Archive for April, 2013

Four French Wines From the 2010 Vintage

Despite the portfolio tastings and various events I am still tasting wines at home.  Of the four wines featured below I would recommend the first three.  The 2010 J.L. Chave, Silene is enjoyable and approachable now but I have a sneaking s suspicion it might become even better in one or two years.  The 2010 Rouge-Bleu, Dentelle is fun to drink immediately after opening but its structure does come out leading me to believe it will be best early next year.  It is amusing to recently purchase both the 2006 and 2010 vintages of the Santa Duc, Les Vieilles Vignes.  Drink the 2006 while the 2010 opens up over the short-term.  Lastly, the 2010 Marjolet, Cuvee Tradition had some good fruit but could never shake the very firm structure nor the bits of heat, both of which I found distracting.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 J.L. Chave Selections, Silene, Crozes-Hermitage – $20
Imported by Erin Cannon Imports.  This wine is 100% Syrah from hillside parcels on granite with 50% sourced from a young parcel planted in 2003.  It wasf fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 18 months in oak casks.  Alcohol 13%.  The scented nose is of good, clean Northern Rhone fruit.  In the mouth there were orange and red fruit, graphite, and tangy red fruit.  There were some very fine, strong tannins in this younger but still approachable wine.  With air the midpalate becomes lush and citric mineral flavors come out.  *** Now-2017.


2010 Domaine Rouge-Bleu, Dentelle, VdP de Mediterranee – $16
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is a blend of 65% Carignan sourced from 57-year-old vines and 45% Grenache sourced from 35-year-old vines.  It was whole-cluster fermented in small concrete tanks.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was a light to medium grapey ruby.  The youthful nose is of young berries and purple fruit.  The wine was fruitier on the first night with violets mixing with black and purple fruit.  There was a firm, grapey blackness, grapey tannins, and good acidity.  Dried herbs came out in the finish where there was firm structure followed by some perfume in the aftertaste.  It throws a lot of sediment.  *** 2014-2019.


2010 Domaine Santa Duc, Les Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone – $13
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 10% Cinsault, Counoise, and Carignan from vines averaging 50 years of age.  The fruit was destemmed then aged on the lees in vats.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was light with pungent berries underlaid by ripe, grainy blue fruit aromas.  The mouth follows the nose with dense fruit, ripe tannins and an almost chewy nature.  The flavors are expansive in the mouth with ripe tannins and spices coating the lips and tongue.  With air red fruit and a darker core come out.  **(*) 2014-2018.


2010 Chateau de Marjolet, Cuvee Tradition, Cotes du Rhone Villages Laudun – $13
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah which was aged for 12 months in thermo-regulated tanks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Tasted over several nights this wine offers firm, black, minerally fruit followed by focused ripeness.  It remained coiled tight and young with some heat and firm tannins coming out with air.  There are very fine, spicy, drying tannins in the aftertaste.  ** 2016-2021.


The Drink Local Wine Tour of Maryland Wineries

April 16, 2013 2 comments

The fifth annual Drink Local Wine Conference featured the wines of Maryland.  It was composed of a media tour of Maryland wineries on Friday followed by a conference and Twitter Taste Off in Baltimore on Saturday.  I was only able to attend one day so I chose the winery tour.  I woke up that morning to thunder, lightning, and torrential downpours.  The storm faded away during my drive up to Baltimore and renewed my hope for some vineyard tours.  I did not know who was attending Friday’s tour so it was great to see a number of familiar faces Frank Morgan (DrinkWhatYouLike), David White (Terroirist), Todd Godbout (WineCompass), Michel Birchenall (Food Service Monthly), and of Drink Local Wine co-founder Dave McIntyre (dmwineline).  I met many new faces such as Michael Wangbickler President of Drink Local Wine (Through the Bunghole), Kevin Atticks Executive Director of the Maryland Wineries Association along with Marketing Director Briana Berg and Events Director Jade Ostner.  Several dozen people stepped onto the coach which would first take us to Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard where we would also taste the wines of Elk Run Vineyards.  Our second stop would be at Black Ankle Vineyards where we would also have a lunch catered by Woodberry Kitchen.  Our final stop would be at Boordy Vineyards where we would additionally taste the wines of Cygnus Wine Cellars and Fiore Winery.  We would finally be dropped off for dinner at the Waterfront Kitchen in Fells Point, Baltimore.

First Stop – Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard with Elk Run Vineyards


We began our tour by visiting Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards which also hosted Elk Run Vineyards for the sake of Drink Local Wine.  As our coach pulled into the parking lot Christian Schiller (schiller-wine) came out to join us.  I also had the chance to briefly meet Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report. Inside the tasting room, each winery poured four bottled wines along with four mystery samples from Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards.  These samples included a pure Cabernet Franc, a pure Merlot, a blend of 75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot, and a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc.  They are interested in releasing a new wine so these unidentified samples help reveal consumer preferences.  Sample C was preferred choice.


I quickly tasted through the eight bottled wines then joined a small group for a vineyard tour.  I have visited Sugarloaf Mountain Winery several times over the years with my family.  My daughter’s friend from her first daycare is an O’Donoghue so we have attended both the Spring Bud and Grape Stomp Festivals.  On these visits we hung out at our picnic blanket and the tasting tent so we never managed a tour.  A handful of us walked up behind the barn with Mike to visit the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard.  This seven acre vineyard was planted with 3,000 local cuttings of Slate Quarry Riparia in 2004.  Mike is a retired lawyer and now spends five days per week in the vineyard.


