It's rare to see a 100% Spanish Graciano.
Typically used as a blending grape in Rioja to add structure (and aging potential) to a wine, a guy at Binny's said it was the first time in five years he's seen a Spanish 100% Graciano on the shelves at the store.
We had a Californian Graciano back in January that was surprisingly delicious, made more delicious by the $8 closeout price tag.
Last night's Graciano never got out of the "that was interesting to try" territory, though.
Food: Saffron-marinated tri-tip beef and tapenade with yuca fries and mayo for dipping
Mediterranean/Latin food with a Spanish hue. Medium-rare tri-tip (bottom of the sirloin cut) beef marinated in saffron, onions, yogurt, ginger, lemon juice and olive oil. We've had it before on many occasions and it's just the tops. An almond, gaeta olive, caper, parsley, sherry vinegar, paprika, garlic and olive oil tapenade glop over the top of the beef. It's one of our favorite beef preparations.
Yuca fries with a sherry vinegar mayo for dipping with an arugula salad.
The marinade got into the beef without saturating the beef to death. A good point. We may like it more with flank steak as it's a tad brighter and plays with the saffron and yogurt better but it was still quite tasty.
All of it was tasty. And Spanish Graciano should have slid right into the meal but...
Wine: 2005 Bodegas Ondalán 100 Abades Graciano Rioja ($25 - Binny's)
Grape: 100% Graciano
Vintage: 92 - Lively, balanced and graceful, firm yet expressive (WS)
Medium red in the glass. Smoke and wild berry on the nose that followed through on the palate. A sweet plum element that served as the core with loads of stones and a lingering dark berry note. Medium to short-ish finish. Enough acidity but nothing particularly graceful or vibrant and moderate tannins. If given blind, I might have thought it was something from around Ribera but not Ribera itself.
In the end, while pleasant enough, there wasn't anything in particular that stood out. No background prettiness or graceful entry and exit. Wasn't rough or clunky, just wasn't anything we'd want to revisit. At $25, marked down from $40, even with the markdown, something unique would have been nice. This wine spent 15 months in French oak while being Graciano so it should have shown better five years out. May have been stored improperly or something and that may have been the reason for the markdown. Some reviews talked about a brilliant violet/floral note, minerality and a vibrancy that just wasn't there in this bottle.
Pairing: 84 If we got what everybody else got, might have been quite good. We didn't.
The wine was too easily manipulated by the food. Granted, there was a lot going on with the supplementary flavors to cause such a thing, but we've had plenty of wines with similar food preparations that transitioned more gracefully at a lower price point (Crasto, Meandro, Cubillo).
If it had that floral note and minerality coupled with the nice sweetness the wine did offer, that may have happened. But it showed more as a wine trying to keep its head above water with the food than anything else. I got some cherry notes with the beef and the body briefly showed some lighter gracefulness at times only to quickly disappear. The stony quality was too rough around the edges to get over, though.
It played with the food rather than playing well with the food, like a kid dropped off at a new daycare just waiting for his mom to return. Sure, he played with the blocks and even participated in a little hide-and-seek, but his eyes were always on the door.