Vermouth: The Spirit that Created Amerca’s Cocktail Culture

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Vermouth, that mysterious wine based beverage that lingers in the minds of our grandparents, Don Draper, and Downton Abbey.  Today, vermouth is part of an ongoing cocktail-culture revolution.  

In Adam Ford‘s new memoir of the beverage, Vermouth:  The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture, the long, and somewhat forgotten history of vermouth is recalled, meandering through time from somewhere around 10,000 years ago to the present day.

Vermouth is a special elixir that has stood the test of time.  An aromatized wine (wine that has had herbs, spices, and other ingredients added to it before being fortified), that is similar to gin in it’s methodology of creation.  Similar to Gin, Vermouth can be made with botanicals, typically those considered to have health-promoting properties.

Unlike gin, there are no specific requirements as to what must be contained within.

Through this book, Ford takes us around the world, from China, to the Middle East where it gained exotic spices, to modern day America, where it is undergoing a strong revival,  vermouth has evolved, changed, and developed in to the atypical beverage that it is today.

The definition of vermouth varies widely globally, and some are even created from botriticized wine.  With so many flavor variations, the possibilities and pairings are endless.

This book is a beautiful illustration of the history and development of vermouth, but is also a modern encyclopedia and shopping guide.  From small wineries producing vermouth (Sutton Cellars) to larger, commercial operations that are producing boutique cocktail mixers, there is a vermouth for everyone.

When, after World War II, many producers took short cuts and used cheaper, more readily available ingredients, the new trailblazers created high end vermouths from the finest of ingredients.  Like any other beverage of quality, you will see this reflected int eh price point, but also in the flavor.  Have you experienced a high end spirit mixed with a low end vermouth?  The combination just doesn’t work.  While some might be tied by distributor requirements, a handshake agreement or other systematic problems with the three-tier system we have in the U.S., I am of the mind that with quality must go quality.

To that end, Ford discovers a litany of different craft vermouth producers to experiment with.  While you will probably know Cinzano, Martini & Rossi and maybe even my current favorite Carpano Antica, have you experienced Vya or Imbue?

While perusing this must have cocktail textbook, you might see a familiar cocktail or two, but you will also see some long-forgotten cocktails that bring images of The Cotton Club and the Roaring Twenties, as well as re-imagining what they might be like today in the speakeasies of the new millennium.  I am partial to a Manhattan, as well as a Martini and, while friends are partial to Negronis.  Have any of us you heard of a Hanky Panky?

Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth

Hanky Panky

Ingredients

2 oz. sweet vermouth (I like Carpano Antica)

¾ oz. London dry gin

¼ oz. Fernet-Branca

1 orange peel

Instructions

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir.
until on the verge of freezing. Strain into a small cordial or sake
coupe. Garnish with a raspberry in the spring or summer, or a fig in the fall and winter.

This book has been on my cocktail shelf for several weeks now, and I keep a running list of new vermouths to try from my local purveyor.  When the mood strikes me, I look for a new recipe and experiment, which is what any good bartender is about.

Vermouth is available on Amazon.com for $17 and is worth every penny!

For more information:  vermouth-makes-a-comeback/

Annual Wine Bloggers Conference – Advice from the trenches

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Yikes!  The 9th annual Wine Bloggers Conference is next week!  Somehow this year went by way too fast.

Harvest is in full swing here in Northern California, kids are going back to school, work is buzzing, and  – 250 wine writers, industry reps, PR plebes, and other will converge on Corning, NY next week.

As one of a handful of people that have been to every conference (shout out to Craig Camp, Janelle & Joe Becerra, Liza Swift and Jon Steinberg), I have learned a lot since the first conference in Santa Rosa in 2008.

What does this mean to you?  As newbies and experienced conference attenders alike, there are always some rules of engagement that you should remember, and some advice that us veterans have learned about how to approach the conference.

Some of my key observations and advice on how to best enjoy the conference are outlined below.  Obviously, to each their own but if you want to earn the respect of your fellow bloggers and industry attendees, these tips are essential – and common sense.

  • Bring business cards.  Yes it may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to quickly introduce yourself with a memorable item.  The stacks of cards collected are reminders when we get home to follow, tweet, and read other peoples information.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  you never know when we’ll be hiking up a hill in a vineyard.
  • Wear comfortable business casual / wine country casual clothes with layers.  The Finger Lakes can be very warm and quite humid, but cools off at night.  Jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, something nice for dinner.  Currently the weather says mid 80s all week, but there is a high probability that there will be R A I N mid week, so bring an umbrella!  For us Californians, this wet stuff is exciting indeed.  Most of all,  be comfy!
  • Be professional.  While we’re there to have fun and learn, no one likes a party animal that gives bloggers a bad name.  We all remember some years where people were not responsible and made the local community dislike bloggers in general.  Please don’t’ be that person.
  • Get to know your sponsors.  We have a few hours on Friday at lunch at the Expo to to say hi and learn who made this conference possible. Be sure to stop by the WBC Scholarship table and learn about what we do and how you can help.
  • Mix and mingle – the first mingling event is Thursday night, at Riverfront Park.  Wines from Keuka Lake will be featured along with nibbles if you’re hungry.
  • Don’t be shy – reach out and touch someone.  Ok maybe not literally, but turn to the person sitting next to yourself and introduce yourself.  We don’t bite and we want to get to know you!  All of you introverts, use Twitter!  #wbc15 is your best friend.  Buy some badge bling from the Scholarship table and say hi to your fellow winos!
  • Attend the keynotes.  These sessions are great kick starters and will get you in to the groove.
  • Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed.  While content is king, if there is a session that isn’t’ interesting to you, use the time to blog, hang out with your fellow attendees, or just chill.  It’s important to take sanity breaks since these are three days of busy events.
  • Spit spit spit.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum.  It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party.  Present yourself accordingly.
  • Don’t forget to sleep!  There are always many after hours events and parties.  While going to these is fun and a great way to meet people, don’t overdo it.  Sleep is critical during this busy weekend of events.
  • Don’t have any party invites?  Don’t worry!  Stay tuned to the #WBC15 twitter stream, talk to people, and mingle.  You’ll get plenty!
  • Have an open mind.  You never know if there are wines you wouldn’t normally try, that you will love!
  • Bring something from home that represents your region, style, and / or personality.  This could be wine, but it could also be food, a book, or a t-shirt.
  • Attend the break outs.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While You Need to choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, just to pull the meat out.

