Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010
Spain – Rioja
13.5% ABV
$9.99
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

If I’ve ever spoken to you about Costco’s wine department, you know that if I see a Rioja Reserva for under $10,  I snap it up immediately. There are some great bargain wines coming out of the Rioja region of Spain, especially if you know what to look for on the label. Riojas fall into one of four categories; Rioja (under a year aging), Crianza (2 years aging, at least 1 of which is in oak), Reserva (3 years aging, at least 1 of which is in oak) and Gran Reserva (5 years aging, at least 2 of which are in oak), and prices tend to go up the longer its aged. Many of my favorite Riojas are Reservas; they have a great oaky finish and pair well with red meat and aged cheeses.

Deep garnet, tobacco, oak, nice cherry acidity.

Pair with: lamb chops, sharp cheese

Recipe Pairing:
Grilled Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce

From the winemaker:
“Just fill your glass and enjoy this smooth and round wine, elaborated with Rioja’s native grapes following a century-old tradition. Aged for more than 3 years, with at least 18 months in oak barrels.
Its spicy and fruity flavors are a perfect match to cheese, red-meat dishes liked grilled lamb chops and smoked food. Serve at 64F
Fall in love, again, with an authentic Rioja”

Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013

Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013
Spain – Yecla
14.5% ABV
$7.99
My Rating: 88 points
Costco

I was wildly impressed with Montgo, a Monastrell Costco was carrying a while back, so when I saw Solanera, a blend of Monastrell (70%) Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Garnacha Tintorera (15%) for $7.99, I had to give it a shot. Monastrell is a bit like a zinfandel, but a little spicier and complex, and this blend did not disappoint for under $10. It’s a perfect pairing for bold, savory dishes.

Deep ruby, limestone, black fruit and a bit spicy, drying tannic finish

Pair with: lamb dishes, bold Spanish or Mexican dishes, BBQ

Recipe pairings:
Instant Pot Carnitas
Best Baby Back Ribs
Sous Vide Carnitas

From the winemaker:
“This special limited production wine is an example of the high quality potential of the emerging Yecla region in Southern Spain. Solanera is produced from the oldest vines of the indigenous Monastrell along with low yielding Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnaca Tintorera which is aged in oak for 10 months. The resulting wine is deeply colored, with the ripe, rich flavors of the Mediterranean.”

La Encina Centenaria Monastrell 2014

La Encina Centenaria Monastrell 2014
Spain – Alicante
14.5% ABV
$6.99
My Rating: 87 points
Costco

Move over Zinfandel, because Monastrell is the new go-to for pork dishes. At least in my house it is. Monastrell (known as Mouvedre in France) is big, ripe and fruity like Zinfandel, but has a little less sweetness and a little more spice, which makes it perfect for pairing with pork. Monastrell also tends to be fairly budget friendly; I am particularly fond of Montgo Monastrell 2012 for $8.99 at Costco, but La Encina is even more budget friendly at just $6.99.

Deep ruby color, lots of fruit, primarily plum. Balsamic vinegar and mild/medium tannin.

Pair with: Pork, beef, game (venison and duck would both pair well), lamb

Recipe Pairings:
Chicken Fried Pork Chops with Sausage Gravy

From the winemaker:
“Deep cherry-red colour with purple edges. Aromas of red and black berries and plums and hints of balsamic vinegar, prunes and herbs. In taste, it is the rich fruit that really stand out, in perfect harmony with the slightly spicy notes. The structure is soft and silky and ripe tannins and a balanced acidity completes the experience. The big ripe fruit taste lingers long in the aftertaste.”

Carlos Serres Rioja Reserva 2010

Carlos Serres Rioja Reserva 2010
Spain – Rioja
13.5% ABV
$11.49
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

Costco has some of the best prices and selections of Spanish red wines from Rioja. They get a few new ones in monthly, and you can usually spot the great bargains by reading the labels. Riojas fall into one of four categories; Rioja (under a year aging), Crianza (2 years aging, 1 of which is in oak), Riserva (3 years aging, 1 of which is in oak) and Gran Riserva (5 years aging, 2 of which is in oak). This is a great example of Riserva that is priced better than some of their younger counterparts, and there really is a big difference in the depth and complexity of the wine from the oak aging. This 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano blend is a fantastic value at $11.49, worth stocking a few bottles to enjoy with meaty dishes.

