A couple of weeks ago I had a rare wine tasting opportunity – with Hungarian and French “influences” – from world class Spanish winery Tempos Vega Sicilia. I got to meet and briefly interview CEO Pablo Alvarez, taste newer and cellared wines and have a lovely wine paired meal at Jean-Georges Beverly Hills in the Waldorf Astoria. First I’ll share a synopsis of the evening with my social media post, my interview with Alvarez, and finally the full menu, wines and my notes.
Social Media Post
About last night…my first time tasting Tempos Vega Sicilia with CEO Pablo Alvarez at a wine pairing dinner at Jean Georges Beverly Hills = I tasted and loved all of these remarkable wines beginning with a bone dry 2018 Furmint with appetizers; 2016 Macon Clasico, Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild-Vega Sicilia and the 2015 Macan – both blew me away – with a wonderful Pate en Croute; then onto 2015 Pintia, 2016 Alion, and 2015 Valbuena – again all remarkable – with a Mushroom Crusted Salmon; then came the “unique” Unico labels including a 2006 Unico, 2009 Unico, 2010 Unico and the incredible 3-vintage blends that go into each Unico Reserval Especial, Vega Sicilia we had the R.18 and R.20 with Beef Bourguignon; finally ending with their sweet 2013 Tokaji Asuzu from Hungary with a lovely Passionfruit Glazed Pear with Rose Mascarpone and Toasted Nuts…
“Bodegas Vega Sicilia, founded in 1864, was purchased by The Álvarez Family in 1982. They produce three flagship wines; Vega Sicilia Unico, Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial and Valbuena 5°. The company also founded Alión in Spain’s Ribera Del Duero Region in 1992, Oremus in Hungary’s Tokaj region in 1993, Pintia in Spain’s Toro region in 1997 and Macán and Macán Clásico from a joint winery project between the Alvarez Family and Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, (Chairman of Edmond de Rothschild in Geneva, Switzerland) in 2013. The company banded the wineries and vineyards under the umbrella of Tempos Vega Sicilia.”
“Few wines have a history as distinguished as that of Vega Sicilia. Founded in the 1860’s, its top cuvée, Unico, was Spain’s first great wine and until recent decades the only Spanish wine collected and coveted throughout the world.” To see the photos from this post click here.
For just a few minutes before a couple of other writers arrived, I swept in and chatted with Pablo Alvarez, Chief Executive Officer for Tempos Vega Sicilia. From Alvarez I learned that Vega Sicilia was more than one brand, his business card also shows the logos for wines made under the Alion, Pintia, Macan and Tokaj-Oremus labels. For the Spanish wines he feels they must be aged at least ten years before they are ready to drink – and said that other Spanish wineries don’t hold their wines that long. (I liked the idea of releasing wines when ready to drink, instead of the public having to hold them for years ourselves. I also could appreciate the cost of the “real estate” for Vega Sicilia to hold onto these, store them and wait to sell them.)
I asked Alvarez why invest in a Hungarian winery, his other wineries were all reasonably close together in Spain. He said that the area had been communist for a long time and the wines deserved attention now. (Alvarez added that he was looking for more vineyards but wasn’t sure yet where he would purchase.) When asked if he had a personal favorite Alvarez said, “There is every wine for every moment.”
Jean-Georges Menu and Tempos Vega Sicilia Wines
Hors d’ oeuvres
2018 Furmint, Dry Mandulas, Oremus (Bone dry and great for sipping with the appetizers)
Crispy Langoustine Basil Pesto ~ Tuna Tartare Avocado Guacamole ~ Black Truffle Fritto Assorted House-made Breads & Butter.
Flight I First Course
2016 Macan Clasico, Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild-Vega Sicilia. 2015 Macan, Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild-Vega Sicilia (Alvarez said that this was the best wine Rothschild has made – and he told him so. It was my first fave of the evening. And I inhaled the pate.)
Traditional Pates en Croute
Kitchen note: quail, chicken, duck, veal, porcini.
Flight II Second Course
2015 Pintia (fruit is chilled, cold maceration, to “favour fresh fruit character over what could otherwise be overbearing tannin.” Alvarez said this wine was rustic.)
2016 Alion (Alvarez called the wine “elegant” and I agreed.) 2015 Valbuena (Ribera de Duero, Alvarez said the wine was fantastic and it was. The most expensive in this group.)
Mushroom Crusted Salmon, Lemon Cream, Basil.
Flight III Third Course
2006 Unico, 2009 Unico and 2010 Unico (All Ribera del Duero. Of the 2010, “A great vintage: one of the very best of the best.” Released in 2020. Held for “aging, maturity and condition.” Unico means unique.)
Unico Reserva Especial, Vega Sicilia R. 19 Unico Reserva Especial, and Vega Sicilia R. 20. (They both blew my socks off, especially the nose of the 19 and the taste of the 20. Always three different vintages go into these Reservas, making for an incredible balance.)
Beef Cheek Burgundian Style, Ivre de Grenache, Black Truffle Mashed Potatoes.
Flight IV Fourth Course
2013 Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttonyos, Oremus (From Hungary, sweet, and the perfect palate cleanser.)
Passionfruit Glazed Pear with Rose Mascarpone and Toasted Nuts.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.