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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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The Bird is Thirsty! 9 Wines for Thanksgiving That Provide Value

The Bird is Thirsty! 9 Wines for Thanksgiving That Provide Value

Thanksgiving, with its myriad of flavors and overload of food is mere days away. And while some look at wine pairing for so many flavors and textures as a challenge, I think it’s a whole lot of fun. Drink what you like and see what it works with and what it doesn’t work with.  The bottom line is that you should have fun and enjoy the holiday. 

Emilio Moro and the Versatility of Tinto Fino

MalleolusTinto fino is a specific clone of tempranillo. In fact, it’s thought by many to be the purest expression. Last week, I tasted with Emilio Moro winemaker Jose Moro and learned firsthand about this grape’s purity of expression as well as the wide swath of flavors and characters it can exhibit, which vary based on a number of factors.  Everything they do at Emilio Moro is aimed at producing the best possible expression of their vineyard sites. Emilio Moro has plantings that are relatively new, and others that are close to 100 years in age. Their goal is to showcase what tinto fino can achieve in their vineyards in Ribera del Duero. Each wine in their portfolio is a carefully considered expression that is site-specific in its intent. As a winery, Emilio Moro employs a combination of tradition and innovation. At their heart, they are traditionalists, and their winemaking methodologies are time-tested and pure. However, they have the foresight to use modern technology and technical innovations to provide the information and support they need so that they can employ those traditional techniques in the optimal... Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest. 

Bokisch Vineyards, a Burgeoning Jewel in Lodi California

BokischTempranilloLodi2012Having spent a lot of time in many of California’s wine-growing regions, it was about time that I made it to Lodi. A couple of weeks back I did exactly that as a guest of the Winegrowers of Lodi. Over a period of four days, the group I was with extensively toured vineyards sites and wineries. Along the way, we tasted something like a boatload of wine — maybe a little more. The trip was designed to open our eyes to Lodi as a premium wine-growing region, and it did just that for me. While I was aware that some fine wine was coming from the area, I had no real idea about the wide array of grapes being grown or how many boutique producers there are doing their own thing. In short, there are a lot of exciting things going on in Lodi, California, and I’ll get to many of them in time. For now, though, I’m focusing on one producer. Bokisch Vineyards was founded after Markus and Liz Bokisch lived for a year in Spain, where Markus spent his summers during childhood. Refreshing this connection to his heritage made an impression on both Markus and Liz. After moving back to the United States, they settled in Lodi and bought land to start their winery. With their obvious love for Spanish wines and culture, their next decision made complete sense: They would focus entirely on Spanish varietals. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest:

Gabe's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

GiftGuideCover_AmandaJeanBlackIf you’re not sure what to get someone as a gift this year, consider a good bottle of wine or spirits —‚ always in season. Anyone who drinks alcohol will certainly appreciate a well-chosen bottle to enjoy, be it alone or with friends (my hope is that it’s with you). Throughout the year, I’ve tasted a number of the best bottles in both the wine and spirit categories and compiled a list of my 24 favorites — any of which would make excellent gifts for a variety of budgets. A few of the bottles are particularly great values, while others are luxury beverages that will really impress the lucky person who receives them; no matter the price, every selection in this guide is delicious and well made. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Eleven Wines You Should Be Drinking Now

Wine shelves all over the country are jammed with countless selections and choices are so varied it can be dizzying. With that in mind, I’m here to help you work your way through the haze of bottles. I tasted through more than three dozen wines across all price ranges and stylistic tiers, and here are my 11 favorites from the bunch. Hugel et Fils 2012 Gentil ($15)

This vintage of “Gentil” blends together pinot gris (23 percent), pinot blanc (21 percent), riesling (20 percent), sylvaner (20 percent), gewurztraminer (14 percent), and muscat (2 percent). Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled vats. It was gently fined and filtered prior to bottling. Lychee fruit aromas dominate the inviting nose of this French blend. “Gentil” has a palate stuffed with white and yellow melon, peach, and apricot flavors. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

