The Four Seasons Hosts El Celler de Can Roca Tour: Wine Tasting with Sommelier Josep Roca
For the third year, BBVA Compass and El Celler de Can Roca of Girona, Spain are bringing the 2013 and 2015 Best Restaurant in the World recipient on a global tour, with planned stops in London, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Santiago de Chile, and their exciting arrival this week in Phoenix. Joining the three Roca brothers - Executive Chef Joan, Sommelier Josep, and Pastry Chef Jordi - is a team of 40+ to ensure that each dinner is a flawless experience of what this three-Michelin-starred restaurant executes in Spain.
As a prelude to the invitation-only dinners being held Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week at the Four Seasons Scottsdale, on Tuesday, August 16, I was invited to an exclusive wine tasting led by Sommelier Josep Roca at Talavera. I not only learned what I could anticipate for my dinner Thursday night (100 guests, nine courses, 20 plates, and 200 ingredients, including dishes never seen before and created just for the Phoenix dinners), but also learned about some of Sommelier Josep's favorite wines.
Nancy Zezza, Corporate Banking Manager of BBVA Compass welcomed our group and noted what a rare opportunity we were enjoying. "It is truly an honor for BBVA to have the Roca brothers here in Phoenix. We are so very excited about the events this week."
We were led to our seats at a table dotted with plates of Noble Bread and machego cheese and invited to learn about the wines that were chosen. As each of the Spanish or California wines were poured, Sommelier Josep Roca described the winery and winemakers, growing regions, why they were selected, and his personal tasting notes, via translator Francisco. "Wines are not only the results of fermented grapes. They are also the interpretation of a landscape. a climate, a certain region, and also a way of life and a philosophy."
We start with the 2015 Arnot-Roberts Chardonnay, Trout Gulch, Santa Cruz (Sonoma County) as we were told to take note of "apricot, vanilla, fennel, green apple, and subtle notes of toasted hazelnuts with a very intense, very pleasant aroma of toasted bread."
1994 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva Rioja: "This second wine is without a doubt one of the most original white wines that is made in Spain. Here you can taste the history." He tells us that this Viña Tondonia Rioja can be aged another 30 years, and to taste "the nuances of vanilla, dried apricots, honey, and quince, with a very delicate finish of salinity."
2015 Dirty & Rowdy Evangelho Vineyard Old Vines Mourvèdre: "It has a very bold name," he laughs. He points out that "in Europe they perceive California wines as wines of the new world, but I want to show that this is actually not true. The vineyard from where this wine is made is 140 years old. And it's actually very close to Spain because the Monastrell [also known as Mourvèdre] is a varietal that we find along the Mediterranean coast from Murcia all the way north through Girona."
Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Valbuena 2010: "What we're pouring now is one of the most renowned and most important winemakers in Spain. This is the Valbuena 2010, probably one of the best vintages." "In terms of aromas, we can perceive vanilla, coffee, brioche, cocoa and a slight nuance of smoked paprika. It's very balsamic and sharp in scent. Instead of alcohol, there is freshness. In the mouth it is elegant, velvety, with wonderful harmony and acidity."
2004 Torres Grans Muralles: "Now we'll travel from central Spain to an area closer to us, Catalunya, Conca de Barberà. The soil is a lot more volcanic...This is a wine with a lot of opulence and intensity, but at the same time fresh, and 2004 was a great year in terms of balance."
Next, we spend some time comparing two different styles of Rioja wine - 2005 Remirez de Ganuza Rioja Gran Reserva and 1994 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Gran Reserva. "One from the point of view of innovation, and the other one from the point of view of tradition." As we sip and savor, among the many differences we learn are that, "the first one is fermented in stainless steel and aged in new American oak barrels and the second fermented in massive barrels that have been used for four generations. One uses selected yeast, the other one uses yeast that is in the environment, fields, and wood containers."
2014 Weingut Dönnhoff, Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese: Sommelier Josep tells us that riesling is one of his favorite varietals and this spätlese from Nahe, Germany has a "wonderful acidity and sweetness combined. There are seven categories of Riesling wines and I think this will be the most appropriate for early evening events like these."
We finish our tasting with two sherries. The first is A.R. Valdespino Coliseo Amontillado VORS Sherry. "This one is from Jerez, one of my favorite areas in Southern Spain. Amontillado is one of the subtypes of sherry and this combines aromas of hazelnut with notes of iron, salt or algae, intense deyhydrated fruit, flavors of umami, and has an aging potential of 80 years." He recommends pairings of mature cheese or oysters.
Our final pour is Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso Sherry 30 Year Old. "This has been aged for 40 years and it's almost like two wines at the same time. The beginning is sweet, the finish is very dry with tasting notes of bitter orange, chocolate, coffee, plums and different spices."
"It was a pleasure to share these wines with you," Sommelier Roca concludes. "I hope you have enjoyed this selection. It is a wide and varied range. Each wine is a landscape in a bottle, a philosophy of life, and we hope that you have discovered your favorite wine tonight."
I was honored to participate in such a memorable evening. Gracias to Josep Roca and BBVA!
We finished our wine tasting with a reception of delicious small plates from Chefs Mecinas and Sanz of the Four Seasons: Heirloom tomato confit with burrata, marinated chicken wrapped in prosciutto with honey-yogurt sauce, crispy rock shrimp with miso, strip loin with mole oaxaqueño, grilled Spanish octopus with saffron aioli, and lamb chops.