Showing posts with label Graciano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Graciano. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Rioja Wines For The Choosy Among Us

From importer González Byass.

Bodegas Beronia is known for its Rioja Alta vineyards.  The winery was formed by several Basque friends who wanted to have just the right wine to go with their culinary get-togethers.  Now that's a bunch of choosy wine drinkers.  The beautiful state of the art revamp on the winery is only a couple of years old.  Winemaker Matías Calleja puts his signature on the label of each bottle.

The 2017 Beronia Reserva has three grape varieties in it, 95% Tempranillo, 4% Mazuelo and 1% Graciano.  The winery says that the vines are all more than 40 years old.  The wine was aged in oak barrels for eighteen months and in the bottle for another year and a half.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and the retail price is $25.

This is a dark wine,black cherry red but almost opaque.  Black fruit abounds on the nose, joined by notes of anise, mocha, cinnamon and clove.  The palate is jammy, with spices and herbs making themselves clearly known.  A savory aftertaste lingers on the long finish and the tannins are a bit toothy upon opening, so be sure to decant before serving.

The 2013 Beronia Gran Reserva is a blend of 97% Tempranillo and 3% Graciano grapes, from old vines.  The wine was aged for more than two years in French oak barrels and then another similar time frame in the bottle.  Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and the retail price is $30.

The nose offers black fruit - plums, currant, blackberries - and a savory spice and herb rack featuring pepper, anise, cinnamon, clove and sage.  On the palate, there's plenty of dark fruit and more savory touches.  The tannins are firm and the acidity is refreshing, while the finish lasts a good long while.  

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Monday, October 26, 2020

Winning Hand From Spain

A trusted importer is a great place to look for exceptional wines.  Ace Kicker Big Bet Blend is brought to us from Spain by Gonzalez Byass.  The wine is a six-grape mix designated as Vino de la Tierra, from Castilla.  The grapes are 34% Cabernet Franc, 27% Syrah, 15% Petit Verdot, 12% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano and 5% Garnacha.  The wine was aged for eight months in French and American oak barrels.  Alcohol hits 14% abv and the retail price is $15.

The importer says the wine was "born in Spain and raised in a casino," and that it pairs well with steaks and winning hands.

The quality level of Vino de la Tierra is a notch below the typical D.O. designation for Spanish wine.

This Spanish red blend is medium dark and has a nose that is loaded with red fruit, peppery herbs and smoke.  The fruit forward palate has eight months of oak showing and a firm set of tannins.  The flavors are deep and quite juicy.

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Monday, June 1, 2020

Brilliant Rioja Red Blend Priced Right

La Rioja, in northern Spain, is the oldest Denomination of Origin in the country.  It is also the coldest region in Spain, with an average high temperature of 68 degrees F.  The Ebro River Valley, surrounding mountains, cool climate - the arrow signs all say "Great Wine Region This Way."  Follow the signs.

It was Spanish wine that started my own interest in the broad spectrum of vino.  The juice of Rioja dragged a self-described "beer-only" guy into the wide world of wine after attending a tasting of Spanish wine on a lark.  I think about that tasting every time I have a glass of Rioja.

The Beronia Reserva 2015 is composed of three grapes - 95% Tempranillo, 4% Graciano and 1% Mazuelo.  Aging happened over a minimum of three years, in oak and the bottle.  Alcohol kicks in at 14.5% abv and the wine sells for about $20.

This very dark wine has such a rich nose it's almost enough just to smell it.  Almost.  Aromas of black currant and blueberries are colored up nicely by all the oak.  Clove and tobacco notes are sweet and - incredibly - not overpowering.  The palate is brawny and full of dark fruit.  It's loaded with minerals and acidity and firm tannins - just waiting for an unsuspecting ribeye to come along.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Rioja Red Blend Ages Well

Bodegas LAN takes its name from the first letters of the three provinces in the Rioja wine region: Logroño (now La Rioja), Álava and Navarra.  Founded in 1972, the winery sits in a bend of the Ebro River, where winemaker and technical director María Barúa and her team work with grapes grown on vines which are 40 to 60 years old.