A Couple of Thoughts About Australian Wine Today

A few weeks back I was at the Australia Today Trade Show in New York City. While there, I had the opportunity to sample a wide array of wines coming out of Australia. Most of them were current releases, in a few cases there were some older vintages being showcased during a sit down seminar. Most obvious when tasting a wide swath of Aussie releases is the diversity and breadth of the offerings. This is true both in terms of grape varietals and style of finished wines. If overripe Shiraz is your only image of Australian wine, you’re in for a stunning and pleasant surprise. There are wines of all shapes and sizes being made in Australia. Here’s a look at a couple of selections from the event that really stood out. Running With Bulls 2012 Tempranillo - This wine from the Barossa Valley and it sells for around $17. Aromas of violets and plum leap from the effusive nose of this wine. Cherry characteristics lead a grab bag of warming red fruits and spices on the plate of the Running With Bulls Tempranillo. The finish is above average in length and persistent. Red fruits continue along with bits of earth and leather. This is a well balanced wine that will excel with hard cheeses and pretty much anything that comes off of your grill. It’s a solid example of Tempranillo that shows how adaptable this varietal can be to a region like the Barossa Valley which is so different from its more native Rioja.

St Hallett Old Block 2010 Shiraz - This Barossa Valley Shiraz sells for around $80. This Shiraz shows off a deep, dark hue that is stunning in the glass. Violets and spice lead a welcoming nose. The palate is succulent and juicy. It’s layered with black plum, black raspberry, and cassis. Minerals and earth lead a dense, structured finish that has great length and depth. Black fruits continue their prominence along with pepper and bits of dusty cocoa. This is a classic example of Shiraz; it’s loaded with bold, fruity flavor. Pair it with equally bold, full flavored foods.

Peter Lehmann 1999 Stonewell Shiraz - This Shiraz is a library selection and as such isn’t widely available anymore. However it is more than worth mentioning because it showcases the ability of Australian wines in general and Shiraz in particular to age well under the right conditions. Those conditions of course include the right vintages as well as stylistic choices made when picking grapes and producing the wine. A bit of chocolate sauce leads the nose here along with Kirsch Liqueur. The palate is studded with a seemingly endless array of cherry characteristics, both red and black. At 15 years old there are still loads of fruit here and it shows itself off in a rich, powerful way. It’s muscular and shows off earth that goes alongside the fruit, but it’s also controlled in intensity. All of these elements continue through the persistent finish. It would be a brilliant match for pasta with Wild Boar Ragu, or Pot Roast to name a couple of options.

Shadow Chaser 2012 Grenache - This Grenache is from  McLaren Vale and it sells for around $15. The fruit came from two vineyards with over 40 years of age on each. After fermentation it was aged entirely in stainless steel tanks prior to bottling. Raspberry, and strawberry aromas fill the nose of this wine. These red fruits continue through the palate where they’re joined by bits of red cherry and a copious amount of spices. Cinnamon, clove and black pepper are all in evidence. Rhubarb, sour cherries and glycerin notes all emerge in the finish which has above average length for the price category. Grenache can make some of the food friendliest wines in the world. This example certainly fits that bill. It’ll pair with a wide array foods and it’s a terrific value as well.

These wines represent a tiny window into some of the great things being done in Australia today. The breadth and variety is very impressive. There are offerings at every conceivable price point coming out of Australia that represent solid or better values. If you haven’t had any Australian wines in awhile, now is a good time to dive back in, we’re seeing greater diversity on US shelves than ever before.

Campo Viejo - 2004 Gran Reserva

The Campo Viejo 2004 Gran Reserva was produced from a blend of Tempranillo (85%), Graciano (10%), and Mazuelo (5%).Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel. Maceration on the skins lasted about 20 days. Barrel aging took place over 24 months in a combination of French (80%) and American (20%) oak. After being bottled this wine was aged for an additional 3 years prior to release. This Gran Reserva from Rioja is widely available and most often found for right around $20. Cherry blossoms, tobacco leaf and a subtle hint of vanilla bean lead a gorgeous and heavily perfumed nose. Strawberry and cherry characteristics are the stars of an impeccably layered, complex and exquisite palate that is just stacked with red fruit flavors. Black pepper and cardamom are the most prominent spices present. Raspberry, pomegranate and cranberry fruit along with hints of leather and white pepper emerge on the finish which has terrific length. This wine is firmly structured and has excellent acidity.

One of the great things about Gran Reservas from Rioja is that the winery is automatically patient for you. This wine from Campo Viejo could certainly be held for a number of years, but when you consider how marvelously it’s drinking right now; there simply isn’t any good reason to wait. This is an outstanding wine that represents a very nice value. There are plenty of good values coming out of Rioja and Spain as a whole, that said this Gran Reserva stand outs as a particularly good deal at around $20.

