Showing posts with label Iberian grapes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iberian grapes. Show all posts

Friday, May 5, 2017

E Is For España

Locations is an experiment of place for winemaker Dave Phinney, of Orin Swift fame. It's his attempt at making wine a country-wide effort. At first, I wasn’t on board with the philosophy. Specific locations are important because of what they are, where they are, why they are. After sampling through a few "letters," I'm on board.

Yes, the letters. These wines are labeled only with a big letter or two, depicting the place of origin - F for France, P for Portugal, I for Italy, TX for Texas. Yes, he sources grapes from Texas. The wines are bottled at the Locations headquarters in Spain. Or, in this case, España.

E is the fourth release of the Locations wine from the Iberian locale. Phinney uses Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell (Mourvèdre) and Cariñena (Carignane) grapes grown all over the Peninsula. The locations for this wine include Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja and Ribera Del Duero. Grapes from low-yielding, old vines, assure that the aromas and flavors are concentrated.

Carrying alcohol at 14.5% abv, the wine was aged in barrels for ten months. It retails for around 20 bucks.

Aromas of currant produce an elegant first whiff of this incredibly dark wine. Layer in some tobacco, pepper and sweet oak and you have a nose worth remembering. It brings to mind great wines I’ve had from the varied regions, er, locations of Spain. The sip is lush with black fruit, and spiced with white pepper, mocha and a hint of vanilla. There is enough tannic grip here to tame a steak right off the grill.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Moruno: Spanish Wine, Food And A Little SBC Vermouth

"Get something you've never tried before," said my wife as we scanned the wine list at Moruno, the Spanish restaurant in L.A.'s Original Farmers Market. It’s a great place, with delightful Spanish dishes and an adventurous wine list that leans heavily in the Iberian direction.

Since most of the plates we get there are new to me, it makes sense to go with a grape that’s under my radar as well. Hondarribi Beltza, f’rinstance. I have heard of Hondarribi's white counterpart, but was unfamiliar with the red version. It comes from a place called Bizkaiko.

Located in Spain's Basque Country, on the nation’s north coast, the Bizkaiko Txakolina region is a collection of more than 80 little communities all growing wine grapes. They make Txakoli wine largely from the white Hondarrabi Zuri grape. This wine is made from the less common red grape, Hondarribi Beltza, grown primarily in the coastal town of Bakio.

Gorrondona Bizkaiko Txakolina Hondarribi Beltza 2015

The waitress at Moruno offered the red Basque wine, and I could not resist. The wine's nose brings dark fruit layered with black olive and bell pepper. Its palate is just as savory, with some earthy blackberry in the balance.

The red Txakoli wine was great with the artichokes a la plancha - salty, caramelized exterior with a tender inner.  The music that was playing in the restaurant during our meal got high praise from my wife - big Eddie Kendricks fan.

But Wait, There's More...

I hate to relegate this to a postscript, but I asked for a taste of a vermouth that Moruno has on the menu. It's made by Steve Clifton of Lompoc's Palmina Wines and comes in both red and white. It's on tap in the restaurant from five-gallon kegs. The label images come from Palmina's Twitter feed.

The organic Vermina vermouth is a collaboration between Clifton and L.A. restaurateur David Rosoff. It’s part of Rosoff’s effort to bring European bistro dining to Southern California. Clifton reportedly digs around himself in Santa Barbara County to find the herbs he uses in the vermouth. According to the L.A. Weekly, the white vermouth is a blend of pinot grigio and malvasia wines, while the  red vermouth adds a touch of Sangiovese for its color.

It has a nose of violets and botanicals and shows wonderful freshness on the palate with a strawberry flavor that is carried along by the slightly medicinal notes of the botanicals.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Grapes From Spain In L.A. Taster

Spanish wine is good no matter where it comes from. I should say, wine made with Spanish grape varieties is good all over, especially when the grapes are Tempranillo.

A recent Los Angeles tasting event for TAPAS – Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society – was a hit, hosted by the great L.A. wine educator Ian Blackburn of WineLA.

In case you are unaware, TAPAS is "a nonprofit trade association of wineries, growers, and amigos, whose mission is to promote Tempranillo and other varietal wine grapes native to the Iberian Peninsula, and wines produced from them in North America." The group has been around since 2006, doing their best to raise awareness of these food-friendly wines.

An invitation was kindly extended to me, and here are a few of the wineries that were poured for me at the event.  The trade session I attended was held at Republique, while the public session that evening was at La Brea Bakery.

Lake County
Six Sigma Ranch and Winery - Winemaker Matt Hughes said that despite his Lake County estate’s  "hot, dry, weather and volcanic soil, it’s hard to get fruit overripe." The reserve Tempranillo is dark and delicious, while the Cab/Tempranillo blend has bright red fruit.

Napa Valley
Irwin Family Vinetyards - These wines are made by Derek Irwin with grapes grown in the Sierra Foothills.  The '14 Verdejo has a huge green apple component in a wash of savory notes.  The Tempranillo and Tempranillo blends make great steak wines, with grips like an arm wrestler.

St. Amant Winery - Stuart Spencer's Amador County wines are delightful. The '14 Verdelho is all steely grapefruit, while the '13 Touriga is big and juicy.  The '13 Tempranillo has chewy tannins and a long finish, while his NV Tawny is viscous and Madeira-like.

Central Coast
Verdad Wines - Louisa Sawyer Lindquist poured her '15 Edna Valley Albariño, which is laden with the chalky limestone soil of the EV. It’s floral, it’s savory, it has wet rocks and citrus and it’s well worth checking out.

