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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Don and Sancho
For the first time for a Passport wine tasting, we ordered from the restaurant’s wine list and the prices reflect this. Sergey was able to give an excellent and useful commentary on many of the wines.
By Charles Borden
Photographs by Alexei Gorov

Probably unfairly, I have hitherto shied away from Spanish wines. At a recent wine tasting, Italian Maurizio Micciche, owner of Casa Vinicola Calatrasi in Sicily, referred to some of the traditional Italian reds as reminiscent of “horse’s sweat” or “wet leather saddle.” This reflects my opinion of Spanish wines before this night of Spanish wine tasting. A little like the Don and Sancho, John Ortega and I set off on this month’s search for the best Spanish wines in Moscow. Our inn was El Parador, just off Tverskaya across the street from Night Flight (where Dulcinea was surely waiting). The innkeeper was Sergey Dzuttcev, the El Parador sommelier, who carefully looked after our needs throughout the evening.

For an event called less than 24 hours earlier, we had a very full table with twelve companions. John even brought along the Miami based Arun Garg, the muleteer (implant specialist) who three hours earlier had set two titanium studs in John’s jaw. The lone real Spaniard in the room was Jan Heere (to be fair, half Spaniard) General Manager of Inditex (Zara brands) in Russia.

In an earlier call to Sergey, we had gone over the El Parador wine list which we found on the restaurant’s website and ordered the evening selection. Sergey proved to be very knowledgeable on the Spanish wine subject. We picked a range of wines from various regions of Spain, mostly of the more modern styles. Not so long ago Spain was known only for Rioja and Sherry and white wines were unheard of. In recent years, thanks to EU help, new wineries have sprung up in far-flung regions of the country and even the Canary Islands and Mallorca have respectable producers. As for the whites, the best wines of this evening were two out of the three whites.

White Wines

“As Sortes” Godello Rafael Palacios 2005 (Valdeorros)
A beautiful and refreshing white from the unique Godello grape of northwest Spanish DO of Valdeorros. Intense fruity aroma with notes of green apple with a hint of anise. Only 720 bottles imported to Russia.

“Via Edetana” Edeteria 2005 (Terra Alta)
Disappointing thin white wine from Grenache Noir, Hairy Grenache and Tempranillo. A somewhat mineral taste that some might call complex.

“Fransola” Sauvignon Blanc Torres 2004 (Penedes)
Torres is Spain’s best-known exporter and it was voted the Best European Wine Producer of the Year 2006. The Fransola is a single vineyard wine, lovely but typical Sauvignon Blanc, very fruity and well balanced. It is partially fermented and aged in American oak. This was our high scorer.

Red Wines

“Bilogia” Monastrell/Tempranillo Crianza Bodegas Los Frailes 2004 (Valencia)
Bodegas Los Frailles dates back to the 18th century when it was acquired from the Jesuits who had been expelled from Spain (Los Frailles – the friars). The most important grapes of the Bodega were Manastrell. The vineyards have now been wholly converted to organic production and the winery recently modernized. Biologia is an intense blend of organic Monastrell and Tempranillo grapes. To be labeled Crianza, the wines must be aged at least 2 years with one year in oak.

Syrah Marques de Grinon 2002 (Dominio de Valdepusa)
Syrah is Passport’s favorite red, so this was a must try. Marques de Grinon is a Spanish nobleman; his vineyards planted just over ten years ago near Toledo. Rated 89 by Wine Spectator, this Syrah is modern, deep ruby and fruity with strong grape concentration. Enough complexity with some herbal characteristics.

“Tres Picos” Bodegas Borsao 2004 (Campo de Borja)
This was our highest scoring red made from 100% old vineyard Grenache presented in a Burgundy bottle. Priced at $12 in the US, it cost over $100 at El Parador. Tres Picos is a nice cherry red complex wine rated 90 by Wine Spectator and described: “Coffee and smoky flavors add complexity to the core of plum and raisin fruit in this muscular red, and pretty floral and spice flavors linger on the finish. A bit tannic now, but still expressive. Drink now through 2011.”

