Spain


We are so damned eclectic here where our heads are bigger. Today, on this Saturday of the “Friday Wine Sips,” we gotcher rosé (er, not a great one, sorry), we gotcher sparkling wines, we gotcher white wines and we gotcher red wines. Your life will be complete. The countries represented are Germany, Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. (Remember, by the way, that all reports in the “Friday Wine Sips” are not favorable; we applaud for, and we warn against.) As for grapes, well, we offer verdejo, vermentino, pinot blanc, pinot auxerrois, chardonnay and riesling; we offer tempranillo, syrah, mourvèdre, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and a host of grapes that typically grow in the Douro Valley. What we don’t offer is much in the way of technical, historical, personal and geographical material; instead, these are quick reviews, some transcribed directly from my notes, others expanded a bit, and designed to be a rapid infusion of knowledge and direction. So, seek out, try, taste and enjoy, where I have recommended that you do so; for a few others, um, just avoid. These wines were samples for review. The order is rosé, white, sparkling and red.
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Valdelosfrailes Rosé 2011, Cubillas de Santa Marta, Cigales, Spain. 13.5% alc. Tempranillo 80%, verdejo 20%. Bright cherry-crimson color; pungent, pert, perky, strawberry and dried currants, hint of pomegranate, dried herbs and limestone; very dry, lip-smacking acidity and viscosity, austere finish. Doesn’t quite hold together. Good+. About $10.
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Emina Verdejo 2010, Medina del Campo, Rueda, Spain. 13% alc. 100% verdejo grapes. A confirmation of the theory that delicate, fruity white wines should be consumed before they lose their freshness. Not recommended. About $10.
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Prelius Vermentino 2010, Maremma, Toscana, Italy. 12.5% alc. Probably delightful last year but overstayed its welcome. Only in a pinch. About $15.
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Domaine Roland Schmitt Pinot Blanc 2010, Alsace, France 12.5% alc. Pale straw-gold color; lovely, soft but lithe, very clean and fresh, quite spicy; apples, lemons, pears, touch of yellow plum; vibrant acidity keeps it lively and appealing, while a few minutes in the glass pull up notes of jasmine and limestone. Now through 2014. Very Good+. About $16.
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Domaine Mittnacht Freres Terre d’Etoiles Pinot Blanc 2011, Alsace, France. 12% alc. Pinot auxerrois 60%, pinot blanc 40% (can that be right and still be labeled pinot blanc?) Pale straw-yellow, like Rapunzel’s hair; entrancing aromas of camellia and jasmine, spiced pear and roasted lemon, quince and ginger; very dry, resolutely crisp, yet with such an attractive texture and balance, a sense of soft ripeness and sinewy limestone elements. Very stylish. Now through 2014 or ’15, well-stored. Excellent. About $19, Fine Quality for the Price.
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Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2009, Mosel, Germany. 8.5% alc. Pale, pale gold; lychee and petrol, pear and pear nectar, lime peel and quince preserves, hint of jasmine, just deliriously attractive; but very dry, formidably crisp and steely; then a dramatic shift to apples, apples and more apples; the entry is quite ripely, kssingly sweet but resonant acidity and scintillating limestone-like minerality turn the wine dry yet still delicate from mid-palate through the finish. Now through 2015 to ’18. Excellent. About $23, Get It! .
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Antech Émotion 2009, Crémant de Limoux, France. 12% alc. Chardonnay 70%, chenin blanc 18%, mauzac 10%, pinot noir 2%. Pale copper-onion skin color; a fetching froth of tiny bubbles; apples, strawberries, lime peel, steel and limestone; touches of smoke and red and black currants, almost subliminal; orange zest; so damned pretty and charming; very dry finish. Very Good+. About $18, a True Bargain.
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Sekthaus Raumland Cuvée Marie-Luise Blanc de Noirs Brut 2008, Germany. 12% alc. 100% pinot noir. Pale gold; a constant stream of glinting silver bubbles; stimulating bouquet of roasted lemons and lemon curd, toasted hazelnuts, tropical back-notes, sea-breeze and salt-marsh, both generous and chastening; very dry, high-toned and elegant, lots of steel and limestone; yet that intriguing tropical element and a muted hint of leafy currant at the core. Really lovely. Excellent. About $45.
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Dow Vale do Bomfim 2009, Douro, Portugal. 14% alc. Tinta barroca 30%, touriga franca 25%, touriga nacional 25%, tinto roriz 15%, tinto cao 5%. Color is dark ruby; ripe and fleshy, warm and spicy; intense and concentrated black and red currants, plums and blueberries; heaps of briers and brambles and underbrush, coats the mouth with fine-grained tannins; lots of personality brought up short by a dusty, leathery finish. Drink through the end of 2012 with burgers. Very Good+. About $12.
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Prelius Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy. 14% alc. Dark ruby-mulberry color; spicy, tightly wound, chewy, mouth-coating tannins; black currants and plums, very spicy; decent basic cabernet with an earthy, astringent finish. Very Good. About $15.
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Chateau La Roque “Cuvée les Vielles Vignes de Mourvèdre” 2006, Pic Saint Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc, France. 13.5% alc. With 10% grenache. Deep purple with a tinge of magenta; lovely, lively, lots of tone and personality; dense and chewy, intensely spicy, exotic, ripe and fleshy but a slightly hard edge of graphite and walnut shell; plums, plums and more plums, hint of fruitcake (the spices, the nuts, the brandied fruit); a dry finish with earth, leather and wood. Now through 2014 to ’16. Excellent. About $20, and definitely Worth a Search.
