Posts Tagged ‘Penedes’

A tasting of Rioja from the great 1964 Vintage

November 17, 2017 Leave a comment

The 1964 vintage in Rioja, considered the greatest of the 20th century, was not met with any fanfare in America nor in England.  It was not because the top wines, only bottled in the 1970s and released as late as 1980, were unavailable to taste.  Throughout the 1960s Rioja was still viewed as the best wine of Spain but it was the opinion, as expressed by Ronald Avery, that in the hierarchy of wines Rioja was equivalent to “a decent little claret”.  As such Rioja only received attention as an alternative inexpensive wine.

This was not always the case.  Between the World Wars the Bodegas Paternina Rioja Riserva cost as much as Chateau Lafite in America.  When Bordeaux prices soared in America during the early 1970s, attention turned back to Rioja.  Still viewed as the “less sophisticated cousin of Bordeaux” low prices meant the wines of Rioja became imported in increasingly larger quantities.  In 1976, nearly three dozen Rioja producers hired a public relations firm in America.  Success must have been achieved for the next year Frank J. Prial wrote in The New York Times that “Red Rioja Wine Is Excellent”.

There was widespread coverage of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Rioja vintage.  Decanter magazine found it a vintage to drink soon with some wines tired but the best wines are “still fruity and intense”.  I decided to host my own tasting based on my positive experience with several different bottles shared by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co.,  and my recent CVNE Viña Real and Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva from 1976-1964 tasting.  This past weekend I gathered a group to explore nine different wines from seven different producers.  This is no small feat for there were just over two dozen producers who bottled the 1964 vintage.

We departed from our usual Champagne start to one of very old German wines.  At the CVNE tasting, the Rieslingfeier event and scarcity of old vintages was of topic which prompted one very generous guest to share three 100+ year old wines as well as a bottle from the 1964 vintage.  This unprecedented vertical of the vintages 1964, 1915, 1905, and 1898 are all Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Auslese from Weingut Franz Karl Schmitt.

These four bottles were purchased at the Sotheby’s auction of the Don Stott cellar.  Our generous guest has drunk wine with Don Stott so with knowledge of the cellar and the uniqueness of the opportunity, the wines were acquired.

Weingut Franz Karl Schmitt was founded in 1549 and has been in family possession ever since those days.  It was in 1900 that Franz-Karl Schmitt, grandfather of the current owner, produced the first trockenbeerenauslese in Rheinhessen from the Flaschenhahl vineyard in Hipping.  The four bottles we tasted bear variations in name: Franz Karl Schmitt, Hermann Franz Schmitt, and Hermannshof.  They are all from the same winery bearing new labels and corks.  The later marked with Herrmannshof Neuverkorkt 1998.

The label on the oldest bottle from 1898 does not indicate the grape.  Nierstein is home to Sylvaner and in 1910 only 15% of it was planted with Riesling.  It is possible this is a blend of Riesling and Sylvaner which echoes a comment Michael Broadbent made about the 1921 Niersteiner Hermannshof TBA.  I should also point out this bottle is a Cabinetwein indicating a special wine historically kept in a separate part of the cellar.

The wines were served one at a time out of purposefully procured small wine glasses.  This gave us the collective opportunity to taste the wines within minutes of the bottle being opened and individually decide if we wanted to keep the wine around any longer.

All of the wines are in much better shape than I expected.  The 1898 Franz Karl Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Auslese Cabinetwein, Rheinhessen  with honied aromas and medium body, quickly recalibrated my expectations.  There is pure pleasure here.  Delicacy came in the form of the 1905 Hermann Franz Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen which did soon fade to reveal piercing acidity in the finish.  The 1915 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen is unequivocally great from the nose to the pure marmalade flavors, minerals, and unctuous, glycerin filled body.  At 102 years of age, the higher residual sugar and acidity will ensure many more years of pleasure.  In fact, the dregs of the bottle drank well at the end of the evening.

With respect to the three oldest bottles, vintage variation aside, there is a sense of continuity in flavor from herbs and apricots.  In returning to the wines I was left with the feeling that the 1898 and 1905 were made using similar methods whereas the 1915 was made by a different hand.  However, vintages do matter which accounts for the unctuous 1915 and round, racy 1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr Und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen.  These wines deserve a closer historical look so I will write a follow up post in the near future.

We cleansed our palates with the textured NV Grands Comptoirs Champenois, Champagne Brut Comte de Vic.  This is a late 1980s to early 1990s release with fully mature flavors, yeast, and never-ending texture.  I found it best on the second night, once again highlighting that a non-vintage Champagne may deserve careful aging.