The land between the rows contain grass though weeds sometimes crop up.  Though they rely on mechanical cultivation the weeds may become a problem so Round-Up is occasionally used.  The wind comes from the west, which is evidenced by the first several rows being bent towards the east, so Mike works the east side of the vines.  The vines are cane pruned with five buds per side.  He wants spacing between the vines so the last bud with apical dominance is pruned.  If this was not done neighboring vines would cross thus blocking sun and wind which would increase the chance of botrytis.

The ends of the vines were turning dark which signifies the flowing of sap.  Mike estimates bud break would occur this week. The vines have all been pruned for they are very delicate for several days after bud break.  If a worker accidentally brushed up against a vine it could knock off several buds.  After a few days they become hardy and green.

We tasted wines from the 2010 and 2011 vintages.  2010 was a hot, early vintage.  2011 was a soggy vintage with rain on 28 out of 30 days at Sugarloaf Mountain.  As of January Manolo Gomez has become the official winemaker with Benoit Pineau the consultant winemaker.  Many thanks to Susan Reed for once again providing answers to my questions.  And thanks to both wineries for providing us with tote bags and glasses.

Elk Run Vineyards


My favorite of these four wines was the Merlot but the Pinot Noir had good strengths as well.  I believe this is the first pure Maryland Pinot Noir wine which I have tasted.

2011 Elk Run Vineyards, Gewurztraminer, Cold Friday Vineyard – $20
This had a musky, floral nose.  In the mouth this off-dry wine was soft with sweet white and yellow fruit.

2011 Elk Run Vineyards, Gypsy Rose – $18
This wine is a blend of Merlot and Pinot Noir.  The color was of pale dried roses.  There was soft, vaguely red fruit with drier flavors and some chewy, moderate acidity.

2010 Elk Run Vineyards, Merlot, Cold Friday Vineyard – $35
This  There was a subtle but decent nose.  In the mouth there were flavors of black cherry, smoke, somewhat ripe tannins, and a taut aspect.  It was decent overall with an agreeable amount of toast notes.

2010 Elk Run Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Cold Friday Vineyard – $35
The color was a light garnet, dried rose.  The light nose was more expressive than the Merlot.  There were cherry flavors along with tart red fruit, perhaps some licorice, and a tart middle.  There was a very gentle structure.

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard


Though I enjoyed the 2011 Pinot Grigio my favorite of the quartet was the 2010 Evoe!  I last tasted this wine almost one year ago and thought it needed some time to settle down.  That year has greatly benefitted the wine and should provide for some fun drinking this year.

2011 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Pinot Grigio – $19
This wine is 100% Pinot Grigio which was aged for 6 months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13.0%.  There was a very subtle nose.  In the mouth the flavors showed restraint but also had some ripe white and yellow fruit.  There was good acidity, a softer finish, and perhaps a note of lees.

2011 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Circe – $24
This wine is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 7% Merlot which was aged 5 months in 20% new French oak.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose bore very young fruit.  In the mouth there were grapey red fruit flavors which tickled the tip of the tongue.  It became very tart with red berries and grape tannins.

2011 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Comus – $26
This wine is a blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec which was aged 12 months in 25% French oak. Alcohol 13.0%  There were flavors of bright red fruit, structure, acidity, and a little bit of black fruit in the finish.  A little young and should benefit from short-term aging.

2010 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Evoe! – $39
This wine is a blend of 51% Cabernet Franc, 22% Petit Verdot, 16% Merlot, and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon which was aged 24 months in 25% new French oak. Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was nice with black berries.  In the mouth there was focused, moderately ripe fruit with some grip.  There was enjoyable texture on the tongue.  My favorite.

Second Stop – Black Ankle Vineyards


Our coach was sponsored by Nomacorc which Frank Morgan had recently visited and described the night before to Lou and I.  It took some time to reach Black Ankle Vineyards so I had time to meet Whitney Rigsbee who is a Media Relations Specialist at Nomacorc.  We were visiting Black Ankle Vineyards to both taste wine and to eat lunch catered by the Woodberry Kitchen.  I have tasted several Black Ankle wines over the winter so I certainly anticipated this visit.  Black Ankle Vineyards had posted the menu along with some pictures on their Facebook page which made us even hungrier.  I begin to anticipate lunch as well.  Glasses of their 2012 Gruner Veltliner were already poured so we were handed a glass as soon as we entered the tasting room.  The five wines we were to taste had been paired with a lunch course.  Shortly after the Gruner was handed out trays of Seasonal Tartines were passed around.


The lunch was sponsored by the Maryland Office of Tourism and was meant to showcase  locally sourced food and wine.  Table were set throughout the tasting room.  Seats and power outlets were quickly claimed.  Present at my table was Frank Morgan, Whitney Rigsbee, along with Paul and Warren (Virginia Wine Time), and Virginia Wine Diva (SwirlSipSnark)


The lunch was superb.  Whereas the 2012 Gruner stood out by itself, the 2011 Bedlam was brighter and more delicate in flavor, which let oysters shine.  I believe these oysters were briefly on the grill.  However they were prepared, this pair of savory oysters are amongst the best I have eaten.


