June 24, 2010
Conde de Subirats Brut Rosé Cava (Penedes, Spain) $12.99 - Light pink with fine bubbles! Aromas of strawberries, red berries and a hint of fresh bread, baking spices and pepper. Flavors of lighter red fruit and a touch of fresh bread yeastiness. 90% Trepat and 10% Pinot Noir. From the heart of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, the birthplace of Cava. Stainless steel fermentation. Aged 18 months in the bottle on lees before disgorging. Then the dosage is added to make the wine "bubbly." This is the same time-consuming, expensive method as Champagne and it results in finer, better, longer-lasting bubbles.
Naia Las Brisas 2008 (Spain) Reg. $11.99, Sale $9.99 - We absolutely love this wine! HUGE hit at a party we had! Compares favorably to Loire Valley whites costing 2-3 times! Medium-bodied, crisp, zesty, clean & fresh! Great aromas and flavors of citrus, melon, spices, herbs, mint, lemon, apple & grapefruit. Unoaked…well-balanced fruit & acidity. Long, pleasing, juicy finish. Really complex wine – especially at this price! Blend of Verdejo (50%), Sauvignon Blanc (25%) and Viura (25%). Food pairing - Great with grilled or broiled fish, chicken & cheese. Drinks well with or without food! A party hit!
Wallace Brook Pinot Gris 2007 (Oregon) $9.99 – This is a tasty Pinot Gris from Adelsheim (a high-end Oregon winery). Aromas and flavors of melons, pears and lychee nuts. This is fruity and dry with good minerality. Crisp, clean finish. A small amount of this wine is aged in older, neutral oak barrels – this adds weight and texture to the wine. Food pairing – seafood, pasta with cream sauces.
Château Ricardelle Alencades Rosé 2009 (France) $14.99 – Rosés are among the best wines with a host of foods and are great summertime drinks! They are also great with meals such as Thanksgiving Dinner. This has classic rosé flavors and aromas of strawberries and raspberries and cherries! Crisp, clean and dry. Blend of 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre.
Falesco Vitiano Rosso 2007 (Umbria, Italy) $12.99 - This is, plainly put, a TASTY wine! An absolutely GREAT value!!! Deep ruby red color. Rich, fresh fruit aromas and flavors. Spicy, peppery finish. Well-balanced fruit and acidity. Medium-bodied. Just a classic Italian! Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend (equal parts). Aged 3 months in Nevers (French) oak. Food pairing – grilled meats, mushroom dishes, lasagna, spaghetti, roasts & flavorful aged cheese. Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, 89 points, “…it’s almost too good to believe at this price”
Novy Cellars Four Mile Creek Red (California) $10.99 – Brand new to Maine! This is what I call a California “field blend.” That’s a wine made from an unusual combination of grapes – in this case it is Grenache, Syrah, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. What is unusual about this wine is that it comes from some of California’s most famous vineyards – Page-Nord in Napa, Unti in Dry Creek, Pisoni, Garys’ and Rosella’s in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills and the Carlisle Vineyard in Russian River. This is a spicy wine with a lot of dark fruit in the aromas and flavors. Bottle unfiltered and unfined. Food pairing – grilled meats, mushroom dishes, lasagna, spaghetti, roasts & flavorful aged cheese.
June 13, 2010
Friday, June 18th
3:30 – 7:30pm
10% off all wines at the tasting!
Doug’s Table – Redneck Riviera Tasting
Doug and I are both from the South and we’ve joked about doing a tasting where we pair wines with what we sometimes call "redneck" foods…….so, that’s what we are doing for part of this tasting!
Ferrari Brut (Italy) $21.99 – – This is a “Metodo Classico” sparkling wine. That means it is made in the same way Champagne is made. The bubbles come from a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Hot dogs and “Champagne” are a great pairing!
From Trentino in the far north, Ferrari was first made in 1902 when Giulio Ferrari started this winery. He had studied winemaking in France and was convinced that the northeastern part of Italy could produce world-class Champagne-method sparkling wines. The wine is produced following strict Champagne-like methods. The vines are about 30 years old. The Chardonnay grapes are hand-harvested. This winery has consistently won awards since 1906 and it is a perennial winner of “Tre Bicchieri” (Three Glasses) – the highest Italian wine award. The wine has great bubbles and aromas of lemons, fresh bread and herbs. Flavors of crisp apples, pears, toast and lemons.
