Last week, in my first Wednesday Wined Up post, I introduced myself as a wine novice and invited you along for some judgement free wine exploration. This week, I’d like to share a story of finding one of my favorite wines. The strong, dirty, earthy, downright regal yet highly drinkable Muga Rioja. Specifically, the Bodegas Muga Reserva 2010. Years ago, while at Bar Carrera in the East Village, I first came across this unfiltered bold, beauty.
At the time this was my favorite local watering hole. Back in the day, my friends and I were meeting there so frequently, Bar Carrera became our living room, the bartenders our friends. Our own Central Perk, except our Gunther was a bartender named Brian who we always invited to join us.
It served as the perfect first date spot, a tiny space with romantic candle warmed lighting and bartenders intimately knowledgeable about their amazing selection of Spanish reds. One my friends and I wondered aloud together “I wonder if we will ever crash each others first date?” Turns out, the chances of this happening were pretty high. Not more than a few weeks later, we passed each other deep in the awkward banter, both on bad first dates. Over time, Bartender Brian not only helped me discover the world of Spanish wines, he also help me out on many a first date.
Occasionally, watching my expression from across the bar, he would bring the check instead of asking if we wanted a second round. A few times he even walked out of my dates view to give me a thumbs down. Needless to say, on our second date, my Husband scored two thumbs up.
While my string of bad first dates has thankfully come to an end, this romantic hole in the wall sadly did as well. As so often happens in New York City, Bar Carrera was swallowed whole by a neighboring bar, it’s sister Bar Veloce. While I’d rather forget some of those first dates, I will always remember looking at Bello and thinking, “oh man, am I in trouble” over a glass of Muga Rioja.
These days, the trouble I get into is global while traveling the world with Bello. For my next birthday, I have a big wish, to visit the Muga Vineyard in Spain. Since Bartender Brian of Bar Carrera introduced me to this producer of hedonistic wines, I’ve been a little obsessed. With each new bottle I swear, I smell the sunlight warming a Mediterranean Terrior and taste the ripe red fruits from nearby farms. This wine made me love smoky tannins followed by sneaky minerality.
Don’t take my word for it, trust the pros when it comes to a cultured, trained and more experienced description.
92 from Stephan Tanzer International Wine Cellar – “Opaque ruby. Musky, deeply pitched aromas of ripe red fruit, game, lavender and roasted coffee. Shows very good spicy lift in the mouth, offering sweet raspberry and cherry flavors and an undercurrent of smoky minerals. Finishes with excellent focus and thrust; the slowly building tannins meld smoothly with the wine’s dense fruit. Age this wine for at least another five years, with confidence. “
Myself, I adore this wine savoring it with every sip. This week, my Husband and I slowly lavished ourselves with a bottle and a little rich bittersweet dark chocolate. Typically, I serve it with a hearty meat dish or an earthy mushroom driven meal like my Cream of Mushroom and White Bean Soup.
My reason for sharing the story, is the reality that traveling the world in search of great food and wine is simply not possible for everyone. While one day soon, I WILL get to the Muga vineyard and walk the land, I discovered this wine in a local wine bar. Being bold enough to ask your bar tender or Sommelier what they know about the wine they are pouring, is a great way to learn about a specific wine, traditional or entire region. When it comes to wine, I will not be bashful. I will take suggestions, ask questions, listen to answers. I will open myself up to a lifelong journey of experiences that will ultimately inform my own personal and individually valid view of wines.