new discovery. What this wine misses in fruit juiciness, it more than compensates through complexity and density, and that momentary “Shock of the New” experience. Try this wine: it’s affordable at about $17 per bottle, and enjoy your own new discovery. Cheers!

Daniel Eddy,  Wine Consultant for ABC in Gainesville, Florida

Note: Dan also writes about wine pairings for the Examiner. You can find more of his writings at http://www.examiner.com/wine-pairing-in-gainesville/daniel-eddy

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