Here’s what I think I’ll be doing:

  • Keynote, of course!  I cannot underestimate the importance of these opening sessions, as they set the tone for the day and really give you a peek in to how other professionals, wine writers, and tech luminaries view blogging.  This year, Karen McNeil will be opening the conference
  • Intro to the Finger Lakes – a great way to get an overview of the region before we start tasting!
  • Live Wine Blogging: Red and White – Also known as Speed Tasting, Speed Dating, or Insanity, I get a kick of out fast first impression tastes and the twitter storm that occurs.  You can tweet or blog, or take notes to blog later.  I suggest tweeting, as it’s the fastest way to keep up with the tasting.  This year, all live blogging wines are from the Finger Lakes!
  • Friday evening excursions to wine country – this is one of the best experiences at WBC.  Small groups are sent on mystery buses to various area wineries, where you get a deep dive in to the wine, winemaking philosophy, styles, and terroir of several area wineries.  The fun is that you don’t know where you’re going tile you get there!  No cheating now 😉
  • Women in the Wine World – Several successful women in wine will talk about their success and struggles
  • The Spectrum of Dry Riesling – As the Finger Lakes is well known for this varietal, I’m looking forward to tasting a wide selection and learning more about each style.
  • Panel of Successful Wine Bloggers I am moderating this sessions which will dive in to conversations with several successful bloggers, and what success means to them.  Bring your questions and join the discussion!
  • After parties to be determined
  • who knows what else!

I will see you next week!

With a Blade & Bow – History in a glass

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Recently, the good folks at Diageo invited me to experience the re-launch of an iconic brand:  Blade & Bow.  Unique in it’s production technique, using a Solera system that is classical used for Sherry in Spain, no year is a single vintage. Instead, it is an ever evolving blend of many vintages as they tumble down the cascading pyramid of the solera.  In this case, the Blade & Bow solera is 5 barrels, with the oldest being from the original Stitzel distillery where blade & bow was originally born.

 

Stitzl-Weller was founded in 1935 in Louisville, and was distilling continuously until 1992.  When they shut down, the bourbon stock was sill aging, and therefore made it possible to create the oldest solera tiers that are available today.  The 22 year old Limited Release is a blend whiskies, distilled at both the historic location at 17th and Breckinridge in Louisville, Ky. and another historic distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, creating this complex beauty.  This blend is then aged and bottled at Stitzel-Weller.

A beautiful expression of caramel, brown sugar, baked apples, and baking spice.  Sip this beauty straight, or make a killer Manhattan!  It’s fairly hard to put the glass down once you start drinking this sexy little number, and on these foggy summer nights, I am happy to have my little friend. $150

 

  I’ll Take Manhattain (with a Bow)

2 oz. Blade & Bow 22 Year old
.25 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Bob’s Abbot’s Bitters
1 Dash Fee Brother’s Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1/2 dash Aged Citrus Bitters
1/2 Dash Meyer Lemon Bitters

Shake over ice and strain in to a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a slice of lemon and a bourbon soaked cherry.  The Aztec Chocolate adds a sweet richness, while the lemon garnish adds enough acid IMG_9090to make the flavors pop.   This is a treat that you will get addicted to!

For those looking for a more affordable treat, the Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is  a lighter and fresher bourbon, perfect over ice, or in your favorite cocktail.  The Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a  fine sipping bourbon, and is made from the solera stocks from Stitzel-Weller, blended with other whiskies to create the completed product.

Fresh and fruity, with notes of vanilla, fresh oranges, ripe pears, marzipan and gingerbread why not try an Old Fashioned Ginger?  $50

 

 Ginger Old Fashioned
2 oz Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1 oz Ginger Liquor
splash ginger beer (preferably a dry one)
dash orange bitters

Muddle 1/2 tsp of sugar with the bitters and ginger liquor.  Add ice, and top with bourbon, and ginger beer.  Garnish with an orange wedge.

 The use of the solera cask system allows Blade & Bow to carry on a tradition that was once thought to be lost, preserving some of the oldest golden nectar for future generations to come.  I highly recommend the 22-year old, and if you are out at a bar and see the Kentucky Straight, give it a shot! Pun intended, of course.

 

Thank you to Blade & Bow and the Diageo team for a great night of cocktails and a dinner of Southern specialties with a twist, at Dirty Habit – a peach of a bourbon bar in the heart of San Francisco.

Wine apps YOU should be using!

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We all know that wine apps for smart phones are hot right now.  I have about 40 installed on my iPhone as we speak, all n some sort of evaluation or user mode.  But what apps really mater?  What matters to consumers versus wineries?

Recently, I was tasked with writing about the top wine apps wine marketers should be using over on Nomacorc’s blog.  You’ll find the usual suspects over there but some other apps that didn’t make the final cut that I would strongly encourage you to look at as a consumer, in addition to Delectable and Vivino.
Crushed – let’s call it Facebook for while.  While it seems like somewhat of an isolated social community, it is a fantastic place for wine novices to learn, discuss, and make new friends.

NextGlass – there is a brand spanking new release with loads of new features!  Check it out.  Built on a social sharing model, you can review and share with your friends.

Hello Vino – Hello Vino has always been a great place to go for reviews, and to find a great wine.  Rick Breslin has been a great friend to bloggers, often featuring our reviews on the app, to share with a broader audience.  HelloVino also has the added bonus of being a shopping app, so you don’t have to go source the wine.

Want to read more?  Check out the original article here!  And remember, what’s good for the consumer, is not always good for the trade.

 

What are your favorite wine apps?  Why?

 

 

Montefalco Sagrantino: Umbria’s Secret Sultry Sipper

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Landlocked Umbria has long been thought of as Tuscany’s little sister, a hidden treasure housing such jewels as Orvieto’s cathedral, and ancient Etruscan ruins.  Having spent several days here on my (only) trip to Italy several  years ago, I feel in love with the unique culture that Umbria’s landscape provides, with a distinct culture of wine, food, and people.  One thing I did not experience however, until now, is the sultry allure of the local red wine:  Sagrantino.

 While this small province in central Italy is dwarfed in wine production by Tuscany, Umbria offers a unique wine culture.  While Tuscany prides itself on wines based on the Sangiovese grape, Umbria in general, and Montefalco and it’s environs in particular, focus on the indigenous Sagrantino grape.  Sangrantino is purely Umbrian, ancient, smoky, sultry, tannic, and entirely unique.  With only 250 acres planted, the hill towns of this area are the geographical center of the Umbrian Valley, and you can see the hill of Montefalco from nearly anywhere.  This is one of the few locations where wine was made inside the city walls, and there is still evidence of that to this day.