Fate finally caught up with me for four of our 1964 Rioja bottles were affected by TCA leaving five to be enjoyed.  All of these wines were double-decanted before being served in flights of three.  The most surprising wine is the 1964 Campo Viejo, Rioja which is the basic wine made just one year after the founding of the winery.  In fact Campo Viejo switched facilities in 1965.  This wine still reveals ripe fruit mixed with spices made possible by the comparatively short time spent in oak.

My favorites include the 1964 Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Gran Reserva, the 1964 Gomez Cruzado, Honorable, Rioja Gran Reserva , and the 1964 Bodegas Montecillo, Vina Monty, Rioja.  Incredibly, the Monte Real appears to still be developing due to youthful focus.  The Gomez Cruzado never lost all of its bottle stink but in the mouth it is crisp with wood notes and certainly a wine to try again.  I found the Montecillo, the only all Tempranillo wine we tasted, the roundest.

These particular wines show the success achieved with Tempranillo based blends based on old, dry-farmed, bush vines raised with the traditional method of long oak aging.  This method of winemaking developed in the 19th century based on Bordeaux techniques and adopted to what was best for Rioja.   They are not fragile when exposed to air and all have a good spine of acidity which allows them live on.  The tasting also reminds us that there are no guarantees with old bottles.

Please find my tasting notes below.  You will notice a larger than usual number of dinner wine notes at the end.  The Madeira collector Bob Stern, whom I first met several years ago, was in town and able to join.  He has taken his passion one step further and is now importing Madeira from H. M. Borges. Thus he could present an array of samples for us to taste.

I could not have organized this tasting without Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., offering me his precious bottles of Rioja.  I must also thank our generous guest who, in sharing his German wines, ensured a once in a lifetime experience to taste three German wines older than one century.

A German Start

1898 Franz Karl Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Auslese Cabinetwein, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.  Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.  Recorked in 1998. New labels.  A very clear, tawny amber color.  The nose is touched by boytrtis with honied aromas, fresh herbs, and tea.  The flavors are drier than expected, of medium body, and of sharp yet focused acidity.  The body speaks of remarkable condition as tangy, lemon citrus flavors come out in the middle, all of it persisting through the long finish.  ***(*) Now.

1905 Hermann Franz Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.  Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.   Recorked in 1998. New labels.  A very clear, lighter tawny amber with a touch more yellow.  There is a botrytis touch as well but this is the most delicate wine of the quartet of old Germans.  It too is dry with fresh and bright acidity, herbs, and a savory, short finish.  It dries out quicker revealing piercing acidity in the end. ** Now.

1915 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.   Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.  Recorked in 1998. New labels.  The darkest being tawny in color.  This still smells great.  In the mouth it is unctuous and mineral infused with plenty of forward body.  Flavors of apricot and peach mix with orange marmalade.  This is a good wine with round, glycerin body.  **** Now – 2027.

1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr Und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.   Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.  Recorked in 1998. New labels.  Of yellow straw the color is the lightest and the nose the most subtle.  One is not prepared for the much sweeter and rounded flavors in this unctuous wine.  There is still ripe fruit, fine tea notes, and a racy character. **** Now – 2027.

Palate Cleansing Champagne

NV Grands Comptoirs Champenois, Champagne Brut Comte de Vic
Imported by The RareWine Co.  Alcohol 12%.  A very clear amber color.  It is best on the second day. There are very fine, strong bubbles which quickly form a mousse that adds ripe texture to the start.  Flavors of ripe white then yellow fruit mix with yeast and mature notes.  With air ripe spices come out in the watering finish. ***(*) Now but will last.

1964 Rioja

1964 Bilbainas, Clarete Fino, Rioja Gran Reserva
Founded in 1901 by Santiago Ugarte, the son of a wine negociant, during the Rioja phylloxera epidemic.  The main winery was built at Barrio de la Estacion in Haro.  This wine is a blend of 65% Tempranillo and 35% Garnacha that spent 9-10 years in American oak barrels.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Bilbainas, Vendimia Especial, Rioja Reserva 
One of the top wines this wine is a blend of70% Tempranillo and 30% Garnacha sourced from the Zaco vineyard.  It spent 18 months in large wooden vats then 6-8 (or 9-10) years in American oak barrels.  This is a bright wine with tart red fruit and a grippy nature.  The wine is still youthful but the leather notes speak of age.  *** Now but will last.

1964 Bilbainas, Vina Pomal, Rioja Reserva Especial 
This label has existed for over 100 years and always featured fruit from the Vina Pomal vineyard between the Ebro and Tiron rivers.  Apparently Winston Church drank it regularly.  It is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo, Graciano, and Viura.  It spent 1 year in tank followed by 6-7 years in American oak barriques.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Campo Viejo, Rioja 
Founded in 1963, Camp Viejo moved from Rioja Baja to an industrial part of Logrono in 1965.  The Crianza is typically a blend of mostly 80% Tempranillo followed by 20% Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano.  It spent 18 months in large vats followed by 30 months in American oak barriques.  A fine nose makes way to a fruity start that is still ripe and flavored by spices in the finish.  The relatively short aging in wood results in this wine having the most fruit out of all tasted.  Perhaps not the most complex flavors the wine is, nevertheless, a fine drink with finely textured, ripe flavors.  *** Now – 2022.