I could smell the lamb on the grill.  Spike Gerdje had brought a small team from his restaurant and they had set up just behind the tasting room.  The wines were poured before each course.  With aromas filling the entire tasting room I simply could not resist tucking into the 2010 Leaf Stone Syrah which was my favorite wine of the day.  Just as exciting was the main course prepared from two Suffolk lamb butchered by Woodberry Kitchen.  They were presented as sausages, confit belly, and chops along with potatoes and scallions.  Fortunately a partial bottle of the Syrah had been left on our table so we were able to recharge our glasses.  By the end of the lunch we were running out of time.  With the dessert course being served there was a bit of a rush.  Ed had confirmed there were still several cases of the 2010 Leaf Stone Syrah left so a number of us left our tables to purchase our bottles.  By the end there was quite a buzz in the tasting room which was of enjoyment and content.  This could have been the one event of the day and I would have been deeply satisfied.


Maryland Wine Association
Luncheon at
Black Ankle Vineyards

Seasonal Tartines
Grilled Chesapeake Oysters
Next Step Organic Wheat Berry Salad
Whole Maryland Suffolk Lamb
Beiler’s Heritage Acres Cornflour Cake


2012 Black Ankle Vineyards, Gruner Veltliner – (Barrel Sample)
The nose revealed white fruit then some weight yellow fruit aromas.  In the mouth the floral fruit had both good acidity and mouthfeel.  There were flavors of honeysuckle in this wine with good length and round aftertaste.  Nice.

2011 Black Ankle Vineyards, Bedlam –
This wine is a blend of Albarino, Viognier, Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner, and Muscat.  There was a fresh, bright nose with herbs and the slight texture of white fruit.  In the mouth the flavors were of drier white fruit which was tart and mixed with acidity that made my tongue salivate on the sides.  There was a yeasty note in the middle.


2010 Black Ankle Vineyards, Rollings Hills, Frederick County –
This wine is a blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 8% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot which was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.6%.  The nose was of light red berries.  In the mouth there were berry flavors and a hint of something bright.  The flavors had density with acidity at the back of the mouth.  There were some grapey tannins along with fine-grained tannins in the structure.  There was a cool finish.


2010 Black Ankle Vineyards, Leaf Stone Syrah, Frederick County –
This wine is 100% Syrah which was aged for 18 months in 65% new French oak.  Alcohol 14.6%.  The beautiful nose had depth with floral fruit that smelled proper and was evocative of the Northern Rhone.  The flavors were young and tight but still enjoyable.  There was some grainy texture to the fruit and a creamy feel to the blue, grapey, and red flavors.  There was a touch of lipstick in the finish.  The acidity was well-integrated along with a deft touch of ripe oak tannins.  Nice.

NV Black Ankle Vineyards, Terra Dulce II, Frederick County –
The color was a tawny garnet.  There was tangy red fruit in this fortified wine.  Herbs and acidity came out at first with the red fruit.  Then tea, tobacco, and more tobacco.  It was a little spirity at this point and could use some age for integration.

Third Stop – Boordy Vineyards with Cygnus Wine Cellars and Fiore


The ride to Boordy Vineyards was a bit quieter.  I had the chance to hear about Jade Ostner’s experience with the growth in Maryland wineries and also to meet Andrew Stover (chiefwino and Vino50).  When we stepped off the bus at Boordy Vineyards the sky was gray and the temperature had noticeably dropped.  We were located in the Long Green Valley which is just north of Baltimore.  There was not enough time for a vineyard tour so we paused in front of the winery for a brief overview of the winery.  The winery is currently housed in the ground-floor level of a 19th century barn.


Next to the barn a new similarly sized building is going up.  The new building will become the home of the winery.  As it is purpose-built, future wines will see more gravity and less pumps along with being raised with more accurate temperature control.  The original barn will become a barrel cellar.


Boordy Vineyards produces three tiers of wines: Just for Fun, Icon Wines, and the Landmark Project.  For our visit we would be tasting wines from the Landmark Project.  These wines are produced from 100% Maryland fruit of which 95% is estate fruit.  The Landmark Project was begun in 2006.  It follows the guidance of viticulturist Lucie Morton which initiated a complete replanting of the vineyards.  The vineyards were replanted with closer spacing, 1 meter by 8 feet, averaging 1500 vines per acre for all 45 acres.  Four acres of Albarino will be planted this week.


I started with barrel samples of the varietals used to produce the Landmark wine.  While I preferred the Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon I also liked the strength of the Petit Verdot.  I would have enjoyed making my own blend from these samples!

2012 Boordy Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon (Landmark Component Barrel Sample) –
The nose was low-lying with almost musky notes.  There was ripe fruit in the mouth, vintage perfume, and an earthy/foxy note.  There was good mouth weight.

2012 Boordy Vineyards, Merlot Clone 15 (Landmark Component Barrel Sample) –
The fruit was sourced from a 4.5 acre vineyard with an additional 3.5 acres coming online in 2013.  This had a nose which stood out with red and black berries and a greenhouse note.  The mouth followed the nose with brighter acidity which drove the flavors on the tongue.  There were red grapefruit notes.

2012 Boordy Vineyards, Syrah (Landmark Component Barrel Sample) –
The fruit was sourced from a 0.7 acre vineyard planted in 2000.  The nose bore red fruit, a little greenhouse note, and old perfume.  There were mouthfilling flavors which had good structure and acidity.  The black red fruit mixed with old perfume and drying citric tannins.