The 2012 Lanciano Rioja Reserva was made using 90% Tempranillo grapes, 8% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo, all taken from a single estate vineyard.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks and reportedly aged for eight months in Russian oak barrels, another 14 months in French oak and yet another year and a half in the bottle.  Alcohol clicks in at 13.5% abv and the wine sells for less than $25.

This seven-year-old Rioja is showing black plums and leather on the nose, with equally dark and savory flavors on the palate. The tannins are no longer youthfully toothy, but still have enough bite to handle a ribeye steak.  The wine will also pair well with fall and winter stews.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Spanish Wine: Rioja To The Rescue

It was Spanish wine that started my own interest in the broad spectrum of vino.  It dragged a self-described "beer-only" guy into the wide world of wine after attending a tasting of Spanish wine on a lark.  I think about that tasting every time I have a glass of Rioja.

Under the umbrella of Bodegas González Byass, Bodegas Beronia operates sustainably in La Rioja as well as Rueda.  The 2013 Beronia Rioja Reserva was made from 95% Tempranillo grapes, 4% Graciano and a 1% dash of Mazuelo.  The wine was aged for three years, in French and American oak barrels and in the bottle.  Alcohol is pretty reasonable for Rioja, at 14% abv and it sells for about $20, not bad for a wine of this quality.

The Beronia Rioja Reserva is a dark garnet in the glass, with a nose of black cherries and plums, abetted by leather, vanilla and a nice oak spice.  The palate is rustic and savory, its age showing already.  Black fruit tangles with tobacco and earth notes.  There’s a good tannic structure and a lengthy, savory finish.  Pair it with pork, sausages and Manchego cheese.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Lopez De Haro Rioja Reserva

The Bodega Classica vineyards grow along the river Ebro in the Rioja village of San Vicente de La Sonsierra.  They are not endless stretches of green, but hard-scrabble, rocky soil which forces the plants to dig deep for their survival.  Along with the century-old vines are archeological remnants of winemaking which took place two-thousand years ago.  The property is topped off by a castle on a hill. 

This Rioja red is made from three grape varieties: 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha and 5% Graciano.  The aging took place over a year in French and American oak with additional time in the bottle.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv.

The 2013 Bodega Classica Lopez de Haro Reserva is medium dark in the glass.  The nose is aromatic with violets, cigars, ripe plums and earth.  On the palate, we find big, dark fruit, oak spice and a meaty black olive note.  Tannins are firm and the acidity is lively, so it's great to sip as well as to have it with some steak.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Spanish Wine Comes To L.A.

The Familia Martínez Bujanda winery was established in 1889. Today, it's run by Carlos Martínez Bujanda and his sister Pilar. The family has estate vineyards in Rioja, La Mancha and Rueda. I recently had the great fortune to meet Marta Bujanda, Pilar's eldest daughter and the first of the fifth generation to join the family business.

Marta is the export manager, an important position for a wine producer which sells 70% of its wine abroad. Marta came to Los Angeles to pour her wines for a few wine scribes like me, Anthony Dias Blue and Brett Anderson. A swingin' night out with that crew may sound like a full-on vacation, (pause for chuckles) but Marta was in work mode. She enjoyed herself, it was clear, but I believe that had less to do with table mates and more to do with the chance to expound on her family's wines.

The Bujanda wines poured at dinner - at Michael's in Santa Monica - were all single-vineyard wines, driven by their respective terroir. From Rioja, there are the Viña Bujanda and the Finca Valpiedra wines, from Rueda comes the Finca Montepedroso line and out of La Mancha are the wines of Finca Antigua.

I got to the restaurant a little early and had the chance to enjoy a drink from Michael's bar. I opened with a barrel-aged Martinez, 47 day.  It's gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino, angostura and orange bitters with a lemon twist. It has a lovely cherry red color, and flavors of black cherry, herbs, citrus and vanilla spice. For this cocktail, it should be Christmas.

Here are my impressions of the wines poured during the dinner.