Campo Viejo - 2010 Tempranillo

The Campo Viejo 2010 Tempranillo was produced from fruit sourced in several distinct areas within Rioja. This wine is 100% Tempranillo. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Barrel aging occurred over four months in American oak. It was also bottle aged prior to release. This wine is widely available and has a suggested retail price of $9.99. Cherry, coriander and vanilla aromas fill the nose of this 2010 Tempranillo. Raspberry, black cherry and red plum flavors are all in evidence throughout the palate. They’re accompanied by copious spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. Earth, hints of dusty cocoa, rhubarb and a touch of kirsch liqueur emerge on the finish which has good length. Firm acidity frames the entire wine and helps make it a standout partner for a wide array of foods. Whether you’re enjoying something as simple as cheese plate or as involved as a slow cooked roast this Tempranillo will serve as an excellent accompaniment.

Spanish wines have held a spot on US shelves for a very long time now. The wines of Rioja specifically have been here longer than those of other regions. As time has passed we have also seen more and more Spanish offerings that are in the premium and super premium categories. That’s been a real boon for those of us who love Spanish wine. Just as importantly we continue to see terrific value wines that most people can reasonably afford on a regular basis. You can count this Tempranillo from Campo Viejo amongst their number. If you’re looking for a Rioja as a house wine this offering is a solid bet.

Bodegas Muriel - 2005 Crianza / 2005 Reserva

Bodegas Muriel was founded close to 30 years ago in the Rioja region of Spain. While many Rioja producers blend small quantities of other local varietals into their red wines, Bodegas Muriel is one of those that use Tempranillo exclusively. Today I’ll look at two of their current releases. The Bodegas Muriel 2005 Crianza was produced from fruit sourced in the Rioja region of Spain. This selection is 100% Tempranillo. The vines in question have a median age of 30 years on them. Fermentation took place over 20 days in temperature controlled stainless steel. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in American oak. 1,700 cases of this offering were imported to the US and it has a suggested retail price of $16.99.

Wild Strawberry and rose petal aromas are both prominent on the nose of this 2005 Crianza from Bodegas Muriel. This wine has full, weighty palate that features tons of tremendous fruit characteristics, cherry in particular. Pepper spice and bits of anise are present as well. Black tea and raspberry flavors emerge on the finish which has good length. This wine is really round and smooth with supple, yielding tannins and fine acidity. Bodegas Muriel is a fine example of Crianza that is well priced and suited for regular consumption.

The Bodegas Muriel 20005 Reserva was produced using fruit sourced at two vineyards in Rioja; Alta and Rioja Alavesa. The Vines have an average age of 40 years on them. This wine is 100% Tempranillo. Fermentation took place over a 25 day period in temperature controlled stainless steel. Barrel aging occurred over 24 months in a combination of French and American oak. 600 cases of this wine were imported and it has a suggested retail price of $19.99.

Cherry, wild strawberry and plum aromas are all present on the heady nose of this 2005 Reserva. The palate is fresh and lively with red fruit flavors taking center stage. Cassis and fruitcake spices lead the finish which has hints of black fruits interspersing with the continuing red fruits. Earth and chicory are present as well. This wine has firm tannins, terrific acidity and above average length. This is a charming Reserva, particularly in the under $20 price-point.

Both of these wines from Bodegas Muriel are fine examples of Rioja. They’re well priced for their quality level and will drink nicely for a number of years. As with many well made Rioja’s these wines will shine when paired with food.

Montecillo - 2003 Rioja Gran Reserva

Rioja is the most recognizable name in Spanish wine. Over the last decade many other Spanish regions have made inroads on US shelves, many of them producing distinguished wines. However for many, me included, it’s the wines of Rioja we first think of when Spain comes to mind. The wins of Rioja hit our shores with some age already on them and they’re generally terrific values; what’s not to like. Today I’ll look at the current release of a Gran Reserva from Montecillo, one of the first Spanish producers to hit my radar when I started pursuing wines from Spain about 15 years ago. The Montecillo 2003 Gran Reserva was produced from fruit sourced in the Rioja Alta region of Spain. This offering is 100% Tempranillo. After picking the fruit was transported to the winery in small crates. Fermentation took place in a temperature controlled environment. After Malolactic fermentation the wine was racked and transferred to barrel. Oak aging occurred over a period of 24 months in untoasted French barrels. Several years of bottle aging followed prior to release. This offering has a suggested retail price of $25.

Dark berry fruit, herbs, toast and rose petal aromas all waft with conviction from the nose of this 2003 Gran Reserva. Both red and black cherries appear in droves forming the core of this Rioja’s palate. Copious quantities of spices such as black pepper and nutmeg appear as well. Espresso and earth notes are joined by bits of licorice and kirsch liqueur on the finish which has terrific length and persistence. Firm tannins and acidity provide structure and balance. This wine is quite tasty by itself but really shines when paired with food, roasted meats in particular.

