I was just in Seventh Heaven being honored with a special tasting of wines from Vega-Sicilia with the owner of Fine Wine Source. Not only was I tasting, but the owner and one of his employees was tasting along side of me. I may have missed the guest speaker, but the company and the information that I was getting was stellar. I have to admit that in the decades of drinking wines, I have had the good fortune to have had some outstanding wines and vintages, but there were plenty that I have missed and there are plenty that I may never have. There are two major reasons for my lack of knowledge about some wines, first, Detroit was not that cosmopolitan of a city with large selections of wine shops back in the day, and then also back in the day, most restaurants could get by with a much smaller selection of wines. The second reason was money, in the beginning I was a high school and then a college student, and then I started a family, and discretionary funds for wines had to be justified, and to this day, they still have to be justified. Vega-Sicilia was one of the wineries that I thought I was only going to know by name and from reading about, as they are considered one of the premier winemakers in Spain. Who would have thought that I would be tasting the wines from this winemaker and especially the two “flagships” of the theirs?
Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Valbuena 5 Ribera del Duero 2011 was the first of the final two wines in the tasting that I was enjoying. Ribera del Duero DO was recognized in 1982, but Bodegas Vega-Sicilia began in 1864 and for years was one of the two prominent winemakers for the region. The designation is for red wines only, and the main requirement is that seventy-five percent or more must be Tempranillo or the local name of Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais and the balance can be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Malbec, and in addition up to five percent can be Albillo or Garnacha (Grenache). The aging requirements are the same as Rioja. The Valbuena is blended only with Merlot and each vintage the amount used changes due to the discretion of the winemaker, and this particular vintage is pure Tempranillo. The fermentation begins in Stainless Steel, but the aging for five years (hence the 5) is a mixture of French and American Oak (new and used), and time in the bottle before it can be released, and it was bottled in 2014. The aging potential for this wine is twenty to thirty years. This was a big, heavy Tempranillo with plenty of terroir to be appreciated and a very long finish.
After enjoying that wine, it was hard to think that there would be one more. But there was and it was Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Gran Reserva Unico Ribera del Duero 2005. This wine is there big one, and where the Valbuena 5, can be blended with Merlot, this wine can be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and this particular vintage has six percent blended. This wine even begins differently, because the fermentation is even done in oak tanks. This wine undergoes one of the longest if not the longest aging periods of almost ten years, with a minimum of six years in a mixture of French and American Oak (both new and used) and a minimum of three years in the bottle, and this vintage was held for five years in glass before being released and it was bottles in 2011. This wine is expected to cellar for forty to sixty years, long past my years left. This wine left me shell-shocked as it was silky, it was chewy, it had its own unique taste of terroir with a delightful and surprising taste of pepper, and a finish that just went on and on. The professionals may have spit, but I enjoyed it to its fullest, each drop until it was gone.