Samantha Star Chardonnay 2007 (California) $14.99 – Wonderful Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands near Monterey! Aromas of pineapple, tropical fruits, coconut & banana. Medium-bodied, clean and crisp style. Flavors of peaches, apples, bananas & a hint of toasty oak. Long crisp, soft finish. Sam Balderas is the winemaker (he’s been the winemaker at Robert Talbott Vineyards since 1984; in 1997 his 1990 Chardonnay earned 100 points from Wine Spectator). Fermented in stainless steel & aged in neutral oak barrels. Not oaky. Food pairing – chicken, duck, salmon, lobster and creamy pasta dishes. Drinks well on its own! The creaminess of the Chardonnay goes perfectly with the salty oiliness of the potato chip!
Big Fire Pinot Noir 2007 (Oregon) $15.99 - The winemaker, Rob Stuart, says this wine is like a ripe plum - juicy, fruity & delicious. He’s right & he’s wrong – it’s got a little earth & spice to it as well. It’s not a “fruitbomb.” Aromas and flavors of raspberries, cherries, cranberries, plums and a little earth & spice! Everything nice! Food pairing – jambalaya with shrimp, pasta with roasted tomatoes, mushroom and/or sausage pizza, a burger. Pork Rinds (maybe Vienna sausages). Lots of ripe fruit in this wine…..perfect with pork rinds. Hugh Johnson, Wall Street Journal, “Top 12 Wine Buys of the Year”
Mas de la Dam Rouge 2006 (France) $18.99 - - It tastes like Provence! Big, full-bodied, spicy, with notes of herbs. Deep, dark color. Big fruit in the nose & flavors. I tasted this 24 hours after it was first opened & it was great. When it was first opened it was tight with BIG tannins for the 1st hour. Certified organic. Biodynamic. Blend of Grenache & Syrah. Most importantly, it’s excellent wine! Food pairing - Great with grilled meats, roasts, mushroom dishes and just drinking! Decant this! Smoked, pulled pork…..I’m going to smoke a couple of pork shoulders (Boston butts) over wood coals….and we’ll have Eastern North Carolina Sauce and Western North Carolina Sauce.
Quinta do Portal Tawny Port – Excellent Tawny Port! Rich nutty aromas of walnuts, almonds and caramel. Similar flavors with hints of red berries. Smooth and rich! Long, lingering nutty finish! Tawny Port will last about a month after opening. Food pairing - Great as an aperitif with nuts, olives and paté. Awesome with sweet desserts. Serve slightly chilled rather than at room temperature (20+ minutes in the fridge). Quinta do Portal is unusual among Port producers – it has always been owned by Portuguese; most of the other producers have a British heritage. This is the perfect upscale redneck dessert! You need to dip your ‘Nilla wafer into the Port!
Cat’s Table – GREAT Summer Wines
This will be the more mature table.
Grand Cassagne Rosé 2009 (France) $11.99 - – Fabulous dry rosé! Aromas of strawberries, dark cherries, herbs and anise. Rich flavors of strawberries, minerals & sweet herbs. Soft texture. Light-to-medium-bodied. Dry & beautiful! Hint of pepper at the finish. Dianne Puymorin purchased the estate in 1998. She farms biodynamically & strictly limits yield/acre. 100% destemmed grapes. Blend - 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah & 5% Mourvèdre Food pairing – Great with roasted or grilled chicken & pork. Great as a cocktail wine! Drink young!
Tomero Torrontes 2009 (Argentina) $12.99 - This is AWESOME! Rich, vibrant texture and feel when you are sipping it…..lush and smooth. Finishes with a nice crispness. Aromas and flavors of white flowers, roses, oranges, tropical fruit. This has a nice zippy acidity to it. POPS in your mouth at the start and then finishes smooth and easy! 100% Torrontes. Stainless steel fermentation. Food pairing - seafood, poultry…..lobster…..shellfish….drinks well without food.