1964 Franco-Espanolas, Excelsos, Rioja Gran Reserva 
Bodegas Franco-Espanolas history begins in 1890 when Frederick Anglade Saurat came to Logrono from Bordeaux.  Once his vineyards were in full production he founded the Bodegas, with Spanish capital, in 1901.  The Excelsos is the top gran reserve released only in the best vintages.  This rare wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo that spent 18 months in large wooden vats and 6-7 years in American oak barrels.  It was released in 1980.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Gomez Cruzado, Honorable, Rioja Gran Reserva 
Founded in 1886.  This is a blend of 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo and Graciano.  This is fermented and raised in large wooden vats for 24 months followed by aging for 5 years in old American oak barrels.  It was bottled in 1972.  Quite stinky at first then a transition to an attractive funk.  However it is clean in the mouth where there are very lively flavors, crisp fruit, and wood shavings.  A delight in the mouth.  If I am picky, the finish is a little short.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

1964 Bodegas Montecillo, Vina Monty, Rioja 
Founded in 1870, Bodegas Montecillo is one of the oldest firms in Rioja. The Vina Monty is the top wine.  Produced solely from Tempranillo it spent 6 to 12 months in large wooden vats then 48 months in American oak barrels.  The 1964 vintage was produced at the old winery pre-dating the Osborne acquisition of 1973.  A good nose of fruit and mixed herbs.  There is round, red fruit, bright acidity, and a fine wood note. ***(*) Now – 2022.

1964 Frederico  Paternina, Rioja Gran Reserva
Founded in 1898, Frederico Paternina owns no vineyards. This is a blend of 70% Tempranillo with 30% Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano.   This Gran Reserva spent up to six years in American oak barrels and other volumes.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Founded in 1890.  A blend of mostly 70% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, 5% Garnacha, 2% Graciano, and 3% Viura and Malvasia.  It spent 12 to 18 months in large wooden tanks then aged for 4.5 to 6 years in American oak casks and other sizes.  Part of the fruit underwent carbonic maceration.  A touch musty at first but cleans up to reveal aromas of broth.  The bright flavors of cranberry are fresh and grippy.  The wine is driven by acidity.  This is the most youthful wine of them all, still focused and on the upslope of development. ***(*) Now – 2025.

Dinner Wines

1970 LAN, Lanciano Rioja
Founded in 1970. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo that spent 18 months in tank and 2 years in American oak casks.  Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Quite comforting with a combination of wood box notes, mature yet freshly delivered red fruit, and garrigue.  The flavors become meaty with air.  There is moderate weight and though the tannins are largely resolved a bit of structure comes out in the finish.  ***(*) Now but will last.

1978 Torres, Gran Coronas, Penedes Reserva
Imported by Chateau & Estates.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 18 months in American oak casks.  It was bottled in 1980. Alcohol 12.5%.  There is a tart, assertive start that is infused with some funk.  The wine soon becomes weightier with prominent acidity, green pepper notes, and tons of grip.  Quite fun to drink.  *** Now but will last.

2007 Bonneau, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators.  Alcohol 15%. This lively red wine is bright in flavor and poised for many years of development.  I particularly like the fine mixture of Christmas spices which add complexity to the red fruit. A real treat, I wish I had tasted it some more. **** Now – 2027.

NV Rare Wine Co, Henriques & Henriques Imperial Reserve Malmsey
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This Madeira is a blend of old stocks of Malmsey from Henriques & Henriques. Mannie created the blend with John Cossart shortly before he passed away. It was released in honor of John Cossart in 2008.  Alcohol 20%.  There are pungent aromas of orange marmalade.  In the mouth is a rounded, dense start followed by powerful pungent flavors and racy residual sugar.  Supporting this is acidity to match.  The wine is incensed with Christmas spices. I imagine this will slowly develop for a few more decades.  ****.

1990 H. M. Borges, Sercial
Imported by Next Chapter Wines & Spirits.  Alcohol 20%.  An amber-tawny color.  Slightly pungent on the nose it is off to a round start that immediately unleashes piercing acidity.  There is lovely body weight which adds tension to this acidity driven wine.  Complexity comes from baking spices.  ****.

NV H. M. Borges, 15 year old Verdelho
Imported by Next Chapter Wines & Spirits.  Alcohol 19%.  There is a low-lying, deep nose.  In the mouth are taut orange citrus flavor and round body with piercing, laser sharp acidity.  Sweet and tense.  Good future potential.  ***.