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Pierre Gaillard Domaine Cottebrune Transhumance 2007, Faugeres, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. 14.5% alc. Syrah 50%, grenache 40%, mourvèdre 10%. Dark ruby color; ripe, fleshy and meaty black and blue fruit scents and flavors, spiced and macerated; nothing shy here, huge presence, plenty of oak and lipsmacking tannins that pack the mouth, but succulent too, deep and flavorful; sea salt, iron and iodine, a whiff of the decadent but a decent heart. Put yourself in its hands. Now through 2015 to ’17. Excellent. About $22.
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Saturday again! And time for the Friday Wine Sips, and by “Non-American Reds” I don’t mean ferrin commies! I mean red wines that come from anywhere except America, which in the case of this post would be Austria, Chile, Italy and Spain. Every single one of these wines, all seven, would be great with red meat smokin’ hot and crusty right off the grill, whether beef, lamb, pork or goat. As usual in these Friday Wine Sips I tip-toe around technical, personal, historical and specifically geographical/climatic/terroiristic information (with one exception today) for the sake of brief lightning-stroke reviews designed to stoke your interest. All of these wines were samples for review.
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Feudi di San Marzano Primitivo 2011, Puglia, Italy. 13.5% alc. 100% primitivo grapes. Dark ruby color; fresh, bright, spicy and lively; berry berry, as in rasp-, blue- and mul- with a touch of rose petal and potpourri; Big Boy tannins, though, a robust and rustic wine but thoroughly drinkable and enjoyable. Bring forth the burgers and lamb chops. Very Good. About $12, a Distinct Bargain.
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Casa Silva Reserva Carmenere 2010, Colchagua Valley, Chile. 14% alc. 100% carmenere grapes. Deep ruby-purple color; plums and blackberries, lavender and graphite, briers and brambles; pretty wild and woolly, with punchy tannins and rollicking acidity supporting black and blue fruit flavors and a finish that carries a wagon-load of spice and dry underbrush. Another cinch for burgers, chops and hearty pastas and pizzas. Very Good+. About $12, representing Super Value.
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Zantho St. Laurent 2010, Burgenland, Austria. 13% alc. 100% St. Laurent grapes. Dark ruby color; very intense and concentrated; tar and incense, bitter chocolate; cedar, tobacco, cloves, rhubarb and cola, yes, this is a highly individual wine; lip-smacking tannins and acidity, smoke and underbrush, flavors of dried mulberries and blueberries; the finish is pretty gritty and austere. Could age a year. Very Good+ About $14.
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Vesevo 2009, Beneventano Aglianico, Campania, Italy. 13% alc. 100% aglianico grapes. Dark ruby-purple; spiced and macerated, fleshy and meaty, black currants, blackberries and blueberries, touch of iodine, sort of roiling with sensation; a few minutes bring in hints of pomegranate, thyme and a touch of bell pepper, definitely another individual wine and slightly exotic; dry, gritty tannins need a year to settle down. Very Good+. About $16, and Worth a Search.
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Indue 2007, Toscana, Italy. 14.5%alc. Sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon. A collaboration between Volpaia, in Chianti Classico, and sister property Preluis in Maremma. Dark ruby-purple color; a deep, dark, intense and concentrated wine though a few miniutes in the glass lend some ripeness and fleshiness to the black and red fruit scents and flavors; heaps of tannin and graphite-like minerals occupying a silent brooding state presently; lip-smacking acidity, a finish packed with spice and underbrush. Give it a year or two. Very Good+. About $25.
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Castello di Volpaia 2008, Chianti Classico Riserva, Italy. 13.5% alc. 100% sangiovese grapes. Radiant ruby-magenta color; red and black currants, black raspberries, a little toasty and vanilla-ish, hint of potpourri; solid, firm, smooth, permeated by finely-honed tannins, vibrant acidity and a graphite-like mineral element; fleshy and smoky black and red fruit flavors, sustained by woody spice in the finish. My injunction (to myself) in these Friday Wine Sips is not to clutter matters with technical prattle, but I’ll point out that this CCR aged 24 months in wood, 80% in Slovenian and French oak casks (that is, large barrels) and 20% in French oak barriques (that is, small barrels). I feel that wood regimen a bit too much in nose and finish. Certified organic vineyards. Very Good+. About $27.
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Matarromera Crianza 2009, Ribera del Duero, Spain. 14.5% alc. 100% tempranillo grapes. Dark ruby-purple color; mint, eucalyptus and cloves; red and black currants, plums and a touch of plum pudding (baking spices, dried fruit, walnuts); black tea, orange rind, leather; dusty tannins and granite-like minerality, quite dry and austere; needs a year or two or a spit-roasted goat. Very Good. About $28.
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An interesting line-up of wines today, mostly white, but with one rosé and also including a sparkling wine from Limoux in France, made for the Toad Hollow label and imported by the winery. We’re start with the latter, move to the rosé and then do the rest of the wines according to price, as is my wont in these brief Friday Wine Sips. Three sauvignon blanc wines here, made in different styles; the knock-out and super-inexpensive rosé from the fairly obscure (at least to me) Bulles region in southeastern Spain; a so-so Soave, but cheap; one of Joe Bastianich’s sophisticated wines from northeastern Italy, and so on. Very little technical or geographical information, because I want the Friday Wine Sips to be immediate and spontaneous, and indeed they are transcribed pretty directly from my notes, though cleaned up a bit. Enjoy.