Nessa Albarinho 2009 (Spain) $15.99 - This is delicious! Spain’s best wine wine grape! Albariño! Wonderful aromas of peaches, pears, citrus, flowers & minerals. Flavors of white peaches, minerals & a wonderful, zippy acidity that has a.little saline quality to it! It's medium-bodied & dry. Estate grown grapes. Stainless steel fermentation. Aged 1 month on lees to soften the texture. Rias Baixas is in the NW corner of Spain. These vineyards are near the ocean. Food pairing - Great paired with fresh Maine seafood, especially shellfish!
Campos de Risca Monastrell 2008 (Spain) $9.99 – Great little friendly barbecue wine! This is bright, fresh and flavorful! Spicy, dark stewed fruit. New to Maine! 90% Monastrell (Mourvèdre in France) and 10% Syrah. 4,200 cases made. This part of Spain – the Spanish call it the Southeast – is near the southwestern Mediterranean coast of Spain. This area is exceptionally hot and dry. It takes a hardy, tough vine, such as Monastrell, to survive and flourish in this soil! Food pairing – grilled meats, pasta dishes, pizza. Wine Enthusiast, “Best Buy
Berger Zweigelt 2008 (Austria) $13.99 - Zweigelt is your classic red grape from Austria – it’s a hybrid cross of 2 other obscure grapes, Blaufrankisch (limburger) and Saint Laurent. Think of this as being along the lines of a Pinot Noir or a Dolcetto, before those wines started getting ideas of being “Syrah-like.” What I mean by that is Zweigelt, or Pinot and/or Dolcetto, is not meant to be a heavy, fruit-bomb of a wine. It should be elegant. Refined. But, complex….. Medium-bodied. Peppery. With spicy, dark and red fruit.
Vines on the Merrycrest Heart of Glass 2006 (California) $18.99 - When these wines first came into Maine a couple of years ago, they were good bit more expensive – this was $23.99. This is a true, family-owned and –run winery, founded by Victor Abascal in 2004. This wine is available in only FIVE states! Without a doubt, one thing I like about the Marycrest wines are rich aromas from the dominant grape! Grenache dominates the blend, so we get red berries in the nose - lots of strawberries & raspberries in the aromas and flavors. In the flavors the dark earth of the Syrah and the leather from the Mourvedre kick in...... Blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre. The Grenache vines are at least 50+ years-old. Small number of cases made. Food pairing – lamb, chicken, turkey, salmon, etc....
It’s time for the “Wines of the Month.” We’re headed to Spain!
Spain has more acreage planted to vineyards than any other country. However, they don’t produce more wine. Part of this is that they concentrate on lower yields to produce better wine. Part of it is that the soil in many areas is so bad that the vines must be widely spaced. The Romans certainly brought grapes with them to Spain, but winemaking existed in Spain long before the Roman Empire existed.
We’ll be visiting three distinct regions in Spain – Rueda, Rioja and Priorat.
Rueda – For centuries, Rueda was a popular and influential winemaking area in Spain, but in the 1800’s the Phylloxera louse devastated the region's vineyards. Phylloxera is a microscopic insect that eats the roots of grape vines and almost destroyed winemaking in Europe in the latter half of the 1800’s and early 19th century.
In the latter half of the 20th century, established Bodegas (Spanish term for winery) from other wine regions helped reestablish Rueda as an important wine-producing region. Fortunately, they focused on grape varietals native to the region rather than planting “popular” international grapes such as Chardonnay. The whites produced here are considered among Spain’s best white wines.
Rueda is located near Portugal in northwestern Spain, in the Castilla y León province. The Duero River flows through Rueda’s northwestern corner (this same river flows through the famed Ribera del Duero winemaking area and into Portugal where it is the Douro River – where Port is made).
Rueda has a “Continental” climate – it is cold in the winter; and, hot and dry in the summer (but not too hot, some cooling influence from the Atlantic helps). Vineyards may use modern drip-irrigation to help grow grapes. Without this technique, Rueda would produce significantly fewer grapes and we’d have less of this wonderful summer white!
About 84% of Rueda’s vineyards are planted with white grape varieties (in 2001, changes to the DO regulations permitted red wine to carry the DO status). Verdejo is the dominant white grape (90%) of production. The other grapes are Viura (Macabeo), Sauvignon Blanc and Palomino. Tempranillo is the dominant red grape, as it is in Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
Rioja – along with Sherry, one of the two the best-known winemaking areas in Spain. Wine was produced in Rioja long before the Romans arrived. The Phoenicians helped introduce winemaking to Rioja in the 11th century BC.
