Producer: Bodegas Ramon Bilbao
I have never been to Bodegas Ramon Bilbao, and I have never seen pictures of their vineyards either. But I would be willing to bet that, just as Kermit Lynch tells us (in Adventures on the Wine Route) that René Loyau's grower in Gevrey-Chambertin had a patch of currants growing near his vines, Bodegas Ramon Bilbao has a few cherry trees growing near theirs. Or, at least they did back in 2009. Not that that is a complaint, mind you.
The 2009 Ramon Cardova has so many elements of cherry in it that if I did not know any better I would say that that is what gives it its color. The tint is a nice, deep red, neither on the purple side nor on the orange side – just a dark, cherry color. The wine opens with a pungent nose of cherry and rhubarb. The pungency is itself a think-piece; that which creates it is not readily apparent. It is not acidity, I find, but rather the tannins. The aroma also implies a degree of structure and angles that belies a rather roomy and comfortable palate. The taste has strong notes of cherry and tannins, with a minimal hint of plums embedded somewhere in there as well. The Rioja is light, with a pleasantly medium structure and a smooth, wide body. The flavors are given plenty of room to glide about the taste buds, and yet nothing is left unsupported or chaotic. The finish, comprised of the same elements of cherry and plum, is even smoother still. The wine goes down very easy, almost dangerously so.
After twenty minutes of breathing, the cherry has been exhausted. Perhaps it is only in comparison to the initial sipping, but the wine does not seem to have those notes any longer. The aroma, still pungent and tannic, is mostly of black plums now. The tasting notes are not very specific at all, vague even – some reds, including cherry and half the berries in Iberia, a touch of plum, and even a hint of balsamic. It is light, more smooth and mellow than earlier. The finishing notes are quite ambiguous, more so even than the palate, which is fine because it is still delicious and that counts a whole lot more than the ability to point to something else and say "it tastes like that."
They say that any wine worth writing about will have a personality featured in the discussion. Is the wine sensual? Is it wild? Is it affectionate? Quirky? Steadfast? Silly? Playful? My readers know that I hold no aversion to such angles in describing a wine, but I cannot fathom that a good wine has to make sense in such a discussion. This Rioja simply does not fit into that paradigm. It does not bother with personality; the Ramon Cardova is just an excellent glass of wine. It does not remind me of this or that kind of pal. If I really had to anthropomorphize it, I suppose it would be as a Master Craftsman; while it delivers with businesslike simplicity, it is more approachable than the businessman, and the attention to quality is little higher than one would think economical. It is professional, and not ashamed of greatness, but with plenty of heart to deliver into its craft; indeed it is that, and not facts or figures or marketing material, that makes the Ramon Cardova professional. True, quality craft.
Alright, so I found a fitting entry for this wine into that paradigm after all.