Here in the heart of Umbria, the Montefalco production area is tiny, approximately 250 acres of rolling hillsides, and only 25 or so producers.  While it’s origins are still unclear, it is clear that it has been cultivated in Umbria since at least the Middle Ages.  Here in Italy, where the laws are strict, the yield must not be over 8,000kg per hectare, and the vilification must be done within the specific towns in the production area.  Since this area is so small, that doesn’t lead to a large production.  These rules can be tricky to adhere to, but the results are pure magic, and wines that can be aged for as long, if not longer than Sangiovese due to the high tannin and strong fruit characters.

After enduring a quiet period in history, where winemaking was largely forgotten, Sagrantino di Montefalco finally claimed DOC status in 1979, and was promoted to DOCG in the early 90s, piquing the interest of Italians and the export market alike.  Now, I am excited to explore two wines of the region, after having my appetite whet by Nello Olivio Wines in El Dorado County earlier this year.

Sagrantino grapes

The DOCG Montefalco Sagrantino must be 100% Sagrantino, and the specific yield limits make it a challenge to grow and produce.  In the 2010 Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG, they have achieved this with balance and elegance.  Azienda Agraria Perticaia prides itself on maintaining the traditions of the past, and is careful to be a thoughtful steward of the land and the ancient grapes.

Today, Perticaia holds over 7 hectares of Sagrantino, which makes them one of the largest single growers in the area.  Because the Montefalco DOCG must be 100% Sagrantino, this is a labor of love.  Grapes are hand harvested, and fermented with native yeast, after a long maceration (3 weeks).  Aging continues for at least 30 months, as per the DOCG rules, and in the case of the Perticaia, small French oak barrels for 12 months, followed by 12 months in stainless steel, and 12 months in bottle for a total of 36 months prior to release.  The intensely floral aromas have strong tannins that are made more silky by the additional bottle aging, and can age for at least another 10 years.  Rich plum notes and smoky leather work well with hard cheese and rich meat dishes, and the spice box has been opened for this beautiful wine.

2011 Colpetrone Rosso di Montefalco DOC – In contrast to the 100% Sagrantino in the Montefalco Sagrantino, the Rosso di Montefalco is required to have at least 60% of Sangiovese, as well at least 10% Sagrantino.  Colpetrone, one of the most important wine producers in the Montefalcto DOCG, also hopes to maintain history, and showcase the power and finesse of the Sagrantino grape.

The Colpetrone Rosso di Montefalco is a blend of Sangiovese (at least 60%), Sagrantion (at least 10%) and Merlot, which rounds out the edges with a softness.  This was fermented in stainless steel and then aged in stainless steel (60%) as well as French Oak tonneaux and barriques (40%), and blended before bottle aging for four months.  Brilliant notes of anise, cracked black pepper and chocolate shine through dark berries and hard spices.  The rich black fig flavors make this a natural pairing for hard cheeses as well as blue cheese, and the medium tannins work well with sausages, and red meat.  This is a more casual wine, but still holds the essence of the Sagrantino grape and tipicity.  The Rosso is a wine that can be enjoyed ina more causal environment, but is well poised for aging for another five years.

While difficult to find, these wines are a true taste of Umbria, and are great with hearty pasta dishes, meats, and convivial meetings in the piazza.  While I haven’t’ visited this particular area of Italy (yet), I hope to explore more of this unique grape and taste the flavors that it can offer.

 

Special thanks to the Consorzio Montefalco for providing these two examples of Umbria’s signature grape, a Rosso (blend) and Sagrantino (stand alone).

Focus on Finger Lakes: Cabernet Franc Five Ways

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IMG_9070It’s no secret that the Finger Lakes region of New York has long been known for it’s Riesling and aromatic white wines.  Often compared to wine growing regions along Germany’s Rhine river, the region has been making wine well over 100 years.  Initially famous for sparking wines the 1860s, the Finger Lakes won numerous international awards, spawing a boom in vineyards.  In fact, by the turn of the century, there were some 25,000 acres planted to vine.

Unfortunately, like much of the United States at the time, phyloxerra devastated the area in the early 20th century, leading to a gradual decline in the industry.  In 1951, Dr. Konstantin Frank emigrated to the region to work at Cornell University, which ran the Geneva Experiment Station.  Here, Frank and his team experimented wit Vinifera varieties grafted to hearty rootstock.  In 1962, the modern wine industry was born, when Dr. Frank founded Vinifera Wine Cellars

Today, the Finger Lakes have moved beyond it’s initial roots in Riesling, and is now producing high quality, low alcohol red wines.  In this batch, I tasted five Cabernet Francs from the Finger Lakes, 4 from 2012 and one from 2013.  All of these wines vary from 12.5 to 13.9% ABV, which for the US is exceedingly low. This refreshing difference brings back the earthy, herbal, aromatic qualities of one of my favorite grapes.

2012 Damiani Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc – earthy and dusty on the nose, with muted plums and bramble berry.  Rich black berry and smoke on the palate, with blueberry, cedar and campfire completing the voluptuous sip.  Velvety but with bright red fruit and acidity, it’s a lovely, balanced wine.  $22

2013 Hector Wine Company Seneca Lake Cabernet Franc – This is the first vintage of Cabernet Franc for Hector Wine Company, and is is fermented with 100% native yeast, with no fining.  Dark black and blue fruit on the nose, slight floral notes, the palate is rich and elegant, with juicy loganberry, milk chocolate and coffee notes.  Bright acid and juicy red cranberry round out the finish.  $22 (sold out)

2012 McGregor  Vineyard Finger Lakes Reserve Cabernet Franc – earthy and brooding, with forest floor and cedar on first sniff.  A lighter more restrained style of Cabernet Franc that reminds me of a young Bordeaux, dried cherries, dried herbs, cedar chips, and smooth tannins show early on.  More earthy and subtle than the Hector Wine Company or Damiani, the finish lends itself to wintergreen on a cool winter morning.  $22

2012 Chateau Layfaette Reneau Cabernet Franc herbaceous sachets meandering out of the glass,  with dusty ripe fruit on the palate, and dark tea flavors.  Dark chocolate, dried plums, blackberries, and current sprinkled with cracked pepper give way to firm tannins which linger, but the overall impression is suave.  $19

2012 Lakewood Vineyards Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc – the brightest in the bunch, with garnet / ruby coloring, and a nose full of grass and green herbs.  Stewed fruit, campfire smoke and dutch cocoa finish it off.  $16

Overall, these are clear expressions of Cabernet Franc that are ripe for the drinking.  The price point (under $25) and the lower alcohol are refreshing, and while they might be “hipster” today, they are the classic model from Europe, and old school wine-making in other parts of the New World.  Over time, they open up to reveal more personality, a deeply earthy core, and a sparkle of fruit on top.  I look forward to enjoying these over the next few days!  My personal favorites were the Hector Wine Company and the Damiani Wine Cellars, but I’d love to know what you think!

