Friday, April 26, 2013

The Glory of Aged Rioja

By Dan Rhodes

I recently had the good fortune to snag an invite to a very special library tasting event from Rioja’s renowned CVNE winery. Guest speaker Jesus de Madrazo Mateo of CVNE led us all down a glorious path of historical delights. This vinous extravaganza focused on a treasure trove of many previously unreleased Gran Reserva wines from the CVNE Imperial and Vina Real portfolios.

Jesus de Madrazo Mateo of CVNE
All were enthralled at the quality brought to bear and it prompted many to comment on just how undervalued aged Rioja can be. Given the unprecedented surge in en primeur pricing from Bordeaux for the 2009 and 2010 vintages, the value-conscious wine shopper/collector should definitely be looking towards Rioja as an alternative.

We tasted any number of great wines but the following stood out to this palate:

CVNE 1999 Imperial Gran Reserva (From magnum)
Bordeaux-like in the mouth. Magnificent juxtaposition of sweet black cherry, blackberry and crème de cassis fruit. A real treat. Refined and elegant. First Growth quality at a fraction of the cost.

CVNE 1999 Vina Real Gran Reserva
Jesus de Madrazo Mateo of CVNE
More Rhône-like ---10% Grenache which definitely influences the flavor profile. Sweeter, jammier red fruits than the above. Jesus talked about 2 flavor profiles for the CVNE wines. One emphasizes ripe fruits (blueberries and cassis) while the other emphasizes terroir (fennel and herbs). This is definitely in the second camp. Hints of clove and herbs de Provence.

CVNE 1988Vina Real Gran Reserva
Earthy black fruit flavors, flambéed fruits. Hints of truffles, sous bois, forest berries, herbs and leaves. Delightful nuance of graham cracker and black peppercorn throughout. Extraordinary complexity. Showcases the Burgundian side of Rioja.

CVNE 1976 Imperial Gran Reserva
Very warm, soft fruit. Flambéed, baked cherry. Subtle hints of clove and spice. Very sensual wine. Reminds of very well-done and properly aged Bordeaux.

CVNE 1973 Vina Real Gran Reserva
Enticing nose of sweet tobacco, pipe tobacco. Gorgeous cherry/black cherry fruit with hints of coriander, spice box, clove and nutmeg. Very Burgundian again. Meditative finish of nougat, caramel and toffee is the pièce de resistance.

The well-rounded and astute collector would do well to reserve a small section in his or her cellar for wines such as these from one of the world’s greatest red wine regions: Rioja.

A few of our retail CVNE selections:
CVNE Cune Imperial Gran Reserva 2001 / CVNE Cune Gran Reserva 2005 / CVNE Cune Imperial Reserva 2005

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Walkabout Pop-Up Tasting: Pictorial Recap

Here are a few pictures from last night's fantastic Australian Pop-Up Tasting event. Special thanks to Onotria for hosting!

The lineup // Penfolds Cabernet Shiraz Bin 389 1998 & 2005
Glenguin Estate Shiraz 2003 Aristea / Rosemount Estate Syrah Balmoral 1998 / Saltram Shiraz Mamre Brooke 1999 / Tori Matthews Shiraz Frost Dodger 2003 / Wynn's Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch 1998

Petaluma Riesling Hanlin Hill 2002 //  Best's Shiraz Great Western Bin No, 0 1998 / Henschke Julius Riesling 2004 

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Walkabout: Aussie Classics 1998-2008 Pop-Up Tasting


Pop-Up Wine Tasting
@ Onotria 2831 Bristol St. Costa Mesa, Ca 92626
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | Space is Very Limited - RSVP Today!
This tasting is to focus on some of the great wines of Australia, and, more specifically, a selection of wines from a very special consignment, The Down Under Collection. This collection is the lifelong passion of a certain committed connoisseur who has spent much of his life collecting the rarest gems of his native Australia and of neighboring New Zealand. He has generously allowed us to pour a sampling of items from his unique collection, featuring such classic names as Penfolds, Wynns, Leeuwin, Henschke and Rosemount in such classic Australian vintages as 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2005.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the Down Under Collection brings to the floor. There are many more wines available from this superb collection in our Spring Internet Auctions. And, as a special favor to you, the consignor has graciously allowed us to offer any of the wines poured at this tasting for retail purchase on this night only. Spectrum Wine Specialists will be on hand to take your orders for anything that might strike your fancy.


