Last night, Suzanne, Cathy, Brian, and I met at Bar Jamon, which at 5:00 had just opened and was already beginning to fill. With approximately 15 stools at high, dark wood, communal tables, little standing room, tapas and wine, Mario Batali’s Spanish wine bar is a bustling but diminutive space. Adjacent to Casa Mona, Bar Jamon boasts a list of over 600 wines and a menu on the wall offering delectable snacks; but you’d better not mind standing squeezed. If you come at just half past five, arrive with enough patience to wait it out for a seat. Standing, you’ll be jostled; seated, you’ll only have to tolerate the elbowing at your back.
With mirrors on the east and west walls, and bottles of wine on the north–dimly lit and high ceilinged, the interior is a cozy space. We ordered four of the six cuartos of red wine offered ($11-$28) and settled in to Bowie on the sound system, as we discussed our shared WSET (advanced) course–full of blind tastings and a sh*tload of facts.
Beginning with the lightest wine first, we shared Vrnos Sin Ley, Puntazo 2007, a Granache from Navarra (a kingdom that once reached Bordeaux), in northeast Spain. Possessing strawberry, raspberry, and sour red cherry on the nose, with a bit of meat or smoke, this granache is silky soft and transitions on the palate from bright fruit to an earthy finish, with a slight green leaf vegetable note.
Moving southeast to Utiel-Requena, which borders Valencia and is dominated by the Bobal grape variety, we drank Rozaleme, 2004, a blend of Bobal and Tempranillo ($14). With a bouquet of blueberry and sweet BBQ sauce, and a touch of anise, Rozaleme has medium acidity and tannins, with some oak on the palate, that finishes a little flat.
Mencía is a varietal that none of us had tried, one grown in Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, and Valdeorras in northwest Spain. Descendientes de J. Palacios-Petalos, 2006 is vegetal and smoky on the nose, with very little fruit. Herbaceous with a silky texture and spicy finish, there are slight notes of blackberry and cherry that appear, once the wine opens up.
The last was our favorite– Aster Crianza, 2002, a Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero ($21), located in the upper valley of the river Duero, in north central Spain. Full of dark fruit aromas and toasty with a touch of butter (as in popcorn), this Tempranillo is fruity in the mouth, with vanilla, medium (+) acidity and medium tannins–a finely balanced act.
[Where: Bar Jamon, 125 East 17th Street, New York, NY 10003]