I am very much looking forward to visiting some of these wineries sand more while in the Finger Lakes in August for the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference! Special thanks to the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance and the wineries for providing these samples for review.

Horizontal Tasting: Mariah Vineyards Pinot Noir from Cartograph and Waits Mast

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Cartograph & Waits Mast Mariah PinotI love it when a plan comes together!  One of my favorite things about wine, is tasting the expression of the winemaker in the bottle.  Every touch, every decision, every nuance in his or her mind ends up in your glass.  Pinot Noir particularly responds to a gentle hand, and there is no better way to taste that than by tasting wine crafted by two winemakers, with fruit from the same vineyard.

In this case, I am lucky enough to know two fabulous wine makers who are using Pinot Noir fruit from Mendocino County’s Mariah Vineyard.  As a long time fan of the delicacy and brightness of Pinots from Mendocino County, I fell in love with these two wines at first sip – but each on it’s own merits.  Now, having the opportunity to taste them side by side, I can key in on the specific attributes of each wine that make my taste buds smile.

The Mariah Vineyard is located in the extreme reaches of Mendocino, and is part of the Mendocino Ridge AVA.  This is one of the most fascinating AVAs for wine, as it’s a non-contiguous region that is specifically drafted from “Islands in the Sky” – all vineyards that fit in the Mendocino Ridge AVA must be above 1,200 feet in elevation, and exist entirely within the coastal zone of Mendocino County.  The vineyards in this magical plane are blanketed in a thick layer of morning fog, helping maintain the zingy acids, and sit in small patches of usable space on the ridgeline that is often covered in heavy Douglass Fir forest.  Here in the Islands in the Sky, some of the state’s best Pinot Noir is grown.

First, the 2012 Cartograph Mariah Vineyard Pinot Noir ($48). Rich strawberry and cherry mingle with wild mint and wood smoke.  Fresh cream is present, with a slight cola note on the background.  Bright cranberry acidity plays with an herbal finish of forest floor and pine needles, with Bing cherries threading through the entire palate.  The finish is coated in ground baking spices, reminding me of a gingerbread house and Thanksgiving’s cranberry sauce.

In contrast, the 2012 Waits Mast Cellars Mariah VIneyards Pinot Noir ($42) is slightly wilder, with more black cherry and bramble berry pie.  The cedar woods are more pronounced, and the mint is hiding in the background.  A slightly richer wine, brown sugar dances on my palate.  The Waits Mast is Little Red Riding Hood, meandering the forest, darting in and out of black raspberry bushes, hinting at black cherry and voluptuous bramble berries, while enjoying a softer, more velvety mouth feel.  The finish is dusted with a pleasant pinch of white pepper.

The primary difference in these wines comes from the clonal selection of the specific blocks in the vineyard.   While the Cartograph block uses clone 115 and 777, the Waits Mast is block is 667 and Pommard.  Pommard is known to be a richer style Pinot Noir, with dark fruit and depth of flavor, while the 777 has that eartly, forest floor and herbal character that I found in the Cartograph.  The 667 in the Waits Mast brings out that dark cherry and plush tannin.   Another key difference is the use of commercial yeast (Cartograph) vs native yeast (Waits Mast).  Does yeast make a huge impact?  Sometimes.  Ocassionally.  Maybe.  These subtle but clear differences can showcase the stylistic features that each winemaker wants,  while still representing the fruit in a clear and present way.

In the end, these wines are so similar, that the primary different is so subtle, it can be hard to pick up.  Stylistically, they are on the same page; flavor wise, there are ever so subtle differences, that make them both sisters, and yet, unique.  So, vivre le difference!  Now, go forth and make your own vertical.  See what is different, and what is the same.  You won’t be sorry!

 

Wines of Alsace – beauty in diversity

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Wines Of AlsaceWhen I think of the wines of Alsace, my mind immediately wanders to the sparkling Cremant d’Alsace, an amazingly affordable priced bubbly.  Then, I meander to the aromatic whites of Gewurztraminer and Riesling, before setting on the classic Pinot Gris.  With so much diversity in style, even within a single varietal, it’s easy to forget that there is more to the region than these four styles of wine.

Located on the northeastern edge of France, the Alsace region has been French,  German, and everything in between for hundreds of years, with a strong tradition of wine and food.  Following the path of the Rhine river, this narrow strip of rolling hills and alpine villages lazily follows the river through over 100 wine communes.

Over 90% of still wine from Alsace is made with white varieties, lending to the claim of “pure expression”.  The expression of the region, the cuisine, and the styles of winemaking are all evident in these wines.  Typically, when I think of Alsatian whites, I gravitate pairing with spicy foods – Thai, Indian, Burmese. Recently however, I was delighted at the flavors that danced on my tongue pairing delicious whites with Moroccan food.  Logically, this makes sense – the sensual flavors with the bold spices are perfect for the cooling white wines of the region.  Stunningly versatile, we had fun mixing and matching the p;airings with the delicious food.

Starter:

Eggplant, cucumber, oregano, pepper, za’atar – a ragout of sorts that was beautifully flavorful.  I skipped the Kanpachi since I have a food allergy, but the za’atar was magnification with the 2013 Meyer-Fonne Pinot Blanc Vielles Vignes.  The creaminess of the eggplant and pungency of the oregano and peppers really played off the unctuous Pinot Blanc.

Second:

Chicken with preserved lemon, green olives; Snapper with red charmoula

Cous cous with brown butter; Carrots with dates, pecans, urfa and mint; Potatoes with buttermilk and onions; Beans with tomatoes, feta, and za’atar crumble

This was an incredible feast for the senses and there was SO much food!  Both of the wines served as excellent pairings but I preferred the 2010 Riefle Riesling Grand Cru Steinert Bonheur Exceptional with the chicken.  The aromatic spice of the dish played perfectly off of the aged Riesling’s own spice, as well as the slightly oily mouthfeel.  The Snapper was delicious with the 2012 Albert Boxler Pinot Gris Reserve.

