Monday, April 27, 2009

2005 Bodegas Alto Moncayo "Aquilon" might question the judgement of someone who chooses to purchase a wine that is 130$. One might further question the rationale for randomly, on a whim, deciding to open that bottle on a Monday night. So I might seem a little crazy, but I just felt like I had to open this wine tonight.

Aquilon is the flagship wine of Bodegas Alto Moncayo in the Camp de Borja. (There are a few "lesser" wines from this estate; they're good, and cheaper. Alto Moncayo is about 45$ and is tasty, and I've never had the "Veraton," which is the cheapest, but I hear it's great.) This wine is imported by Jorge Ordonez, who is probably just about as polarizing as this wine. This is a much bigger wine than I would normally purchase or drink. It's 16% alcohol. Yikes. There is a story as to why I have this bottle friends Aaron and Kiowa were both really into the Alto Moncayo bottling, which we had several times at Friends of the Vine in Redondo Beach. (I should probably mention that Fred, the owner, must be really into Jorge Ordonez because I've also had El Nido "Clio" there, and some other high-scoring Ordonez wines. FYI, Ordonez imports really traditional garnache too that is quite low in alcohol and cheap. TJ's even had one for 5$.) So I figured this wine would be kind of amusing to drink as a point of reference. Originally, I was going to bring this by and drink it with them more than one year after purchase. I decided that tonight was the night I was drinking this wine.

Every once in a while, I like to question what I like. I liked the Cab Franc last night a lot. I also am not into huge fruit bomb wines. But unless I taste them occasionally, how do I REALLY know? Tastes change...So what do I think of this wine?? I don't know. Aromatically, at first, I smelled toast. After an hour or so in the decanter, it's got an enormous cherry nose, spice, chocolate and heat (yes, you can smell that 16%). Sometimes I smell raspberries. This sort of reminds me of a chocolate covered-raspberry. Again, extraordinarily aromatic. In the mouth, this wine is thick, syrupy, and a little jammy. After a couple of hours, it still has the jammy edge, but turns plush and smooth. You get the fruit up-front again--sweet. In the mid-palate, the wine all of a sudden bursts with spice. I don't know what spice it is--it's almost like eating ground spices. It's somewhat shocking. The spice carries through on the finish with the fruit as well. There is the tell-tale heat element again, but this wine has a finish that is crazy long. The fruit and spice linger for what seems like minutes.

There's no question that this wine is a brute. Intense. Parker gave it a 97, Wine Spectator gave it a 94, and even Steven Tanzer gave it a 94. The critics like it. I am on the fence. It is really good, but there are problems for me. 1. It's expensive. 2. It's a little thick. Yes, it went okay with meatloaf...but it actually sort of overwhelmed it. I didn't think that was possible.'s good, but it's a cocktail wine or something. We drank the entire bottle, but towards the end, it was fatiguing. I don't drink Coke (or any soda for that matter), haven't for years, but that's what I felt like I was drinking. A for the nose, C for the palate, D- for the body, A for the finish, A+ for the experience of drinking a 100+$ bottle of wine made in a style that you aren't that into. My guess is that the reviewers all reviewed this "critically"--it's certainly a mind-numbingly intense wine, but one that has many desirable elements. But I bet they didn't have the whole bottle. They were sipping and spitting a small fraction of the bottle. Maybe a glass at most. One other thought to consider--a bottle of wine has a finite amount of flavor (in theory at least). To my knowledge, ethyl alcohol in it's purest form has little flavor(vodka, everclear). Impurities provide the flavors. So if something has a lot of alcohol, it would stand to reason that it has LESS flavor than a lower alcohol bottling. Just some food for thought. Because if the alcohol is present in a higher quantity, it MUST displace something else.


CabFrancoPhile said...

Love the review. The observation that massive wines become fatiguing and generally dominate your palate mirrors my experience. It really does seem this style, whether it is $15 or $150 a bottle, is built for sharing in a larger tasting where you wouldn't get more than half a glass. It bowls you over, and before you can question whether such proportions are logical, you are done.

Cab Franc rocks, by the way!

Jeff's Wine Blog said...

Yes, Cab Franc is one of my favorite grapes too. You really ought to check out some of the Cab Franc that's coming out of Washington. Owen Roe makes some really good stuff. Especially the Rosa Mystica bottling. I really like their stuff because it's a great compromise between the Loire style, and the fruit-bomb style of California. Somewhere in between.