2005 H. M. Borges, Tina Negra Colheita
Alcohol 20%.  Bottled in 2017. A very good, deep nose.  A racy, weighty start brings ripe flavors and sweetness in this round, tense wine.  A cherry middle makes way to a sweeter finish.  Good stuff. ***(*).

1998 H.M. Borges, Malmsey Colheita
This wine was aged in casks for over 8 years.  Bottled in 2006/7. Alcohol 19%.  A touch of satisfying pungency on the nose.  In this mouth this is a powerful wine with fruit, nuts, and piercing acidity. ***.

1995 H. M. Borges, Bual Colheita
This wine was aged in oak casks for at least 5 years.  Alcohol 19%.  A pungent, piercing nose.  In the mouth are spicy flavors delivered as a tense core.  Notes of evergreen and Christmas spices add complexity before the textured finish. ***(*).

Legendary Rioja: CVNE Viña Real and Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva from 1976-1964

October 23, 2017 1 comment

Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE), founded in 1879, is one of the oldest Rioja producers. For nearly one century CVNE has produced the top brands of Viña Real and Imperial. Over this period the wines developed the reputation as consistent  both in high-quality and long-life with the particular decades of the 1940s through the 1970s considered the classic age. This month a small group of us explored the tail end of this age by tasting five vintages of both Viña Real and Imperial Gran Reservas from 1976 back to 1964.

CVNE is a unique estate in that there are only five winemakers over the course of its long history. For the vintages we tasted our focus begins with the third head winemaker Ezequiel Garcia (1930 – 2017).  He was born in Anguciana, a small town near Haro, and worked at CVNE from 1958 through 1973.

The 1920 harvest arrives at CVNE. Image provided by CVNE.

Imperial was first produced in the 1920s. It is always bottled in a Bordeaux shaped bottle and is named after the Imperial pint bottles it was once sold in. This wine is traditionally a majority of Tempranillo with a bit of Graciano, Mazuelo, and Viura largely from the Rioja Alta. The Viña Real brand name was registered in 1940 but it existed previously under different variations. The name stems from the Camino Real or Royal Road next to which many of the vineyards lie. It is bottled in the iconic Burgundy shaped bottle containing Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo largely sourced from the Rioja Alavesa.

Ezequiel Garcia produced Imperial at the CVNE winery in Haro and Viña Real at the Viña Real winery in Elciego. For each brand there were different levels of quality. From top to bottom quality, Imperial was historically sold as Gran Reserva and Reserva with the Viña Real as Reserva Especial, Reserva, and 4 año. With the new wine regulations of the 1970s Viña Real wines were renamed Gran Reserva, Reserva, and Crianza. The Imperial names did not change.

The Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva bottlings are meant to be the best quality wine possible, produced only in the best vintages using the best fruit. Such was the quality of the wines produced by Ezequiel Garcia during the 1960s and 1970s that the author and journalist Xavier Domingo nicknamed him “El Brujo” or the wizard.  It is these wines that I poured at the tasting.

A wine is only as good as the fruit that it is produced from so credit must be given to Jose Angel de Madrazo y Real de Asua, 4th generation of the founding brothers Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asua. Jose Madrazo joined the CVNE Board of Directors in the mid-1960s soon becoming General Manager of Viña Real. CVNE sources fruit from vineyards they own but also from others under long-term contracts. One of Jose Madrazo’s responsibilities was to maintain these contracts and to seek out other grapes for all the quality levels at Viña Real. It is he who discovered the vineyards at Laserna. Such was the quality of the Laserna fruit that Ezequiel Garcia used it exclusively for the Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva. These vines at Laserna would eventually form the single-vineyard estate of Vinedos del Contino.

The Viña Real and Imperial wines were always meant to be different. They were made at different wineries with different blends sourced from different plots with different climates. During the 1940s through the 1970s, Viña Real always featured at least one-third Garnacha Tina with a typical blend of 40% Garnacha, 40% Tempranillo, and 20% other varieties including Mazuelo. Imperial never included Garnacha Tinta and featured more Mazuela and even some Graciano.

Cement tanks at El Carmen winery inaugurated in 1940. Image provided by CVNE.

Viña Real was made at a small winery in Elciego built in the 1920s. Imperial was made at the El Carmen winery in Haro.  Inaugurated in 1940, it was the first winery with concrete tanks in Rioja. Epoxy-lined concrete tanks were also installed at Viña Real. The Viña Real winery was small so the wines were vinified there then underwent barrel aging at CVNE in Haro. In 1957, the year before Ezequiel Garcia began work at CVNE, the 1941 Imperial was still in barrel. Under Garcia, the duration the Gran Reserva spent in American oak was slowly reduced to at least six years by the 1970s.