Cheese – typically you might think of pairing a sweet, dessert style wine with a sweet dessert.  However, the balance of the sweet wine with the creamy, sharp, and pungent cheeses was imply mouthwatering.  The 2012 Weinbach Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Furstentum Vendanges Tarvide is still full of life, with beautiful acid, honey notes and caramel syrup, while maintaining apricots and acid . The pairing of Point Reyes Blue cheese with a dash of honey and this was was sublime.

Thank you to Mourad for an amazing Moroccan feast, and to the Wines of Alsace for the surprising pairings.  Alsace’s marketing motto is “Pure Expression” and these wines hit the mark, while showing us how you can be versatile and don’t have to stick with tradtion when pairing the aromatic white wines of eastern France.  With excellent QPR and price points friendly enough for every wallet, it’s easy to experiment with Alsatian wines.  Try a bottle with your favorite ethnic cuisine, or with BBQed chicken.  Go ahead and try an older Pinot Gris with pork chops.  The beauty of wines with versatility is that you can!

Next time you are in the mood for North African cuisine, think Wines of Alsace! 

 

Thank you Wines of Alsace for the delicious meal, and inventive pairings!

Tastemakers: Madrona Vineyards, Excellence in Cabernet Franc

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Earlier this year, when I was in El Dorado wine country in Northern California, I had my first experience with Madroña Vineyards.  This family run business is in an idea climate for Rhône and Bordeaux varietals, and the elevation in Apple Hill gives it a special terroir that stands out from the rest of the pack.

Sitting at 3,000 feet, Madroña has three vineyards, all family owned:  The estate vineyard, the Enyé Vineyard, and the Sumu-Kaw Vineyard, in Pleasant Valley.  Each vineyard has a unique character, and with over 26 varietals planted, winemaker Paul Bush can experiment with small selections, and tweak them until he is satisfied.  Some of that desire to blend, tweak, and perfect, resulted in this unique horizontal tasting of four Cabernet Francs.

While talking to Paul on my recent visit, I had the opportunity to taste two of these Cab Francs, and was instantly smitten,  When I found out he was doing a Cab Lovers Experience, I was excited to taste all four of his offerings side by side.  In the Cab Franc 4-pack, each bottle is a vastly different expression of the grape.  What would the single block near the barn tattie like?  Hint:  One of these things is not like the other.  Would an experiment with mechanical destemming vs hand selection make a marked difference?  Good question.  Finally, is the sum of the parts equal to the parts themselves (what happens when you blend, Vinny?).  For me, the side by side tasting experience is a clear showcase of how micro terroirs and winemkaing technique can alter the final product.  Oh, and it’s good juice.  Very, very good juice.

First up, the comparison between La Machine and Grain by Grain, where the grapes were picked at the same time, the same way, but processed slightly differently.  The Grain par Grain (berry by berry) and La Machine were both hand harvested, but the Grain par Grain was carefully destemmed by hand, and transferred to fermentation puncheons by nuns who have never eaten processed food.  Ok I was just kidding about the nuns; but compared to the La Machine that was destemmed by a traditional destemming machine, and pumped in to the puncheon, it was a much more etheral experience – which clearly impacted teh final result.  Everything past the destemming and transfer to puncheon was performed identically.  What were the differences?

2011 La Machine Cabernet Franc ($40) – Bursting with red fruit, bing cherries, pomegranite, and forest berries, the cedar plank and mint notes were apparent from the get go.  Given a bit of time, milk chocolate, baking spices, dutch cocoa, molasses, and a hint of green peppercorn came out to dance on the palate.  The La Machine was slightly sharper, with harder angles and brighter acids.  Bright red fruit and hibiscus shine through, and on the second day, more earthy notes were detectable.

2011 Grain par Grain Cabernet Franc ($60) – like a velvet glove, cloves, cracked pepper and smoke hung over blackberries and ripe plums, while dried herbs and cassis lingered in the background.  This was a much more feminine wine, unctuous at times, and perfect with blue cheese or just on it’s own.  It would seem, to me at least that the manual deconstruction of the grape bunches and careful transfer to puncheons made a silkier, smoother, more feminine wine.  I also found that the La Machine provided more acid and brighter red fruit.  This might be in due to the bruising of the fruit in the machined process, or the tannins that inevitably get in the fished wine with some escaped stems or seeds.

Next up, the 2011 East Block Cabernet Franc ($35).  This is a departure from the first two, as it was done essentially the same way the La Machine was, with the exception of using open top fermentation bins.  The East Block had a specific character that wasn’t present in either of the first two, and that could be due to the yeast strain, or the micro terroir in the half an acre block.  It was darker and chewier than the first two, with firmer tannins, beef jerky, and less fruit notes.  The overwhelming flavor of black tea was lingering on my tongue as I sipped this small lot wine.  Was it due to the different strain of yeast, the physical location of the block, or something different?  The East Block had a delicate floral note to it, more so than Grain par Grain or La Machine, and had a cooler climate influence with brooding tobacco and plum.  What a departure from the first two, with the addition of 6% Cab Sav, 1% Merlot, and .5% Malbec.

Finally, the 2011 Signature Cabernet Franc ($22), which, sadly – is sold out.  Mechanically destemmed and also fermented in open top fermenters, this was the workhourse of the group   With a touch of Cab Sav blended in to round it out, it was polished and simpler, with lilacs, violets, and plums as well as pure cherry.  A beautiful expression of Cab Franc, and easily approachable.

Located just about two hours from San Francisco, I encourage everyone to get out and explore El Dorado County, for the wine, the fruit orchards, and the history.  Stop by Madrona and taste for yourselves!

 

Thank you to Madrona Vineyards and Paul Bush for showing me the beauty of Cab Franc from El Dorado!  (Samples)

 

 

 

 

 

VinoMax – an aerator with a twist

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I’ve written about several aerators over the years, and have rarely seen a new one that is unique and functional enough for me to actually use frequently.  The Vinomax is one such gadget however, that I am finding myself using more and more.  Vinomax is different because of it’s patented triple aeration system, which focuses on not over aerating your wine.  If you’ve left your wine out in the open for long enough, you know what too much air does; it isn’t pretty.  However, with an aerator, you are trying to outsmart Mother Nature by increasing the oxygen contact while short-cutting Father Time.

 

With both bottletop and stand alone devices, as well as a travel option, Vinomax is giving us the best of both worlds.  While the handheld device looks exactly like a giant Vinturi, it actually behaves quite differently.  This device actually mixes your wine with air three times, increasing contact and aeration, creating the perfect glass, every time.