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2009 - A Tempranillo from Rioja, made by winemaker Lauren Rosillo. It's a Graciano and Maturana blend. Great tannic grip, beautiful fruit, savory notes. This is the steak wine. $40

Cantos de Valpiedra 2013 - 100% Tempranillo from Rioja.  Perfumed and delicious. Smooth, with 22 months on oak.

Viña Bujanda Gran Reserva 2010 - 100% Tempranillo from Rioja, fermented in steel and aged 24 months in French and American oak, 39 months in the bottle. Smooth, helluva 30 dollar wine.

Vina Bujanda Crianza 2014 - All Tempranillo from Rioja. It spent a year in American and French oak. Grapes from 20-60 year-old vines. Red fruit and vanilla spice, beautiful with the Bronzini.

Finca Antigua 2013 - Cabernet Sauvignon from La Mancha. $10. Here's where you do a double-take. Response at the table was "Ten buncks? Get out!" Fresh and fruity. Fermented in steel, aged 10 months in new French oak. Great structure.

Finca Antigua 2016 - 100% Viura from old La Mancha vines. Grapefruit nose, flavors of distinct earth and citrus. Very savory white wine. Spent five months on lees.

Finca Montepedroso 2016 - 100% Verdejo from the Rueda vineyard named for its "mountain of stones." Grapefruit and lime, less savory than the Viura, but just a little. 2500-foot elevation vineyard planted in 1980. Five month on lees.

Both whites age well, according to Marta, over 12 years at least. Virua is the better ager, she says, and it even picks up some petrol notes with age.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Setting The World On Fire With Wine

John and Karl Giguiere set fire to things in their younger years - matchbooks, their father’s wheat fields - and now they look to blaze into the world of California wine. Let’s hope their arsonist tendencies have abated, so they don't burn down the vineyards.

Matchbook Tinto Rey 2012

50% Tempranillo, 27% Syrah, 11% Petit Verdot, 8% Graciano and 4% Tannat, grown in their estate vineyards "east of Napa, left of center" - Zamora, CA, to be specific - make this blend bold and robust, with an easy-to-swallow price tag of $17. Eighty-five percent of the grapes come from Dunnigan Hills, while the rest is labeled as California. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wines are aged 26 months in French, American and Hungarian oak and hits 13.9% abv.

This 2012 red blend is inky in the glass and expressive on the nose. Black fruit and oak are what are most notably expressed, with the fruit running second to the vanilla, clove, cinnamon, tobacco and cedar. Must be the 26 months in oak. The palate is brawny and dark, with savory flavors barging into the profile.

Pair Tinto Rey with anything meaty, and the meatier the better. For a more lighthearted suggestion, try it with chocolate cake or your favorite dark chocolate bar.

Matchbook Arsonist Red 2012

A tribute to Prometheus, who gave fire to mankind, this wine is a Bordeaux blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, California AVA. Arsonist is aged for 28 months in French, American and European oak, with alcohol at 13.8% abv and a retail price of $22.

The Petit Verdot comes from Dunnigan Hills, the Cab is principally from Sonoma County’s Chalk Hill appellation and the Merlot is from Lake County.

The 52% Petit Verdot comes from Matchbook’s Dunnigan Hills estate vineyard, the 24% Cabernet Sauvignon is taken mostly from Sonoma County’s Chalk Hills area, while the 24% Merlot hails from Lake County. Production was 2,878 cases, the wine hits an alcohol mark of 13.8% abv and retail pricing is $22.

The nose is big and fruity, with a dark, spicy smoke on it. A fruit-forward palate follows, with notes of sage, anise, coffee and a bit of graphite. Nice tannic grip means fire up the grill, and the finish sings of blackberry and nutmeg.

Pairing options include any kind of red meat, but a pork loin would do nicely, too. Lamb chops, beef stew, roasted vegetables - they will all complement the wine in fine fashion.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Wines Of El Dorado

Less than an hour northeast of Sacramento - close to Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Foothills - Northern California's El Dorado AVA has vineyards at a high elevation, microclimates and granitic soils to define their terroir.  The region's roots go back to California's Gold Rush era in the mid-19th century, but as gold fever waned, so did El Dorado’s wine trade.  What phylloxera didn’t kill, Prohibition did.  It would be 1972 before the rebirth of the area started and another decade before El Dorado would be given official status as an AVA, an American Viticultural Area..

