RODOLFO BASTIDA-WINEMAKER TO RAMON BILBAO AND DIRECTOR OF WINE DIVISION-ZAMORA COMPANY LA RIOJA, SPAIN
by Dwight Casimere
NEW YORK- Manhatta Restaurant, high above the towering skyscrapers of New York's Financial District was the intimate setting for the U.S. debut of the latest releases of wines from Ramon Bilbao of Rioja, Spain. Established in 1924, it is currently the fastest growing winery in the Spanish market and is recognized as one of the World's Most Admired Wine Brands for 2019 by DRINKS International.
Rodolfo Bastida, the company's affable winemaker since 1999 presented a dazzling array of vintages, dating back to 1999, with a selection of delectable cuisine specially prepared for the occasion by the culinary team at Manhatta. The presentation showcased the versatility of the wines, primarily comprised of the Tempranillo grape, Spain's flagship indigenous variety.
Ramon Bilbao Lalomba Rose, wine composed of 90% Garnacha and 10% Viura, was the introductory wine, served both as an aperitif and with the first course.
Paired with a variety of flavors; from Lemon Caesar Salad with Baby Gem Lettuce and Anchovy and Steelhead Trout Crudo with Fennel, Citrus and Puffed Grains, to the entrees of Seafood Risotto with Lobster, Shrimp and Cipollni Onions and Wagyu Beef Coulotte, with Turnips, Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms, the wines displayed a remarkable flexibility.
Below: Wagyu Coulotte with Turnips, Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms
For example, Ramon Bilbao Mirto 2014, a 100% Tempranilo ($60), proved equally at home with both the seafood and the Wagyu Beef. The beauty of this wine is its depth. With the aroma of warm blackberry pie giving way to flavors of ripened berries and hints of shaved cinnamon and allspice brought about by fermentation in wooden vats and 19 months of aging in French oak, the wine is made in a luxurious classical style that makes it a perfectly elegant dinner wine.
Its deep, Garnet color literally dances with back-lighted flecks of Rubies in the glass. The long, satisfying finish makes you long for more.
The 1999 Vina Turzaballa, a 100% Tempranillo ($48), was the real show-stopper of the afternoon. Aged for 40 months in American Oak from Ohio and Missouri, the wine benefited from cold maceration on the skins for several days, which gave it exceptional backbone and complexity.
Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva 2011 ($35), with its blend of 90% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano and 4% Mazuelo is an excellent example of the true art of the winemaker. After two days of cold maceraton and a short fermentation, the juice is allowed to macerate on the skins for 9 days. It is then aged for 3 years in American Oak. The resulting wine is rich with layers of flavors ranging from blackberries and ripened plums, to an overlay of dark Bing cherries and bits of candied licorice and undertones of black pepper and currants.
Grown in complex sandy and gravelly soils with limestone sediment. the wine has a backbone of minerals that gives it added structure. This is the perfect dinner wine. It is also perfect as a stand-alone for contemplation and enjoyment with a bit of dry-aged cheese, smoked meat or fish and assorted nuts. For the true connoisseur, a Fonseca cigar is the ideal match!
Save the Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva 2004 ($30) for last. This is a classic Rioja wine, with flavors of bright, red fruit, and hints of Heirloom tomatoes, dill and vanilla. The finish is long and persistent with plenty of berries and spices dancing abundantly on your tongue. A smoky finish with hints of leather gives it a nice twist at the end. A Flan or Chocolate Tarte will go nicely.