Rioja produces both red and white wines, as well as some rosés. The red wines are dominated by the Tempranillo grapes. They also grow Garnacha Tinta (peppery), Graciano (dark berry flavors) and Mazuelo (adds tannins). The white wines are made from Viura (tartness), Malvasia (nutty) and Garnacha Blanca (adds weight and complexity).
Red Riojas tend to be about 60% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha and the Graciano and Mazuelo make up the rest of the blend. White Riojas are mostly Viura (Macabeo) with small amounts of Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. Rose Riojas tend to be mostly Garnacha.
Rioja is named after the river, Rio Oja, which forms the Oja Valley in the province of La Rioja in northern Spain. The wine region runs down both sides of the river for 75 miles. The river provides the needed water to help irrigate the 14,000 vineyards.
Three subregions produce Rioja – Alta, Alavesa and Baja.
- Rioja Alta – this is the highest area in terms of elevation and it is to the western edge of Rioja. Rioja Alta is known for it silky wines with lots of soft fruit.
- Rioja Alavesa – the vines in this area are planted far apart to provide enough nutrients to the grapes. The soil here is extremely poor, but poor soil tends to make better grapes. Wines from Rioja Alavesa tend to be fuller bodied and have higher acidity than those from Alta.
- Rioja Baja – this is the driest and warmest part of Rioja. Droughts in the summer months are a serious problem. Wines from Baja tend to be blended with grapes from other regions.
Riojas are labeled in specific ways. This labeling helps identify the type of aging the wine has gone through.
- Crianza – aged at least one year in oak barrels and one year in the bottle before it can be sold.
- Reserva – aged at least one year in oak barrels and two years in the bottle before it can be sold.
- Gran Reserva – aged 2 years in oak barrels and 3 years in the bottle before it can be sold
Priorat is tiny – it encompasses only 4,151 acres (Rioja is over 150,000 acres).
Priorat is named after the priory established in the hills above Tarragona by Carthusians who arrived from Provence in the 12th century. They may have brought the Garnacha (Grenache) vines with them.
Priorat had extensive vineyards before the phylloxera louse arrived at the beginning of the 20th century. This destroyed winemaking in Priorat. Then, Spain had to endure Franco’s dictatorship. No one was investing money in Priorat, so the area was desolate and impoverished.
By 1979, when René Barbier arrived, the Priorat area had only 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of vineyards left. Old vine Carineña (Carignan in French) and old vine Grenache are all that is left.
Barbier, who grew up in the wine business in Penedès, recognized the region’s potential. By the late 1980’s, he was joined by four fellow “evangelists,” who applied modern winemaking techniques and small French oak barrels to the best local grapes. This band of 5 all worked from the same sun-baked, barn-like winery in the tiny hamlet of Gratallops. All five wineries had similar names, starting with the word “Clos.”
Clos Mogador was Barbier’s label. Clos Martinet (now Mas Martinet) belonged to José Luis Pérez. Clos de l'Obac belonged to the local mayor whose wine company is now Costers del Siurana. Clos Erasmus is the creation of Daphne Glorian (her husband is wine importer Eric Solomon). The fifth Clos was Clos Dofi was renamed Finca Dofi in 1994. Its founder is Alvaro Palacios, who is the best known winemaker in Priorat. He makes Spain's most famous wine, L'Ermita. The Rare Wine Company imports Palacios’s wines and we stock a few of them (we buy them from SOPO).
What makes Priorat so distinctive is the soil and the steep hillsides. The most important natural part of Priorat is a particular schist, licorella. It’s dark brown, heavily striated and pitted. It’s a soft rock and has the benefits of being both cool and damp enough to help nourish the vines in the dry, hot summers of Priorat. The best vineyards face north and east to avoid the intense heat of the sun. These hillsides also catch the breezes from the Mediterranean at altitudes of about 1,500 feet. As an example, the vineyard for L’Ermita is on a 60 degree slope.