2012 Boordy Vineyards, Petit Verdot (Landmark Component Barrel Sample) –
The fruit was sourced from a 1.1 acre vineyard planted in 2000.  The flavors were lively on the tongue with blackish fruit that had good concentration.  The flavors were a little tart with plenty of acidity.  There were fine drying tannins on the lips and cheeks.


I then tried the bottled red wines.  The 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve, the first ever, was drinking very well.   It would be my choice to drink while the 2010 Landmark Reserve ages.  It was a treat to taste the 2010 Merlot Reserve as it was a limited release for the Landmark Wine Club.

2010 Boordy Vineyards, Landmark, Cabernet Franc Reserve – $25
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 18 months in French oak.  There were concentrated aromas of black fruit and violets.  The wine had a weighty mouth feel, power, and an inky finish.  Nice.

2010 Boordy Vineyards, Landmark Reserve – $35
This wine is a blend of 69% Merlot, 19% Syrah, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Petit Verdot which were fermented separately.  It was aged for 24 months in French oak.  The nose was light with racy blue and black fruit.  There was good fruit in the mouth along with concentrated drying tannins.  There were racy, weighty flavors in the finish.  The drying tannins mixed with vintage perfume in the finish.  The aftertaste brought some spicy, citric tannins.  This could benefit from a few years of age.

2010 Boordy Vineyards, Landmark, Merlot Reserve –
This was a warm vintage which was produced from shriveled, young fruit.  This had a nose of low-lying perfumed berries.  There was more structure to this wine with expansive almost grainy, blue and black fruit.  It had focused and a powerful structure at the end.  This needs age.

Cygnus Wine Cellars


Up until Drink Local Wine I had never drunk a Maryland sparkling wine.  A few people on the bus had recommended those of Cygnus Wine Cellars so I had been looking forward to a taste. Unfortunately there was not a single bottle of sparkling wine.  I was not disappointed for I got to taste my two oldest wines from Maryland.  The Julian is always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc which is only made in specific vintages and released after many years of bottle age.  I preferred the 2002 Julian for I thought it best balanced fruit, acidity, and structure.  The 1997 was interesting to taste and I imagine it will last for quite some time.

1997 Cygnus Wine Cellars, Julian –
This wine is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Cabernet Franc.  The nose was aromatic, confident, and mixed some fruit with greenhouse notes.  There was acidity driven dry red fruit in the mouth.  Eventually a greenhouse note came out which followed the nose.  There were drying tannins in this wine which is very much alive.

2002 Cygnus Wine Cellars, Julian –
This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Cabernet Franc.  The nose revealed red candy aromas with a little underlying mixed berries.   In the mouth there were tart, acidity driven red fruit, cool red fruit in the middle, and an old wood note.  There was a drying, somewhat ripe, structure at the end.

2010 Cygnus Wine Cellars, Port of Manchester –
The nose had a different sort of red berry aromas with a subtle sweetness.  There was plenty of residual sugar which makes it sweet but mixed with normal ripe berries.  A dry structure came out.

Fiore Winery


These three wines are all pure varietals.  I cannot recall ever tasting a wine made from Chambourcin.  This is a hybrid varietal which Mike and Rose clearly know how to handle.  It was my favorite of the trio and one I recommend you try.

2010 Fiore Winery, Sangiovese – $19
Alcohol 12%.  This was a bit riper and almost off-dry than I expected.  There were some cool flavors to the round, red notes.

2006 Fiore Winery, Chambourcin – $17
Alcohol 12%.  This had a subtle nose of blue and black fruit.  There were slightly earthy, ripe round fruit, grip, and good flavors in this different and interesting wine.  Well done for a hybrid.

2006 Fiore Winery, Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – $18
This wine was aged for over two years in American and French oak.  Alcohol 12%.  There was tart red, drying fruit on the tongue followed by a bit of old-school, wood box flavors in the finish.  It was tart with firm, drying, spicy low-lying tannins.


OREGOGNE GARAGE D’OR: Other People’s Pinot

I first tried a glass of the 2011 Mouton Noir, O.P.P. when Jameson Fink included it in a tasting flight at Bottlehouse.  You may find my tasting note in my post Images and Wines From Seattle.  I did not immediately recognize the O.P.P. label at first but upon reading Mouton Noir on the label, vague memories came back to me.  Andre Hueston Mack is responsible for Mouton Noir which involves both Oregon wines and t-shirts.  He has a clean, graphic nature to his t-shirts with names such as Grunerade in the style of the Gatorade logo and Mr. T. exclaiming, “I pity the Veuve! Drink Farmer Fiz Fool!!”  His wines are playful in name with graphic labels as well.  In a short span his production has soared from some 400 cases with the 2008 vintage to over 20,000 cases with the 2012 vintage.  This young wine presents a cooler, less ripe style which is different and interesting.  This bottle was noticeably more closed than the glass I had before so I would recommend you cellar it for at least half a year.  Otherwise give it several hours of air in a decanter.   This wine was purchased at Bottlehouse in Seattle.


2011 Mouton Noir, O.P.P., Willamette Valley – ~$20
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from several vineyards.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged in both new and used French oak.  Alcohol 13.4%.  There was a lower lying nose of delicate red berries and a little yeasty, Pilsner aroma.  In the mouth there was dry red fruit which was a little tart.  Herbs and cran-raspberry flavors eventually came out.  There was plenty of acidity which made me salivate, fine, grapey texture, and some texture.  This bottle remained tight and young so I would cellar it for the short-term.  **(*) 2014-2016.