1976 Imperial Gran Reserva aging in barrel. Image provided by CVNE.

In 1973, Ezequiel Garcia left CVNE for Bodegas Olarra. He vinified the wine from the 1973 harvest but the final blend was made by the fourth CVNE winemaker Basilio Izquierdo Torres. Torres, who studied in Bordeaux, worked at CVNE from 1974 through 2004. Thus the vintages we tasted may be classified as: 1976 (Torres), 1973(Garcia/Torres), 1970 (Garcia), 1966 (Garcia), and 1964 (Garcia).

It was also in 1973, that CVNE and others, purchased the Laserna vineyards and formed Vinedos del Contino. The first Contino harvest occurred in 1974 so all of the Contino fruit from the 1973 vintage was still destined for the Viña Real Gran Reserva. It took a while for the Contino facilities to be built up so a large proportion of the excellent Contino fruit continued to be used in the Viña Real Gran Reserva. Today, Viña Real continues to use fruit from the Laserna region including plots that literally border the Contino estate.

Bottling of the 1970 Imperial Gran Reserva. Image provided by CVNE.

Across all five of the vintages we tasted, the Viña Real Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva all demonstrate deep aromas, full-bodied flavor, and extra complexity from earth and animale notes. The Imperial are brighter, more structured with noticeable acidity and more control over the flavors.  All of the bottles have aged very well with a general increase in liveliness as the wines became older.

The pair from 1976 showed good, complex flavor yet came across as fully mature.  The pair from 1973 exhibit less complexity yet are fresh and lively in the mouth.  I personally would rather drink the 1976s for the flavor but many preferred the 1973s for their condition.  Both wines from the 1970 vintage demonstrated a significant increase in complexity and energy.  The 1970 Viña Real is deep, earthy, mouth filling, and ethereal with a level of energy that made me pause.  The 1970 Imperial leans towards a core of fruit propelled by acidity, leaving a texture in the mouth.  The 1966 pair are lighter in flavor.  The 1966 Viña Real offers up more flavor than the 1966 Imperial but both wines should be drunk up.

It is a remarkably testament to the greatness of the 1964 vintage and the capable hand of Ezequiel Garcia, that the wines from 1964 are the most energetic and long-lived of all we tasted.  That is no small feat considering the 1964 Imperial was served from two half-bottles!  The aromas are to dream of, the flavors are a bit closely played but the mouthfeel is oily and luxurious.  My favorite wine of the night is the 1964 Viña Real.  It is mouth filling with complexity yet never weighs down the palate.  The interplay of flavor, texture, and acidity are remarkable.

We are fortunate in that not one of our bottles was bad allowing the personality of Viña Real and Imperial to shine through all of the vintages tasted.  If you have yet to taste mature CVNE you must set your sights on the 1964 Viña Real Reserva Especial.  If that is too expensive, the 1970 Viña Real Gran Reserva is a relative bargain.  These two wines in particular should be tried by all lovers of mature red wine.

CVNE is still run by family members including Maria Urrita Ybarra, Director of Marketing, who answered many of my questions and provided the historic images used in this post. I must also thank Jesús Madrazo, son of Jose Madrazo, 5th generation of the founding brothers, and former Technical Director of Contino, who kindly replied to all of my emails as well.  Finally, I thank my friend Mannie Berk, founder of The Rare Wine Co., whose careful acquisition of these bottles enabled this tasting to take place.

Arrival Champagne

1984 Le Mesnil, Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs en magnum
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. A youthful yellow color with just a hint of gold. The wine greets with a good set of strong, yet finely textured bubbles. This is a surprisingly youthful with with yellow fruit, and a core of berries throughout. With extended air sweet spices come out. ***(*) Now – 2037.

The CVNE Wines


1976 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. The deep nose offers up dark, sweaty aromas. In the mouth the deep note is echoed in the soft entry. There is a bit of a sweet vein of fruit with some supporting structure in the end. This bottle is fully mature with good depth. With air the fine red fruit flavor takes on an old wood note. *** Now – 2020.

1976 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There is a coffee-like hint on the modest nose. In the mouth is a soft, seductive start then a bright note buoyed by the watering acidity. The flavors are more linear with dry black fruit, and a subtle wood note.  *** Now – 2022.

1973 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. A fine, clean nose reveals familiar deep aromas, and sweet red scents. With air it takes on floral aromas. In the mouth are cherry fruits framed by a fine structure. It offers good grip and presence with a rounded body. The cherry note continues in the finish and into the ethereal aftertaste. *** Now – 2022.

1973 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There is a noticeably dark core to the color. The nose is less aromatic with hints of funk and pungency which eventually clean up. However, there is a brighter start with slightly sour flavors. The flavors are lighter weight, carried by watering acidity, and some grip in the finish. *** Now – 2022.

