What may be bewildering to people reading this is how the bottle of Tio Pepe they tasted five years ago was so different from my description. Let me help you with that problem. My bottle was FRESH. Freeeeessssh. It makes all the difference. If your bottle was open for a few weeks and sitting on a back bar at a restaurant, you haven’t really tasted Tio Pepe.
If you’re a restaurateur reading this, and you own that bottle half full sitting on the back bar for the last two months, do everyone a favor. Throw it away. Or cook with it.
Fresh Tio Pepe is bracing. And it’s an icon. The salt and the tang are all tied up together in the lemons, limes, oranges, green apples and almonds. It finishes with dried apple skins.
My fresh bottle of La Ina had intense and slightly heady flor smells, with almond meat, lemon, apple, lime leaf, and some orange. The mouth was crisp, clean, nutty, focused, and had a nutty/lemon pith end, with a touch of orange, lemon curd, red apple, even some fig. Sound complex? It was. And it showed delicacy, even at 17% alcohol.
Having a bottle of Domecq Manzanilla at the dinner table brought out a curious synergy. It had the usual salty, nutty nose with red apple and crisp citrus aromas. The mouth was classic Manzanilla: the light, tangy, and juicy notes of grapefruit, orange, lemon, almond meat and red apple. Good length.
But the interesting part was how it didn’t, as is so often presupposed, enjoy salty foods as much as it did oily foods. Almonds, olives and the like went limp. But with calamari, with oily sardines, oivay como va!
Joan Sarda Cava Brut – This is distinctly toasty and dramatic cava that wants simple foods to strut its stuff. Layers of fruits such as orange, peach, cherry and red apple, with many of the same notes at the mild and pleasing end.
Mont-Ferrant Brut Rosé – Very attractive rosado cava, with strawberry, raspberries and other red fruits in a tangy red cherry and raspberry soft ending. The yeastiness is present but underlies the fruit, and it finishes clean and dry.
Agusti Torello Kripta 2000 – An impressive and balanced effort, with orange, lemon, pear, and nuttiness on the nose, and flavors of orange pear and a honey-dipped green apple slice at the end. Complex bubbly like this can be great on its own, or with light appetizers.
A wealth of delicious Spanish wines to review including a few pretty cavas. Agusti Torello Mata Cava Reserva 2002 – A very attractive nose with some yeastiness, toast, lemon and creamy green apple, the mouth is full and round but dry, with a little floral note and lemon zest at the finish. By itself, or with light foods, this is very stylish.
Chateau Ste Michelle Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Horse Heaven Vineyard is the product of one of Washington’s greatest and coolest vineyards. In most vintages, Horse Heaven is not a sure thing, even with a variety friendly to cool vintages such as Sauvignon Blanc.
But two things have changed: the vintages are no longer so cool in Washington, and Ste Michelle seems to be getting a real handle on the grape. Despite the Bush administration’s ostrich act, global warming is real and cool vineyards are nearly hot. This is laden with white pepper, notes of green pepper and nutmeg, cooked pears and apples and notes of orange and grapefruit. Lengthy, weighty and crisp.
SoloRosa 2004 California Rose – pink wine is not for very everybody, I know. It’s just that most people like it, and the wine press likes to ignore these wines despite that fact. Strawberry, raspberry and red currants flavors in a soft, somewhat simple finish. But simple isn’t bad when it comes to pink wine. Austere is bad, dull is bad. This is none of those.