Showing posts with label Priorat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Priorat. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

E Is For España

Great wine is all about location.  The location of the vineyard makes all the difference in the end product.  Locations is an experiment of place for winemaker Dave Phinney, of Orin Swift fame, in which he makes wines from all over the world.  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, and E is for Espana, much like those European bumper stickers.

Phinney sold the Locations brand this past summer to Modesto's E and J Gallo, two years after selling off the Orin Swift brand.  A price wasn't announced, but Phinney will reportedly stay on as the winemaker "indefinitely."

E5, the fifth vintage for his Spanish red blend, combines Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell and Cariñena.  Those last two you might know better as Mourvèdre and Carignan.  Phinney says unabashedly that E5 is all about the "interplay of provenance, artistry, freedom, and creativity" with the Iberian peninsula as a backdrop.  Five regions are represented by the grapes in this wine, Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero.

That guy Parker loved a previous vintage, throwing around adjectives like full-bodied, opulent and voluptuous in his wine-porn style.  The wine was aged in barrels for ten months and hits 14.5% abv for alcohol and retails for about $20.

For starters, this is an aromatic wine.  The nose blasts dark fruit and a drawer full of savory aromas.  There are cigars, trod-upon leaves, tar and an old catcher's mitt in that dark liquid.  Herbs abound, with thyme, sage, nutmeg and peppers leading the way.  On the palate it's blackberryland, with a heapin' helpin' of currant and licorice.  The flavors are rough-cut and rustic, as is the tannic structure.  This wine needs a big, fatty steak to give it something useful to do. 


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Monday, January 26, 2015

Whole Foods Wines: H&G Priorat 2008

H&G Priorat 2008 was featured by Whole Foods Markets during the holidays as one of their spotlight wines for the 2014 holiday season.  They had also featured it the previous year, and there is good reason they had repeated it.  It's very good.

The Spanish wine region of Priorat is in the northeastern part of the country.  Priorat is known for its black slate and quartz soils, a rich terroir of volcanic origin.  Garnacha is the main grape there, and Grenache - as we call it in other parts of the globe - is always a great choice for pairing with food.  Alcohol is fairly high, at 14.2% abv, and the wine retails for $14 at Whole Foods.  H&G Wine is a California-based winery which produces wine from various parts of the world, Spain included.

Rich and dark in the glass, the wine sports a savory nose, displaying the minerals of the region.  Tobacco store, cigar smoke, nutmeg, clove and blackberries mingle in a brooding mix.  The palate shows black fruit framed in a host of savory spice sensations. Oak is present, but it plays nicely in the earthy scenario.  The aromas and flavors are lively and dark - it's a very complex wine which deserves to be savored over a lingering sip session, or with a hearty meal.  Beef, stew and barbecue are all good pairings for it.


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Friday, November 28, 2014

Holiday Wines 2014: Whole Foods Market part 2

Another holiday season is upon us, and the fine folks at Whole Foods Markets have another selection of wines that are perfect for the holidays. Not only are they holiday-ready, but they are on the shelves at wine-equipped Whole Foods stores.  As usual, they are priced so you can splurge a little on the turkey, or the ham, or the standing rib roast, or whatever you have in mind to highlight your holiday feast.

Ashley Hawkins, a representative of Whole Foods Markets, says this year's WFM holiday picks, "showcase a wide variety of wines from a perfect-for-turkey-and-ham silky Sonoma County Pinot Noir to a French Chardonnay-Viognier with a round, fruity softness that pairs well with yams and cranberry."

Some of the the wines were tasted in a virtual tasting event on Twitter a couple of weeks back, and another Twitter Tasting is set for Thursday December 4, 2014. See the wines below.  I'll be writing about the wines separately, but you can get an idea of what to expect with the descriptions from Whole Foods, shown below, along with their favorite food pairing for each.  “*” denotes a wine which is available only at Whole Foods Markets.

Pick up a bottle or two and join the social media crowd for both of these Twitter tastings.  Follow along in the hashtag #WFMWine to get the full effect of the fun that can be found while tasting and tweeting.