All these wines were samples for review.
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Toad Hollow Risqué nv, Blanquette de Limoux, France. 6% alc. 100% mauzac grapes. Pale gold color; mildly but delightfully effervescent; very clean and fresh; apple, stone fruit, Poire William, mango and cloves; quite sweet but with the tingle of acidity to dry it on the palate and produce a bit of an austere, slightly stony finish. Delicate and charming. Very Good+. About $16.
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Numero 3 Rosado de Monestrall 2011, Bulles, Murcia, Spain. 13.5% alc. 100% mourvèdre grapes. Dusky watermelon color with a tinge of pale copper; pure strawberry, raspberry and red currant with a touch of peach skin and licorice; ripe, round and fleshy, satiny and almost viscous but tempered by brisk acidity and a muscular flexing of the limestone element. Not just alluring but sort of remarkable. Excellent. About $12, a Fantastic Bargain.
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ReMidas 2011, Soave, Italy. 12% alc. 100% garganega grapes. A simple, direct and pleasant Soave. Pale straw color; pears and tangerines, almond and almond blossom and a hint of camellia; a little spicy and earthy, crisp, pert and minerally; gets a bit diffuse from mid-palate back. Good+. About $10.
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Hess Select Sauvignon Blanc 2011, North Coast, California. 13.5% acl. Very pale, almost colorless; crisp, snappy, sassy, bags o’ limestone and flint with scintillating acidity; quite grassy and herbal, bursting with grapefruit and gooseberry, thyme and tarragon, celery seed, a hint of leafiness, a little fig; very dry, with a chilly, mineral-laden finish. A great summer aperitif. Very Good. About $11; you can’t beat the price.
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Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc 2011, Sonoma County, California. 13.8% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Ubiquitous on restaurant wine lists. Pale straw color; restrained, elegant, very dry; lots of grapefruit, particularly in the slightly bracing finish; lemon and lemongrass, a tang of celery seed and tarragon; you feel the partial barrel-fermentation in the spice and suppleness and a touch of wood from mid-palate back; a very pleasing combination of earthiness and bright, sunny leafy qualities; taut, measured, balanced and slightly yielding, it persuades me to a rating of Excellent. About $15, representing Great Value.
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Bastianich Adriatico Friulano 2010, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy. 13% alc. 100% friulano grapes. Medium straw-gold color; very apparent, very bright; roasted lemon, baked pear, high tone of green apple; amazing texture and substance for an all stainless steel wine; quite earthy, bristles with spice and vibrant acidity; notes of candied grapefruit and lime peel, quince and ginger; a few minutes in the glass bring up hints of lanolin and camellia; suave, sleek, loads of personality. Now through 2013, maybe into summer of ’14. Excellent. About $16, a Wonderful Price.
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Peter Lehmann Dry Riesling 2011, Eden Valley, Australia. 11% alcohol. Pale straw-gold; clean, fresh, light; apples and pears, lemon balm, grapefruit and lime peel; steel scaffolding on a limestone foundation; a tad dusty, with underlying earthiness; just a hint of petrol and lychee; nicely balanced among shimmering acidity, sheer minerality and juicy stone fruit flavors. Now through 2013. Very Good+. About $17.
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Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand. 14% alc. Pale straw color, tinge of green; it does feel a tad unfettered, exuberant; mango and tangerine, smoky lemon and lemongrass; very clean, crisp and earthy; acidity and flinty mineral qualities practically shimmer with energy; notes of thyme and fig, a snap of celery and fennel seed; part used oak, part stainless steel, that hint of wood exerts itself in the finish, giving some gravity to a buoyant character. Now through 2013. Excellent. About $29.
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Pizza and barbecue ribs don’t have much in common; the first is a form of savory flatbread, while the second is pure meat and bones; the first cooks quickly, the second luxuriates in long, slow heat. Of course pizza often has some form of meat as a topping (certainly the case at my house; I asked LL once if she would like a vegetarian pizza and she replied, “What’s the point?”) and frequently incorporates tomatoes, while ribs are, you know, meat and the basting sauce sometimes has a tomato base, so while we may not be talking about blood-brothers, there may be more going on here than I thought initially.