There are now over 60 wineries in El Dorado producing wines made mainly from Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Rhône grape varieties.  Vineyards in El Dorado benefit from the cooling effect of the ocean breezes that are channeled up the Carquinez Strait.  These breezes, along with the altitude, help produce the diurnal swing that brings the warm temperatures of the afternoon down by as much as 50 degrees.

I received samples of a half dozen El Dorado wines for the purpose of this article, and all six were produced in the eastern portion of El Dorado, where the elevation is at its highest.  The western border of the AVA sits 1,200 above sea level, while the eastern boundary is around 3,500 feet high.

Mount Aukum Winery

The top line on the Mount Aukum Winery website reads, "Elevation Matters."  At 2,615 feet above California's Central Valley, they say their Zinfandel vines grow "between outcroppings of crumbling granite in a perfect world for wine grapes - a little red dirt here, a rocky drainage there - what the experts call "Holland Series", thirty-six inches deep."  Like other wineries in the Fair Play sub-region, they rely on ground water to make their grapes grow.  Michael Prod'hon turns that fruit into wine.

Mount Aukum’s 2009 El Dorado Zinfandel has a brawny 15.7% abv number, reflecting the ripeness of the grapes.  They made 542 cases and the wine retails for $26.

This medium-dark Zin carries a nose worth noting.  It's huge - plummy and laden with black cherry.  All sorts of spice aromas leap out, from clove to vanilla to allspice to sage.  A gorgeous caramel note comes out just as I drop to one knee.  This is one of those wines I could just sit and smell all evening.  The palate is just as explosive, bursting with big, ripe cherries and plums, toothy tannins and ripping acidity.  Brawny is an understatement.

There is an elegance to the wine, but that white glove goes hand in hand with one made from rough leather.  The refined essence of the Zin is carried in a rustic straw basket.  It’s a great way to experience California’s heritage grape.

Jodar Vineyards

Specializing in Bordeaux and Italian grape varieties, Jodar Vineyards also produces a Zinfandel from among the pines of the Sierra Foothills, in the sub-region of Apple Hill.  Vaughn and Joni Jodar's steep, terraced vineyard sits at an altitude of 2,400 feet, overlooking the American River canyon.

The Jodar 2009 Zinfandel is aged for 24 months, hits an alcohol number of 14.7% and sells for $24 per stylish bottle.  That 14.7% may seem high by some standards, but after sampling the Mount Aukum Zin, it comes off as positively tame.

It has slightly less perfumed aromas than the Mount Aukum, but still brings forth a potent bouquet.  Oak spice in the form of vanilla and cinnamon present a beautiful cover for the brambly cherry notes.  The palate shows a dusty, sagebrush essence and firm tannins.  The fruit flavors last a long time and turn a little towards raspberry on the finish.  This Zinfandel's rustic side is up front, so it really feels like the frontier.

Miraflores Winery

Victor and Cheryl Alvarez own the 254-acre spread, of which 40 acres are planted to grapes.  The hillside vineyards lie at elevations from 2,500 to 3,000 feet in the Pleasant Valley sub-region of the El Dorado AVA.  Winemaker Marco Capelli makes wine from these vineyards, as well as from his own.

The Miraflores 2010 Méthode Ancienne Syrah retails for $25 and brings in an alcohol content of only 13.5% - extremely low for this AVA.  The ancient method on the label refers to the foot stomping the grapes receive to free their juices.  Shades of "I Love Lucy" come to mind.

The wine colors up as a deep ruby in the glass and shows a nose of blackberry, blueberry, cherry and vanilla spice.  The palate comes forth with dark fruit - blackberry and black plum in the forefront.  Really fine tannins and a brilliant acidity make for a wonderful mouthfeel, and the flavors head toward the tart side on the finish.

Madroña Vineyards

Located in the Apple Hill sub-region, winemaker Paul Bush works the Madroña Vineyard the way his family has done since 1973.  That's virtually the stone age for the El Dorado AVA.  His father - who started the whole thing - and his brother, and all the wives, are involved with the winery as well.