This wine from Montecillo is a classic example of a Gran Reserva. It represents a tremendous value due to the excellent complexity and length of palate it demonstrates. This wine is absolutely delicious now but there’s no rush to drink it; this wine will age effortlessly in your cellar for the next decade or so.

El Coto de Rioja - 2010 Rioja Rosado

The El Coto de Rioja 2010 Rioja Rosado was produced using fruit sourced at estate vineyards. El Coto which was founded in 1975 has 500 hectares under vine. This offering is a 50/50 blend of Garancha and Tempranillo. This wine sits on the skin for 48 hours followed by cold fermentation. This offering has a suggested retail price of $10. Aromas of strawberry, cherry and watermelon burst from the nose of this 2010 Rosé. The palate is exceptionally juicy and vibrant; it’s loaded with fresh red fruits. Strawberry, cherry, raspberry and watermelon are all present. Rhubarb and sweet black cherry flavors emerge on the finish as well as white pepper. This wine is incredibly refreshing and will pair well with an incredibly wide array of foods. It’s also delicious on its own.

When it comes to Rosés for summer 2011, this example from El Coto in Rioja is going to be hard to beat for the money. If you look around you can easily find this wine for less than $10. For that price it offers lots of value. The fresh fruit flavors are sure to be crowd pleasing and the refreshing nature of this wine, which is supported by racy acidity, makes it a great bet for outdoor entertaining. Just yesterday I attended a party where I was asked to bring the wine. I brought a full case of this very Rosé and everyone was quite happy. One partygoer told me that she normally only drank Pinot Grigio but that this wine has convinced her to try other things. It only takes one terrific Rosé to convert the non-believers. Try the El Coto it may do the same for you.

Tempra Tantrum - 2009 Tempranillo /Shiraz

Spain has quite a number of producers with lengthy histories as family wineries. One of those is the Osbornes. Rocio Osborne is a member of the 6th generation of that family in the wine business and he produces wines under the Tempra Tantrum label. The wines under this label are blends that use Tempranillo at their heart. Today I’ll look at a new release that blends it with Shiraz. The Tempra Tantrum 2009 Tempranillo/Shiraz was produced using fruit from the Osborne Family Estate in Malpica de Tajo. This is located approximately an hour from Madrid. This offering blends 60% Tempranillo and 40% Shiraz. Fermentation took place at cool temperatures followed by micro-oxygenation and minimal bottle aging. This offering has a suggested retail price of $11.99.

Aromas of dried red fruit and black pepper fill the nose of this 2009 Spanish blend. Cherry, blackberry and huckleberry flavors are all on display throughout the palate which is vibrant and full of flavor. Hints of smoked meat emerge on the finish along sour red fruits that have a bit of a savory edge. This wine is soft and lush with sufficient acidity.

This blend from Tempra Tantrum is made to be enjoyed in its youth. It’s a well priced wine that is suitable for large gatherings or casual evenings at home. It has the flavor profile to stand up to heartier foods, but is also proportionate enough to pair with medium flavored ones as well. For less than $12 this is an interesting blend which provides good value.

Palacios Remondo - 2007 La Montesa

When I first started drinking Spanish wine, most of what I explored was from Rioja. Many of them, Tempranillo based wines. As time has gone on of course I’ve looked to numerous other Spanish wine regions; not to mention a host of other grape varieties. Rioja however retains a special significance for me. Today I’ll look at a new release from Palacios Remondo that blends three classic varieties. The Palacios Remondo 2007 La Montesa was produced using fruit sourced at estate vineyards which sit at an altitude of 1,800 feet. The vines have an average age of 22 years. This offering is a blend of Garnacha (60%), Tempranillo, (35%), and Mazuelo (5%). All of the fruit for this wine was handpicked and clusters were hand selected twice. After fermentation barrel aging occurred over 12 months in a combination of new and used French (85%) and American (15%) oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $19.99.

Blackberry, plum and vanilla characteristics are present in the nose and accompany bold and enticing crushed cherry aromas which appear in spades. Throughout the palate berry fruit and spice flavors are underscored by flourishes of orange syrup and wisps of apricot, Rhubarb, white pepper and dusty, dark baker’s chocolate notes emerge with conviction in the above average finish. Lush tannins and firm acidity provide excellent structure.