To secure your space, please RSVP with our Events Team at:

2831 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626 
Tuesday, April 23

6:00pm - 8:00pm

Admission: $20.00
$20 credit to be applied to your next SWA purchase. N.B. space is very limited. 

Penfolds Cabernet Shiraz Bin 389 2005 | South Australia
"...Crimson-colored with aromas of smoke, tobacco, mineral, black currant, and blackberry. Elegantly styled...racy black fruit flavors, hints of licorice and chocolate, and a lengthy, pure finish."[Wine Advocate 91]

Henschke Julius Riesling 2004 | Eden Valley
"Talc, chalk, grapefruit pith, lemon oil and fresh orange on the nose. Firm, bright and crisp, with candied orange peel, lemon/lime zest and tangy mineral flavors. An intriguing note of redcurrant develops with aeration, much like the best Rheinhessen wines...racy and firm."[Stephen Tanzer 90]

Petaluma Riesling Hanlin Hill 2004 | Clare Valley
Petaluma was founded in 1976, and since the beginning their goal has been faithfully to express South Australia's greatest vineyards through the medium of their most perfectly-suited variety. Their stunning Riesling from the Hanlin Hill vineyard in the Clare Valley is perhaps their greatest and most lasting effort. Planted in 1968 in red loam atop hard slate, just off the Clare-Farrell Flat Road west of the ridge top, the Hanlin Hill vineyard rises between 1,300 and 1,600 feet in elevation and yields a exceedingly fine Riesling boasting notes of stony minerality, rich orchard fruits, smoke, white flowers, and lime. Fruit is harvested by hand, only free-run juice is incorporated in the final blend, and the wine is fermented in stainless steel.

Glenguin Estate Aristea Shiraz 2003 | Hunter Valley
This famed estate was established by the Tedder family and first planted its vines in 1988. These ungrafted Syrah vines were propagated from the original 19th-century pre-phylloxera James Busby vine cuttings. With the help of Robin Tedder MW, Klaus Hahn, and Rhys Eather, Glenguin has steadily gained an award-winning reputation. Fruit is harvested by hand and yields are kept absurdly low. This wine, of which only a couple hundred cases were made, is not imported into the US and so is only available through Spectrum Wine Auctions. Jancis Robinson MW has called Aristea "Amongst my favourite Australian old vine Shirazes."

Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay Art Series 2003 | Margaret River
"...Layered, white peach and honeyed citrus bouquet intermixed with subtle background wood smoke...Excellent acidity, minerality, and structure..."[Robert Parker 93+]

Torzi Matthews Shiraz Frost Dodger 2003 | Eden Valley
"...Dense, sleek and savoury. These people obviously have a philosophy and are not just copying everyone else. I would lap this up...Great stuff."[Jancis Robinson 93]

Saltram Shiraz Mamre Brook 1999 | Barossa Valley
Saltram is, of course, an historic name in Australian wine. This fruit was selected from low-yielding, mature vineyards in the Barossa Valley. The grapes were de-stemmed before fermentation and matured in French and American oak for 20 months. Then-winemaker Nigel Dolan was named South Australian Winemaker of the Year in 1996.

Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper Shiraz 1998 | Barossa Valley
"...Generous with its gorgeous blueberry, raspberry and plum fruit, shaded with meat and black truffle notes that weave through the long, cushiony finish...plenty of power and elegance"[Wine Spectator 95]

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch 1998 | Coonawarra
"Brooding, very closed nose suggests dark plum, cassis and blackberry, intermeshed with dark chocolate and cedary oak notes and a whiff of briar. Assertive and powerful; a long-term red whose rich palate of dark fruit is tightly integrated with a firm spine of youthfully astringent tannins...Rather unyielding at the moment, but should develop slowly and gracefully over the long term."[International Wine Cellar 93]

Penfolds Cabernet Shiraz Bin 389 1998 | South Australia
"...Bouquet of blackberries, licorice, and earth...Luscious, full-bodied effort with considerable appeal."
[Robert Parker 89]