Two other family vineyards - Enyé and Sumu-Kaw - are in the Pleasant Valley area.  The 3,000 foot elevation of the estate was once the highest altitude for a vineyard in California.  Altogether, 26 grape varieties are planted on the property.

Madroña's 2010 Signature Cabernet Franc has a fairly dark garnet tint in the glass and a nose full of dark fruit and spices.  Black cherry and blackberry aromas turn into the corresponding flavors on the palate.  The nose also sports a good portion of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, while the flavor profile features a great slice of El Dorado dirt.  At 14.5% abv, it's not the strongest quaff in El Dorado, but the grip is good, the acidity is first-rate and the tannins are steak-worthy.

Boeger Winery 

The Boeger Winery estate was a vineyard site during California's Gold Rush and eked through Prohibition by producing sacramental wine.  Most of the vines were uprooted in favor of orchards through the years, but some of today's vines date back to the 1800s.  Greg and Sue Boeger are pioneers of the El Dorado AVA’s modern era.  They set up shop in the Apple Hill region in 1972.  The winery's website says Boeger was "one of the state's first producers of a varietal Merlot when it was virtually unheard of in California.  Today he is a pioneer of innovative blends, drawing from over twenty-nine varieties of grapes grown at the estate."

The Boeger Milagro Reserve 2009 is made of 91% Graciano, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Tempranillo.  It's part of Boeger's M series, which tips the hat to old world wine regions.  Graciano and Tempranillo are both big figures in Spanish wine.  The wine clocks in at 14.5% alcohol and it retails for $25.

The Milagro is as black as ink in the glass with dark, earthy aromas and flavors and a brawny tannic structure.  Blackberry and brown sugar dominate the nose, while the palate is a riot of raspberry, blackberry and oak spice.  A peppery vanilla note rings on the finish.  This wine spent 30 months aging in barrels, and it wears that oak effect well.

Lava Cap Winery 

The Jones family - geologists by trade - liked the volcanic soil of this spot in the Apple Hill area so much, they literally put down roots on the early 1980s.   Winemaker Tom Jones went to his Granite Hill vineyard for his Petite Sirah.

Lava Cap’s 2010 Petite Sirah uses 75% Petite Sirah grapes, 19.5% Grenache, 4% Merlot and 1.5% Barbera for the old-world blend done in new world terroir.  The Lava cap Petite Sirah stands at 14.9% abv and is quite dark in the glass, an inky purple hue.  Aromas of blueberry, vanilla spice and a lovely cedar note define the nose, while the palate shows ripe berries and plums, black and white pepper and tobacco.  Fine tannins and a brilliant acidity finish off the experience nicely.  It's a really astounding wine, but be forewarned - it's big, brawny and very masculine.  Pair it with any kind of grilled meat.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Spanish Wine: Rioja

The wines of Spain's Rioja region are varied and always a delight.  From crisp, young whites to fresh rosados to bright and cheery young reds and those with some age and oak influence, the wines of Rioja never fail to impress while showing off their terroir.

The Rioja region lies between mountain ranges in the north-central part of Spain and is separated into three main sub-regions, Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa.  Tempranillo is the main red grape, although you will often see Graciano, Garnacha (Grenache) and Mazuelo.  For white wines, Viura is popular, with Malvasia playing a supporting role.

Tempranillo wines are defined four different ways.  Cosecha are young wines, one or two years old.  Crianza wines are in at least their third year, with a minimum of one year in oak.  Reserva wines are aged a minimum of three years, two for whites, with at least one in oak.  Gran Reserva refers to selected wines from great vintages.  They have spent at least two years in oak and three in the bottle.  Whites are aged at least four years. It may sound a little complicated, but the system defines the wines of Rioja well.

Not only do Rioja wines have a generally high level of quality, but they deliver it at very affordable prices.  Most of the wines I will mention here are in the $10 to $20 range.  A few went as high as $30, and some are under $10.

Here are some of the standouts I tasted at a Rioja tasting sponsored by Vibrant Rioja at Fleming's Steakhouse in Beverly Hills on May 7th, 2013.