I sampled this wine on its own and then later on with food. It worked quite well in both cases. However, these grapes, made in this style really excel at a different level with food. It’s as if the pairing allows the flavors to fire on all cylinders. However you drink this wine, you’ll enjoy it if you like well balanced Spanish wines that show off varietal character and sense of place. This is a very solid value.

Tasting The Wines of Villavid Winery At The New York Wine Expo

I attended the New York Wine Expo this Weekend. Most of the major wine regions of the world were represented; some regions really came out in force. One of these was Spain which had quite an array of producers present. I found a couple that I really liked. One that stood out was Villavid Winery. The New York Wine Expo featured breakout sessions each day. These presentations took place in a classroom like setting and allowed a producer to spend a nice chunk of time explaining their wines and having them tasted in a quieter atmosphere than the main tasting floor. This method allows for more give and take between those tasting and the winery.

I decided to go to the session for Villavid Winery. Spain was on my mind and they’re a producer I was completely unfamiliar with previously. It turned out that my lack of familiarity is no surprise; Villavid Winery is not yet distributed in the US. This trip to the NY Wine Expo was set up in large part to introduce them to the US Market and find someone to bring the wines in. While they’re new to us, Villavid has a long history. They were founded in 1952 and have been producing wine ever since. They’re located in the La Mancha region of Spain and produce a range of wines. My reflections on what we tasted are as follows:

Blanco Villavid (D.O. Manchelua) – This white wine is a 50/50 blend of Macabeo and Verdejo. This fruit was sourced from vines over 10 years old. This selection was bottled without any oak treatment. Gooseberry, grapefruit and very light vanilla characteristics mark the expressive nose of this wine. There are reference points which bring Sauvignon Blanc to mind. The palate features a host of tropical fruit themes; these are underscored by wisps of grass. This wine is crisp and refreshing. The finish beckons you back to the glass for more. Good acidity and balance are in evidence. This wine will work well as a stand alone aperitif. It will also pair well with lighter foods such as soft cheeses. Goat cheese tarts would be a perfect match.

Rosado Villavid (D.O. Manchuela) – This Rosé was produced using 100% Bobal. This is a varietal indigenous to Spain. This Rosé has a medium hue. It’s a bit darker than the average old world Rosé but lighter than many new world examples. Candied cherry in the nose is underpinned by light hints of tangerine. The palate is a bowl of fresh berry fruit; cherry takes the lead. White pepper complements the berry and leads to the finish. A hint of orange emerges and lingers nicely along with continuing spice, berry and some welcome savory notes to close things out. This wine has good balance and will work well with many lighter foods and some medium bodied ones as well.

Tinto Tempranillo Joven Villavid (D.O. Manchuela) – This wine was produced using 100% Cencibel which is the local name for Tempranillo. It was produced using fruit from vines over 35 years old. This selection spent 12 months in French oak. A deep, dark, purple hue makes this a striking selection from the first pour. Cherry notes tell the main story of this wine from the first whiff to the last sip. Along the way the palate is fruity, fresh and bright with sweet plums, blueberries and wild strawberry joining the cherry. The finish is medium in length and this wine has good acidity and nice balance. This offering is tasty on its own but will shine when paired with grilled meats.

Reserva Villavid (D.O. Manchuela) – This wine was produced using 100% Bobal. The fruit was selected from vines with over 30 years of age. Aging was accomplished over 12 months in two year old American oak barrels. Cedar and mulled berry notes mark the subtle but emerging nose of this wine. Dark berry fruit is persistent throughout the palate. The finish features a nice complement of sour berry and savory fruit notes. This offering is persistent and hangs on for a nice length of time.

As I stated above these wines have yet to become available in the US marketplace. I hope that changes soon. The offerings I tasted will range in price from about $10 to $20. The Blanco and Rosé will likely be closer to $10 and the Tempranillo and Reserva closer to $20. Each of them represents good or excellent values. They are distinct and individual but also uniform in things like balance and overall style. Look for them on a shelf near you, soon.