Anyway, here’s a roster of full-flavored, full-bodied wines that we have tried recently on Pizza-and-Movie Night, as well as a syrah and grenache blend that we drank with barbecue ribs. Not that these labels and recommendations are fused in iron; most of these wines, with their rich ripe fruit and stalwart tannins, could match with a variety of hearty grilled or roasted fare.

These wines were samples for review.
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Las Rocas Garnacha 2009, Calatayud, Spain. Gallo bought Las Rocas, which was launched in 2003, from its American importer and his Spanish partner in 2009; a smart move, since Las Rocas Garnacha is an incredibly popular, inexpensive red wine. Made completely from garnacha or grenache grapes, the version for 2009 is as we would expect: very ripe, floral and spicy, with teeming amounts of black currant, plum and mulberry scents and flavors bolstered by earthy and dusty graphite elements, moderately grainy tannins and bright acidity. The fruit qualities taste a little fleshy and roasted, and there’s a bit of heat on the finish, testimony to the exceptionally dry, hot weather in 2009 along that plateau in northeastern Spain. Quite enjoyable, though, for its frank flavors and rustic directness; try with pizza (of course), burgers and grilled sausages. 15.2 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $14.

With this wine came Las Rocas Red Blend 2009 ($14) and Las Rocas Viñas Viejas 2009 ($20) which I did not find appreciably better or much different.