Castillo de Nava Rueda 2008 (Rueda, Spain) $12.99 – This is a near-perfect wine for summer, especially summer in Maine when we eat more lobster and steamers! This is bright, fresh, juicy and refreshing! It has flavors and aromas of lime, minerals, crisp Granny Smith apples and gooseberry. It’s crisp, clean and makes you want to take another sip! Mostly Verdejo. Stainless steel fermentation and aging. Food pairing – seafood, salads, lighter pasta dishes. Brand new to Maine!
Bodegas Las Orcas “Solar de Randez” Rioja Joven 2008 (Spain) $13.99 – This is a family-owned winery that’s at least 100 years old. All of the fruit is estate-grown.
Joven in the name merely means this wine is aged for a short period of time with little-to-no exposure to oak and it is bottled relatively young.
This is a “weighty” red for a Joven. It’s clean with good dark fruit and soft, firm tannins. It has a bright, refreshing “tartness” to it. By that, I mean a good tasting tartness. It’s more like biting into a dark plum or black cherry (or both at the same time) that is just a shade underripe. This has good acidity, that helps make the wine pop. Subtle vanilla and licorice notes to the flavors and aromas. Food pairing – grilled chicken, tuna, salmon and pork tenderloin. On a warm day, I might toss this in the fridge – it’s a refreshing red when it’s about 45-50 degrees! Brand new to Maine!
Bodegas Ermita Veracruz Verdejo 2008 (Rueda, Spain) $19.99 – Beautiful wine that has a zesty, almost spritziness to it! This is juicy, fresh and has great crispness from the acidity. Aromas and flavors of white flowers, pears, lemons, limes and tropical fruit. This has a hint of vanilla. 4,000 cases made. Food pairing – great with seafood, especially shellfish, lobster and crab. Excellent with salads and as a cocktail wine. Brand new to Maine!
Bodegas Las Orcas “Solar de Randez” Rioja Crianza 2004 (Spain) $19.99 – Delicious and rich. This has the berries, flowers and spiciness that I think about when thinking about Rioja. The flavors are full of baking spices, red berries, black cherries and vanilla. Crisp acidity. The tannins are balanced and firm, but they don’t dominate the wine. This finishes clean with nice berry fruit. 2004 is an excellent vintage in Rioja. 1,700 cases made. Brand new to Maine! Food pairing – lamb, steak, duck, grilled pork tenderloin. Decanter Magazine, 3 Stars
Both wines in this tier come from the same winery, Viñedos de Ithaca (Ithaca’s Vineyards). The founder, Jos Puig, is fascinated with Greek history and mythology. The winery has a “Trojan Horse” on the roof of its cellars and throughout the winery are Greek tiles and antiques. His daughter, Silvia, rolls her eyes at her Dad’s obsession. She’s also the winemaker. The vineyards and winery are located in Gratallops, which is a tiny hamlet in the heart of Priorat.
Viñedos de Ithaca “Odysseus” Priorat Garnatxa Bianca 2008 (Spain) Reg. $35.99, Sale $29.99 – The flagship wine for this tiny winery! This is a unique, delicious, big, mouth-watering white wine! Aromas and flavors of herbs, freshly mown grass, nuts, vanilla, pears, lemons, cream and toast. Great minerality to the flavors. This is full-bodied. Great acidity and “zip” to the wine. Long, lingering finish. 100% Garnacha Blanco. About 125 cases made each year. Aged in oak barrels. Food pairing – poultry, paella, seafood, lobster, grilled fish, grilled pork or chicken. Brand new to Maine!
Viñedos de Ithaca “Odysseus” Priorat 2002 (Spain) Reg. $55, Sale $29.99 – This is a medium-to-full bodied wine with rich, ripe fruit and a little baking spice/pepperiness in the aromas. Rich flavors and aromas of Vinifed and fermented in 400 litre open barrels. The grapes come from very old vines that have exceptionally low yields (low yield = better fruit). Blend of Cariñena, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon with Touriga National, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Caladoc combining to make 10% of the wine. Aged in oak barrels for no more than 10 months (they remove the wine from the oak barrels before they taste any “oakiness.”). 1,200 cases made. 2002 was an excellent vintage in Priorat. Food pairing – most anything from grilled chicken to steak to lamb to paella. Brand new to Maine!