Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Wine Journey: 1994 Vega Sicilia Unico

The Wine Journey is centered around tasting the wines identifed as Wines of the Decade by Master Sommelier Andrew McNamara.  The first wine tasted was the 1989 Beaucastel CDP.  The second step in the journey occured on Tuesday and was both a scintillating and exhilirating tasting experience.

I decided that the 1994 Vega Sicilia ( would be the second wine tasted and decided to enlist the assistance of the Wine Barn team because of their vast knowledge of, and experience with, Spanish wines (Remember the Clash of the Spanish Titans?).  So I grabbed a bottle of the 1994 Vega Sicilia from the cellar, hopped into my car, and drove to The Wine Barn.

When I got to the Wine Barn, the entire team was there along with (a pleasant, and pertinent, surprise) Juan Carlos "JC" Marin, the manager of the Jorge Ordonez portfolio for Stacole Fine Wines.  No one refused to participate in the tasting.

The bottle number (a Vega Sicilia practice) was 056115 and Andrew noted that this particular vintage was made by Mariano Garcia, the winemaker at Vega Sicilia from 1968 to 1998.  The bottle was opened and decanted at 5:00 pm and I began pouring wine into the glasses at 5:15 pm.  In the glass, the wine had an oily texture and a dark cherry color.  Both Andrew and JC remarked as to the brilliance of the meniscus and lack of "bricking," an indication that the wine still had many years of life in it.

We spent approximately 15 minutes in nasal worship, contemplating the majesty of the wine as manifested in the complexity and promise of the bouquet.  The tasters observed scents of saddle leather, baking spice, sandalwood, wet stone, morcilla, bacon fat, toast, buttered raspberry, and sweet tobacco with brandy.  At the initial taste, the wine did not live up to the promise provided to the nose.  In addition, there was a strong sense of iron and the wine was both highly tannic and acidic.  It exhibited a lot of power but the finish was not as long or as deep as one would have expected.  Vegetal elements were apparent towards the back of the tongue.  We set the wine aside to see if the various elements would resolve themselves with time.  The wine delivered.  It smoothed out considerably as the elements began to integrate properly and the promise on the nose began to show up on the palate at about 5:50 pm.  The vegetal characteristic noted previously resolved into a soft chalkiness and hints of Penfolds Grange began to show through.

All in all a wonderful and memorable experience (by this time we had been joined by Jerry Spoto, a fine wine rep from Transatlantic) for all of us.


  1. One of the great wines I got to try when I first got in the business was the 1970 (which was still a baby at 30 years of age or so...). Unfortunately, I haven't had the 70 since... but I have had other, more recent vintages. For me, the 1994 Vega Sicilia is a timeless example of this extraordinary estate. I remember the first bottle I had of this. And I thought the exact sames things that you did. Nice nose, but quite unimpressed by the nose - until several hours later when I came back to my glass and found that everything I expected to be in the bottle aligned in my glass. This is one of those wines where the taste stays with your forever...

  2. That's unimpressed by the palate...

  3. Modified to account for both aspects of initial inadequacy on the palate.