Imported by Las Rocas USA, Hayward, Ca.
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Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato 2008, Irpinia Aglianico, Campania, Italy. Campania is the province that surrounds the city of Naples and extends east from it. This area is almost the exclusive arena of the unique, rangy and rustic aglianico grape, though it also makes the DOC Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata, to the southeast. The grape originated in Greece and was brought to central Italy by the Phoenicians, so it is of ancient provenance, as so much in Italy is. Feudi di San Gregorio’s Rubrato ’08 displays all the character of the grape in full. The color is deep, dark ruby; the heady bouquet is spicy and meaty, an amalgam of black and blue fruit, cloves, fruitcake, black olives, oolong tea, tar and blackberry jam. In the mouth, the wine, which aged eight months in French oak barriques, is rich and savory but firm, dense and chewy, fathomlessly imbued with grainy tannins, brooding mineral elements and teeming acidity. On the other hand, the alcohol content is a relatively winsome 13.5 percent. We drank this blood-and-guts (yet pleasing and user-friendly) red with pizza, but it’s really suited to barbecue ribs or brisket or a grilled rib-eye steak. Now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $18, representing Good Value.

Imported by Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, Fla.
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Sausal Family Zinfandel 2009, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Sporting a dark ruby slightly unto purple color, this zinfandel, made from vines averaging 50 years old, is robust and full-bodied, offering spiced and macerated red currants and blueberry with a bare hint of boysenberry; the wine is dense and chewy, permeated by elements of graphite and lavender, fruitcake and potpourri, with a bit of bittersweet chocolate. The wine aged 20 months in a combination of French and American oak, a process that lends firmness to the structure, suppleness to the texture and touches of cloves and mocha. Tannins are fine-grained and generously proportioned, while taut acidity provides vim and zip (sounding like characters in a play by Samuel Beckett). The long finish is packed with black and red fruit and earthy graphite-like minerality. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2014 to ’15. Excellent. About $19, another Good Value.
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Benessere Black Glass Vineyard Zinfandel 2008, Napa Valley. Not a zinfandel that attempts the extracted uber-darkness/super-ripe effect, here the color is medium ruby with a dark cherry center and the bouquet focuses on red and black cherries with hints of sour cherry, plum skin, cloves, fruitcake and hints of earthy leather and brambles. Not that the wine isn’t ripe and rich or packed with juicy wild berry flavors; in fact, this is a remarkably sleek and stylish zinfandel that only shows its more rigorous side when the closely-knit tannins and dense oak — 18 months in new and used French and American barrels — make themselves known through the finish. The spice elements, a backnote of cocoa powder and more brambles and briers also build from mid-palate back, adding verve and depth, aided by lively acidity. 14.7 percent alcohol. A great match for pizzas with hearty topping like sausage, guanciale or spicy salami. Production was 390 cases. Excellent. About $28.
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Amapola Creek Cuvée Alis 2009, Sonoma Valley. Here’s a blend of syrah (55 percent) and grenache (45 percent) fully worthy of its Rhone Valley heritage, but I have to apologize for its lack of wide distribution. In any case, this wine went head to head and toe to toe with a rack of barbecue ribs and did them both proud. The grapes were grown organically at about 900 feet above Sonoma Valley, in a vineyard that lies next to the legendary Monte Rosso vineyard, once the mainstay of the Louis M Martini cabernet sauvignon wines and now owned by Gallo. Cuvée Alis 09, named for Richard Arrowood’s wife and co-proprietor of Amapola Creek, aged 18 months in new and used French oak. The color is an almost opaque ruby-purple with a magenta rim; the bouquet is first earth, leather, smoke, ash, black pepper; then intoxicating aromas of pure blackberry, black raspberry and plum, permeated, after a few moments in the glass, with beguiling notes of sandalwood, cumin and cardamom, ancho chili and bittersweet chocolate. The wine is characterized by huge presence and tone; it’s dense and chewy and powerfully imbued with smooth packed-in tannins and an iron and iodine-like mineral nature, yet it remains vital and vibrant, even a bit poised, while black fruit flavors are spicy, fleshy and meaty. The finish, though, is daunting and rather austere, a quality that deepens as the minutes pass. 14.9 percent alcohol. Production was 95 cases, so mark this Worth a Search. Try from 2014 to 2018 to ’22. I wrote about Richard Arrowood’s Amapola Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and his history as a winemaker in Sonoma County here, and I rated that wine Exceptional; this Cuvée Alis 09 is no exception, it’s also Exceptional. About $48.
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The vineyard and wine-making region of Ribera del Duero lies on the vast plateau of north-central Spain, athwart the Duero River in the province of Castilla y Leon. The principal grape is Spain’s most famous, the red tempranillo, known, however, in Ribera del Duero as tinto fino. Tempranillo is also the primary grape of Rioja, to the northeast, in Navarra; while Rioja long held a reputation for fine red wines — or, to be honest, frequently long-aged, woody, attenuated wines — Ribera del Duero functions as the upstart, the relatively new kid on the block, at least in terms of gaining international renown. Traditionally matured in American oak barrels, the wines of Ribera del Duero have come under the spell of French barriques, and you will see some evidence of that influence in this report, though as usual in the Friday Wine Sips, I eliminate technical, historical and explicit geographical data. The wines of Ribera del Duero must contain 75 percent tempranillo grapes, the rest made up from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, malbec or the local albillo; most of the wines mentioned here are 100% tempranillo. “Crianza” indicates a wine that has undergone at least one-year aging in oak barrels. These are not wines of finesse and refinement, but when well-balanced by fruit, their power and presence can be seductive. With two exceptions, these were samples for review. It was particularly gratifying to taste examples from 2005, ’04 and ’03.
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Vivir, Vivir 2007, Ribero del Duero. (Bodegas J.C. Conde) 13% alc. Medium ruby-mulberry color with a darker center; soft, funky spicy nose, macerated red and black currants and plums; lovely ripe and fleshy black fruit character, vibrant acidity and fine-grained tannins; dusty graphite and underbrush, bittersweet chocolate, finish more austere and rigorous. Now to 2015 or ’17. Very Good+. About $12, so Run Out and Buy a Case.
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Damana 5 2007, Ribera del Duero. 14% alc. With 4 percent cabernet sauvignon. Med ruby color; red currants, raspberries and plums with that slight astringency of the tempranillo grape; high notes of wild berries and violets; dry and tannic, dried spices and a sort of distillation or intensification of potpourri and graphite; finish a bit rustic, glaringly dry and austere. Try 2013 to 2016 to ’18. Very Good. About $16.
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Aventino Tempranillo 2007, Ribero del Duero. 13% alc. First note: “this is great!” Dark ruby color with a garnet rim; terrific balance of power and elegance with all elements perfectly integrated; tobacco, spice, dried flowers and berries; deeply tannic and wood-influenced but all melded and meshed and layered; texture and structure one with the fruit and bright acidity; a few moments bring up hints of oolong tea, orange rind and fruitcake. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $13, an Absolute Freaking Bargain and Worth a Search.
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Ebano 6 2007, Ribero del Duero. NA% alc. Dark ruby color with a touch of magenta at the rim; give it a few minutes in the glass and it becomes quite appealing and drinkable; rich, warm, spicy, savory; red and black currants and cherries, tea and bittersweet chocolate; hefty, slightly grainy tannins are still fairly tight but unfold with airing in the glass; black and red fruit flavors open to hints of sour cherry and fruitcake; solid structure with some manageable woody austerity in the finish. Drink now through 2015 to ’17. Very Good+. About $18, Good Value.
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Tinto Federico Roble 2007, Ribero del Duero. 12.5% alc. Warm, fleshy, spicy, ripe, appealing; softly macerated red and black berries and plums, touch of tobacco and iodine plus the whole box of exotic spices; plush and velvety yet sustained by striking acidity and fairly resolute tannins; the woody, tannin nature comes out more in the dry, austere finish. Try 2013 to 2017 or ’18. Very Good+. About $18.
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Pagos del Infante Crianza 2006, Ribero del Duero. (Lynus Viñedos y Bodegas) 14.5% alc. Dark ruby color; cool, clean, scintillating inky graphite-like minerality, a touch of mint; more spice than fruit, though an intense concentration of black currants, black raspberries and plums with fruitcake, orange pekoe tea and quince paste; long, dense, impressive, avoids austerity through sheer power of personality. A modern style but more than merely legitimate. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $NA.
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Callejo Crianza 2006, Ribero del Duero. 14% alc. Lots of dimension without much detail; dense, dusty, chewy iron-like tannins; leather and brambles; even the warm spicy aromas feel as if they’re part of some rigorous architecture, etched with a smoke and charcoal edge; dry and austere. A big hmmmm. Perhaps try from 2014 to 2018. Very Good. About $30.
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Portia 2006, Ribera del Duero. 14% alc. Dark ruby with a slightly lighter rim; ripe, spicy, fleshy, warm; good balance and integration; tasty and appealing; moderate and well-integrated oak and tannins. Not exciting but drinks nicely. Now through 2014 to ’16. Very Good. About $30 (or close)
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Today, Friday Wine Sips offers 10 white wines and two reds, the whites mainly chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, mainly California but touching down in Italy, Spain and France, the reds collage-like blends, one from California, the other from Argentina.