1970 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There are finely woven flavors of deep, sweet strawberry fruit. Complexity is gained through a subtle amount of earth and animale flavors. This is a beautiful wine, full of flavor, yet ethereally light through the long aftertaste. The energy of the wine makes you take notice as the wine will continue to drink well for a long time. ****(*) Now – 2027.

1970 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. Another lovely wine. The bright start takes on a gentle, sweet core of red and black fruits propelled by watering acidity. There are complex spices, animale flavors, and wood notes. This finely textured wine still has youthful grip.  **** Now – 2027.

1966 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Reserva Especial
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. In a way there is sweeter fruit in this wine. Though it is lighter in flavor and body there is complexity from low-lying minerals and wood notes. It offers more fruit than the Imperial. It is in a good state of life given the lesser vintage. *** Now.

1966 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. I found this tart with watery flavor, less weight, and dry structure. ** Now.

1964 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Reserva Especial
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There are deep aromas of leather and earth. In the mouth the red fruit has youthful grip with a gorgeously fine interplay of fruit, earth, and animale notes. The wine becomes drier towards the finish. This is a beautifully focused wine with both fruit, acidity, and structure to continue its glacial evolution for years to come. If you enjoy that sweet concentration resulting from traditional winemaking and old age then look no further.  ****(*) Now – 2032.

1964 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. What a beautiful nose! Again this shows more focus and structure but the the vintages give the flavors extra strength and weight. Black fruited in general added mouthfeel comes out of nowhere from a luxurious oily bit. I wonder if it will open up even more? **** Now – 2027.

Dinner Wines

NV Krug, Grande Cuvée 164 eme Edition, Champagne Brut
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA.  Alcohol 12.5%. This already smells complex with a young aroma of apple. In the mouth this is a youthful wine with assertive bubbles then a very fine mousse. The yellow fruit and gentle baking spices are of good complexity and long duration. **** Now – 2037.

1996 Fernando Remírez de Ganuza, Rioja Reserva
Imported by Tempranillo Inc.  There is a pungent nose of berries and banana foster. It is a fresh and gentle wine in the mouth back by good weight. Despite the young age, it is drinking very well showing both mature flavors and a core of covert fruit. **** Now – 2022.

1985 Torres, Grand Sangre de Torro, Penedes
This wine is a blend of 70% Garnacha and 30% Carinena.  There is a bright red fruit in the complex start. It morphs from earthy, sweet fruit in the start to dry black fruit in the finish. A ripe Garnacha character comes out with air. This is not a wine for the ages rather a solid, mature wine to drink now. *** Now – 2020.

1973 Paternina, Conde de los Andes, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. A brilliant color! The tart red fruit on the nose smells of some age due to a roasted earth note. In the mouth are lighter flavors of cranberry and red fruits which are match by the acidity driven profile. This is a clean with, slightly short in the finish, yet the aftertaste still leaves texture on the gums. *** Now but will last.

1970 Bodegas Bilbainas, Vina Pomal, Rioja Crianza
A Chambers Street Wines selection imported by T. Elenteny. Tired on the nose and in the mouth. The rounded start brings rather advanced flavors and a short finish. *(*) Drink Up.

NV Emilio Lustau, Sherry Very Rare Oloroso Emperatriz Eugenia
Imported by Europvin USA.  This is enjoyable pungent on the nose with polished wood, fresh orange citrus notes, and some deep aromas.  Noticeably less complex in the mouth with a dry, linear, saline flavors of nuts and yellow citrus wrapped up by a warm finish.  *** Now – 2027+.

NV Barbeito, Terrantez Reserve Madeira
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There is a sweet nose of brown sugar backed by the slightest pungency. In the mouth there is still, fine sweet fruit of good weight. The sweetness is expertly balanced by the acidity. It picks up a lovely foxiness in the finish. **** Now – whenever.

Three holiday wines

The three wines in today posts were all drunk right around Christmas.  I diligently photographed the bottles and had every intent to publish this post a week ago.  But one thing led to another, playing Harry Potter Wizard Chess with my daughter, difficulties learning some visualization software for a historic post, and much time spent reading through my wine cookery books…and looking for more to purchase.