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The Current Release Wines of Tinto Figuero

The other night I had the chance to taste through the wines of  Tinto Figuero with two of the winery principals. The setting was Solera in Manhattan. Spanish wine and food are enough to get any reasonable person excited; I know I certainly was. Part of the excitement was that I’d never before had the Tinto Figuero wines. As I was explaining to someone at this very dinner, given the choice between a wine I know I love and one I’ve never tasted I’m going to go for the wine I never tasted at least nine out of ten times. Tinto Figuero is a family operation run by three brothers, their brother in law and their father who keeps his hand involved in the winery he started with his wife. Originally grape growers dating back some generations, they eventually turned their attention to starting a winery and producing their own wines. The goals at Tinto Figuero are to make premium wines that are consistent from vintage to vintage, express the sense of place imparted by their spot in the Ribera del Duero, and to make wines that the people who have had them before will know is a Figuero the moment it hits their lips. Those goals are simple, straightforward and lofty all at the same time.

At dinner we tasted through four of their wines. These offerings make up the bulk of their portfolio and are their most widely distributed releases. Each of the wines is 100% Tempranillo, and sourced from their own vineyards in the Ribera del Duero. Grape selection and oak treatment are the major differences in how each wine is produced. My impressions were as follows:

Tinto Figuero – 2007 Roble Four Month In Barrel. Just fewer than 6,000 cases of this selection were produced. As the name indicates, this wine spent 4 months in oak. The suggested retail price is $19.99. Fresh, crushed raspberry aromas mark the nose of this wine. The fresh berry theme continues through the palate and onto the finish which features mineral notes and subtle hints of earth. This is Figuero’s everyday wine. It provides lots of bright, vibrant flavors and will be a good match for casual finger foods such as an assortment of tapas.

Tinto Figuero – 2005 Crianza Twelve Months In Barrel. Just over 20,000 cases of this offering were bottled. Fruit was sourced from vines with 20-20 years (80%) of age and the remainder (20%) over 50 years. Oak aging occurred over 12 months in a combination American (90%) and French (10%) oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $28.99. Red raspberry aromas billow from the nose of this wine. Wisps of vanilla follow; the palate is a couple of steps up in intensity and complexity from the Four Month, Sour blackberry jam notes emerge on the finish which has good length and excellent acidity. A grilled steak would be an excellent match for this wine.

Tinto Figuero – 2004 Reserva Fifteen Months In Barrel. 8,333 six bottle cases of this wine were produced. Fruit was sourced from vines with more than 50 years of age. Barrel aging was achieved over 15 months in a combination of American (95%) and French (5%) oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $53.99. This 2004 Tempranillo opens with a nose so intense, so inviting, and so appealing that it’s almost absurd to try and describe it. More than one person at the table would have likely jumped into the glass to get closer to this wine if that was possible. Kirsch Liqueur is one of the more prominent components of the nose, but that only begins to describe an aroma that is the very embodiment of the term intoxicating. It took me quite awhile to taste this wine as I couldn’t get past the nose to actually focus on tasting it. Once I did sip it, the wine greeted me with wave after wave of intense berry fruit flavor. And if the flavors weren’t quite as intense as the nose, they were certainly well more than adequate. Hints of vanilla and oak emerged at mid-palate to complement the fruit and lead to the finish which was as impressive as the nose. This wine lingers for a good long while. Everything about this selection is delicious. While it’s excellent now it will certainly improve over time in the bottle.

Tinto Figuero – 2004 Noble. 1,166 six bottle cases of this offering were produced. Fruit for this selection was sourced from vines with more than 70 years of age. Oak aging occurred over a period of 21 months. The first 15 months was spent in American oak followed by 6 months in French oak. An additional 15 months of bottle age was allowed before release. The suggested retail price for this wine is $130.99. First and foremost this wine is still a baby. It was decanted for 3 hours before we started to taste it. While it was certainly opening up this wine was still tight. Fresh cherries, leather and cigar box aromas mark the nose. Raspberry, blackberry and huckleberry flavors are all present in the layered palate. Dusty dark chocolate emerges around mid-palate and continues through the prodigious finish which is also marked by hints of chicory and cedar. This offering features chewy tannins, balanced by fine acidity. This is the epitome of a special occasion wine. Tinto Figuero 2004 Noble is the sort of selection you want to grab a couple of to lay down in your cellar and forget about for 5-10 years. If you have that sort of patience, you will undoubtedly be rewarded. If however you plan to drink this in the short term, decant it for 4-5 hours at minimum. Either way this is a terrific wine.

While this was my first experience tasting the wines of Tinto Figuero it certainly won’t be my last. Each of these releases is impressive in its own right and perhaps more importantly achieves the goal it sets out for. There are both substantial differences in these wines as well as a commonality of both house style and a common thread that ties them all together. In speaking to them and tasting their wines the commitment to sustained quality is evident. It’s going to be interesting to follow them over the years and see it play out.

