Beethoven, Haro (Spain).

October 2012.

Being in Rioja feels like touring Napa in about 1961.

This little restaurant in the main town was fabulous.  It opened at 830, and we stood around with a dozen other customers at the tapas bar waiting for that hour, and managed to get the guy behind the bar to understand we wanted to start a bottle of wine.  I signed to him we wanted to see the list, but he pulled out a bottle and started opening a 2003 Rioja.  I was getting a little nervous, having in mind being able to choose one of the producers that I knew, but I could also see Robin setting her jaw in anticipation of a repeat performance of walking out of an expensive Barcelona restaurant when thy wouldn’t split the 2-person special the previous evening.  I shut up and drank the wine: boy was I not disappointed.

What a beautiful balanced little red, and when the bill came: €12!  Lovely evolving empyromatics and old fruits, and an unassuming balance that said to me, accustomed to bitter awkward B.C. reds for over $40, “What’s the problem?  Can’t any halfass capable producer make a near-perfect wine for under 20 bucks?”  Food jammed with flavor: black pudding with preserved soft red pepper, and a falling-off-the-bone roast baby lamb.  And the wine!  We must organize a return trip and smuggle-importation of a couple of cases.

8.6 overall.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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