It’s Rioja Week in NYC, and that means we’re pairing classic Spanish producers from the heralded region with some of our top dishes for lunch and dinner.
Known for lengthy aging and earthy flavors, Rioja’s red wines, produced from blends of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo, and Maturana Tinta, crave a food accompaniment. Winemaking in the region dates back to the Middle Ages, giving the wine culture generations to match the culinary development, especially with the characteristic soils of the area. Most suitable for a quality viticulture, the soils balance slightly alkaline sand, silt and clay structures, along with varying microclimates that give wines unique traits. Further, the strict standards to put Rioja on the bottle guarantees its quality, while still leaving breathing room for experimentation by individual winemakers.
The standout La Rioja Alta “Vina Ardanza” 2004 took the 22nd spot on the Wine Spectator Top 100 List in 2013, a traditional style that blends cedar, tobacco and spice incredibly elegantly with dried cherry and vanilla notes. Likewise, the the “powerful yet harmonious,” 95-point Bodegas Muga Rioja Seleccion Especial Reserva 2009 and the 95-point CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja 2005 feature smoke and herb notes with a long finish, the Wine Advocate describing the CVNE as “smoked cured meats [and] beeswax.” The traditional style complements the spices and herbs on our menu, and the weight of the wine helps cut through heavier dishes, including the New York strip steak, rack of lamb and foie gras terrine.
These wine differ greatly, though, from the graceful, modern style of the Conde Valdemar “Inspiracion” 2010, with its sleek texture and well-integrated tannins that pair beautifully with the black pepper fettuccine and the smoked duck salad, both lighter on the palate but not in flavor.
Check out our Rioja Week pairings below from sommelier Anna Cabrales.
WINE: Conde Valdemar “Inspiracion” 2010
LUNCH: Smoked Duck Salad
DINNER: Black Pepper Fettuccini
WINE: La Rioja Alta “Vina Ardanza” 2004
LUNCH: Foie Gras Terrine
DINNER: Herbed Gnocchi
WINE: Bodegas Muga Rioja Seleccion Especial Reserva 2009
LUNCH: Sesame Crusted Tuna Salad
DINNER: New York Strip Steak
WINE: CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja 2005
LUNCH: Pulled Beef Brisket Sandwich
DINNER: Rack of Lamb
With all the wine floating around, one might not guess that there’s a lot of shaking and stirring happening at Morrell Wine Bar, too. A closer look reveals beet-infused vodka, house-made ginger-pepper bitters and plenty of rye whisky in a solid cocktail program from mixologist Dave Chura.
Just the balance between Brooklyn hip and approachable New York sophistication, Chura crafts classic cocktails with a twist—Tom Collins with chamomile-infused gin made in house, a take on the Blood and Sand with Prohibition-style whiskey, and the New Orleans-inspired Big Easy with a healthy dose of Peyschaud. He’s committed to finding unique flavors to highlight in a drink by playing around with the classics and adding subtle spices. And in an area dominated by $22 martinis, it’s a welcome reprieve.
“Like a good wine, cocktails have primary flavors, then secondary flavors,” Chura explained. “Wine takes you on a journey. Cocktails can too.”
Chura, who sports a perfectly trimmed blonde beard, believes that bitters are an essential part to a great cocktail experience. Like finishing salt and a dash of pepper, bitters can make a cocktail go from good to wow by rounding out the flavors. He’s started Morrell’s first bitters program, experimenting with various flavors, like ginger-pepper bitters in a Sunday morning Bloody Mary or springtime Margarita. “One of my favorite drinks ever–at Summit in New York– had sarsaparilla bitters,” Chura said. “It was essential to giving that drink its root beer flavors.”
And speaking of root beer, Chura also makes sodas in house, including his beloved root beer, and a collection of mocktails so delicious you won’t even miss the kick. Check out the cocktail list here.
Winston Churchill famously said of Champagne: “In victory, deserve it. In defeat, need it.” We can all attest to the need for a glass of bubbles on occasion, but when was the last time you had a 2000 vintage Champagne by the glass? This April, we’re featuring two highly rated Pol Roger vintage champagnes—Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2000 and Rosé 2004—each, available by the glass.
The wines are part of Morrell Wine Bar’s new Champagne feature, sharing our love and appreciation for Champagne by spotlighting select, prestige cuvées by the glass. Each month, we’ll pour vintages from a specific house, beginning with Pol Roger.
Founded in 1849, Champagne Pol Roger has produced highly coveted wines for generations and holds the exclusive Royal Warrant, meaning they are official purveyors of Champagne to the royal family.
Winston Churchill was an outspoken fan of the brand, and inspired the house to produce their best-selling Sir Winston Churchill Cuvée to honor the 10th anniversary of his death. Wine Advocate awarded the Churchill Cuvée 2000 a stellar 94 points, citing “its finesse and total silkiness” with “hints of pastry, spice, apricots and succulent ripe pears blossom on the expansive, broad-shouldered finish.”
Likewise, the younger but well-structured 2004 Rosé received 93 points from Wine Spectator, as critics noted its “fine acidity, with a creamy beat to the texture and a base note of minerally. Offers a full range of ripe black cherry and black currant, pie crust, pomegranate and smoke flavors.”
Join us any time in April for a glass of Pol Roger, and check here each month to see what we’re pouring.
Where else in New York can you try 150 wines by the glass, including Opus One and Domaine de l’Arlot? Our Wine Bar and Cafe, located in the heart of Rockefeller Plaza, just reopened with a new, modern look, an extensive wine list of hard-to-obtain bottles, and an updated menu of globally inspired bar bites.
Featuring almost 1,000 bottles, including magnums, double magnums, and imperials, Morrell Wine Group tripled the size of its Old and Rare Wine Vault, stocking it with eleven vintages of Lafite Rothschild, a dozen vintages of Mouton Rothschild, and an imperial of Chateau Petrus 1989, one of only three in the world (to name a few). Some of the rare wines will be offered by taste, in two-ounce pours and full glasses.
There’s something for cocktail lovers, too, as chief mixologist Dave Chura added an imaginative list of creative concoctions. The bar is now stocked with more than 200 spirits, including top-flight single malt Scotch, Grand Champagne Cognac, and vintage Armagnac, as well as the new Beer Vault, which showcases rare, large format, aged beers.
Stop by the wine bar, located at One Rockefeller Plaza. Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday, from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Dear Friends of Morrell Wine Bar & Café,
Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe’s “beautification” is complete! The Wine Bar has re-opened with an exciting new look, over 150 wines by the glass and nearly 1,000 by the bottle. We have the same delicious food and great staff to make you feel at home. We hope to see you soon!
Please note, Morrell Wine Store will re-open in a few days. In the meantime, you can still order wines online for next-day and 2-day delivery at morrellwine.com or by calling 212 688 9370.
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