Thursday December 4, 2014, 7-8 CT
* Globerati Sauvignon Blanc

"From the Central Valley of Chile, this bright, fresh white has aromas of lemon and grapefruit with a hint of honeysuckle, and mineral notes are balanced with a green apple acidity.
Pairings: Mitica Campo de Montalban, Manhattan clam chowder, shrimp cocktail, mussels, sliced pears."

* Bubo Cabernet Sauvignon

"Surprisingly fruity, pleasant and approachable with a touch of green pepper aroma, this red has flavors of blackberries and ripe plums that accentuate the juiciness of this easy drinking wine.
Pairings: Ford Farms Seaside Cheddar, cranberry turkey sandwiches, veggie lasagna, cassoulet, beef enchiladas."

* Charles and Charles CL Merlot Red Blend

"There is an attractive baked biscuit aroma in this inky, hearty red. Black and blue fruits come forward and then recede into a rich, elegant, full-bodied finish.
Pairings: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, steak and Guinness pie, twice baked potatoes, buttery pastry crusts."

* H&G Priorat


"Earthy, herbaceous aromas in this brick red wine lead to a refined minerality and complex dark fruit flavors. The terroir of Priorat, Spain proudly shows in the glass.
Pairings: Guilloteau Fromager d’Affinois, barbecue, hearty veggie stews, Brunswick stew, grilled ribeye."



on November 13, 2014
Pizzolato Organic Pinot Grigio

"Stone fruit aromas give way to an enticing minerality and vibrant acidity in this organically grown Italian white.
Pairings: Oro del Tiempe Piave Vecchio, delicate seafood, shellfish, lemon vinaigrette, citrus fruit salad"

* Sea Pines Russian River Chardonnay

"Subtle aromas belie big flavors of green apple, lemon and vanilla bean. A pleasant richness hints at the use of just the right amount of oak for a lovely balance.
Pairings: Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, poached turbot, Cornish hens, chowders, lobster bisque, cream sauces."

* Bodegas Belgrano Malbec

"With aromas of warm spices and stewed blueberry flavors that mingle with woodsy hints of smoke, this textbook Argentine malbec has a roundness that makes for an easy drinking classic.
Pairings: Hennings Cranberry Orange."

* Leyenda del Castillo Rioja

"Mineral, earthy aromas are found in this deep garnet Spanish red. With bright, sunny fruit flavors like ripe cherries, this Rioja has a lingering, well-balanced finish.
Pairings: Mitica Mahon, grilled meats, pork chops, eggplant marinara, charred steaks."



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Top Ten (12) Holiday Wines At Whole Foods Market: The First Four

The Whole Foods Market wine department is crazy about lists.  They come up with lists of Top Ten wines for every occasion, holiday and season - which sounds like a pretty good job to me.

This is the time of year, of course, for the WFM Top Ten list of holiday wines.  Each wine on the list is priced below $25 and each is hand selected by the WFM wine folks as a winner for holiday parties, gift-giving and feasting.  There were so many good wines to choose from, the top ten list became a Top 12 list this year.

WFM is sponsoring a pair of Twitter tasting events you may find interesting - and informative.  The first one came just in time for Thanksgiving, on Thursday November 21, 2013.  The second will give you inspiration for the Christmas party season, on Thursday December 12.  Both of these virtual tasting events will happen from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT.  The December lineup will feature singer/songwriter/musician Mat Kearney chatting about his Napa red blend, Verse and Chorus.

It’s easy to participate.  Just pick up a bottle or two of the top holiday wines at Whole Foods and open them for the Twitter Tasting event.  Follow along on Twitter, using the hashtag #WFMWine.




Here is a list of the twelve wines.  My thoughts on the wines tasted on November 21st are given, and I’m including the WFM descriptions of the others to help steer you in the direction you want to go. “*” indicates a wine available only at Whole Foods Markets.