I found that this tool is very useful for those big wines that you just don’t have 4-6 hours to open up, let alone something that might need 12 hours!  By aerating the wines, you are softening the tannins and making them more ready to drink immediately.

While nothing is a substitute for good old fashioned time, these tools are handy to have in your arsenal when you need to help a wine along in the aeration process.  The handheld model is oversize cylinder, with a bigger barrel and more oomph than the original aerator, the Vinturi.  I like the way it feels in my hand, and quickly aerated a glass of red wine.

The bottle top model is nice to have if you’re pouring through a whole bottle, and allows you to pour directly from the bottle to your glass without the added (and sometimes messy) step of using a handheld aerator.  In this case, I preferred the handheld model, but the bottle top is handy indeed.

When you want a quick glass of wine, I’d go with the handheld.  If you’re pouring for a crowd, go for the bottle top.

When I look for wine accessories to give to my friends & family as gifts, I will definitely be giving the Vinomax hand held product to my wine brethren this year.  The triple aeration process seems to work better than a single aeration chamber, and while my heart still belongs to the Wine Soiree

Thanks to Vinomax for the samples!  Now go forth and shop at VinomaxProducts.com!

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Clif Family Bruschetteria – A Revolution in Napa Valley dining options!

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There’s a big green truck rolling in to town, and it’s not the kind that picks up your trash cans!  If you haent’ heard by now, Clif Family Winery has expanded their St. Helena operation to include the Clif Family Bruschetteria Food Truck, replete with northern Italian menu options that are magically created to pair with the wines.

Clif Family Wines began with a spark of inspirtaion, when founders Gary Erickson & Kit Crawford, both avid cyclists, enjoyed the laid back lifestyle where a leisurely meal and bottle of wine were always on the agenda after a full day.  It stands to reason that the health-minded founders of the Clif Bar Company would also want to complete their lifestyle portfolio with wine.  After a long bike ride, with some tasty energy booting Clif Bars, who doesn’t need a glass of yummy wine?

 

And so, here we are in St. Helena, at the Vino Volo tasting room and salon, where the winery tasting room has expanded to include a beautiful outdoor seating area and the Bruschetteria, offering bites, snacks, and full meals.  Keeping things local, Executive Chef John McConnell takes advantage of the Clif Family Farm in nearby Pope Valley, as well as various other local suppliers, to maintain the freshest of flavors.

 

On the day we visited, BrixChick Liza and I were greeting by General Manager Linzi Gay, who joined Clif Family in 2007.  With a curated menu of options that were paired wtih the day’s food options, we were off on a culinary adventure, while enjoying the peaceful setting on the back patio.

 


Evernote Snapshot 20150508 124726Porchetta Bruschetta paired with 2012 Oak Knoll Chardonnay
.  The juicy porchetta was perfectly rich for the Chardonnay, which was aged in 50% new French Oak for a delicate creaminess while still maintaining the fruit.  I loved the fresh, clean citrus notes that were followed by a mineral, flinty finish which paired perfectly with the fattiness of the pork.

 

 


Evernote Snapshot 20150508 124726 (1)Pomodoro Bruschetta paired with 2011 Kit’s Killer Cabernet – c
oming from the slopes of Howell Mountain, Kit’s Killer Cab is bursting her green herbs, as well as bright red fruit and, chewy fig, and tobacco leaf.  This combination of a higher acid wine was perfect for the tomato based Pomodoro Bruschetta, which was oozing with garlic and goat cheese.

Evernote Snapshot 20150508 124727Finally, the Funghi Bruscetta with 2011 Gary’s Improv Zinfandel.  As someone who has kind of a thing for mushrooms, the aromas wafted over to my nose even before they served it, and I couldn’t wait to dive in.  Seasonal mushrooms are slathered with Fontina cheese and fresh herbs, and perfectly toasted.  The Gary’s Improv Zinfandel, also from Howell Mountain, is a lovely example of high elevation fruit that shows both the brambleberry, dark blue and black fruit notes that are the hallmark of Zinfandel, but also the spice rack and acid pop that are classic Howell Mountain.  The earthy hard spices were a perfect match for the funghi!

With only 4,000 cases produced, winemaker Laura Barrett, who just joined in  2014 after a stint at Casey Flat Ranch, is able to focus on specific fruit sources that are both Estate and sourced fruit.  Picking just the right vineyard, she is able to craft small lot wines of distinction, and serve them with the perfect companion bites.

The Bruchetteria has been open since 2014, and is normally parked outside the Clif Family Vino Velo tasting room on Highway 29 in St. Helena; but don’t’ be surprised if you see the big green truck roaming the valley!  The food truck is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30-4:00, and is a perfect stop for lunch or a mid afternoon snack anytime you are in Napa Valley.  Dishes range from snack sized salads and bruscetta, to larger lunch portioned roticceria dishes, and are perfect for sharing.

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Stop by and stay a while!
Special thanks to Clif Family and The Barn Group for hosting us for this perfect lunch hour escape.

The Artful Wine Lovers Journal

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As a wine writer, blogger, and social media junkie, I’m often attached to my phone for hours on end, clicking my thoughts in bits and bytes.  There are times, however, that I like to have an actual notebook.
When that happens, I look to a compact, purse size notebook, that can fit in my hand comfortably.  But who wants an ugly notebook?   Enter the Renaissance Art leather wine journals!  These pretty little folios are handmade Italian leather, with a beautiful wine tasting notebook inside.  The best part about this, is that once your notebook is full, or if you want more room – you can simply insert your own notebook for future note taking.
I have really enjoyed my sample, and it tucks in to my purse perfectly; the handy leather thong strap, is a great way to keep your favorite pen secured as well.
Renaissance Art was founded over 16 years ago in Sante Fe, a place well known for it’s artists and unique, hand crafted treasures.  Its founder, Arthur, began the company out of necessity.  He wanted to start recording his own on paper, and nothing in the market quite suited him.  As any enterprising young artist would do, he went out and created his own.
The results are beautiful, elegant yet rustic, leather bound journals that are hand crafted with love.  As a tool to encourage you to write your thoughts wherever you go, these little babies are just the ticket!

 

Check out the rest of the products HERE.  From wine journals, to sketchbooks, classic moleskins and custom book covers, set the mood with the oldest tool of the trade:  a blank book.  With the custom finish options and book variations, you will never need another book cover again.

Would you like to win a wine journal?  Leave a comment on the blog to be entered!

