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Playing with food & wine.

Keep Wine Fun!

In the past 3 weeks we have spoken about the exclusive attributes that make Ribera del Duero truly a one of a kind region for wine and food. There is no finer way to understand a region than to taste its culture. And that is exactly what I tried to do from afar by recreating what would be a local dining experience of Ribera del Duero. Further to that, I also made sure that we tested out some of the simple variables with regards to wine treatment and service, so as to highlight how to condition your bottle and serve wine so that you get the most bang from your bottle.

The truth is that we did little preparation for this meal, and I want you to know that putting this meal together is actually quite easy. We spent a little time going to some smaller markets and asking around to some of our favorite shops for wine and cheese from Ribera del Duero, or at least Spain. We would ask for recommended serving ideas for the cheeses, meats, and wine, as specialty food people tend to know great combinations or preparation methods.
Before we move on, it is recommended that you peruse the photos in the flickr stream, as they are all annotated with our notes from the dinner.


We started the evening with four cheeses, and we found a thinly sliced lamb bacon. The lamb was reminiscent of prosciutto and was peppered, so it carried a spice in it and the overall taste was lush and melted in your mouth. This was a delightful find, and I am admittedly not a huge fan of prosciutto style meats.
The cheeses were all Spanish and the first of which is from Ribera del Duero. Two cheeses are produced on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, and the last cheese is in

The Cheese Spread.

4 Cheeses & a Lamb Prosciutto

the neighboring area to the north of Ribera, the Basque region.

  • Flor de Esqueva – (Sheep Milk) – Valladolid, Spain
  • Capricho de Cabra (Goat Milk) – Murcia Spain
  • Mahón cheese (Cow Milk) – Menorca Spain
  • Idiazabal (Sheep’s Milk) – Basque Region Spain


We found out that baby lamb is only in-season in the spring, so you may want to time your trip to Ribera in the spring so you can get an authentic roast baby lamb. However, in a pinch we opted for a medium size rack of lamb. We seasoned and grilled it and have included the basic recipe and seasonings in the image below.

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb W/ Vegatables

Back Label (100% Tinto Fino)
JC Vizcarra – 100% Tinto Fino

The Wine:

I have had a nice cross-section of wines from Ribera de Duero, and wanted to find something unique. So we hunted the shelves and found a 100% Tinto Fino, which is

not common, as most of the time you will see 90% tinto fino with a blend of 1 or 2 other grapes. Another great thing about this bottle was its label. I strongly encourage you to look at the label of this bottle.

The label tells you so much information and does so in a nice and simple manner. In seeing this label and recounting what I have written in the past weeks, this label re-affirms how important the attributes of the region are and how this makes their wines great. I cannot recall the last time I saw someone include the altitude of the vineyard on a wine label; this is truly a drinker-friendly wine bottle.

Wine Tools:

I then brought out my array of wine accessories as they are designed to help enhance a wine drinking experience.

Overview of our accessories for the evening

"Overview of our accessories for the evening

As mentioned previously, temperature, aeration, and glassware are all easily controllable factors that can make a bottle of wine taste better.  It is possible to buy a $12 bottle and when properly served, it can outpace a $40 bottle that has not been equally conditioned.

Soirée Wine Aerator
Bottle Chiller Jacket
Glassware (all shapes & Sizes)


I think that wine is best tasted in casual settings with great food, people, and music. We made this “meal” a playful food session where we all tried drinking each other’s wine glasses, as they were all different shapes. We tried cheeses with & without wine, and similarly with and without food. We also had the wine at different temperatures and tried the wine decanted versus aerated. With little effort, a group of us could experience some great wine and the flavor enhancement when tried with food or in varied condition. We even went to so far as to note the flavor profile of the wine from the decanter vs. the Soirée. And in using a wine chiller and wine thermometer, we tried these wines at 57F and 67F and noted the evident flavor differences.

Tradtional decanting

Traditional Decanter

5 various glasses
2 different temperatures
1 Decanted
1 Poured through the Soirée

If you take one thing away from everything I wrote, and a pet peeve of mine, is bottle temperature. Most people store and serve their wine at room temperature. In the wine world we call 55F ambient temperature. This is the common temperature of the earth’s crust and of traditional wine cellars. Red wines should be stored as close as possible to that temperature and be served between 60-65F. If you are serving any wine over 70F, the flavor profiles are going to be hotter and spicier and the wine will lose texture.

As one would expect, the 5 different glasses we all sampled the wine from showed the wines in a particular character. As we guessed, the taller thinner wine glass in the middle of the line-up presented the wine the best.

Tasting the same wine in 5 different glasses.

5 Different Glasses

The decanted wine had some great fruit notes by the end of the meal and the wine that we Soirée’d was big pucker from the get-go, and the fruit not as silky. However, both styles of wine were fruity with bing cherry and cranberry notes. There was a backbone of tannin from the thick skin of Tinto Fino and the oak was well integrated and properly unnoticeable. There is a flavor difference in traditional decanting and when using a Soirée. However, the fact that no one would have waited an hour for the wine to open up while we were eating, the Soirée was a great tool to have at our disposal.
The colder wine 56F was a bit too cold and lost some of the flavor profiles. The other wine was 65F and was spot on for drinking as the tannin and fruit had a better chance to show themselves.
And the cheeses were downright amazing. The harder cheese, being aged, wanted moisture to compliment them and those too got better as they came up to room temperature.

Overall, I cannot recommend and state how much fun it is to immerse yourself in a foreign land by exploring their wine and food. And with a little effort, a few quick google searches, and some help from your friends – you will be on your way to an educational and hedonistic voyage through wine and culture.
Keep wine fun! Play with your food! And drink every bottle like it is your last.
Cheers & Thanks for reading!

Andrew Lazorchak


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