The 1970 Torres, Gran Coronas, Penedes Reserva is a mature wine with mouthfilling flavors and no sense of fragility.  It does show some age for the middle is a bit hollow.  It is an affordable bottle so I would not hesitate to purchase another one to enjoy and even see if it can prove a richer experience.  The debut release of the 2001 Tardieu-Laurent, Cuvee Speciale, Chateauneuf du Pape sports impressive and attractive flavor.  It has classic fruit, garrigue, and earth in a racy package.  This bottle drank as if it could develop for a few more years but I would not hold on long after that.  I have found the use of oak in the Tardieu-Laurent Grenache based wines can outlast the fruit.  Our bottle of 2010 Domaine Tollot-Beaut, Chore-Les-Beaune never became fully open.  The cherry and black fruit was attractive but every time I came back to my glass, I kept wanting more. Perhaps try again in a few years?  The Torres was recently purchased from Chambers St Wines while the Tardieu-Laurent and Tollot-Beaut came from MacArthur Beverages.


1970 Torres, Gran Coronas, Penedes Reserva
Originally intended for Swiss market. Imported by T. Elenteny.  This wine is a blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The nose revealed red berries scented by aromatic, old wood with developing aromas of cherry. The tart start became mouthfilling with air showing savory, weighty flavor.  Though a touch hollow in the middle, this satisfying wine has plenty of life and structure to keep the wine around.  With air it showed vintage perfume notes, lipstick, and a generally old school aftertaste.  Drink now but will last.  *** Now.


2001 Tardieu-Laurent, Cuvee Speciale, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from 75-80 year old vines.  Alcohol 14.5%.  A classic Chateauneuf du Pape nose of garrigue and fruit.  In the mouth the garrigue infused ripe, blue fruit was savory in the middle with very fine, baking spiced flavored tannins in the finish.  With air the wine picks up body and an earthy hint.  With lovely flavor throughout, the racy and earthy finish, shows more baking spices with time.  This should develop a bit more but the structure will ultimately out strip the flavor.  ***(*) Now – 2020.


2010 Domaine Tollot-Beaut, Chore-Les-Beaune
Alcohol 13%.  This attractive wine began with hard cherry flavors backed by black fruit in the finish.  It was slightly tart with watering acidity and some fine wood.  Overall, a solid wine which remained tight, suggesting the need for a few more years of age.  **(*) 2017-2020.


Spanish Selections

September 17, 2013 2 comments

You should buy the 2012 Celler Jordi Llorens, Blankeforti.  It is certainly different and is a bit prickly from carbon dioxide, perhaps due to low sulphur, so you could give it a good shake as it warms if that bothers you.  Williams Corner Wines continue to deliver interesting wines.  Note, Jenn preferred the 2011 Perez, Guimaro over this wine.  The 2010 Navaherreros, Garnacha de Bernabeleva is the most powerful, young wine of those featured in this post.  It has good flavor so try it now if you are prepared but it is best to cellar it a few years.  A better idea might be to drink the young 2005 LAN, Gran Reserva.  I must admit I like drinking the 2009 Torres, Gran Coronas, Reserva.  One bottle was perfect after an hour of air, a second was less interesting.  I would be curious to see how the 2009 Alonso del Yerro develops. It has the components for aging but I must admit I was a little distracted by the heat.  Most of these wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.  The Navaherreros and Perez were purchased at Chambers Street Wines.


2012 Celler Jordi Llorens, Blankeforti, Conca de Barbera – $23
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is a blend of Garnatxa Negra and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 15%.  The aromatic nose steps out of the glass, spritely aromas with a citrus backing.  The mouth is a little sparkly at first with flavors of ripe citrus, red fruit, and orange peel.  This different wine was compelling, eventually leaving lipstick notes and ripe strawberry flavors on the lips. The wine remains nervous on the tongue tip with a balsamic note.  It is not gritty.  *** Now-2015.


2006 Bodegas Olarra, Anares, Reserva, Rioja – $15
Imported by Classic Wines.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was tight and a little textured.  In the mouth were bright black and red fruit which was both firm and young.  The acidity was almost puckering then became salivating in the finish.  The tannins were present.  With air the wine became firmer, clean, and modern.  ** 2015-2020.


2005 LAN, Gran Reserva, Rioja – $22
Imported by Monsieur Touton.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a fine wood scent mixing with the black fruit aromas.  In the mouth there was already good complexity with focused ripe, black fruit and an ethereal flavor which continued into the aftertaste.  This was a tasty wine, still early in development, and should age well.  The structure was very fine with a concentrated ripeness.  *** Now-2023.


2009 Torres, Gran Coronas, Reserva, Penedes – $18
Imported by Dreyfus Ashby & Co.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a dark, inviting nature to the red and black fruit.  It developed with an hour of air.  A wood note mixed nicely with the unobtrusive structure and integrated acidity.  It is probably best to wait one year.  ** Now-2018.


2009 Alonso del Yerro, Ribera del Duero – $22
Imported by Monsieur Touton.  This wine is 100% Tempranillo.  Alcohol 14.7%.  The light nose revealed complex bitters-like aromas.  There were similar flavors in the mouth with dry and firm black fruit.  The wine was very drying with spicy tannins.  It eventually took on some initial weight, a slightly sweet ripeness, along with purple/black fruit mixed with violets.  There were very focused flavors and minerals.  There were good upfront flavors, a racy and minerally aspect, but the wine builds up to show a spirity nature.  **(*) 2016-2025.