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Tilenus – Excellence in the lost art of Mencia

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From one end of Spain to the other, the #OleWinos continuing adventures took us across the country – by trains, planes, and automobiles.  OK, there were no planes, but at times the high speed train from Alicante to Madrid certainly felt like one!

A two hour blur later, we piled in the rented van and took off for Bierzo, a small DO located in the northwest region of León.  Located in a lush, green, and hilly area of the north, there are many small valleys and wide, flat plains that are perfect for cultivating Mencia, the area’s grape.

Making our homebase the university town of Ponferrada, the castle loomed large over the walled old town where our hotel was.  With a viticultural history dating back to Roman times, the phylloxera plague nearly wiped out the industry in the 19th century.  With modern advanced in vine grafting, the vineyard economy slowly recovered, and producing grew to be a significant influence on the region’s economy.  In 1989, the DO was created.

With the heavy quartz and slate soils, vineyards are planted on moist, rich soil.  Here in Bierzo, only a handful of grape varietals are allowed:

  • Mencia, Alicante Bouschet, and a few experimental grapes for red
  • Godello, Palomino and Dona Blanca (and a few more experimental grapes) for white.
  • With these “experimental” varietals only allowed in Crianza (young) wines, the Riserva and Grand Riserva wines must only contain the classic varietals to carry the DO lable.

On this trip, we were exploring MG Wines‘ property Bodegas Estefania, which was founded in 1999.  Keeping in line with MG Wines mission of sustainalbe, unique, and local wines, “Tilenus”, as Estefania is commonly known as, meets and exceeds those expectations.

Bierzo

James the Wine Guy and the Dallas WIne Chick clowning around!

 

IMG_8944Bodegas Estefanía, much like the other MG Wines Group properties, prides itself of being sustainable, modern, and true to the native habitat of the region.  While they focus primarily on the indigenous Mencia group, they also make a Godella (white).  Our host, winemaker Carlos Garcia, led us on a bit of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – as we explored the rugged countryside where the vineyard are located.  On this particular day, it was drizzly and cold, so we scrapped our plans to explore the hilltop plot, and instead explored the oldest vineyard.

Here, in what was formerly the land of bulk wine and large coop wineries, Bodegas Esefania was founded in 1999, it was influential as the start of the Bierzo revolution.  Once an old creamery, it was acquired by bin 2014.  It’s primary brand, and what most people refer to the winery as, Tilenus, pays tribute to the Roman era of Bierzo; today, this history is on the wine labels, with the image ofa Roman coin, signifying the period of history when the Roman’s mined the area for gold.

The red earth undulated like a fault line, revealing many microclimates of peaks and valleys.  In these vineyards, 80% of the fruit is grown, with the additional 20% sourced from small, local vineyards.  Tilenus carefully maintains separate vinification of each vineyard, and each of the five Mencia based wines comes from a different area.  This gives each wine a distinct sense of terroir, and no two are exactly the same.

Keeping in the theme of MG Wines holdings, Tilenus uses the best tools available to them; in this case, the careful use of native yeast increasing the character of the Mencia based wines, and brings out the true local flavor of this little-known grape.  With the minimal use of oak so as to not overpower the delicate wines, the true expression can shine through beautifully.

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The wines of Tilenus reveal the nuances of the mineral driven Mencia grape; each one bringing out another layer of excellence and unique flavors.  Mencia is one of the most tannic wines in the world, and mastering the balance of structure is something that is difficult.  Tilenus seems to have done that just fine.

2014 Vendimia – at only $14, this entry level wine is a bit rough, but shows violets and forest floor, with limestone, plums, and bay leaves.  A great introduction to Mencia.
2008 La Florida s- dense rose petals and floral notes, hard spices and smoke masking purple fruit, dried plums, tobacco, and holiday spices.  $20
2006 Pagos de Posada – this top of the line example comes from small berries in a vineyard that has a lot of wind, keeping them dry.  Full of coffee, dark chocolate, and ripe purple fruit, with a dusting of peppercorn and mint.  Very elegant and balanced, with silky tannins.  $50
2007 Piesa – Hailing from the oldest parcel of land, it is an inky dark color with black fruit, chewy dried figs, and chocolate.  From a vineyard at 1800 feet, and only 1000 bottles produced, the dried sage and white pepper compliment the dense, dark fruit.

This whirldwind tour of Spain exposes us to some of the lesser known areas and varietals that should be better explored for anyone that loves wine.  MG Wines Group represents the best of these up and coming regions, with an emphasis on terroir, history, modern technology, and sustainable winemaking.  Three cheers to MG Wines for an outstanding portfolio, and experience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bodegas Lavia – true expression of Monastrell

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In the continuing saga of the Adventures of the #OleWinos, who are visiting the wineries of the luxury wine group MG Wines Group, we meandered around southern Spain to the DO of Bullas.  The Bullas DO is located in Murcia, and is known in particular for it’s young red and rose wines from the local Monastrell grape.

This time, we are headed to Bodegas Lavia, in the DO of Bullas.  This area has been producing wine since at least the 13th century, when he Christians invaded and pushed the Moors out.  The modern wine industry wasn’t developed, however, until the 1980s, when the bulk wine industry was supplanted by modern equipment and smaller winery investors.  In 1994, it officially became a Denominacian de Origin.With MG Wines’ focus on wineries that share a philosophy of coaxing the essence of Bodegas Lavia Bullasthe grape out, Lavia fits this culture perfectly with it’s dedication to the finer points of Syrah and Monastrell.

Bodegas Lavia was founded in 2003, when a a like minded group of wine lovers and winemakers became enamored of the possibility of creating a winery that produced wines from organically grown grapes, crafted in to wines with the maximum expression of the grape.  Here at Lavia, everything has a purpose and is done with great care and consideration – from the gravity flow winery, to the focus on Syrah and Monastrell, the wines are expressive and clear beacons of the Bullas DO.

Located in Venta del Pino, Bodegas Lavia is at approximately 800 meters above sea level.  With Monastrell vines averaging 40 years old or more, younger Syrah plantings are intermingled, giving Lavia it’s distinct flavor profile.  The use of native yeast further adds tot he overall terroir of the wines, and it’s slant towards lower tannin, elegant, and fresh Monastrell-Syrah based blends.  With 2,500 hectares planted to 80% Monasrell, a bit of Tempranillo, a bit of white, and the rest Syrah, the wines are an icon of the very small Bullas DO.