For Nov. 21,2013  7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT

*Grace Lane Yakima Valley Riesling 2011, Washington $9.99
Washington state is known for, among other things, Riesling, and here is one from Yakima Valley that registers "medium-dry" on the Riesling scale and barely hits 12.1% abv in alcohol.  Yakima Valley was Washington's first American Viticultural Area, and is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA.  Nearly half the wine grapes in Wahington come from this beautiful region in the southern part of the state and the grow a lot of other fruit there, too.  Not to mention hops - 80% of America's supply of that crucial beer ingredient are grown there.

The Grace Lane Riesling is a very light, clear golden color and features great aromas of granny smith apples and peaches with a fairly healthy dose of minerals.  It smells crisp and fresh, and it tastes the same way.  The acidity is nice, but not really razor sharp.  On the finish, the minerals linger long and the "medium" part of that "medium-dry" kicks in.  Riesling is a great wine to put on the Thanksgiving table - or Chistmas, for that matter - due to its versatility.  You can pair Riesling with just about anything successfully, even when it's not bone dry.

*Tablao Navarra 2012, Spain $7.99
Navarra is in the northern part of Spain, between Rioja and France.  In the Navarra region, a tablao is a cafe where they play flamenco music.  Now, flamenco is energetic and vibrant enough to grab me all by itself.  Tablao, the wine, brings similar fire and spice.  It is based in 81% Tempranillo grapes with support from 9% Garnacha, 8% Merlot and a 2% splash of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Produced by Bodegas Pagos Dearaiz, Tablao is influenced by French wine, to be sure, but its boots are made of Spanish leather.

Tablao is the kind of red that could make me feel festive any time of year.  Practically black in the glass, the nose is a big rig full of raspberry and black cherry, with a compact car of leathery cigar tobacco anise and nutmeg on its tail.  Lively on the palate, the dark side of cherries is displayed prominently.  There is a spicy element running through it with great tannins structure and lip-smacking acidity.  I'd put this on the table next to the holiday rib roast.  It's pretty awesome with a handful of pistachios, too.  At 13.5% abv, it keeps alcohol in check for what could be a day of over-imbibing.

*H & G Priorat 2008, Spain $13.99
The Spanish wine region of Priorat is in the northeastern part of the country and joins Rioja in the DOCa classification, the highest level of quality in Spanish wine.  Priorat is known for its black slate and quartz soils, a rich terroir of volcanic origin.  Garnacha is the main grape there, and Grenache - as we call it in other parts of the globe - is always a great choice for pairing with food.  Alcohol is fairly high, at 14.2% abv.  H & G Wine is a California-based winery which produces wine from various parts of the world.

The wine is colored very dark purple/black.  The nose shows blackberry, raspberry, licorice and lots of minerals.  The palate is full of spicy cherry and blueberry with a leathery note.  Nice acidity and good tannic structure round out what is a great tasting experience.  A lovely floral aspect on the finish makes for a good memory to take from the sip.

*Les Hauts de Bel Air Bordeaux 2011, France $10.99
The Sichel family bottles this bold red six months after harvest on the right bank of the Garonne River.  The grapes used are two Bordeaux favorites, 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol is quite reasonable at 13% abv.

The winery says, "Maison Sichel has a longstanding partnership with a number of Grands Crus Classés (classed growths) and takes an active role in the marketing of more than 150 of the most prestigious Bordeaux châteaux."

Les Hauts de Bel Air shows a pure, fruity nose of red berries.  The palate is all fruit, too, youthful and vibrant.  Nice tannic structure and ripping acidity beg for a holiday roast.  The mouthfeel is light and juicy and it won't weigh down an already full table.  The wine displays the power of a Bordeaux with the freshness of a Beaujolais.  I can taste the turkey already.



For December  12, 2013  7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT

*Roger d’Anoia Cava, Spain $9.99
“Lively effervescence with bright notes of green apple and pear, this sparkler is ripe and round with a touch of sweetness in the well-balanced finish.”

*Skouras Anassa, Greece $11.99
“Made with 70 percent moschofilero and 30 percent viognier, this medium-bodied white has aromas of ripe apricot and orange peel and a clean, crisp finish.”