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Introducing the Sierra de Viento Wines from Bodegas San Valero

A couple of days ago I attended a luncheon where the Sierra de Viento wines were poured. This luncheon acted as an introduction of these wines to the US market. These wines have been produced by Bodegas San Valero. This wine Cooperative in the Aragon region of Spain was founded in 1944. After a short, early period of focus on bulk wines they have been dedicated to quality for many years. Their cooperative is composed of 700 members who together control 3,500 hectares of vineyard land.  The two main wines that were being introduced were a Tempranillo and Garancha. More on them in a moment. But first a few words about some wines we got to taste that were not specifically being introduced that day. First up we tasted a Cava alongside appetizers. This Sparkling Wine was lovely and dry with hazelnut, biscuit and hints of cream on the finish. A perfect example for the argument that Sparkling Wine should regularly be consumed with meals. It's said to retail for around $9. A second Garnacha we tasted was a limited bottling that will see US shelves in a couple of months. I hope to have a detailed review of it closer to release. My first impression is that it was an intense expression of Old Vine Garancha. I believe somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 cases of it were produced and it's going to retail for around $30. Dessert was served with a Moscatel. This Dessert wine did an excellent job of providing balance. It was sweet for sure, but only modestly so. It paired well with sweets and was a nice ending to the meal. It was the type of dessert wine you could conceivably sip for a while. In addition to being moderate in sweetness it was also modest in alcohol. Those were the "other" wines. The stars of the show so to speak were a Tempranillo and a Garancha, 

First up was the Sierra de Viento 2008 Tempranillo. Fruit for this wine was sourced in Cariñena. It is 100% Tempranillo. This wine will retail for just under $10. What struck me most about this wine was the incredible freshness of its fruit. Ripe red berry flavors abounded and were quite appealing. The wine was balanced and had a nice finish with a hint of sour cherry. It was served with a bit of a chill on it as one would for Beaujolais or some Chianti. It worked for this wine which was a terrific match for food. 

 The second of the featured wines was the Sierra de Viento 2007 Old Vine Garnacha. Fruit for this wine was sourced from vineyards in Cariñena over 30 years old. This offering is 100% Garnacha. It was aged in French and American oak for 8 months. This wine will retail for just over $10. Where the flavors on the Tempranillo leaned towards fresh fruit those for the Old Vine Garnacha had a more intense, dried fruit characteristic. It also had loads of spice notes and lengthy finish. This wine paired beautifully with hangar steak and pork loin. In general it will match with heartier flavors than the Tempranillo. 

Both of these new Sierra de Viento releases from Bodegas San Valero represent excellent values. Approximately 40,000 cases of each was produced and once they hit US shelves they will hopefully be easy to find. I for one know that I'll be looking for them. These wines were developed with the US market in mind. I imagine they'll find quite an audience here. The Tempranillo is a departure from the flavors many consumers are used to with similarly priced wines from the Rioja region. It's fruitier and fresher where Rioja tends towards more oak laden, longer aged wines. The Garnacha is intense but not overly so and not burdened with tremendous alcohol content as some well known examples are. I look forward to these as well as the Cava, Moscatel and small production Garancha reaching our shelves. Keep your eyes open for them; you can thank me later. 

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Bodegas Navarro Lopez - 2007 Rojo Tempranillo / Cabernet Sauvignon

Spain's Bodegas Navarro Lopez  has a history that dates back over 100 years. Current owners Don Doroteo and Navarro Donado purchased the property in the 1980's. Between that original property and two others acquired in the 1990's they have over 150 hectares of vineyard land. A majority of their holdings are planted to Tempranillo, Garancha and Macabeo. Today I'll look at one of their blends under the Granrojo designation. The Rojo 2007 Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon is produced using fruit from the Valdepenas region of Spain. The vineyard site is 700 meters above sea level. This offering blends 90% Tempranillo and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 3,000 cases of this vintage were imported and the suggested retail price is $10.99.

Violet and rose petal aromas are joined by both red and black fruit characteristics in the nose of this Spanish blend. The palate of this wine is beautifully dry with cranberry, cherry and hints of strawberry all playing a role. Spice notes really kick in about halfway through with white pepper leading the charge along with a bit of nutmeg. The story of the finish is told primarily by what can be best described as an avalanche of mineral notes. These are joined by some earth and together they help provide good length. Firm acidity frames this offering. This wine will be a great match for grilled sausages or cured meats.