It's not a Rioja tasting without a stop at the Lopez de Heredia table.  WineWise had these, and the whites are simply outstanding.  The Viña Gravonia Crianza Blanco 2003 is 100% Viura and has four years in the barrel and four in the bottle.  The Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva 1998 has six years in the barrel and is 90% Viura.  These well-aged whites are really unbelievable.

Ole Imports, distributed by Angeles Wine, had two fresh wines by Cortijo.  The 2012 Rosado is all Tempranillo with brilliant acidity while the 2011 Tinto has 20% Garnacha thrown in, with only three months in oak.  Field blend fans should take note of the El Brozal 2010 - roughly 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and 10% Garnacha, grown together in the 1938 vineyard and co-fermented.  There is an intriguing, savory nose and fabulous acidity.  The VSL Graciano 2010 - the only 100% Graciano I saw at the event - is savory.  It is fermented in concrete and spends only three months in oak.

I found Undiscovered Wines in the far corner of the room.  Rodriguez Sanzo's Lacrimus 5 is all unoaked Tempranillo, fresh and juicy, while their Lacrimus Rex blends Garnacha and Graciano for a dark, vibrant red that was one of my favorites.  The Zinio Garnacha is lovely - a bit more savory than I expected - and the fruity, funky nose of the Heredad Garblo Crianza mixes four red grapes - Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano.

Importer CIV USA had some excellent wines from Conde de Valdemar.  Their Sierra Cantabria Blanco 2011 is 100% Viura, aged three to five months in French oak.  It has a distinctive floral aspect on both the nose and palate.  Their 2011 Rosado is a pink-tinted blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, from vines pushing 70 years old.  Great acidity is the highlight, with an herbal strand and a nice touch of oak.  Their Crianza 2008 has an exceptional nice oak effect and a savory side that dominates.

Dinastia Vivanco Blanco 2012 is a mix of Viura, Malvasia and White Tempranillo.  The pourer told me, with a laugh, that the last grape is nothing like White Zinfandel.  It is a natural mutation of the red Tempranillo grape and was not discovered until 1988.  This wine displays a huge streak of citrus.  Their Rosado 2012 is Tempranillo and Garnacha, showing a garden of strawberry.  The Vivianco Crianza 2008 has lively, young fruit while their Vivianco Reserva 2005 is a mature blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha.

From Fine Estates of Spain, Jorge Ordonez Portfolio, comes a nearly perfect Sierra Cantabria Rosado 2012, with strawberry, cherry and fantastic acidity in the Tampranillo/Garnacha/Viura blend.  They also poured the Finca Allende Blanco 2009, a 90% Viura/10% Malvasia mix.  The nutty, floral nose anticipates a great, savory palate.

Folio Wine had the unbelievably refreshing Palacio Remondo Placet Valtomelloso 2011.  This unoaked Viura wine has fruit all over the nose and an herbal touch on the palate.  The Palacio Remondo La Montessa 2009 is a Garnacha/Tempranillo blend - heavy on the Garnacha - which spends 18 months in oak, yet is still light, bright and refreshing.  The Artadi Vinas de Gain 2009 is a savory 100% Tempranillo wine.

Frederick Wildman &Co. Splashed a nice white, the El Coto Blanco 2012 - 100% Viura aged in steel with a sweet, floral nose.  Also unoaked is the El Coto Rosado 2012, all Tempranillo with lovey strawberry and herbal flavors.  The fruit-forward red, El Coto de Imaz Reserva 2005, makes a great everyday wine.  The Baron de Lay Gran Reserva 2004 has dusty fruit and great tannic structure.

Grape Expectations Imports poured the Bodegas Lan D-12 2009, a light and delicious Tempranillo.
Vinos Libres Wine Merchants splashed a taste of the Luis Alegre Koden Semi-Crianza 2010.  Not an official designation, the importer calls it semi-Crianza due to its six months in oak.  It is an elegant and savory Tempranillo.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Vinos Unico - Bodegas Ochoa, Robledo Family Winery

Vinos Unico is a wine importer and distributor which deals in wines from Spain, Portugal, Argentina and California.  Their people poured a smattering of the wines they represent recently at the Port4lio tasting in Culver City, California.  I was particularly taken with the wines of two producers who were there to pour their own wines themselves.

