Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Boston Wine Expo: 90+ Cellars & Rioja

While perusing the rows of wine exhibitors at the Boston Wine Expo, I found myself at the spacious tasting tables of 90+ Cellars. Brett Vankoski, pictured above, is one of the co-founders of 90+ Cellars and is personable and down-to-earth, an excellent advocate for his wines. In short, 90+ Cellars purchases excess wine from established wineries all around the world, and then rebottles them under their own label, at a reduced price. I've positively reviewed a number of their wines over the years, and found many of them to be excellent values. At the wine store where I work, Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet in Melrose, the 90+Cellars wines are very popular with consumers.

Brett led me through a tasting of several of their wines, some of their newest releases, and I've chosen two to highlight here. Coincidentally, both are Rhône blends, one white and one red. Locally, many wine stores sell 90+ Cellars wines so both of these wines should be readily available.

The 2012 Côtes du Rhône, Lot 103, is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne. The wine was originally priced at $15.99 but 90+ Cellars has priced it at $11.99. The wine has alluring aromatics, with floral elements, which bring to mind a spring day, and on the palate, there is a delightful blend of flavors, including pear, citrus, and some minerality with a hint of honey, though the wine remains dry and crisp. A pleasure to drink, this would be enjoyable on its own or paired with a salad, seafood, or even chicken, At this price, it is an excellent value and highly recommended.

The 2011 Vacqueyras, Lot 104, is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. The wine was originally priced at $27.99 but 90+ Cellars has priced it at $19.99. This is a dark and intense wine, silky smooth on the palate with pleasant and complex tastes of black cherry and ripe plum with a spicy backbone. Muscular yet elegant, this wine possesses a lengthy and satisfying finish. It is best drank with food, from a thick steak to wild boar, or even a hearty Bolognese.

So check out these, and other wines, from 90+ Cellars.

As a long time lover of Spanish wine, I took some time to check out the offerings from Rioja. I have visited the region in the past, reviewed numerous Rioja wines, and recommended Rioja at the wine shop where I work. The Rioja booth had four separate tables, and presented a nice tasting progression, starting with white wines and moving up to Gran Reserva red wines.

For the summer, the 2012 Cvne Monopole Blanco ($12) would be a nice choice. Made from Viura, this wine is crisp and clean, with a nice blend of flavors of grapefruit, herbs and minerality. With plenty of complexity for the price, this is a refreshing wine that would be enjoyable on its own or paired with lighter fare. The 2012 Bodegas Ontanon Clarete Rosé ($10) is another fun summer wine, though it would be enjoyable year round too. A blend of Tempranillo and Viura, it is dry with subtle red fruit flavors and some herbal notes. It reminds me of some Provence Rosé, as it is dry and more elegant.

The 2010 Ramon Bilbao Limited Edition ($20), made from 100% Tempranillo, has a medium red color and a pleasant aroma of cherry and spice. On the palate, there are flavors of red and black fruits, with a little earthiness and touch of spice. A tasty and easy drinking wine. The 2008 Bodegas Luis Alba Parcela #5, also made from 100% Tempranillo, is a bigger wine, with stronger tannins and more intense flavors. Your preference will depend on whether you want a lighter wine or not.

The Gran Reserva Red wines, which must be aged for at least five years, were impressive. The 2005 Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva was elegant and complex, with a dominant earthiness, black fruit flavors, intriguing spice notes and a very lengthy finish. A wonderful wine that earns a hearty recommendation. The 2001 Bodegas Ontanon Gran Reserva was equally as compelling, sharing many of the same characteristics except there was less earthiness and more herbal notes on the palate.

Rioja rocks!

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