Monterey County
Pierce Ranch Vineyards - Showing off their newly-established AVA, the San Antonio Valley, it's more like Paso Robles than Monterey, where it is the southernmost property. Their oak/steel Albariño is vibrant, while the unoaked version shows dramatic salinity. Oak leaves a big vanilla mark on the '14 Verdelho while the Tempranillo, Touriga and Graciano deal out a nice mix of leather and flowers.

Santa Barbara County
Longoria Wines - Rick Longoria poured two excellent Tempranillo blends, one with Grenache and another with Merlot, a spot of Syrah in each.  The Santa Ynez Valley offerings put forth some beautiful floral tones and a wild savory kick that I just love.


Abacela Earl Jones’ Umpqua Valley wines included the '13 Albariño, with its beautifully floral nose and salinity on the palate.  Their '12 Port-style wine shows big fruit and is very sweet, using five Portuguese grape varieties.

RoxyAnn Winery - Kent Barthman’s Rogue Valley Tempranillo 2012 is masculine with big red fruit on the nose and a wonderful, savory finish.

Texas Fine Wines poured four wonderful Tempranillos that show just how far the Texas wine industry has come. From Brennan Vineyards’ rich and smoky finish to the juicy, ripeness of Pedernales Cellars, to the delicious oak expression of Bending Branch Winery’s High Plains Tempranillo to the Riojaesque savoriness of Spicewoods Vineyards, Texas winemakers have found a grape they can call their own.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo 2012

Markus and Liz Bokisch took one look at Lodi and fell in love with it.  The property they bought reminded both of them of their respective family origins, and more to the point, reminded Markus of his childhood summers visiting family in Spain.  Their focus on Iberian grape varieties is the result of these family memories, we are all the richer for it.

The whole story was explained to me by the happy couple on a visit to Los Angeles, during which they poured their wines for an event at Edgar Poureshagh’s 3Twenty Wine Lounge.  They don’t know how to play it cool, fortunately.  Their love of wine and passion for making it is apparent in every story they tell.

Hailing from the Jahant and Mokelumne River AVAs, the 2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo is a tale of two vineyards and two different soil types.  Liberty Oaks and Las Cerezas vineyards sport volcanic clay loam and silty loam, in which the twelve-year-old vines grow.  Consisting of 90% Duero clone Tempranillo grapes, a 10% splash of the prized Bokisch Graciano grapes are thrown in at no extra charge, "in the tradition of the Rioja."

The back label shows that, "Like its Iberian counterpart in the Ribera del Duero, this wine displays luscious aromas of cherry and cassis, finishing with hints of cocoa and spice."  I was supplied a sample of this wine for the purpose of review.

Aging occurs over a period of 18 months in French and American oak barrels and the wine's alcohol content is 14.5% abv.  685 cases were produced, and the suggested retail price is $23.  Bokisch Vineyards is certified green for sustainable wine growing practices by the Lodi Rules Program.

The Bokisch Tempranillo is medium dark, allowing just enough light through the glass to outline the fingers holding it.  Its nose is very Rioja, with cherry and blackberry paving a path for some really great oak spice - aromas of an old baseball glove and a half a box of cigars hit me quickly.  Clove, nutmeg and some extremely delicious savory notes follow.  The palate brings very dark fruit and more of that savory action with plenty of oak effect showing here, too.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bonny Doon Vineyard Albariño Central Coast 2013

Spring is taking its dear, sweet time about settling in this year.  Earlier this month I was still noticing baseball umpires wearing heavy jackets and gloves in Chicago.  Of course, in Chicago that might be considered routine.  The coldest baseball game I ever attended was in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend.  My eternal gratitude goes out to the nice folks who sat next to me.  They brought an extra blanket.  And to the hot chocolate machine.  It was way too cold for a beer.

Here in Los Angeles, spring comes and goes all year long.  Summer has already started trying to crowd its way in.  The tourists in rented convertibles are starting to look like they aren’t freezing with the top down.  Whether your spring is swinging, or you need some help really feeling it, an Albrariño just might do the trick.

Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyard has a recently released Albariño that is perfect for spring, and several other seasons, too.

Yes, the iconic “Rhône Ranger” also works his magic with the Iberian grape variety.  To hear him describe his minimal intervention winemaking, though, you get the impression there’s no magic involved.  You  may even think he simply throws some grapes in a tub, sits doon, waits a while and puts on a screw cap.  That’s not true, though.  Mr. Grahm has a machine which puts on the screw caps.

The Bonny Doon website offers a brief intro to Albariño:  “Until 1989 Albariño was one of the rarest wine varieties in the world, rarely glimpsed outside the Iberian Peninsula. Since that time, this light yet vibrant white grape has become a darling of wine geeks worldwide with its preternatural ability to pair with all types of seafood, cheese and salty dishes.”

The grapes for the 2013 Bonny Doon Albariño are Central Coast fruit, all Albariño.  73% of the grapes were grown in Kristy Vineyard in the Salinas Valley while the other 27% are from Edna Valley’s Jespersen Ranch.  Grahm notes that both sites are windy and cool during the summer.

The wine’s alcohol content of 13.2% makes it a perfect choice for spring and summer refreshment.  To paraphrase the brewer’s old ad copy, it’s a great wine for "when you’re having more than one."  Production was 1,592 cases and the wine retails for $18.

Pale straw in color with just a hint of green tint, the wine looks slightly frizzante in the glass.  A ring of small bubbles cling to the rim.  One sniff brings springtime into full focus.  A floral note of hibiscus mingles with peaches, pears and citrus mineral notes.  The palate shows some very nice mineral-laden salinity riding herd over the peach and lemon peel flavors.  There’s boat load of acidity, so the wine is completely refreshing.  It's also a great food wine.  Look for some Thai food or shellfish to make it really sing.

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