As usual, I dispense with matters technical, geographical, climatic, philosophical, historical, anthropological, psychological, heretical and hermeneutic to focus on quick, incisive reviews that get at the essence of the wine. These were samples for review or tasted at wholesalers’ trade events.

By the way, I was curious, so I went back and checked through the Friday Wine Sips series, which I launched on January 5, to see how many brief reviews I’ve done, and counting this post today, it’s 86 wines. That’s a lot of juice.
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Hess Select Sauvignon Blanc 2010, North Coast. 13.5% alc. Very dry, crisp and lively, with pert acidity and a sleek texture; kiwi, celery seed, tarragon; tangerine, lemongrass and grapefruit skin, with a touch of citrus rind bitterness on the finish. Uncomplicated and tasty. Very Good. About $11.
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Cortenova Pinot Grigio 2009, Veneto, Italy. (% alc. NA) Clean and fresh, hints of roasted lemon and lemon balm with almond and almond blossom and an undertone of pear; the citrus spectrum in a smooth, crisp, bright package; good character and heft for the price. Very Good. About $13.
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Chateau Suau Bordeaux Blanc 2010, Cotes de Bordeaux, France. (% alc. NA) 55% sauvignon blanc, 35% semillon, 10% muscadelle. A lovely white Bordeaux, brisk and refreshing, bordering on elegance; pear and peach, jasmine and honeysuckle, surprising hint of pineapple; all suppleness and subtlety but in a lively arrangement of balancing elements. Very Good+. About $15, representing Great Value.
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Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Lake County. 13.5% alc. Crisp and sassy, with tremendous appeal; quince and ginger, lemongrass and peach, lime peel and grapefruit and fennel seed, all intense and forward; animated, provocative in its spiciness, its leafy herbal qualities and alert acidity running through steely citrus flavors. Very Good+. About $16, a Real Bargain.
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Valminor Albariño 2010, Rías Baixas, Spain. 12.5% alc. This boldly spicy and savory albarino offers real grip and limestone fortitude with enticing citrus and grapefruit scents and flavors, whiffs of jasmine and camellia, hints of apple skin and roasted pear; eminently refreshing, spring rain and sea-salt with a bracing punch of earth and bitterness on the finish. One of the best albariños. Excellent. About $20.
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Hall Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Napa Valley. 14.8% alc. An organic wine. Pale straw color with faint green highlights; nectarine, pear and melon, dried thyme, cloves and a hint of fig, jasmine and honeysuckle; dry, smooth, suave; bright brisk acidity, scintillating limestone element; ethereal spareness and elegance of lemon, pear and grapefruit flavors. Excellent. About $20.
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Benessere Pinot Grigio 2010, Carneros, Napa Valley. 13.9% alc. Pretty exotic for a pinot grigio but super-attractive; pale straw color; apple peel, orange zest, roasted lemon and pear; cloves and clover, touch of mango; nicely balanced between moderately lush texture and zippy acidity, crisp and lively but just an undertow of richness; lemon and tangerine with a touch of peach skin; long spicy finish. 895 cases. Excellent. About $22.
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Molnar Family Poseidon’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2009, Carneros, Napa Valley. 14.1% alc. Uncommonly spicy and savory; deep, rich, full-bodied, yet so light on its feet, so agile, deft and balanced; classic pineapple and grapefruit scents and flavors, exhilarating feeling of limestone and river rock minerality; smoke, cloves, cinnamon, hint of sandalwood, yeah, a little exotic but nothing overstated, and blessedly avoids any overtly tropical element. Excellent. About $24.
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Black Dog Cellars Chardonnay 2010, Sonoma Coast. (% alc. NA) Exactly the kind of chardonnay I would drink all the time: lovely purity and intensity of the grape; exquisite balance and integration of all features; pale straw-gold color; pineapple and grapefruit scents and flavors highlighted by cloves and limestone; oak lends firmness, suavity and suppleness; there’s a touch of camellia in the nose, and an intriguing bit of resinous grip in the long resonant finish, all bound by acidity you could practically strum like a harp. Sadly only 313 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Morgan “Highland” Chardonnay 2010, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey. 13.8% alc. Bright straw-gold color; fresh, clean, boldly spicy, apple, pineapple and grapefruit scents and flavors, just a hint of mango; lovely finesse, balance and integration; rich but not creamy pineapple and grapefruit flavors, touch of cloves and buttered cinnamon toast, all beautifully modulated; limestone and flint come in on the finish. Excellent. About $26.
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And two reds:
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Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red 2009, Lake County. 14.2% alc. 38% zinfandel, 18% tempranillo, 13% barbera, 12% merlot, 12% cabernet sauvignon, 7% grenache. A pastiche of grapes that produced a warm, spicy, fleshy fruity and engaging wine; dark ruby-magenta color; cassis and blueberry, lavender, lilac and licorice; graphite and shale; hint of cloves and vanilla; quite dry, but juicy with black and blue fruit flavors supported by dense chewy tannins and burnished oak. Great for pizzas, burgers and such. Very Good+. About $17.
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Amalaya 2010, Calcahquí, Salta, Argentina. 14% alc. Malbec 75%, cabernet sauvignon 15%, tannat 5%, syrah 5%. Dark ruby-purple color; what a nose: rose hips and fruitcake, walnut shell, black currants, black raspberries and blueberries, cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate, graphite; in the mouth, very dry, very intense and concentrated, amid the tightly-packed tannins and firm oak a deep core of spiced and macerated blackberries and currants, lavender and licorice, briers and brambles. Needs a grateful steak. Very Good+. About $17.
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Five bargain priced wines from Spain, imported by Kysela Pere et Fils in Winchester, Va. Though I am devoted to the very interesting — at least to me — data about history, geography, personalities, climate and winemaking techniques in other posts, for the “Friday Wine Sips” I eschew such matters for the sake of brevity and immediacy.

These wines were tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event this week.

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Palacio de Bornos Verdejo 2010, Rueda. 13% alc. What can I say? Fresh, zippy, clean, snappy, crisp? You get the idea. Bight lemony scents and flavors with hints of roasted lemon and lime zest, a tinge of something more tropical — pineapple, mango — all enshrined in vivacious acidity and a scintillating limestone element. Quite dry, a touch of savory spice and then austerity in the finish. Ideal aperitif, with tapas or grilled seafood. Drink through the end of this summer. Very Good+. About $14, a Raving Great Value.
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Tres Ojos Rosado 2010, Calatayud. 14% alc. 50% garnacha/50% tempranillo. Lovely rosy-pink copper color; delicate yet fleshy, strawberries and raspberries with a touch of peach skin and a slight shadow of mulberry and limestone earthiness. Clean, dry, surprisingly seductive for the price. Drink up. Very Good. About $10.
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Monte Aman Rosado 2010, Ribera del Arlanza. 13% alc. 100% tempranillo grapes. Medium peachy-red cherry color; wonderful bouquet of rose petals and tangerine, orange zest and melon; a few minutes in the glass bring out hints of raspberries and strawberries, and that’s the realm of the flavors too, with a dense, almost viscous texture, but clean, dry and crisp, with vibrant acidity and flinty minerality in the background. Delightful. Drink through the end of 2012. Very Good+. About $12, Terrific Value.
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Tres Ojos Old Vine Garnacha 2009, Calatayud. 14.5% alc. Always an enjoyable little wine and good value; bright, clean, vivid with red and black currant and blackberry scents and flavors, a whiff of black pepper, savory and a little briery and brambly. Simple, direct, tasty; an appealing quaff for burgers and pizza. Very Good. About $10.
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Montebuena 2009, Rioja. 12.5% alc. 100% tempranillo grapes. Bright, fresh and fruity; ripe, fleshy and spicy; tobacco leaf and lead pencil, red and black cherries steeped in brandy with cloves and sandalwood; lovely balance, integration and concentration of all elements, lovely clean intensity; a hint of briers and tar in the depths, a bit of rooty earthiness. Wines at this price aren’t supposed to have this much character. Drink through 2013 or ’14. Very Good+. About $12, and you had better go buy a case right now.
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Rush right out and buy a few bottles of this wonderfully appealing yet suitably serious example of Rioja, from Spain’s most renowned wine region. Burgo Viejo Reserva 2006, Rioja, was produced by a cooperative established by six families in 1987, since grown to 16 families. Altogether, they draw on 494 acres of vineyards, the majority by far devoted to red grapes. While the average age of the vines is 30 years, some of the garnacha (grenache) goes back 90 years. Oak is 90 percent American, 10 percent French. Winemaker, since 2003, is Gorka Etxebarria.