Crianza “Dignus” Vina Magana 2000 (Navarra)
Bodegas Vina Magana is a modern winery that early on introduced French varieties on to Spanish soil. Dignus is a blend of Merlot and Tempranillo (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and other noble grapes (10%), aged in French oak barrels for one year.

“Gran Caus” Can Rafols Dels Caus 2000 (Penedes)
A pure Merlot from Penedes, now one of the big wine regions of Spain thanks to EU grants. This is a ripe, mellow and delicate modern Merlot.

“LZ” Telmo Rodriguez 2005 (Rioja)
This wine is an example of the New Rioja, a more light, fresh and modern Rioja, with good balance between fruit, tannin and acid and no or little oak. This sample did not meet expectations but is worth another try.

Reserva Vina Bosconia 1998 (Rioja)
This is a typical old style elegant dark ruby, tawny Rioja from Bodegas Lopez de Heredia made with Tempranillo grapes (80%), Garnacho (15%), Mazuelo and Graciano (5%) from the Bodegas own vineyards.

The adventure was a success, and we had a nice tour of Spain. Several of us rode off to GQ to find Dulcinea before sunrise.

John Ortega and Dan Klein

Charles Borden and Arian Alikhani

Sandeep Nasa and Jerry Ruditser

Eric Boone and Jan Heere

Companions at the Inn

John Ortega, Publisher and Owner, Passport
Charles Borden Director, Meridian Capital
Alla Anastos Orthodontist, U.S. Dental Care
Arian Alikhani President, Lensmaster
Nicoles Boisset
Eric Boone
Deputy Director, GDO City Properties
Arun Garg DMD, Center for Dental Implants, Florida
Jan Heere General Manager, Inditex
Linda Heward-Mills Advertising and Promotion Consultant
Daniel Klein Partner, Hellevig, Klein, Usov
Sandeep Nasa Chief Representative Office Quality Pharmaceutical Laboratories
William Reichert Attorney at Law, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Jerry Ruditser Owner, Coffee Bean
Alexander Tuminov Kitchen Supplier and Contractor

Ortega Easy Rating System
I love this wine! 5 pts.
I really like this wine! 4 pts.
This wine is good! 3 pts.
This wine is not that good! 2 pts.
I don’t really care for this wine! 1 pt.

John Ortega

Sandeep Nasa

Alexander Tuminov

Linda Hewerd-Mills

Jan Heere

William Reichert

Spanish Wine Rating

*The prices below are the El Parador wine list prices. Buyers could expect retail prices to be about a third of these prices.

White Wines Price (USD)* Price (RR) Rating
“As Sortes” Godello Rafael Palacios 2005 (Valdeorros) $141.76 3,700 rub. 3.7
“Via Edetana” Edeteria 2005 (Terra Alta) $67.43 1,760 rub. 2.6
“Fransola” Sauvignon Blanc Torres 2004 (Penedes) $92.72 2,420 rub. 3.9
Red Wines
“Bilogia” Monastrell/Tempranillo Crianza Bodegas Loc Frailes 2004 (Valencia) $69.35 1,810 rub. 3.1
Syrah Marques de Grinon 2002 (Dominio de Valdepusa) $127.20 3,320 rub. 3.4
“Tres Picos” Bodegas Borsao 2004 (Campo de Borja) $101.15 2,640 rub. 3.7
Crianza “Dignus” Vina Magana 2000 (Navarra) $59.00 1,540 rub. 3.2
“Gran Caus” Can Rafols Dels Caus 2000 (Penedes) $119.92 3,130 rub. 3.5
“LZ” Telmo Rodriguez 2005 (Rioja) $68.20 1,780 rub. 3.1
Reserva Vina Bosconia 1998 (Rioja) $128.74 3,360 rub. 3.5

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