Santa Monica wine bar Pourtal welcomed a group of Spanish winemakers Sunday evening. These producers were mostly very small wineries, many of them actually from the Canary Islands. Kudos must go to Pourtal for bringing this wealth of winemaking talent to Santa Monica. These winemakers are all so enthusiastic about their wines and are eager to talk about them.
Some of the winemakers are fluent in English, some are not. I am not fluent in Spanish, so communication might have been a problem had those with good English skills not stepped in and helped those who lacked them. Most of the time it was a combination of their English and my Spanish that made the communication barrier almost nonexistent.
In case you don’t know, the Canaries are not off the coast of Spain, but off Morocco, in Northern Africa. The archipelago lies well south of Casablanca’s latitude and is an autonomous community of Spain. The name derives not from huge flocks of small pet birds, but, according to Wikipedia, "Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin term Insula Canaria, meaning "Island of the Dogs." This was probably because of the large population of seals once found there. They aren’t found there anymore, though. No canaries, no seals - it’s getting to be a bit of a disappointment. I’d better get back to the wine. There’s certainly no disappointment there.
Not all of the winemakers at this event are from the Canaries. Four of the producers are from Galicia, there’s one from Rioja, one from Tierra de Leon and one from Alicante. The wineries are represented by importer Jose Pastor . Pastor has a knack for bringing to the U.S. some truly magnificent wines from areas like the Canaries and Galicia. The wineries he represents are mostly small outfits which keep an eye on tradition while blazing new trails. Things I heard often from these winemakers: very natural, no sulfur, unfiltered, local grapes. They are reaching out to the American wine drinker by making wine the way they always have. It's about time more people discovered that these folks don't need a re-invention. They seem to be doing everything right.
Following are my notes on the wines I tasted at Pourtal. As I am not extremely versatile in Spanish wines, it was a bit of a labor for me to get the information correct. If I have committed any errors, please feel free to correct me in the comments.
1 Bermejos Malvasia Seco 2009 - ($24) - Anna poured a white from Lanzarote, in the Canaries. It has a grassy nose, tastes crisp and dry with grapefruit and a nice acidity. 100% Malvasia.
2 Hermanos Peciña Crianza 2003 - ($20) - Pedro Peciña offered a Rioja Tempranillo with 2 years in oak instead of the one required. It has a beautiful violet nose with smooth and bright mouthfeel. Clove and coffee notes rest on big, fruity palate.
3 - Preto Picudo Tinto 2007 ($18) - Gregory showed a wine made from Preto Picudo, taken from 12-20 year-old vines. Clay soil on a 1000-meter plateau contributes to a Tierra de Leon terroir Gregory is particularly proud to call his. This Tinto gets three months in wood to calm the tannins. This is one of several wines featured that boast indiginous grapes not seen very much on these shores. It's a great summertime red which really tasted nice gently chilled. I can imagine how good it is with a lamb dish.
4 Guimaro B2M 2007 - ($45) - Pedro had the Ribeira Sacra covered, with a Mencia wine from Galicia. A lovely floral nose leads to some spice on the palate and a dark edge to the fruit.
5 Viñatigo Gual 2008 - ($24) - Elena poured an all-steel white with an extremely grassy nose and a big grapefruit taste from the volcanic soil of the Canary Islands.
6 Fronton de Oro Joven 2009 - ($18) - Pedro (there are three Pedros in the group) had an interesting blend of negra comon (I hope I have that right - the notes took a little wear and tear as the tasting went on) and Tintilla. The nose is a little tight, but some nice smokness comes through. It's a very dry wine; differently delicious.
7 Carballo Negramoll 2008 - ($20) - Eliseo poured his La Palma wine like it was the only one on earth. And like it deserved to be. The nose is a bit tight, but its very dark flavor was immense. Even so, it felt bright in my mouth.
8 Tacande 2006 - ($48) - Jose told me tacande means "volcanic soil." That's where the wonderful violet nose comes from. It's very dry and grippy with dark tones. the grapes in the blend are Babaso, Vijariego, Tintilla, Negramoll.
9 Primitivo Quiles Cono 4 2008 ($12) - Francisco was effusive about his 100% Monastrell (known elsewhere as mourvedre). It's a big local grape, as all the reds in Alicante must be at least 50% Monastrell.
10 Laureano Serres L'Abeueador 2008 ($25) - This wine is 100% macabeu. It is a very cloudy white with nice acidity and a big citrus palate. It hails from Tarragona, in northeast Spain.
11 Pedralonga Albariño 2008 - ($27) - Miguel was so apologetic that this was the only one of his wines he had to offer. He needn't have been. All steel, grapefruit and tropical flavors, it's one of the better Albariños I've had. From Galicia.
12 German Prada Galgueira Mencia 2009 - ($17) - This winemaker was absent from the event, but Miguel was kind enough to give me a taste. It's a dark and moody red from Valdeorras, Galicia.