Burgo Viejo Reserva 2006, Rioja, is a blend of 85 percent tempranillo grapes, 10 percent garnacha and 5 percent carignan. The color is an entrancing deep ruby with a dark violet rim and a purple center that almost pulses with intensity. Scents of tobacco leaf, sandalwood, bacon fat and tar are woven with vivid notes of black and red currants and cherries and undertones of rose petal and fruitcake; give the wine a few moments in the glass and it accumulates hints of leather, cloves, sandalwood and green peppercorns. As if that panoply of delights were not enough to entice you, in the mouth, the wine is beautifully balanced and integrated, though dense, slightly grainy tannins and a subtle and supple oak influence lend a firm foundation and framework, abetted by a burgeoning element of graphite-like minerality. All of these qualities, including spiced and macerated black and blue fruit flavors, are bound by vibrant acidity that arrows straight to a sleek, spice-laden finish concluding with a final fillip of lavender and licorice. Alcohol content is a very comfortable 13.5 percent. Drink now through 2015 or ’16 with roasted chicken, game birds or hearty stews. Excellent. About $19 or $20, representing Great Value. Restaurants take note: how often can you get a mature wine from 2006 on your wine lists at a price diners will appreciate?

Imported by Kysela Pete et Fils, Winchester, Va. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.

Well, O.K., make that 176, though the venerable firm in Jerez celebrated its dodransbicentennial last year with great fanfare. Founded, therefore, in 1835, Gonzales Byass is still family-owned, now in the fifth generation. The company owns 850 hectares (2,184.5 acres) of prime vineyards in Jerez Superior, where they grow mainly palomino, the chief grape for the production of sherry. Because of its low acidity and low sugar content, palomino does not make acceptable table wine — such wines tend to be flabby and bland — but it’s perfect for the unique process that results in sherry.

Sherry — the name is jealously guarded by international trade agreements — is made only in the arid region around the seacoast city of Cadiz in way far southern Spain, around on the Atlantic side, west of Gibraltar. The combination of grapes varieties, the chalky soil, proximity to the ocean, the close to drought-like climate — annual rainfall is 19 inches — and the unique solera process result in a wine that at its best rivals the great wines of Europe’s other famous winemaking regions. The corollary is that lots of anonymous, generic, mediocre sherry is also produced.

Sherry is a fortified wine made principally from the palomino fino grape (95 percent) with some estates still cultivating minuscule amounts of Muscat of Alexandria and Pedro Ximenez, the latter for dessert wines that can attain legendary qualities. After fermentation, the wines are fortified with grape spirit to 15 or 15.5 percent (for elegant fino sherry) up to 18 or 19 percent for richer oloroso style sherry. The lower alcohol content in fino sherry does not inhibit the growth of the flor, the natural yeast the grows across the surface of the wine in the barrel and contributes to fino sherry its typical and unforgettable light mossy-nutty character. The sherry houses are situated in three towns, Jerez de la Frontera — “sherry” is an English corruption of “jerez” — Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria; though geographically not too distant from each other, the three locations impart different qualities to the fino sherries that originate in them.

The solera system is essentially a method of blending in which some of the oldest wine is withdraw from its barrel and topped up with the next oldest and on down the line to the youngest wines that entered the solera after fermentation and fortifying. The constant process of topping off in this manner keeps refreshing the older wines and ensures a steady house style year by year. Some houses run complicated systems of as many as 20 different solera to satisfy the demands of the different types of sherry that they produce. Unfortunately, modern times have seen the adulteration of the method through shortcuts and the addition of sweetening agents, mainly used for cheap versions and for so-called “Cream Sherry.”

The types of sherry can be confusing, certainly as confusing as the many types of Port. Basically, the system goes like this: Fino is the most delicate and elegant of sherries and the best to be served with tapas and other light appetizers. A fino from Sanlucar is a Manzanilla. If a fino, either through natural process or induced, loses its flor, the increased exposure to air will result in a darker, more flavorful sherry; this is the famous Amontillado. The sherries called Oloroso, fortified after fermentation to around 18 percent alcohol, never develop flor, and so their character is far different, being darker in color and more intense and concentrated. All of these are dry wines. The rarest and best sweet sherries are made from sun-dried Pedro Ximenez grapes, though vast quantities of sweet sherries are turned out using other, cheaper processes.

This summation could be expanded into a book, but we’ll leave the matter in this brief, simplified form for our purpose today, and that’s to taste six of the most popular sherries from Gonzalez Byass.

Imported by The San Francisco Wine Exchange, San Francisco. These were samples for review. Image of one of the solera at Gonzalez Byass by Jim White for secretsherrysociety.com
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Tio Pepe — “Uncle Pepe” — is one of the best-known fino sherries in the world. This is made from 100 percent palomino grapes and spends an average of five years in solera in American oak barrels, under the layer of flor. The color is pale straw; subtle aromas of toasted almonds and coconut are enlivened with a hint of sea-salt. This sherry is very dry, almost achingly so, yet the total effect is of elegance and finely balanced delicacy and nuance, along with penetrating earthy nutty flavors. Always terrific with handfuls of almonds, cashews and green olives or, the classic match, sherried pea or sorrel soup. 15 percent alcohol. Serve quite chilled and return the recorked bottle to the fridge; don’t store on a shelf or sideboard. Very Good+. About $18.