Cherry, oak, long finish with well integrated tannins

Pair with: steak, grilled lamb chops, aged cheeses

Recipe Pairing:
Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks
Sous Vide Flank Steak
Instant Pot Carnitas

From the winemaker:
“Carlos Serres was a pioneer in Rioja. He arrived in Spain in 1896 and created one of the first wineries in Haro, in the heart of Rioja. Carlos Serres went on to be an instrumental figure in promoting the early exports of Rioja wines, and today is one of the only a few centenarian producers in Rioja.
Our Rioja is aged 24 months in oak barrels and an additional 12 months in the bottle before its release. It is a complex and elegant wine with aromas and flavors of mature black fruit and mineral notes, a perfect match with grilled meats, stews and stronger cheeses.”

Montgo Monastrell 2012

Montgo Monastrell 2012
Spain – D.O. Alicante
14.5% ABV
$8.99
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

Costco has been offering some great bargains on Spanish wine, and the Montgo Monastrell 2012 is a steal at $8.99. A quick search online shows this wine being offered at $18 elsewhere, so grab a few bottles of this bold Monastrell, awarded 91 points from wine enthusiast. Monastrell, known as Mourvedre in France, has qualities reminiscent of Zinfandel, but tends to be bolder and a little spicier. This makes it a perfect pairing for pork, and spicy or savory dishes. Since Monastrell tends to be on the inexpensive side, it also makes a nice pairing for casual Mexican food, like tacos or fajitas

Dry with a bit of spice. Blueberry, blackberry, black pepper and oak. Medium tannins on the finish.

Pair with: pork ribs, grilled pork, sausage, Mexican food

Recipe pairings:
Best Baby Back Ribs
Chicken Fried Pork Chops
Sous Vide Carnitas
Green Chile Pork Soup

From the winemaker:

“Montgo Monastrell is a flawless balance between dark fruit and toasted oak. Innovative and passionate winemaking teamed with terroir and historical vineyards, results in a wine bold in personality and independent in its expression.”

Barcelona

Barcelona - La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona – La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona is a beautiful city with amazing art history and a young fresh culture. There are so many things to see and do (and eat of course!).

The Cotton House hotel on Gran Vìà de les Corts Catalanes, is an upscale and modern hotel in the former headquarters of the Cotton Textile Foundation “Fundación Textil Algodonera”, a 19th-century style building, traditional in the city of Barcelona. In 2015, the building was refurbished to open the beautiful hotel while maintaining the original elements of the building. The marble and spiral staircases, ceiling, floor and wall embellishments have all been conserved in the beautiful new hotel. The hotel staff are friendly, helpful and there is an upscale lounge for breakfast or an evening cocktail.

The city’s art scene is heavily influenced by Gaudí, including La Sagrada Familia, an iconic church with three grand façades: Nativity, Passion and Glory. The Nativity façade bears the most Gaudí influence, and was completed prior to his death. The Passion façade is strikingly different to the Nativity façade, with tormented symbolical characters representing human sin, and was constructed by other architects with the plans left by Gaudí. The Glory façade, which is under construction, will be the largest façade and will represent the ascension to God. It is expected to be completed in 2026, marking the 100 year anniversary of Gaudí’s death. The church’s building materials are a stunning collection of stones, tiles and colored stained glass windows.

Barcelona - Park Guell

Barcelona – Park Guell

Strolling around Park Güell is a must, another beautiful Gaudí creation. The two mile hike from the Cotton House was mostly uphill, but the views of Barcelona are beyond spectacular. The park was conceived by Güell and Gaudí, and was originally designed to be a grouping of artistic, high-quality homes. The idea never took off, and only a few homes were built, leaving a city landmark with beautiful architecture and views not to be missed.