Entry-level Chardonnay from La Follette and Sandhi Wines

Andy showed me the new Californian Chardonnay which he recently put on the shelves.  While I have tasted a 2008 La Follette, Pinot Noir and a 2007 Tandem, Chardonnay (Tandem was renamed La Follette when Peter Kight became a partner) I had never had a La Follette Chardonnay.  I opted for the least expensive bottle and was certainly impressed.  It is the real thing and well priced.  Sandhi Wines is Raja Parr’s young project with Charles Banks and winemaker Sashi Moorman.  According to the website “Sandhi is dedicated to making wines of finesse, minerality, acidity, structure and balance.”  This bottle from Sandhi was certainly balanced, offering bright citrus flavors with plenty of acidity.  I actually liked the wine and think it is best drunk with food.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 La Follette, Chardonnay, North Coast – $20
This wine is 100% Chardonnay with that from Bennett Valley fermented in stainless steel tank and that of Russian River Valley barrel fermented.  It was aged in oak.  Alcohol 13.8%.  The color was light yellow.  The nose was interesting with weighty and floral yellow aromas.  In the mouth this medium bodied wine had ripe, floral, yellow fruit which was vibrant on the tongue and somewhat acidity driven.  There was a touch of glycerine to the feel and a barrel note in the expanding finish.  This held up well to both air and warmth.  *** Now-2014.


2011 Sandhi Wines, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County – $29
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from Wente clones averaging 25+ years of age.  Alcohol 13.8%.  The color was a light yellow straw.  The nose bore weighty lemon and barrel toast aromas.  In the mouth the weighty lemon fruit returned and was very fresh.  There was tart acidity and a little barrel note.  Everything was there.  *** Now.


Wines of Catalunya Tasting at Jaleo


I set out to taste more wine after our extensive lunch which you may read about at the Wines of Catalunya Lunch at Jaleo.  The entire Jaleo restaurant was turned over for this event which was organized by Nuria Ruiz Mila who is the Export Manager for the Associacio Vinicola Catalana.  Holly Hansen of Holly Hansen Public Relations and Gastronomic 34 handled the PR. There was good balance between the number of attendees and the restaurant space so there was never any difficulty in tasting the wines.  I used my large red wine glass from lunch with which I found all of the wines were poured generously and at good temperatures.  I knew I could not visit all of the producers in the time remaining.   I started with the familiar Caves Llopart and Caves Avinyo because I have drunk a few of the wines but not all.  I then asked for recommendations which resulted in visiting Jane Ventura, Celler Vall Lloch, Vinyes Domench, and Cervoles Celler.

Caves Llopart

Celia Almirall I Valls

Celia Almirall I Valls

I find Rosato Cava fun to drink because they are all seemingly made from different varietals.  Monastrell leads that of the Rose Brut Reserva and I particularly liked the berry fruit.  I do primarily drink red wine so perhaps this is a natural reaction for me.  The Brut Reserva and Brut Gran Reserva reveal lots of texture on the tongue which I appreciate.  I must thank Celia for sending me home with a bottle of the Castell de Subirats.  Upon hearing that I taste and drink wine every night with my wife, she thought I should share a bottle with her.

2009 Caves Llopart, Rose Brut Reserva, Cava – $20
Imported by Fine Estates from Spain.  This wine is a blend of Monastrell, Garnacha, and Pinot Noir which was aged at least 18 months.  Alcohol 11.5%.  There was a fruit driven nose.  The mouth started with explosive bubbles then they faded leaving ripe, berry fruit.  There was a good mousse and texture on the teeth.  Enjoyable.

2010 Caves Llopart, Brut Reserva, Cava – $18
Imported by Fine Estates from Spain.  This wine is a blend of Macabeu, Zarel-lo, and Parellada aged at least 18 months.  Alcohol 11.5%.  There was an aromatic nose which was yeasty and earthy.  The firmer bubbles brought forth yeast with more acidity.  There were spices and acidity in the tongue-tip.  The flavors became chalking with textured, drying flavors.

2006 Caves Llopart, Leopardi, Brut Gran Reserva, Cava – $25
Imported by Fine Estates from Spain.  This wine is a blend of Macabeu, Zarel-lo, Parellada, and Chardonnay aged at least four years.  Alcohol 11.5%.  The nose was subtle.  In the mouth there were rich and crisp flavors with ripe, spicy flavors.  The acidity is well-integrated with the fruit.  There was lots of texture on the tongue followed by fresh herbs in the finish.

2008 Caves Llopart, Castell de Subirats, Penedes – $22
Imported by Fine Estates from Spain.  This wine is a blend of Merlot, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 12 months.  This was rich, soft, and approachable on the nose.  The fruit was red and tarter than I expected in the mouth but remained approachable.  There was acidity not great depth but tasty black and red fruit with a touch of minerals in the finish.  Upon revisiting I thought this continued to show good approachability with leather notes and a little tart, black and red fruit.

Caves Avinyo

Steven Alexander

Steven Alexander

Though the bottle do not carry vintages on the labels they are in fact all produced from single vintages.  Right now you can determine the vintage by looking at a code on the back label.  There was a berry quality which seemed present in all three wines.  I thought the Brut Rosato Reserva was well expressed and the Seleccion La Ticota showed unique, complex flavors.

2010 Caves Avinyo, Brut Reserva, Cava – $19
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is a blend of Macabeu, Xarel-lo, and Parellada aged at least 18 months.  Alcohol 11.8%.  The nose was subtle with a ripe, yeasty bit and gentle berry aromas.  There were strawberries in the mouth with some ripe structure, good perfume, and perhaps cherry as well.