Image, fairly cropped, from delongwine.com.
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It’s highly probable that more people have read Edgar Allen Poe’s story “A Cask of Amontillado” — or can mindlessly quote “For the love of god, Montressor!” — than have actually tasted Amontillado, which, I’ll say right here, is my favorite style of sherry. The Gonzales Byass Vina AB Amontillado is made from 100 percent palomino grapes; it enters the solera, where it develops a skin of flor, and then when the flor fades, the wine is transferred to a Vina AB solera where exposure to air allows it to oxidize; it stays in American oak barrels for an average of eight years. The color is an entrancing medium bronze-amber; the bouquet wreathes touches of toasted coconut, caramelized raisins, roasted hazelnuts and a hint of toffee, and while the aromas seem to imply sweetness, the wine is bone-dry, intense, concentrated, though smooth and supple; the dryness, the slight sense of rigor, lead to a limestone-laced, high-toned, fairly austere finish. 16.5 percent alcohol. Should be served at room temperature or slightly chilled. Try with white gazpacho or paper-thin slices of really good Iberian ham. Excellent. About $20.
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The color of the Alfonso Oloroso Seco — “seco” means dry — is a ruddy medium copper-amber hue, perhaps tending toward mahogany; smoke and cinnamon toast, roasted raisins, toffee, orange zest and a slightly resiny quality are woven in the bouquet. This is 100 percent palomino grapes; the wine spends an average of eight years in American oak in the solera. This is full-bodied, though not viscous, vibrant, earthy, permeated with the flavors but not the sweetness of maple syrup and brown sugar; it’s dry, like cloves and citrus peel, and hovers at the edge of woodiness. 18 percent alcohol. Serve chilled. Very Good+. About $20.
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The Cristina Oloroso Abocado — “semi-sweet” — is a blend of 87 percent palomino and 13 percent Pedro Ximenez grapes; it spends an average of seven years in solera in American oak barrels. The color is medium amber; this offers the typical toasted almonds-coconut-raisins bouquet and flavors with toffee, orange rind and bitter chocolate. The entry is sweet, but from mid-palate back through the finish, the wine is dry, and though the texture is seductively supple, Cristina feels a bit rough-edged, like the least balanced and integrated of these six sherries. 17.5 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $20.
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The “dulce” of the Solera 1847 Olorosa Dulce says it all; this is a sweet, robust, full-bodied sherry suitable for certain cheeses or savory pates and desserts that include fruit and nuts; it would be devastating with foie gras. It’s a blend of 75 percent palomino grapes and 25 percent Pedro Ximenez, and it spent an average of eight years in American oak in the solera. A dark amber color, slightly ruddy garnet around the rim, this sherry exudes notes of smoke, oolong tea, toffee and orange zest, figs, fruitcake and bitter chocolate, all consistent in flavor too. You feel the liveliness and resonance of firm acidity and the recognizable yet indefinable presence of a winning and winsome personality. A few moments in the glass bring in more aspects of woody spices — cloves, cinnamon, sandalwood — and a more intense impression of fruitcake woven with potpourri and pomander. The finish is dry, drawn-out and spicy. 18 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $20.

Image from vendomestore.com.
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The Gonzales Byass Apostoles Palo Cortado Viejo is a blend of 87 percent palomino and 13 percent Pedro Ximenez; this sherry spends an average of 30 years in the solera in American oak barrels. Palo Cortado is a rare sherry that started out to be Amontillado but did not, by happenstance, develop the covering of flor, so it ages, instead, as a dry oloroso of unusual complexity. The color is medium amber with an inner radiance of golden embers; fruitcake, baking spices, roasted hazelnuts, toffee, smoky maple syrup; dense and viscous in the mouth but stays just shy of sweetness and on the inside of dryness in risky but empathetic poise. The finish is dry, earthy, spicy. Not really a dessert wine but demanding intensely flavored pates, terrines and cured meats. 20 percent alcohol. Drink now or cellar through 2020. Excellent. About $49 for a 375 milliliter half-bottle.

Image, slightly cropped, from thisislondon.co.uk.
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Look no further for a fresh, attractive aperitif or wine to go with sushi, fresh seafood or, as we drank it, with seared salmon, just rare in the center, with a crust of crushed black and red pepper. This is the Palacios de Bornos Verdejo 2010, from the Spanish region of Rueda, which straddles the river Duero southwest of the university town of Valladolid. The river is important; the climate of the high plateau of Castilla y León, Spain’s largest autonomous region, is harsh and arid. You won’t be thinking of anything harsh and arid, however, when you’re sipping this little gem. Made all in stainless steel from 100 percent verdejo grapes, the wine sports a pale but radiant straw-gold color; aromas of spiced lemon and pear are wreathed with hints of dried thyme and tarragon (and a faint whiff of lilac) and a bracing sort of brisk sea-breeze/salt-marsh aspect that brings it close to exhilarating. Palacios de Bornos Verdejo 2010 is dry and spare, quite lively and spicy, supple in texture but crisp with pert acidity that supports ripe citrus and stone-fruit flavors and a finish permeated by lime peel and limestone. Delightful and almost savory in effect. Winemaker was Pilar Garcia. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2012. Very Good+. About $13, representing Great Value.

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