*Santa Julia Innovacion Bonarda Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina $9.99 (1 liter)
“Deeply complex and full-bodied, this red created by the Zuccardi family has forward notes of plum and cigar box with jammy flavors of dark ripe berries. The luxurious finish has smoky, savory notes.”

*Mat Kearney Verse & Chorus Napa Valley Red, California $24.99
“This bold claret is made through a partnership between famed musician Mat Kearney, Peju and the John Anthony family who, combined, have more than 60 years of Napa Valley wine making experience. This luscious red is 87 percent Napa Valley merlot and 13 percent Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon and has soft aromatics of black currant, plum, and notes of cedar. The bold but well-balanced flavors of vanilla, black cherry and chocolate give way to juicy dark cherry and wild blackberry. And, the long finish has nuances of roasted coffee and toasted hazelnut.”


The other four:

Simonnet-Febvre St. Bris Sauvignon Blanc, France $12.99
“The micro-climate in the Saint-Bris appellation allows for the sauvignon blanc grapes to express their full aromatic character as well as the minerality of the terroir. The exuberant nose is characterized by freshly cut herbs and delicate fruits with a hint of red bell pepper, and the elegant finish has a lovely minerality.”

Novellum Chardonnay, France $10.99
“This zesty white has honeysuckle and white peach aromas, and anise, fennel and a hint of oak show in the lengthy finish.”

Allan Scott Marlborough Pinot Noir, New Zealand $14.99
“This wine is rich and dark with black cherries, violets and a pleasant earthiness on the nose. It has a velvety, harmonious finish with smoky oak, subtle spice and raspberry flavors.”

Cercius Côtes du Rhône, France $14.99
“This blend of 85 percent grenache and 15 percent syrah is beautifully textured, lush and decadent with an aroma of smoky eucalyptus and berry and deep notes of kirsch, plum and stewed fruits and plum and a hint of leather in the long finish.”


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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tasting Event: Great Match 2010 Los Angeles


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 Vallegarcía 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
Volteo Tempranillo 2007, VT de Castilla - luscious berries, very dry $10
Volteo Viura 2009, VT de Castilla - blend of Viura, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc; subdued grapefruit with almond paste $10
Ramón Bilbao Tempranillo Crianza 2005, Rioja - juicy, fruity, young $13
Cruz de Alba Tempranillo 2006, Ribera del Duero - bright yet deep; intriguing minty characteristic $25

Classical Wines
Martinsancho Verdejo 2008, Rueda - huge grapefruit $20
Dehasa La Granja 2003, Castilla y León - cedar notes and an almost citrusy edge
*Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2008, Alicante - powerful dessert wine; deep, rich, golden color; intense honey and apricots give way to 'flowers meet nuts' finish $19 half bottle

Collección Internacional del Vino
Antaño Tempranillo 2008, Rioja - very tannic $6
*Inspiracion Collección Varietales 2005, Rioja - vanilla on the nose, bright fruit on palate; muscular; 100% Maturana $50 (?)

Cuatro Rayas-El Verdejo de Rueda
Cuatro Rayas Viñedos Centenarios 2009, Rueda - 100+ year-old vines; concentrated grapefruit; very smooth and delicious $20
Cuatro Rayas Verdejo 2009, Rueda - refreshing and not too heavy on the grapefruit $18
Palacio de Vivero 2009, Ruea - Verdejo/Viura blend $12
*Vacceos Tempranillo Roble 2008, Rueda - nose really jumps out; bright and brambly taste with cedar notes $11
Dama del lago 2009, Rueda - deep, rich Tempranillo; brambly $10

Faustino/Campillo/Condesa de Leganza
Faustino V Blanco 2007, Rioja - a Verdejo with a delightfully funky nose and a nutty taste $12
*Campillo Gran Reserva 1994, Rioja - A very elegant Tempranillo; smooth yet forceful $50
Condesa de Leganza Crianza 2005, La Mancha - A rosado with wood spices $10
Condesa de Leganza Rosado 2008, La Mancha - a funky, dry Tempranillo rosado $9