2009 Caves Avinyo, Brut Rosato Reserva, Pinot Noir,  Cava – $25
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir aged at least 18 months.  Alcohol 12.1%.  There was a delicate, fruit driven nose.  There was lively fruit on the tongue with integrated bubbles.  There was ripeness to the strawberry, bubble mousse with texture in the aftertaste.

2006 Caves Avinyo, Seleccion La Ticota, Gran Reserva, Cava – $37
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is a blend of Macabeu and Xarel-lo sourced from the La Ticota vineyard planted in 1943.  It was produced from free run juice which was aged at least four years.  Alcohol 11.7%.  The fruit is there mixing apple and berries in a very gentle manner.  With time the wine almost becomes still with white and yellow fruit, nuts, yeast, and acidity.  There is a fruity, white finish.

Jane Ventura

Gerard Jane Ubeda

Gerard Jane Ubeda

The first two wines feature no-dosage.  Gerard said this is a popular style for Cava which is consumed in Spain.  I must admit I rather liked the Blanco Seleccio, 15 vinyes.  It was aromatic on the nose, flavorful in the mouth, and well priced!  It includes some Malvasia and for those who tasted the 2011 there is Muscat as well.  Hopefully this will be imported.  The reds were fun because they include the indigenous Sumoll.  There is no US importer.

2009 Jane Ventura, Brut Nature Reserva de la Musica, Cava – $18
No importer.  This wine is a blend of Macabeu, Xarel-lo, and Parellada aged 24-30 months.  Non-dosage.  Alcohol 12%.  There was a nose of ripe, yeasty white fruit.  In the mouth there was a soft burst of bubbles then the wine became almost still.  It started with bright, crisp acidity, followed by some herbs and a drying finish.

2008 Jane Ventura, Do of Jane Ventura, Gran Reserva Vintage, Penedes – $24
No importer.  This wine is a blend of Macabeu, Xarel-lo, and Parellada aged 42 months.  3% was barrel fermented.  Non-dosage.  Alcohol 12%.  There was a beam of white, pungent aromas.  In the mouth the firm bubbles were integrated with the fruit.  The bubbles slowly faded to still wine with a hint of yeast before leaving hints of dry berries and tannins on the lips.  Young.

2010 Jane Ventura, Reserva de la Musica Rose, Cava – $19
No importer.  This wine is 100% Garnatxa aged 18-24 months.  Low-dosage.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose was subtle.  In the mouth there were more aggressive bubbles which dissipated but some still stuck around.  The flavors prickled on the tongue.  With air I could work our red fruit and a yeasty touch in this young wine.

2012 Jane Ventura, Blanco Seleccio, 15 vinyes, Penedes – $15
No importer.  This wine is a blend of Xarel-lo, Sauvignon Blanc, and Malvasia.  Alcohol 12%.  There was a good, aromatic nose of tropical, tooty fruit.  In the mouth the focused fruit followed the nose with expanding flavors and some weight.  There were  ripe lemon flavors to match the bright, weighty acidity.  Quite nice.

2010 Jane Ventura, Negre Seleccio, 12 vinyes, Penedes – $17
No importer.  This wine is a blend of Ull de Llebre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Sumoll which was aged for 10 months.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose bore dark red berries.  In the mouth there was berry fruit which was black and red with some ripeness.  There was a firm core and some grip before the black fruited aftertaste.  There were some tannins.

2009 Jane Ventura, Mas Vilella, Penedes -$30
No importer.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sumoll which was aged 12 months.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This wine was a little earthier with focus and a firm core.  The flavors were inky the finish.  There were strong, drying tannins.  This could use some age.

Celler Vall Llach

Albert Costa Miralbell

Albert Costa Miralbell

The Embruix offers up a lot of flavor for the price but the Idus is both a step up in quality and price.  The Vall Llach steps back on the richness but still presents a full-bodied wine with great complexity and appeal.  As I wrote in my notes below, I had to come back for a small drink.

2009 Vall Llach, Embruix, Priorat – $24
Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners.  This wine is a blend of Carinyena, Garnatxa, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot sourced from younger vines aged 20-25 years.  It was aged 14 months.  Alcohol 15%.  The nice nose revealed scented berries.  In the mouth there was ripe and rich fruit which was quite seductive.  There was a spicy, tannic structure inside which poked out at the end.

2007 Vall Llach, Idus, Priorat – $50
Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners.    This wine is a blend of Carinyena, Garnatxa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah sourced from older vines aged 501– years.  It was aged 14 months.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose was deeper with some earth notes.  The wine was seductive with mouth-filling, long, rich fruit.  It took on some tart red to blue fruit.  The structure is better integrated.  This is a generous wine best drunk one glass at a time.

2006 Vall Llach, Vall Llach, Priorat – $80-90
Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners.  This wine is a blend of Carinyena, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon which was aged 14 months.  Alcohol 15.9%.  This was the most dense and rich with a wave of low-lying flavors.  There were very powerful, fine, spicy tannins which did show some ripeness.  There were complex red fruits, sweet, grapey blue fruit.  This wine compels you to drink it.  Indeed, I returned at the end for a small glass.

