I've been tasting wines somewhat at random over the past couple of weeks, as we try and whack our February issue into shape (whack! whack! get in shape, you!). Many were unremarkable, as always, yet a couple were remarkable. The standout was a 1981 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia that I had last night at Suba, whose odd downstairs dining room—a moat full of water surrounds the dining area—is a lot more inviting now that the walls are painted white. Formerly it felt like a dungeon for hipsters; now it's kind of cool and, if not quite Spanish, at least sort of ultra-moderne South American. And chef Seamus Mullen's food is terrific, especially the arroz al horno our table shared—perfectly cooked bomba rice with that ideal crisp, caramelized layer around the bottom and edges (soccarat, if you want the Spanish—or is it Catalan?—term), flavorful chunks of pork shank, enough morcilla (blood sausage) to give it earthy depth...man. Need more. Now.
I also need more of the other thing our table shared, which was that '81 Viña Tondonia. The first bottle we ordered was corked, but the second was glorious, an affirmation of the amazing ageability of traditionally-styled Rioja. It had intense, bright acidity, dried cherry notes that somehow managed to be fresh at the same time, deep earthy layers of flavor underneath, an aroma so complex I'm just not even going to try and dissect it, and that luscious liquid velvet mouthfeel that good, old Rioja gets. Not cheap, but neither is gold.