I really like the whole group hug kind of wine tasting experience. Getting together with a group of peers and friends to taste and discuss 6 wines has its special moments of give and take, education and discovery, fellowship and fun. Sip, Engage & Grow could be the motto of this particular wine tasting group (six writers, 1 civilian) tasting Spanish wines from the Navarra region. Pretty darn good could be the mantra for the wines we tasted.
Keeping the group small and mostly men, I hoped for harmony but expected some simple disagreements. Even the best of wine buddies have differences of opinion on everything from what how the wines taste, whether to pair with food, or whether a screw top can ever rule the world. This is what makes the preparation, the tasting, and finally the ultimate ranking of the wines so interesting. With that… the Men’s Wine Council is called to order.
1. Castillo de Monjardin Finca el Cerezo, 2010 - $12
The wine has a soft voice for a stainless steel style Chardonnay. I’d describe it as crisp and aromatic, with an interesting not totally Chardonnay like flavor profile. Nice hints of pineapple and green apples on the palate. This Chardonnay should be paired with cheeses, lighter salads, quiche and BBQ chicken. 13.5%. alcohol. I ranked it 5th. The group voted it as their 5th favorite choice.
2. Senorio de Sarria Vinedo no. 5, (2010) $16
This one had me at the color with its beautiful cherry color. 100% old vine Garnacha explains that component. I liked the cherry flavors, with hints of spice and some minerality. Sometimes Rosés can be overly exuberant presenting strawberry, watermelon and strawberry to the extreme. I thought this one was softer spoken, elegant almost in its approach to a great summertime wine. Try with BBQ tri-tip with a hint of Rosemary, cherry pie, or a nice spicy mango-watermelon- red pepper salsa. 14% alcohol. I ranked it 3rd. The group voted it #4.
3. Gran Feudo Rosado (2010) $12
This is a great example of attractive packaging. Nice hostess gift, just on “the look” alone. Presents with a spunky cherry color; light red berries and vanilla on the nose. It tastes of smooth creamy strawberry and tart raspberry, cherry juice and minerality. Excellent with a generous piece of salted caramel cheesecake, BBQ tri-tip, vanilla-cinnamon coated almonds, and dark chocolate. 13% alcohol. I ranked it 3rd. The group voted it as # 3.
4. Senoirio de UNX Garnacha (2010) $8
25 year old vines gives this wine a deep color in the class with exotic aromas on the nose, setting it up for a top contender. Nice, deep blackberry on the palate. Not overly complex, but it does have a voice of its own and is food friendly going with a large range of dishes. . Paired well with empanadas, BBQ chicken, beef, strawberries, vanilla-cinnamon spiced almonds and dark chocolate. 13.5% alcohol. I ranked this one in 2nd place. The group also put it in 2nd place.
5. Marco Real Crianza 2006 - $15
We have a winner! Aged 12 months in French & American Oak, and 12 months or more in bottle, this came out of the bottle screaming for attention. Although it was 60% Tempranillo and 40% Cab, the Cab spoke with the big voice and was the predominant taste. Some nice earthy Tempranillo notes, but for whatever reason the cab portion was the star. Try with BBQ beef anything, prosciutto, milk chocolate, or a salted caramel cheesecake bite. Whatever has salt in it, that salt flavor literally jumps up and salutes your tastes buds – what delicious fun. 14.5% alcohol. Voted #1 by both me and the group.
6. Albert French Oak 2007 $8
I generally love blends. They can be complex and surprise on many levels. This one was 45% Cab, 35% Merlot, 20% Tempranillo but just had no passion or purpose. Trying really, really hard, I could pick up some strawberry and black current together with faint notes of plum and cherries, but honestly this was a silly airy kind of wine. 13.5% alcohol. Voted in last place by the group and me.
1/2 lb cooked bay shrimp (I used the jumbo shrimp that I had on hand & cut it into thirds)
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup store bought pico (or equivalent of diced tomatoes, red onions, jalapeno & cilantro)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 avocado, diced
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let stand 15 minutes before serving.
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