Bodegas Ochoa came all the way from Navarra, Spain to promote their wines in the US.  Javier and Ariana Ochoa are the father/daughter winemaking team, while Ariana’s sister Beatriz (left) graced the Ochoa table at this event.  Beatriz told me that her sister represents the young side of the family business, but assured me her father needed no help in thinking young himself.

Ochoa Mdo Moscato “de Aguja” 2011 - This 100% Muscatel wine bears Ariana’s signature.  It records a low, low 5% abv number, has a very floral nose and a lovely, sweet palate.  Hard to see how anyone could pass up this sweet sparkler.

Ochoa Blanco 2011 - A white blend of 70% Viura and 30% Chardonnay.  Uncharacteristically sweet-smelling for a Viura, with a fruity and floral palate.

Ochoa Rosado 2011 - This rosé is 100% Garnacha which saw only 8-10 hours of skin contact, but a very deep pink color resulted nonetheless.  It’s quite fresh and lively.

Ochoa Tinto 2010 - There’s no oak in this 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha.  The nose and palate both show clean, fresh cherry notes, with a bright acidity in the mouth.

Ochoa Crianza 2008 - A young, 100% Tempranillo wine displays great use of oak.  Lovely cherry and strawberry abound.

Ochoa Mil Gracias 2008 - All Graciano grapes here, and not surprisingly it’s the one wine on the table that best fits the description "old world."  A very savory and spicy flavor profile is a winner.

Robledo Family Winery of Sonoma Valley boasts 400 acres of vineyards scattered across Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties in Northern California.

Luis Robledo poured the wines of Reynaldo Robledo, who started working with vines in the 1960s.  His thirty-year path from immigrant field worker to successful vineyard manager to vineyard and winery owner is a testament to his tenacity and a source of much pride for his family.

Brut Cuvée 2008 - Los Carneros fruit - 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay - produces a toasty nose with a palate full of apples and pears.  It’s a multiple gold medal winner.

Seven Brothers 2009 - Lake County Sauvignon Blanc named for the male Robledo siblings (Luis Robledo is one of 9 kids, seven of them brothers.)  The nose bears a slight grass aroma, with grapefruit leading the charge of fruit on the palate.  Nice acidity and a tangerine finish leave me wanting another taste.  (By the way, the girls already have a wine named after them.)

Los Braceros Red Blend 2006 - The fruit here hails from Sonoma Valley.  The blend includes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  Black cherry and plum flavors are framed in a smoky, earthy setting.

El Rey Red Hills 2006 - Lake County is the source for the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in this one.  Earth and graphite show amid plum and blackberry, all delivered in a nice cigar box aroma.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bokisch Wines

When you get a chance to sample wine with the winemaker, jump on it. Markus and Liz Bokisch were pouring their offerings recently at a couple of places in Los Angeles, and I caught up with them at 3Twenty South Wine Lounge on La Brea - 320 South La Brea, in fact.

Bokisch Vineyards specializes in Spanish grape varieties grown in their vineyards in Lodi, California.  Markus explains that while he was born and raised in California, he visited family in Spain quite often as a child, and formed a love of Spanish wines there.  "As kids, we were given wine with water added at meals. As we got older, there was less and less water included.  By the time we were grown, it was all wine."

"After Liz and I were married, we moved to Spain and worked in the wine industry there for a while.  We came back to California and searched for vineyard land, stopping in Lodi because it reminded us of Spain.  Also, the Spanish varieties grow well there."

Liz and Markus are an easy-going and friendly pair, and they were both happy to talk to those of us who came for the tasting.  Liz told an interesting story about the evolution of their Garnacha Blanca.  "The first vintage was way over the top," she said, "with over 15% alcohol content and a full body like a Viognier.  It wasn't a bad wine, if that's what you want, but it wasn't varietally correct.  We were taking the grapes based on how they tasted off the vine.  It took several vintages for us to learn to trust the brix and take the fruit at the right time, so we'd have it like we wanted it."  

