On the evening following the Vibrant Rioja professional seminar, this blog teamed up with Vibrant Rioja to host a dinner called A Dinner with Rioja. The dinner was held in Lake Mary and Parlo, at whose home the dinner was held, worked closely with the chefs from Hospitality Concepts, Inc., to ensure that a food menu suitable to the occasion was on offer. The final dinner menu consisted of four food courses and five accompanying wines:
- First course -- Arugula and Mojito Prawn Insalata, Salsa Verde, Manchengo; paired with a 2008 Marques de Riscal Rosado
- Second course -- Divers Scallop Escoviche, Cilantro Tomato Puree, Candied Lime; paired with a 2001 Marques de Tomares Reserva and a 1995 La Rioja Alta Reserva
- Third course -- Sugar-cane-charred Churrusca (Skirt Steak), Creamed Yucca, nest of Asparagus, Chimichurri; paired with a 2005 Maetierra Dominus "quatro pagos"
- Fourth course -- Trio of desserts: Guava Cheese Tart, Coconut Flan, Pineapple Tres Leches; an unusual dessert pairing of 2007 Tobia Graciano.
I welcomed the 35 guests, thanked them for coming, and turned it over to Dhane of Vibrant Rioja.
She, in turn, made a few remarks and then turned it over to Adrian Murcia, our designated driver for the evening. Each course was preceded by an explanation of the food course by one of the chefs followed by Adrian's explanation of why the particular wine was so well-suited to the food with which it was paired.
The meal was a gustatory tour de force as course after mouth-watering course flowed across our palates and seared themselves into our collective memories.
Chef was in rare form and Adrian more than rose to the occasion. The Marques de Riscal, Marques de Tomares, and the Graciano had all been tasted earlier in the day at the seminar and had not been exceptional. Paired with the food, as they were that evening, they shone, especially the Graciano which was used as a dessert wine almost as an experiment. The class of the Rioja's that evening, however, was the 1995 La Rioja Alta Reserva, two magnums of which were consumed.
After completion of the dinner, and a lot of congratulatory back-slapping, a team was assembled for the tasting of the Unico. The team was comprised of all attending members of the Antonio's group as well as the members of the Vibrant Rioja team (Yup, the Rioja guys could bring themselves to drink juice from the "hated" Ribera del Duero if it was Unico.).
I had earlier removed the bottle of 1970 Unico from its position of honor in the cellar (in the display window and next to the 2001 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Reserva Barolo) and I now handed it over to Adrian of Vibrant Rioja (after all, he was the most senior sommelier present) to do the honors.
As he reverently extracted the cork from the bottle, I made note of the serial number: 44631.
The wine was decanted for residue and then poured into the waiting glasses. Even after being in bottle for well nigh 40 years, the wine had a bright color and was devoid of bricking. To the awe of the participants, the wine offered up an aromatic feast of coffee, mocha, spice box, leather, mint, faded red flowers, raw meat, morcilla, dried currant, sandalwood, and dried tobacco. It exhibited great structure and balance and had a very long finish.
The tasting team was blown away by the quality and finesse displayed by this wine as well as its vibrancy even after 40 years of "life." This wine truly deserves its place on the Wines of the Decade list.