February 20, 2011

2001 Vega Scilia Valbuena 5° Ribera del Duero

Earlier this month I was delighted to hear that a retailer friend found more than a case of 2001 Vega Scilia Valbuena Ribera del Duero. Not because I'm going to stock up any time soon on a wine that runs around $150 per bottle. No, I just wanted a chance to taste it. And that chance came two Fridays ago when that retailer opened a bottle in his Friday night line up.

Vega Scilia is the winery that put Spain's Ribera del Duero on the map. The Rioja has long been king of Spanish vino tinto. But more and more, Ribera del Duero, led by Vega Scilia, is essentially Rioja's equal in reputation. Though I'm sure wine geeks could and would dispute that suggestion.

Nevertheless, Vega Scilia is legendary. Their top wine, Unico, is insanely prized and expensive, produced only in certain years when the winery feels the quality is high enough. Valbuena then is a "second wine," but second only in a sense. Valbuena itself is prized by collectors around the world and the quality of the wine speaks for itself. Tasting this 2001, I can't see how this isn't top quality. How does wine like this, of both name and quality, sit in a distributor's warehouse?

Second wines are usually softer, more accessible than main labels, which tend to be more ageworthy. This Valbuena was a deep crimson color with spicy dark fruit, high toned and aromatic with pencil shavings showing from the oak aging. In the mouth, the bright, almost cranberry fruit and fine tannins suggest a still young wine, tightly wound with good density and a darker fruited finish. All things that suggest to me lots of cellar potential.

Okay, this isn't mindblowing, not now anyway. And, really, the price is suited to those who see $150 like I see $15 or $20. Perhaps Portland isn't filled with those people. The wine, however, is top notch. Perfumed, structured, with incredible texture. It just needs time to show its stuff, like a cut flower that will beguile in the morning, making you forget whatever you paid for in, it money or stitches.

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