I eagerly anticipated attending Bodegas Altanza’s “A Taste of Spain” wine dinner at the Training, Education, and Resource Institute, primarily because it was my first time experiencing a wine event at TERI Common Grounds Café in San Marcos.
TERI, founded in 1980, has steadfastly upheld its mission to improve the lives of individuals with developmental and learning disabilities, foster community inclusion and offer hope to numerous families. The café operates daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.
Other reasons I was excited were the addition of my wife, Mary, and Taste of Wine & Food travelers writers Scott Hagner and Nancine Belfiore, to the dinner. Prior to retiring, Scott and Nancine were counselors for children with learning and developmental disabilities at the San Diego Unified School District.
TERI’s Food & Beverage Director Ivan Lucas and chef Dan Cannon, alongside the café team, including Melody, Lexi, Maria, and Carla, delighted guests with a masterfully curated five-course wine dinner, in partnership with Altanza’s Export Director, Alberto Anoz, from Rioja, Spain, and Brian Elkovitch, Director of Sales-San Diego at Authentic Wine Selection.
Altanza, nestled in Spain’s Rioja Alta’s Fuenmayor, was born from a collective passion for crafting enduring Riojas with a contemporary twist and true character. The state-of-the-art winery is founded on three core elements: their estate vineyard, tempranillo grapes, and high-quality French oak. Spanning 300 hectares in a pristine environment, the estate showcases the influence of the varieties that define it.
Tempranillo and sauvignon blanc thrive alongside a remarkable olive grove, creating a harmonious sensory experience. This unique setting breathes life into Altanza’s five reserve wines, where diverse grapes flourish in clay-based, calcareous soils shaped by the land’s various slopes and orientations.
“Bodegas Altanza’s goal is to be more modern when compared to rioja, which is viewed as ‘heavier’ compared with Altanza’s fruit grown at higher altitudes,” Anoz said.
Dinner started with a shrimp salad garnished with ruby red grapefruit, tempura battered shrimp, paprika aioli, and wild leek foam, served with a 2021 Rioja Blanco. The crisp sauvignon blanc had peach and melon on the palate, along with clean minerality that harmonized with the ruby-red grapefruit.
The second course was a toasted brioche topped with roasted mushrooms and garlic confit, along with a 2015 Rioja Reserva. Wines classified as Rioja Reservas must have three years of aging with at least six months of aging in the bottle. The Altanza Reserva had 1.5 years of aging in the barrel and 1.5 years aging in the bottle.
The Paella Valencia with saffron, chicken, pork ribs, chorizo, and greens paired with the 2015 Rioja Gran Reserva mentally transported me to a bustling restaurant in the heart of Rioja. This pairing, along with the next, was phenomenal.
The Gran Reserva had higher-quality fruit compared to the Reserva, along with 50% American and 50% French oak, creating a modern but traditional feel. The two-year oak aging with three years of bottle-aging produced soft tannins. The addition of the American oak imparted hints of chocolate, coconut and some leather.
Next, TERI and Altanza delighted guests with braised short ribs, potato croquette, cipollini onion, crispy leeks, and demi-glaze sauce, expertly paired with the 2011 Velazquez Rioja Reserva, a tribute to Spanish painter Diego Velazquez.
This exceptional wine, one of only six vintages produced by Altanza over its 35-year history, showcased rich black fruit flavors, intricate layering, and aging in both American and French oak, earning high praise, including a 94-point score from James Suckling.
The Taste of Spain evening wrapped up splendidly with a mascarpone three-berry tart adorned with blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, perfectly complemented by the effervescent Tant Cava Brut Nature, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Visit bodegasaltanza.com/en for further details.
— Story by Rico Cassoni
— The 18th annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, a renowned coastal celebration of wine, food, and culture, is set to take place from Nov. 6-12. This iconic week-long event features highlights such as the Grand Decant on Nov. 10, the Grand Tasting on Nov. 11, and the Grand Fiesta on Nov. 12. Named the winner of the 2019 USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice travel award contest for Best General Food Festival, it’s a must-attend for food and wine enthusiasts. For event details and ticket information, visit sandiegowineclassic.com.
— Sal Ercolano, owner of the West End Bar & Kitchen, is hosting an Antinori Wine Dinner at 6 p.m. on Nov. 2. Guests will experience an evening with wines from the Antinori Family, which has been producing wine for 26 generations and 630 years. The main course features braised short ribs with root vegetables paired with Tignanello Super Tuscan, Wine Spectator’s 2022 Top 5 wine of the year. The cost is $95 per person and excludes tax/gratuity. At $95, this is an exceptional value for the wine being served. RSVP at 858-259-5878.