Just last week, wine connoisseurs, cultural enthusiasts and diners craving a taste of luxury gathered for an intimate tasting at Michael Mina 74, at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, to try some of Spain’s rarest wines and Chef Thomas Griese’s unique and delectable foie gras, seafood and meat amuse-bouches. This Rioja Rosado event featured local sommeliers presenting upcoming vintages and limited library release Reservas and Grand Reservas from the Rioja wine region; with some dating as far back as the late 1970s.
During this unforgettable evening we caught up with Cole Simmons, of Ontañon — one of the wineries present at the event, who shared their beloved 1995 Ontañon Reserva and Bodegas Ontañon Reserva 2005 — to find out what it is about the Rioja wine region that keeps wine lovers coming back for more.
Why are Rioja wines so special?
They are one of a small handful of historically-significant wine regions that have really stood the test of time. They are incredibly consistent, of very high quality, can age for decades, and showcase Tempranillo, one of the world’s greatest grapes.
How are they different from other Spanish wines?
Rioja is in the northern part of Spain; so the weather can be more temperamental, and generally speaking, the wines are not as big and rich as those from the more southern warmer regions. They tend to be more graceful and balanced, with higher acid and longer aging capabilities, than most other Spanish wines. They also typically spend more time in Oak barrels than other wines, which creates an aromatic nose and smooth wine on the pallet. They feature a rare combination of power and grace — that’s just one of the reasons they are considered one of the worlds greatest wines.
What makes Spain such a wonderful wine region?
Spain is an incredibly diverse country when it comes to geography and weather. From the deserts of La Mancha, to the maritime influenced Galicia and the temperate Rioja, there is a region for every grape. Over time, each of these regions has discovered which grapes work best for their climate and soils and worked to perfect their own unique style. Spain is also a country that takes eating and drinking very seriously — the people truly enjoy, care, and think about their meals. I think that insistence on quality had always pushed the wineries forward and kept their focus on producing the best wines possible.
What is your favorite bottle from Rioja?
The Bodegas Ontañon Reserva 2005 is one of my favorite wines. It’s delicious now, but you can also put it in your cellar and let it develop. I love it with all types of meat; especially roasted pork, chicken, and grilled steak.
If you had to choose a favorite wine not from the Rioja region, what would it be?
I recently had some wines from WT Vintners, in Washington state, that were spectacular. I also had the opportunity to visit Argentina in November and discovered some unbelievable bottles of Pinot Noir from Patagonia. Keep an eye out for them — they’re delicious!
Alcohol aside, why do you think wine is such a cultural staple in the world today?
I think as the US continues to grow and learn, we open ourselves to new flavors and experiences in both food and wine. People are more receptive than ever before to trying new things and we’ve never had so many well-made wines available. We’ve also begun watching more shows on the food network, reading more gourmet magazines and shopping at specialty stores; all of which encourage the consumption of wine. It’s become a lifestyle for many — and it’s just the beginning.
Michael Mina 74 is in the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, at 4441 Collins Avenue.