Fine Estates From Spain
Botani 2009, Sierras de Málaga - a dry Muscatel with a very floral nose $19
Shaya 2009 Rueda - Verdejo with very slight grapefruit and other cutrus notes $15
La Cana 2009, Rias Baixas - floral/tropical Albariño $16
Volver 2008, La Mancha - Tempranillo with big blackberry flavor with a wonderfully smokey nose $16
*Tritón 2008, Castilla y León - a dark, powerful, brambly Tempranillo $20
Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2006, Rioja - Tempranillo with a slight nose and lush berries $19
Emilio Moro 2006, Ribera del Duero - amazing Tempranillo; loaded with spice notes; great grip $25

Folio Fine Wine Partners
Embruix 2006, Priorat - Garnacha/Cariñena with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; full-bodied, dark berries, coffee $25
Más de Leda 2007, Castilla y León - nice Tempranillo with a slightly minty aspect $20
*Sirsell 2006,  Priorat - Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mazuelo and Syrah; very robust, earthy $30

Freixenet USA
Freixenet Cordón Negro Brut, Cava - toasty, yeasty, nutty $12

Marqués de Riscal/Vallegarcía
Marqués de Riscal Gran Reserva 2001, Rioja - Tempranillo with a spicy, sherry-like flavor $35
*Vallegarcía Viognier 2006, Castilla - quite a tangy nose, like Sauvignon Blanc, very nutty taste $40
Vallegarcía Syrah 2005,  Castilla - very unusual spiciness $40

Martin Códax
Martin Códax Albariño 2008, Rias Baixas - beautiful, tropical nose with a soft, nutty taste $17
Martin Códax Tempranillo 2008, Rioja - some Garnacha; cedar notes on the nose; medium-full mouthfeel with lush berries $12

Pacific Estates
Mont Ferrant Gran Cuvée 2005 Brut, Cava - refreshing with yeasty, nutty flavors  $16
Mont Ferrant Rosé Brut , Cava - 60/40 blend of Monastrell and Garnacha; nice strawberry flavors - $17
*Mont Ferrant Blanes Nature 2004 Brut Extra, Cava - huge nose; very yeasty and rich  $19
Montal Collection Red Garnacha 2007, Castilla - very soft and delicious $13
*Montal Collection Red Monastrell 2008, Castilla - funky nose; dark and husky on the palate $13 
Abadía de Acón Red Tempranillo Joven 2008, Ribera del Duero - stainless steel; bright nose, lean mouthfeel and taste $17

Pernod Ricard USA
Campo Viejo Crianza 2005, Rioja - very lovely nose; slight mintiness on the palate $10
Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2005, Rioja - beautiful nose and a mouthful of rich, dark berries $20

Rias Baixas Albariño
Mar de Frades Albariño 2009, Rias Baixas - extremely aromatic; huge floral nose, pears on palate $25
Laxas Albariño 2009, Rias Baixas - floral notes with a nutty finish $18
*Brandal Barrica Albariño 2006, Rias Braixas - 6 months in oak really makes a huge difference; very nutty; a substantial wine $17

Secret Sherry Society
Barbadillo Solear Manzanilla, Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda - very dry; salty flavor; I can taste the ocean $10
González Byass Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, DO Jerez-Xéres-Sherry - slightly less dry; yeastier $17

UCI/Castelnoble
Castelnoble Shiraz 2009, Castilla - 100% steel; very bright and full of berries $8
Castelnoble Bobal Rosado 2009, Castilla - 100% Bobal; all steel 18 months; an offbeat strawberry taste $8
Castelnoble Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Castilla - all steel, tropical notes $8
Castelnoble Tinto Roble 2009, Castilla - fermented in steel, then 6 months French and America oak; tangy edge to a palate of currants and blackberries $10
Castelnoble Realce Crianza 2005, Manchuela - Tempranillo with spicy licorice tones $13
*Castelnoble Reserva 2003, Manchuela - 100% Bobal; bone dry and muscular; a fave; $15