 

 

 

Barcelona - Cook and Taste 2

Seafood Paella at Cook and Taste Barcelona

Taking a cooking class in Barcelona is a fun way to spend an afternoon, learning some traditional Catalan dishes and enjoying our delicious, fresh lunch while wine was flowing throughout the class. Cook and Taste is located in the Gothic quarter, down one of the many narrow streets, and starts with a walking tour to the Boquera Market, an open air market with fresh seasonal vegetables and seafood catches. After purchasing the ingredients for class, the cooking began! A four course meal was prepared, including a seafood paella and a beautiful custard dessert with a delightfully caramelized top. Complete with recipe cards to go, the taste of Barcelona can be recreated at home.

Dessert at Cook and Taste Barcelona

Dessert at Cook and Taste Barcelona

The restaurants in Barcelona are a treat, especially Bodega 1900, the Adrià brothers’ latest venture in Barcelona. In this small restaurant you will find house made vermouth and thoughtful tapas dishes highlighting some of the freshest seasonal fare. The menu changes daily, but the famous olives from El Bulli are a must, and their carpaccio was delightful. The seemingly simple tomato salad was anything but, highlighting the freshest grape tomatoes in existence drizzled with a rich, flavorful Spanish olive oil.

A trip to Barcelona isn’t complete without a walk to the beach, so stop at one of the many seafood restaurants on the strip near the beach, grab a beer from the concession, and find a place near the water to dip your toes into the Mediterranean and a little people watching.

Madrid

Beautiful coffee at Federal Café in Madrid

Beautiful coffee at Federal Café in Madrid

Madrid has topped the list of cities to visit for a long time. There is lots to see and do, so much history and eating in Madrid is a pleasure.

The coffee is fantastic in Madrid and Federal Café is a great stop if you are looking for some beautiful coffee and a light breakfast. In a city where brunch is hard to find, Federal Café offers a full menu of light breakfast and brunch fare and is packed by both locals and tourists.

 

 

Stop for a midday snack at Chocolateria San Gines for some freshly made churros with chocolate for dipping. Later in evening, take a stroll down Calle de Cava Baja, a cozy street lined with restaurants and bars. Casa Lucio is a must for some tapas, chorizo and, of course, Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Jamon Iberico de Bellota is a cured ham that comes from the noble black Iberico pigs that feed on acorns while roaming the Spanish countryside. After curing, the result is a fatty, salty, sweet cured ham that melts when it hits your mouth.

Churros at Chocolateria San Gines

Churros at Chocolateria San Gines

Calle de Cava Baja

Calle de Cava Baja

Jamon Iberico de Bellota

Jamon Iberico de Bellota

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the highlights of our trip to Madrid was the Tapas and Taverns Tour, for numerous reasons. It’s a four hour tour of tasting Madrid’s best tapas, drinking wine, vermouth and beer. The mushrooms at Meson del Champinon, with garlic, lemon and chorizo are to die for and you will need a big hunk of bread to sweep up all the garlic from the Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) at La Casa del Abuelo. As you wander from tavern to tavern, you visit monuments, plazas, and historic buildings for some history of Madrid and to hear about some of the scandals from the royal palace. It was a great back drop to touring the royal palace and viewing the portraits of the royal family. There was that whole inbreeding snafu that resulted in some seriously ugly royals!

Mushrooms at Meson del Champinon

Mushrooms at Meson del Champinon

Chorizo at Casa Lucio

Chorizo at Casa Lucio

Spanish Royal Palace

Spanish Royal Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside of ancient Madrid, stroll around the Parque del Buen Retiro, one of the largest parks in Madrid, filled with magnificent sculptures, monuments and lakes before heading to the Prado museum. The Prado has one of the world’s largest collections of European art and is the largest collection of Spanish art in the world. Aside from the permanent displays, there are special exhibits that run anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

Madrid is an energetic city, known for its history, vibrant culture, and of course, the food!