2011 Bodegas Mas Alta, La Vilella Alta, Black Slate, Priorat – $20
Imported by European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was light and low-lying.  In the mouth were intense flavors of spicy blackberry supported by structure and acidity.  There was spicy cinnamon notes in the finish with Jenn finding “chocolate coffee.”  This was a big wine, not firm nor tight, but framed with a dry finish, salivating acidity, and a roughness towards the end.  ** Now-2015.


2010 Navaherreros, Garnacha de Bernabeleva, Vinos de Madrid – $22
Imported by The Rare Wine Company.  This wine is 100% Grenache fermented in a mixed if wood, stainless steel, and concrete.  Alcohol 15.5%.  This remained a young wine despite extensive air.  The flavors revolved around a focused core of fruit with the structure rising with air, leaving a dose of fine, drying tannins.  It took on cherry flavors in the middle.  *** Now-2025.


2011 Pedro M. Rodriguez Perez, Guimaro, Ribeira Sacra – $18
A Jose Pastor Selection imported by Vinos & Gourmet. This wine is 100% Mencia from vines averaging 40 years of age.  It is unoaked. Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose revealed floral berries and remained a bit subtle but good.  This was an acidity driven wine with tart black and red fruit that took on a little weight.  With air the tart black fruit mixed with a little ripe and drying tannins.  There was some salivating acidity as the flavors firmed up in the finish.  ** Now-2015.


White and Red Spanish Wines

September 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Both the 2011 Bodegas Rafael Palacios, Sabrego, Godello and the 2012 Gessami, Gramona are distinctive and well-priced.  If you do not drink that much Spanish white wine then try both of these.  You will have just as much fun with the new experience as you will finishing the bottles.  The 2011 Bodegas y Vinedos Ponce, P.F is made from very old-vine Bobal which are ungrafted.  Thus P.F stands for Pie Franco.  When I first cut the capsule then pulled the cork I could see leakage through a defect in the cork. Fortunately the wine was sound, enjoyable on the first night and better on the second night.  If you enjoy the vigor of a young Southern Rhone then you will like this wine.  The 2010 Sao del Coster, S is a young, robust wine which really should be cellared for a year or two.  It is reasonably priced for Priorat.  You cannot go wrong by trying any of these wines.  The white wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages and the red wines at Chambers Street Wines.


2011 Bodegas Rafael Palacios, Sabrego, Godello, Valdeorras – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is 100% Godella sourced from vines on granite soils which was fermented and aged in stainless steel. Alcohol 13%.  The nose was textured with herbs, smoke, and stones.  It smelled good and young.  In the mouth there was somewhat weighty yellow fruit, a citrus bit then more stones, lots of stones.  There was a tangy quality which made it attractive to drink again.  Toward the middle it took on puckering acidity and picked up weight in the end.  This clear, fresh wine had a little ripe spice in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2015.


2012 Gessami, Gramona, Penedes – $16
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of two varieties of Moscatal, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer.  Alcohol 11.5%.  The nose bore tropical floral aromas with minerals. Good nose.  In the mouth there was some roundness and weight on the tongue then tangy on the tongue tip with acidity becoming integrated.  There were hints of pebbly texture, a little drier in nature then expansive with dry stones.  There was a good aftertaste.  Nice character.  *** Now-2014.


2011 Bodegas y Vinedos Ponce, P.F, Manchuela –  $25
Imported by T. Edwards Wines.  This wine is 100% Bobal sourced from 60-95 year old ungrafted vines.  The fruit was whole-cluster fermented then underwent malolactic fermentation and aging for 16-18 months in cask.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was of mixed berries eventually developing a pretty, violet-like aroma.  In the mouth there were concentrated, extracted flavors with a little grip and nice, salivating acidity.  There was initial texture on the tongue followed by an elegant middle then spiced, drying, and textured tannins.  The grip returned in the finish with a rugged, youthful Southern Rhone-like personality.  **(*) 2014-2021.


2010 Sao del Coster, S, Priorat – $23
Imported by T Elenteny Wine Imports.  This wine is a blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 10% Syrah fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel then aged on the lees. Alcohol 15%.  The nose was young and robust.  The wine was initially prickly on the tongue with Grenache notes coming out.  The flavors were rather youthful with robust, red fruit, dried herbs, and a robust core.  It needs time to expand, eventually developing a cherry flavor.  There were youthful, drying tannins on the gums and a little black minerally bit.  **(*) 2015-2023.


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.