Finding wines that are worth drinking in this price range is fun and can be rewarding. they're out there to be sure. However this selection kicks things up a few pegs. The mineral component on the finish is both generous and compelling. When you factor that in it sets this wine apart. A lovely little wine and an even better value for the money.

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Campo Viejo - 2006 Crianza

vino_crianzaWines from the Rioja region of Spain were the first from that county to hit my radar. Over the last few years wines from other Spanish regions are rightfully getting a lot of acclaim. That doesn’t mean we should forget about Rioja which still represents some of the great values of the world. Today I’ll look at a Crianza from Campo Viejo. According to Wine law in Spain to be labeled as Crianza a red wine must be aged for at least 2 years with a minimum of 6 months in oak before release. The Campo Viejo 2006 Crianza is composed primarily of Tempranillo with Garnacha and Mazuela blended in. Barrel aging occurred over 12 months. This was followed by bottle aging prior to release. The suggested retail price for this wine is $10.

Cherry and cedar aromas are prominent on the nose of this 2006 wine from Rioja. A persistent core of fruit presents itself throughout the palate; sour cherry, and raspberry are preeminent with subtler blackberry fruit as well as spice notes that include nutmeg and white pepper. Cherry pie crust characteristics lead the finish. They’re joined by continued red berry fruit and hints of dust. This wine has soft tannins and excellent acidity. This Crianza will pair well with a casual spread of hard cheeses, olives, bread and cured meats.

For $10 this wine is a very good deal. Whether you’re unfamiliar with offerings from Rioja and want to experiment or are looking for an everyday wine to keep on hand this selection is an attractive choice that features lots of appealing fruit and an easy going style.

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Cameron Hughes - 2004 Rioja - Lot 93

btl_lot_93Years ago when I started looking for wines with great value, Spain was amongst the first countries that hit my radar. I loved the predominant style of wines from Rioja and found there were a boat load of stunning values coming from there. Fast forward almost two decades and some things have changed and some have stayed the same. The biggest change is that Spanish wines are much better known by US consumers then they were then. What hasn't changed is that there are still a host of excellent wines coming from Rioja and Spain in general. many of these continue to be excellent values. Today I'll look at a Rioja from Négociant Cameron Hughes. The 2004 Cameron Hughes Lot 93 Rioja is of course composed of Tempranillo. 700 cases of this wine wefre produced and the suggested retail price is $21.

Vanilla, cherry and cedar notes are prominent in the nose of this Rioja. When you first open it this wine is a bit tight and an hour or more in the decanter is recommended to get the best out of it now. Licorice, earth, dusty chocolate, star anise, bramble and more are all part of a complex, layered palate that unfolds as this offering opens up. The finish on this wine long, persistent, intense and more than anything else, impressive in both length and scope of complexity. This is and incredibly structured wine with firm tannic structure and excellent acidity. Pair this wine with a steak, or heck have the wine for dinner.

This offering has the benchmark qualities I think of when it comes to Rioja. Good fruit, structure and nice oak treatment. And it over-delivers in its price category. I have found that to be true of Rioja over the years. I haven't been drinking Cameron Hughes selections as long, but so far he's delivering a lot of value with each offering I have tasted. At this point I'm comfortable enough that I'd confidently pick up anything with the Cameron Hughes name on it and expect a good deal. By the way you could could easily lay down this particular wine for a decade.

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Campo Viejo - 2004 Rioja Reserva

Rioja is the region in Spain that first got my attention. Since that time, I've campodiscovered wines from many other parts of Spain. But Rioja is still, easily, my favorite. Today I'll look at a selection from Camp Viejo. The 2004 Campo Viejo Reserva is made entirely from fruit sourced in Rioja. 85% is Temparanillo, 10% Graciano and the final 5% is Mazuelo. This wine was aged for 18 months in a 50/50 split of American and French oak casks. This selection underwent an additional 18 months of aging once it was bottled. The suggested retail price for this Rioja is $13.

The nose of this wine is dominated by vibrant cherry notes. Cedar is present as well, but slightly less obvious. The palate is filled with red and black cherry notes as well as vanilla and white pepper spice. There is a solid core of pure fruit that drives through the entire palate and leads to the finish. Both earth and mineral notes emerge on what is a smooth, elegant, lush and slightly lusty finish. Good acidity helps keep this wine in balance.

What I like best about this wine is that it displays classic characteristics of a Rioja Reserva, in a modestly priced package. While fairly expressive immediately upon pouring, this wine really came to life after being decanted for an hour. This Rioja is priced well enough for both everyday drinking, and for those looking for a gateway into this region.

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