Oenarch's Dinner

One of the old-line Baltimore restaurants that has been at the top of its game for many years, Tio Pepe's traditional Spanish cuisine has not changed (nor has the menu) since I first ate there over thirty years ago. They still do some terrific dishes, particularly their roast suckling pig with black beans and their excellent seafood soup.

It was a great night to showcase the wines of Spain (particularly the Prioratos) once we got past a badly corked bottle of what can be a great champagne, the 1990 Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill. Fortunately, the Taittinger 1990 Comtes de Champagne made up for that disappointment. The Albarino flight included three crisp, aromatic, refreshing wines, with the 2002 Pazo de Senorans the finest of the trio.

In flight one of the reds, we were surprised (it was a blind tasting) that the 1998 Alion nearly blew away the 1996 Vega Sicilia Valbuena, which seemed somewhat monolithic, although with a great deal of potential for future development. In flight two, the 1998 Remirez de Ganuza Rioja as well as the 1998 Clos de l'Obac Priorato were both outclassed by the other offerings. The winner was the 1998 Mauro Vendimia Seleccionada, followed by the potentially finest wine, but not ready for prime time drinking, the 1998 Clos Mogador from René Barbier. Flight three was absolutely spectacular, with a terrific array of great wines from Priorato confirming that this is the most exciting region of Spain for high quality wines with tremendous elegance, richness, and structure. It was hard to pick a favorite as they are all young, concentrated, and brilliantly nuanced with tremendous upsides. Since the appellation is new, and the wines are various blends of old vine Grenache and Carignan combined with young vine Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, etc., it is hard to know how they are going to evolve. However, they are unquestionably loaded with potential, and one has to be optimistic about their potential to evolve gracefully and last for 10-12 years. Will they be 20-25 year wines? No one really knows, but they certainly offer considerable excitement. The stars were the 1998 La Planeta Pasanau, the 1998 Tirant from Rottlan Torra, a magnificent, more evolved and perhaps flamboyant 1999 Cims de Porrera Classic, and a glorious, but still unevolved, young 1999 Clos Mogador. The last flight continued the brilliant performance of all these Priorato wines. The 2001s are fabulous, even better than the 1998s. The 2001 Vall Llach was gorgeous, as was the incredible 2001 Clos Martinet, and the nearly perfect 2001 Clos Mogador. The 2000s weren't bad either, more evolved and slightly lighter, but by no means wimpy wines. This was an unbelievable performance by some great Spanish wines that had everyone's head turning, and literally making a buying list to go out and scour local retailers for these cuvées the following day. Kudos to Spain, and especially their wow wow wines from Priorato.

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