Friday, May 11, 2012
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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Thursday, May 13, 2010
I went expecting nothing more than a smorgasbord of Spanish wines. I came away with a greater understanding of some grape varieties that had been a mystery to me, and a lesson on terroir, or in this case, terruño that surprised and informed me.
Great Match 2010 - Vivacious Varietals, Tantalizing Tastes - was held on May 12 in Los Angeles at The Bazaar/SLS by José Andrés. It's a big room for a big event. Just off to the left after entering the restaurant, the large space is elegant, with huge mirrors on both ends of the room. Twenty-three tables were arranged throughout to accommodate all the wineries and importers who were pouring. There were so many wines represented there, I didn't get a chance to sample at every table. Nevertheless, I stayed busy.
While I am a fan of Spanish wines - it was a Spanish wine tasting that initially piqued my interest in learning more about wine - I do not have an encyclopedic knowledge base on the subject. I was looking forward to a tasty learning experience, and that's what I got. I was able to experience wines from the Priorat region, grape varieties like Maturana, Bobal and Monastrell, an unbelievably intense dessert wine along with a Viognier that could have - and did - pass for a Sauvignon Blanc. It was a great afternoon.
Things I took away from this tasting:
1. The reds have lots of tannins.
2. The whites have a lot of grapefruit.
3. Albariño actually starts to get old after tasting about 20 of them.
Seriously, if you have never delved into the wines of Spain, you owe it to yourself to do so. The indigenous grapes of Spain are a wonder to taste, and even grapes you thought you knew can deliver a terruño-driven surprise.
I strolled up to one table where a gentleman was already tasting a white wine. "Smell this," he said, holding the glass right under my nose. I did, and unflinchingly said, "Sauvignon Blanc." I know my face must have registered shock when he replied, "Viognier." That Viognier from Castilla was the wine of the day for me. But picking one for second place would be nearly impossible.
I should point out that the printed program for the event was not laid out well for note-takers. The font in the four-page foldout was tiny, the lines were single-spaced and there was not enough margin for proper note taking. I had to cobble together my information as best I could on the program while grabbing a brochure here, a business card there and a shelf talker wherever they were offered so I'd remember details. Mine was not the only complaint, either. Other tasters had similar gripes and the wine representatives didn't like it too much because it resulted in tasters scrunching down in their limited table space to scribble tiny little notes in between samples. I was told the show used to offer a more standard-sized book, and in my opinion they should go back to that format.
The following are my notes from Great Match 2010 Los Angeles. The wines in bold type were particular favorites of mine.
Bodegas Ramón Bilbao