Rosemount Estate Syrah Balmoral 1998 | McLaren Vale
"...Lively aromas of roasted berries, violet, smoked meat and nuts. Silky and elegant, with lovely, lush dark berry, plum and smoky oak flavors supported by harmonious acidity...Excellent backbone. Expansive and full but shapely; this really builds and opens out on the back half. Tannins are ripe and fine."
[Stephen Tanzer 92]

Best's Great Western Shiraz Bin No. 0 1998 | Victoria
"Earthy, musky aromas of cassis, plum and red cherry and black and white pepper, scented with clove and bay leaf...Willowy, supple and understated, the palate presenting vibrant, ripe small berry flavors...tightly knit about a firm spine of taut tannins."
[International Wine Cellar 91]


In the spirit of the "pop-up" restaurant craze, Spectrum Wine Auctions is hosting thematic tastings throughout the year in Los Angeles, Orange County, and beyond.  We are always on the move: you may find us at a restaurant in Santa Monica, a winery in Malibu, a wine shop in Newport Beach, a tasting room in Santa Barbara, a wine bar in La Jolla, or just around the corner from you.

Space is extremely limited! To secure your place, please RSVP at
1063 McGaw Avenue, Ste 100
Irvine, CA 92614
Unit 1702, 17/F, Dina House
Ruttonjee Centre
11 Duddell Street, Central, HK
Telephone: 949.748.4845
Fax: 949.567.1360
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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bordeaux: A Tour d’Appellation

By Dan Rhodes

Shady Canyon Golf Club in Irvine ( was the recent locale for a spectacular Bordeaux dinner jointly organized and hosted by Raphael Tuch, Clubhouse Manager, Dominique Briaire, Head Chef and yours truly, Dan Rhodes, Consignment Director and Wine Specialist here at Spectrum.

Chef Dominique Briaire put together for attendees what can only be described as a culinary tour de force. The wines were paired perfectly and the evening unfolded as if scripted for a classic Jean Renoir film.
The theme was to pair wines from each of the major Bordeaux communes with an appropriate food course so as to recognize and highlight the differences that each of these renowned wine regions bring to bear. We started with a 1953 Cheval Blanc (St. Emilion) and a 1990 l’Evangile (Pomerol) for the exquisite first course of Filet of John Dory. The fish was sautéed to perfection and paired perfectly with the softer Merlot fruit that the wines brought to bear.

The Cheval Blanc was superb! 1953, undoubtedly the greatest vintage of the 1950s, brought all of its glory to bear. The wine was vibrant, still youthful with extraordinary color of dark plum and brick red. Port-like and exceedingly flavorful, its beguiling complexity and vivacity was a joy for all to behold. It was a tough act to follow but the l’Evangile more than held its own and whispered promises of future greatness.

Our second course consisted of roasted squab accompanied by a triumvirate of greatness which included Margaux 1978 (Margaux), Beychevelle 1989 (St. Julien) and d’Armailhac 1999 (Pauillac). The cognac grape sauce composed by Chef Briaire for this dish was especially noteworthy and magnificently uplifting in enabling all of the wines to spread their wings to show off their breed and colorful fruit complexity. The 1978 Margaux, the first produced under the leadership of the Mentzelopoulos family, was a classic. Old school in every way, we now know the wine was a harbinger of the great things to come under the dedicated leadership of Corinne Mentzelopoulos. The 1989 Château Beychevelle has always been one of my favorite Bordeaux wines and it did not disappoint. Lastly, from the underrated 1999 vintage, came d’Armailhac which, for many guests, was the top wine of the flight.

The pièce de resistance was the beef tenderloin bordelaise which was the centerpiece of the third wine flight which consisted of the fuller-bodied Lafon Rochet 1995 (St. Estephe) and the Domaine de Chevalier 1998 (Péssac-Leognan). Chef Briaire matched the wines to the dish perfectly. The earthier aspects of St. Estephe and Pessac-Léognan played well against the beef which was offset nicely with lyonnaise potatoes and sautéed spinach. Both wines soared in conjunction with the dish and spoke to the distinctive terroir of their respective regions.

We finished the evening with small aperitif of Suduiraut 1998 (Sauternes) which complemented well the fresh fruit Pavlova of peaches and apricot coulis.

All in all, a splendid time was had by all. Once again, our heartfelt thanks to Raphael Tuch and his very professional staff who provided us with impeccable wine service and attention throughout the evening.