#SnoothPVA: Experiencing Spain in New York City with Ribera del Duero Wines at Salinas
From one wine tasting to the next, our group of wine writers that gathered in New York City last month, for the Snooth People’s Voice Wine Awards, were lucky enough to be a part of several wine tasting Master Classes that focused on different wine regions around the world. As it just so commonly happens, wherever there is good wine, there is good food. For the Ribera del Duero tasting, we not only tried some stellar Spanish wine, but the food was right on par with the wine at New York’s Spanish-centric restaurant, Salinas. If we could have added a touch of salty sea spray into the air, I would have thought I was back in Barcelona – one of my favorite cities in the world.
The heralded winemaking region of Spain’s Ribera del Duero is dedicated almost entirely (95% percent) to the Tempranillo varietal, with other production coming from Merlot, Garnacha Tinta, Malbec and Albilla. Located on the northern area of the Iberian Peninsula, an hour and a half drive from Madrid, winemaking in Ribera del Duero goes back over 2,000 years – to the Roman era. With a revival in the Middle Ages and again in the 17th and 18th Centuries, the most recently noted come-back was in 1864 with the founding of Bodega Vega Sicilia, which brought recognition to the regions high quality wines.
Some interesting facts about the Ribera del Duero wine region:
- Ribera means “river bank.” The Duero River flows horizontally through the entire wine region
- The wine region is 93 miles long and 22 miles wide
- Average elevation is 2,750 feet, with vineyards being planted between 2,500 and 2,800 feet above sea level (among the highest elevations for red wine in Europe)!
- Average rainfall is approximately 18 inches annually
- Summers are dry with temperatures reaching 104 degrees while winters are long and harsh with temperatures going as low as -0.4 degrees (fahrenheit).
- 51,724 acres of vineyards
- 268 wineries total to date
- Wine classifications: Cosehca/Joven (vibrant and fruity, consumed young), Crianza (aged at least two years, minimum 12 months in oak barrels), Reserva (aged three years, minimum of 12 months in oak barrels), Gran Reserva (high quality wine with select vintages, aged at least 60 months, with a minimum of 24 months in oak barrels) and Rosado (Rosé wines that are fermented without the skins with wild-berry flavors, sold shortly after harvest).
Some interesting opinions about Ribera del Duero:
- The Ribera del Duero wines are seriously savory
- Wines from the Ribera del Duero, mainly Tempranillo, is incredibly food friendly
Because the Ribera del Duero wines we sampled paired so incredibly well with the cuisine at Salinas, I’ve decided to highlight the food and wine pairings that were nothing short of heavenly. Our four-course meal consisted of two Primeros (firsts/starters), one Platos (main course) and one Postre (dessert).
The first Primeros was Ensalada De Jamon Con Peras, which was a gorgeous salad of baby arugula, shaved Serrano ham, D’Anjou pear, Manchego cheese with Forum vinaigrette. At first bite of the salad, I wondered if the Forum vinaigrette was made using the Forvm Chardonay vinegar produced in Catalonia, Spain, but I never had the chance to ask; regardless, it was a delicious. The acidic, slightly salty, vinaigrette was absolutely perfect with the sweetness of the pears and the concentrated flavors of the herb-like arugula. The lightly salty and smoky characteristics of the Seleccion de Torres, S.L., Celeste 2009($28), along with prominent ripe berry fruits and licorice qualities, was really approachable with its soft tannins – it paired excellently with the salad.
The second Primeros, Caldo De Temporada, was a Galician style pumpkin-chicken soup with smoked bacon, chorizo, potato and broccoli rabe. Although I originally thought this dish would pair nicely with a white wine, my vision of sipping a Verdejo or Albarino diminished the moment I tried the Explotaciones Valduero, S.A., Valduero 2001 ($160). In my notes for this Gran Reserva 100% percent Tempranillo, I have MINT written in all caps. Next to that, other aromas and flavors were licorice, blackberry and earth, and the words ‘well balanced’ were circled and starred. The velvety mouthfeel and long robust finish were totally palate pleasing. I remember thinking the chorizo was excellent with the minty flavors of the wine. I love to cook (for my husband and two young boys), but I’m far from whipping up dishes like some of my well-known chef friends; however, ever since I experienced this pairing at Salinas, I’ve wondered if chorizo and mint are often companions in recipes; if not, I believe they should be.
The main course, or Platos, was absolutely outstanding, and I have a feeling this dish won’t go unmentioned by my colleagues in their articles about this event. Costilla Al Vino Tinto (Ribera Del Duero braised short ribs, confit potatoes and crispy leeks) was mouthwatering delicious and paired perfectly with two of the wines we sampled: Bodegas Astrales, S.L., Astrales 2010 ($40) and Bodegas Cepa 21, S.L., Malabrigo 2009 ($65). The 2010 Astrales was super juicy and complex with black currant, eucalyptus and woodsy, dusty aromas. Beautiful, smooth tannins were the most memorable quality, and although it had great structure, it was mellow enough to not take over the tender, juicy quality of the beef. Contrary to the mellow character of the Astrales, the 2009 Malabrigo was bright, vibrant and full of red berries and fruit. The saltiness of the braised ribs rounded out the fruit characters in the wine, creating a really balanced pairing.
Since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (I prefer a bowl of popcorn over a bowl of ice cream), I love desserts that are not based on sugar content, but rather on savoriness blended with naturally sweetened foods. The Postre (dessert), Plato De Quesos Y Membrillo, was my kind of dessert: artisanal Spanish cheese with quince (a fruit related to apple and pear) paste and berries. When I visited Barcelona, quince paste and Manchego cheese seemed to grace every dish at every meal – I loved it. My favorite pairing with the rich cheeses that were served alongside the quince paste was the Condado de Haza, S.L., Alenza 2001 ($100). Much like the Explotaciones Valduero (minus the mint), blackberries, licorice and earth flowed in silky layers from front to back. Excellent structure and impeccable balance, this was divine with the Postre cheese; in particular, the blue cheese.
I can’t finish this piece without mentioning the Bodegas Hnos. Perez Pascuas, S.L., Viña Pedrosa, 2005 ($85), which I thought was excellent after it had some time to decant and really open up. Alluring blackberry jam on the nose with hints of fresh tobacco and vanilla, this full bodied and rich Tempranillo offered really pleasing soft acidity and smooth, silky tannins. The herbaceous and mineral notes on this one set it apart from the others, and I loved the juicy, complex long lasting finish. Thinking again of my days spent in Spain, I could almost hear the guitar players on La Rambla, a common sight on the main, tree-lined street through the heart of Barcelona. It was a treat and a pleasure experiencing a little bit of Spain while in New York City.
Note: The Snooth PVA trip to New York City was provided by Snooth.
Ribera Del Duero: Thriving through Adversity (The V.I.P. Table)
Ribera del Duero Lunch – Salinas NYC (Brunello Bob’s Wine Blog)
Reveling in the Wine of Ribera del Duero Plus 3 Top Value Picks From This Region (The Reverse Wine Snob)
#SnoothPVA: Riber del Duero Lunch at Salinas (My Vine Spot)