Vinyes Domench

The Author and Marc Domench

The Author and Marc Domench

I could not resist a quick taste through this trio of red wines from Montsant.  I would probably spend the extra money to get the Furvus for it has good focus and balanced structure which should aid in short-term development.  The Teixar will benefit from aging.  It showed more delicacy and red fruits.

2011 Vinyes Domench, Bancal Del Bosc, Montsant – $30
Imported by Ole Imports.  This wine is a blend of Garnatxa, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon which was aged for 6 months.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There was good young fruit which was rich and bright on the nose.  In the mouth it was seductive with powdery berries, mixed berries, and was easy to drink.

2009 Vinyes Domench, Furvus, Monsant – $40
Imported by Ole Imports.  This wine is a blend of Garnatxa and Merlot sourced from 30-35 year old vines which were fermented in stainless steel, underwent malolactic fermentation, then was aged for 12 months in use French and American oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was darker with aromas of raspberry liquor.  This showed more focus in the mouth with its black and red fruit.  It was also structured with drying tannins.  This should age for the short-term.

2009 Vinyes Domench, Teixar, Montsant – $80
Imported by Ole Imports.  This wine is 100% Garnacha Peluda sourced from 80-85 year old vines which were fermented in stainless steel, underwent malolactic fermentation, then was aged 14 months in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There was more delicacy to this wine with flavors of raspberry candy and dark red fruit.  There was a firm structure and this wine will benefit from several years in the cellar.

Cervoles Celler

Alex Veen

Alex Veen

I looked around the room and Dave McIntyre caught my attention.  He was tasting a bottle of wine which he thought I should try.  It turns out this wine was recommended by Jancis Robinson as one of her top 100+ white wines of 2012.  The proof was in the glass which I was able to taste again that night from a sample.  It reacted favorably to air with both Jenn and I deeply enjoying it.  I hope this gets imported.

2011 Cervoles Celler, Cervoles Blanc, Costers del Segre – $
Not imported into the United States.  This wine is a blend of Macabeo and Chardonnay which was aged for eight months.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color was a light yellow straw.  There were aromas of floral, weighty yellow fruit.  In the mouth the weighty and smooth fruit combines barrel fermented yellow flavors and yeast which is reminiscent of Chardonnay but different (obviously).  There were ripe notes in the expansive finish which was almost oily.  This is a complex wine which opens up well, fleshing out to a full-bodied, fruitier finish with some acidity on the sides of the tongue.

Wines of Catalunya Lunch at Jaleo

April 10, 2013 1 comment


I have been anticipating the Wines of Catalunya Lunch and Tasting for a long time. It was originally scheduled for Tuesday, 30 October 2012 but the widespread forces of Hurricane Sandy caused it to be delayed until yesterday. This event was organized by Nuria Ruiz Mila who is the Export Manager for the Associacio Vinicola Catalana.  Holly Hansen of Holly Hansen Public Relations and Gastronomic 34 handled the PR. Approximately two dozen wine and food writers and buyers were invited to sit down for a pre-tasting lunch at Jaleo. The lunch featured wines and dishes from Catalunya. The menu was selected by José Andrés with the wines matched by Wine Director Lucas Paya.

Our lunch turned out to be a leisurely two-hour progression of eight courses with wine. My companions included Kelly Green of Girl Meets Food, Todd Godbout of Wine Compass, and Christopher Prawdzik of Prawdzik Group, along with Michael Birchenell of Foodservice Monthly. At the other table was the familiar Dave McIntyre, the Washington Post Wine Writer and author of Dave McIntyre’s Wine Line along with new acquaintance Michael Cavanagh of Chasing Pangea. The lunch was generous in all meanings with attractive flavors, substantial portions, and large pours of wine. A bottle was always left at the table so we could revisit the wine. José Andrés stopped by the table prompting the conversation to immediately turn to his advising the Hannibal series. He walked away encouraging all of us to drink and eat. I had plans to taste through the large number of wines being poured at the afternoon tasting but I succumbed to the lunch. It was a bright day which made the food look all the more attractive. The warm, summer temperatures and certainly the wine created a festive air. I decided to only visit a handful of producers after the lunch. I shall leave descriptions of the meal to the food writers but please find the menu below.

Pa de vidre amb tomaquet
Coca de recapte amb anxoves
Bacalla amb samfaina
Esparrecs amb romesco
Canelo de sant esteve
Fricando amb bolets
Pa amb oli & xocolata

As for the wines the 2008 Gonzalez Byass, Vilarnau, Albert de Vilarnau Chardonnay proved a strong start with balance between yeast notes, fruit, stones, and acidity. It is actually a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The second Cava 2006 Caves Llopart, Leopardi, Brut Gran Reserva was fruitier which made it a good contrast. At one point I peered towards the other table where I saw one gentleman wearing the most ridiculous sunglasses I had ever seen. A few minutes later the 2007 Torello, 3D by Custo, Brut Gran Reserva with a riot of a label was poured. Francisco de la Rosa Torello handed out 3-D glasses and it all made sense. The nose was very aromatic in this expressive Cava which captured Francisco’s personality.

The single white wine 2012 Agusti Torello Mata, Subirat Parent XII was of interest because it was made from Subirat Parent. This is actually Malvasia and carried white tropical fruits on the nose and in the mouth.