Bodegas Lavia Bullas

With his eye on a more Burgundian expression of the grape, winemaker Sebastien Boudon (who also makes the wines of Bodegas Sierra Salinas) strives to make fresh and elegant wines, in a different style from Sierra Salinas.  By using only 500 liter barrels instead of the standard 225 liters, oak is a very light hand and is primarily a storage vessel versus a flavoring component. Bodegas Lavia’s wines are all elegant and complex, and very different than Sierra Salinas even though the primary grape used in both houses is Monasrell.

 

2010 Lavia is 80% Monastrell, 20% Syrah.  The rocky soil produces fruit with thinner skins, helping to create a lighter colored wine with a more translucent color.  Flavors of rich red fruit, cherry and raspberry burst out of the glass, followed by floral notes, smoke and plum.  This fresh and light style of Monastrell show a bright acidity on the finish, with a touch of pink peppercorn.
2006 Lavia + – this 100% Monastrell gem is a deep brick color, primarily due to the age, and was fermented 50% in wooden tanks, 50% in 500 liter neutral barrels.  The juicy red fruit, strawberries and cherries have kept it’s vibrancy, almost 10 years later.  It is a zesty and fresh wine that is still youthful and zippy.

2012 Lavia + Finca Paso Malo – this is the top of the line flagship is also 100% Monastrell, from a single vineyard and hand selected.  It is classic and lean, with bramble berries, wild blueberries, and campfire notes.  This special wine is only made int he best years, from a 50 year old vineyard with hard, clay soils.

 These two examples of bodegas that produce Monastrell are a spotlight on what MG Wines has at their heart – wines that express the local terroir, native varietals, and modern winemaking. Even thought they are less than 100 kilometers apart, Sierra Salinas and Lavia couldn’t be more different, unique, and expressive of the wines of this part of Spain.
Bodegas Lavia

The #olewinos

From Bullas, we traveled by train and car to get to the opposite tip of Spain, where, we explored Mencia and the charms of Bierzo with Telenus!

 

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Bodegas Sierra Salinas – Discover the Magic of Monastrell!

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Sierra SalinasBodegas Sierra Salinas was founded in the year 2000, by the longtime viticultural family Castano.  Here, old vineyards were revitalized, in this corner of southern Spain tucked between Alicante and Murcia.  Sierra Salinas is committed to making artistically expressive Monastrell, the classic, dark grape of this region that is bound to tradition and culture.  Castano however, is dedicated to mixing old with new, and has created a modern wonder of a winery, in this classic culture of winemaking.   In 2013, when MG Wines Group acquired the property, there were already far ahead of the game.

The vineyards of Sierra Salinas are located in the mountainout region of the same name, in the town of Villena, which is in the inland area of teh Alicante DO.  Here, with the diverse altitude that only mountain regions can bring, along with the dry, almost desert like landscape, there are a large number of microclimates playing with grape growing.  With it’s dusty lunar landscape, and high mesa and plateaus, one might think they had been transported to the Arizona desert.  In fact, this region is well known as an area where Spaghetti Westerns were filmed, with the Arizona like landscape, cold winters, and hot hot summers.  And yet, with the Meddeterrean so nearby, the climate can be Continental and Medeterranean, with a large diurinal swing helping to keep acids high and sguars in balance.

 

Sierra Salinas

 

soil at Sierra SalinasThe soils of the region are an interesting factor as well, with large, loose stones, Caliza, and soil strata at Sierra Salinaslimestone all impacting the terroir.  The 30-60 centimeters of loosly packed topsoil is high in iron content, giving it it’s distinct red color.

 

 

 

 

IMG_8760Winemaker Sebastien Boudon, French by birth and Spanish by passion, emigrated to the region because he saw new horizons in winemaking.  The state of the art winery features a gravity flow winery, to avoid unneccesary pumping, and small tanks for batch vinification to exact measures.

 With 70% of the property planted to Monastrell, Sierra Salinas specializes in this variety.  Another 20% if planted to the local Alicante Bouschet (known locally as Garnacha Tintorero).  This place is history ina  glass, with the oldest vines being 70 years old, and the newest babies only 15.  These ancient vines have rootsystems so deep, that they penetrate the limestone layer, some 15-20 feet thick!

 

Sierra Salinas specializes in organically grown wines that are treated with care; from hand harvesting, to custom fermentation tanks featuring adjustable, self sealing lids – everything is carefully thought out and designed.  The wines we tasted on this day clearly showed this passion for the region and for Monastrell, as they were each different expressions of the same, delicious grape with slight variations.

  Sierra Salinas

 

2012 MO – Monastrell
35 year old Monastrell, blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, and Garnacha Tintarero, with a hint of Syrah.
Dark purple, with strong spice notes sprinkled on top of dark cherry, ripe plum, blackberry, and tobacco.
Chewy and dense with blue fruit and cigar box.  Mo is an excellent choice for a BBQ, party, or just a good steak.  At ~$10, it’s a steal!

 

2010 Puerto Salinas
70% Monastrell, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Garnacha Tintarero, 5% Petite Verdot
This is a stronger, darker, sexier version of Monastrell, with a richer profile and denser fruit.  It’s inky and chewy, with chocolate covered blackberries, brown sugar, and a surprising kick of acid on the finish that Monastrell is so well known for, after feef jerky and black pepper tease your palate.   If you want to impress your friends at your next dinner party, pull this ~$15 beauty out with the main course instead of a Napa Cab!

 

2010 Mira
60% Monastrell blended with Cabernet Sauvingon and Garnacha Tintarero
A chew plum with more weight than Mo or Puerto Salinas, it has a nutty note that makes it very well balanced and pleasant in the mouth.

 

 2009 Salinas 1237
The 1237 is the flagship blend of Sierra Salinas, so named for the vineyard that lies at 1237 meters above sea level.
45 Garnacha Tintarero, 33% Petite Verdot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Monastrell
This unique wine spends it’s fermentation in open barriques, adn is aged for 21 months in the same barrel.  Bursting with red fruit, Spanish strawberreis, and blood oranges, the finish has toffee, antise, menthol and eucalyptus.  This is truely a special bottle and while $95 is a splurge, this is worth it!

 

  
vineyards of Sierra Salinas
With most Sierra Salinas wines priced well below $20, these are worth finding.  The nuances that Monastrell can accomplish with a talented “Magician of Monastrell”, as Brix Chick Liza calls Sebastian are amazing.  Monastrell, Mataro, Mourvedre – what ever you call it, go out and find some today!
Currently, Sierra Salinas is seeking representation in the US, particularly on the WEst Coast.  If you are interested in carrying these amazing wines that are a screaing value, please contact MG Wines Group!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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