Markus spoke of his attempts at blending his Garnacha and Graciano wines.  "That didn't work out," he explained, "because both of those grapes like to fight for territory.  They just don't match up when you try and blend them together, so we kept them apart, which is how they like it."

Bokisch Vineyard is a very small production winery, making less than 2000 cases per year in total.  The groundwork for expansion is being laid, though.  Recent new hire Kenny Stetson is now the cellarmaster, freeing Liz and Markus to focus on the winemaking responsibilities.

The couple is looking forward to pouring their wines at the annual tasting event of the Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society, in San Francisco on June 9, 2012.  TAPAS is a non-profit organization devoted to Iberian varieties.  If you plan on attending, I heartily recommend you make sure to stop at the Bokisch table.

Here are the Bokisch wines I tried at this tasting event:

2011 Albariño, Terra Alta Vineyard - A very lively nose of citrus, especially grapefruit, leaps forward.  The palate shows great acidity, lovely zest and lemon lime notes with a touch of grapefruit

2011 Garnacha Blanca, Vista Luna Vineyard - The wine was served a bit too cold, and as a result the nose tight.  Again, there's a great acidity and a zesty, tropical fruit finish.

2009 Tempranillo, Liberty Oaks Vineyard - Super ripe cherries on the nose with a big palate of cherry, blackberry and plum with an amazing tannic structure and yet again - fabulous acidity.  3Twenty owner and sommelier Edgar Poureshagh told me he had decanted the Tempranillo for a couple of hours because "the tannins were rippin'."

2009 Garnacha, Terra Alta Vineyard - Blackberry, cherry, smoke and earth.

2007 Graciano Terra Alta Vineyard - A low yielding, late ripening grape, this Lodi Graciano has a nose that's dense and rich, and very earthy.  Big tannins can't hide the dark, earthy chocolate and black cherry notes on the palate.

2009 Graciano, Las Crezas Vineyard - This one shows a huge chocolate nose, with big tannins and a lovely black cherry finish.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Vibrant Rioja Recap

I wrote earlier about the Vibrant Rioja tasting event in Los Angeles, focusing on the Lopez de Heredia wines.  Here are some of the other taste treats I discovered at the tasting.

Faustino had two wines I liked a lot. The Crianza '07 andReserva Cinco 2005 both show dense dark noses with earthy fruit.  They taste just as rich as the nose leads me to believe they will. The Faustino Gran Reserva '98 is aging well and showing a trace of eucalyptus.

Big flavors came from the Beronia table. The '07 Tempranillo (100%), '07 Crianza of Tempranillo and Garnacha and the '06 Reserva of Tempranillo and Graciano offer big, mineral-driven cherry flavors.  The '01 Gran Reserva shows more depth, having been aged three years in barrels and three years in bottles.  It blends Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo.  Beronia's III a.C. '04 is described as a "Super Rioja," blending Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes.  Pepper, leather and tobacco notes adorn the cherry fruit.

Antano's '09 Viura was one of my favorites, a nutty white with great acidity.  The Conde de Valdemar Rosé impresses me quite a bit - one of the better $6 wines I've tried.  CdV Inspiracion Valdemar 2007 shows a lovely bright cherry flavor.  It's 100% Graciano.

Bodeagas Landaluce poured some great wines, in particular the Tempranillo with the mocha nose and the Capricho de Landaluce '05.  The latter is all smokey and lush, and it's one of the more expensive wines at the event, with a $47 price tag.

Castillo Labastida's '08 Madurado is rustic and full of minerals, while their Reserva 2004 gives a nose and palate full of succulent black cherry.

Navarrsotillo's Noemus Rioja Blanco '09 makes a huge tropical play, Noemus Rioja Rosado '09 is a 100% Garnacha rosé and the Noemus Rioja Tinto '08 blends Tempranillo with Garnacha and Mazuelo.  It has a huge fruit expression.  All three of those wines deliver a lot for under $10 each.  Spend a little more - $19 - for the Magister Bibendi Rioja Reserva 2005 and you get a great red wine with fantastic tannins and no bite.