The red wines were off to a seductive start with the 2010 Miguel Torres, Salmos, Priorat. This was the most approachable of the four reds of which I appreciated the savory flavors and grip. The 2008 Abadal, Abadal 3.9 was deep with mixed berries and earth. It was a touch more forward than the classically structured 2008 Pares Balta, Gratavinum, 2PiR which will benefit from a few years in the cellar. The oldest and final wine 2005 Castillo de Perelada, Gran Claustro Tinto bore an old-school, savory profile. I have only drunk a handful of wines from Emporda so I was pleased to enjoy this wine.


2008 Gonzalez Byass, Vilarnau, Albert de Vilarnau Chardonnay, Cava – $80
Imported by the San Francisco Wine Exchange. This wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which was aged for 36 months. Alcohol 12.0%. The nose was yeasty with some ripe, yellow fruit. In the mouth there were yeasty flavors, toast notes, and whiter fruit than on the nose. There were firm bubbles which eventually just disappeared showing good acidity, levity, and chalk in the finish. Nice.

Celia Almirall I Valls, Llopart

Celia Almirall I Valls, Caves Llopart

2006 Caves Llopart, Leopardi, Brut Gran Reserva, Cava – $25
Imported by Fine Estates from Spain. This wine is a blend of Macabeau, Xarel-lo, Parellada, and Chardonnay aged for at least 4 years. Alcohol 11.5%. The nose bore a subtle yeast note with perfume and some berries. There was an earthy note to the start before fruit bursts in the mouth with a fine bubbly mousse. This made way to more firm and ripe fruit in the finish. A fruit driven Cava.

Francisco de la Rosa Torello

Francisco de la Rosa Torello

2007 Torello, 3D by Custo, Brut Gran Reserva, Cava – $87
Imported by United Cellars. This wine is a blend of Xarel-lo and Macabeo aged for at least 4 years. Alcohol 11.5%. There was an expressive nose with some yeast and nuts, living up to the 3D name. The flavors fill the mouth with moderate bubbles which softly burst. There was a toast, yeast note before the flavors became drier and savory towards the finish.

Antonio Alvarez

Antonio Alvarez

2012 Agusti Torello Mata, Subirat Parent XII, Penedes – $23
Imported by Mata Wines. This wine is 100% Subirat Parent which was aged for six months in oak. Alcohol 11.5%. This had a fruity nose with a hint of tropical, white fruits. In the mouth there were focused, gentle tropical white flavors with a bit of subtle stone in the finish. Good mouthfeel and flavor but not the most complex.


2010 Miguel Torres, Salmos, Priorat – $42
Imported by Dreyfus Ashby & Co. This wine is a blend of Garnacha Tinta, Syrah, and Carinena which was aged for 12-14 months in oak. Alcohol 15%. The nose revealed sweet, ripe black and blue fruit. The mouth followed the nose with savory, weighty, expansive flavors. It tilted towards a more seductive, international style. There was a little grip in the finish along with ripe, sweet tannins.

Mireia Crespillo, Abadal

Mireia Crespillo, Abadal

2008 Abadal, Abadal 3.9, Pla de Bages – $31
Imported by Classic Wines, Inc. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah sourced from Plot 3, Parcel 9 which was aged for 12 months in oak. Alcohol 14%. There were deep aromas of mixed berries and earth which tightened up with air. The wine was more structured in the mouth with purple and red fruit, a wood note, and tart red fruit. The acidity caused some salivation in the finish. Though young with structure it was still easy to drink.

Oriol Bargallo, Pares Balta

Oriol Bargallo, Pares Balta

2008 Pares Balta, Gratavinum, 2PiR, Priorat –
Imported by Broadbent Selections. This wine is a blend of Garnatxa, Carinyena, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah which was aged 14 months in oak. Alcohol 15%. In the mouth there were firm, drying tannins with good depth to the fruit. Young. There were some wood notes along with sweet, finely textured ripe tannins. This needs a few years in the cellar.

David Begg, Castillo de Perelada

David Begg, Castillo de Perelada

2005 Castillo de Perelada, Gran Claustro Tinto, Emporda – $50
Imported by Perelada Commercial. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Garnatxa, and Samso which was aged 14 months in oak. Alcohol 14.7%. This The nose was pungent with raspberry aromas. The mouth gave a sense of age but still has future development. The flavors bore some density and darkness in this savory wine. It was a touch old-school in profile. The structure started to come out as the tannins dried the inside of the lips. It left impressions of cocoa powder.

Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie: Buy it by the cask

There was something about my first sniff of the glass which compelled me to immediately taste the wine.  My mouth confirmed my nose so I told Jenn she needed to try it right away.  There have been vineyards on the site of Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie since the Romans.  Even the current estate is storied as it was founded by an officer who campaigned for Louis XIV then settled on some rocky foothills near Carcassonne.  The estate produces four wines from eight hectares of vineyards, this being the free-run version of the pair of red wines.  Though this drinks well immediately after opening, it does respond to air and should also hold up well in the cellar.  Personally I recommend you drink vast quantities of this right now.  It is exactly the sort of youthful, rustic, old-school style of wine which I love.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2009 Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie, Corbieres – $16
Imported by Neal Rosenthal.  This wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault which were partially destemmed then co-fermented.  It was aged in tank.  Alcohol 14%. The nose is light to medium strength delivering rich aromas of raspberry candy and earth.  There is vibrant, flavorful fruit in the mouth which is delivered in a ripe, youthful manner.  The acidity does not stand out as separate instead it is a part of the vibrancy.  There are old-school flavors which dance on the tongue tip, perhaps a little prickle from CO2, and some minerals.  In short this is great fun!  *** Now-2018.