Bodegas Sierra Salinas – Discover the Magic of Monastrell!

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
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!
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!
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.
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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven in a dish – Azienda Agricola Zoff

00000829Cheese – aromatic, beautiful, pungent, stinky, delicious cheese; there is more to wine tourism than just wine!  While I could spend hours a day exploring the micro regions of Friuli, I was excited to experience more of the food aspects of the diverse region.

Azienda Agricola Zoff is a small, local dairy that specializes in regional products from traditional sources.  The Pezzata Rossa cows deliver milk that is rich in butter fat, that helps the family do their job.  The Zoffs have been making cheese for 15 years, but have been raising cows here for generations, drawing on the cultural history that brings in the German, Swiss and Austrian cultures of northern Italy.

After we had a brief tour of the dairy, where we learned that happy cows do indeed make happy cheese, we sat down to taste the cheese.00000808-2

One of the more unique offerings was the Caciotta, which is a fresh cheese that can be enhanced with flavorings.  IN this case, the flavored version had rose petals and thyme.  The creamy fresh cheese is rubbed with the flavorings after about 10 days, when the new rind is perfectly ready to bind to the flower petals and herbs.  The fresh creamy cheese is a wonderful palate cleanser and snack.

Next, we tried the Latteria.  This time, we could taste both the fresh version, only 4 days old, and an aged version, which had been resting for 2 months.  As expected, the aged version was nutty and rich.

00000807We also were able to sample a famous offering:  the yogurt!  Those of us who are used to the tangy, tart, and thick American style yogurt might be confused by the creamy fluff that was served in a small dish.  but if you’ve traveled to France, and many other parts of Europe, the style of yogurt is younger and fresher, and much thinner.  Even commercial yogurts here are different than our palates are used to.  Here at Agricola Zoff, they make yogurt in the tradition methods; here, fermentation is stopped earlier in the process, allowing some of the natural sweetness of milk to remain.  The result, is a rich, naturally slightly sweet, slice of heaven.  As health nuts are aware of, yogurt is full of amazing health benefits, and this is no exception.  Beppino, the patriarch of the Zoff family, even touted that this is paradiso, heaven!  I’d be inclined to agree.  He also let us in on his secret for long life:  A spoonful of dulce de leche in a bowl of his yogurt, and you will live forever!  I’m ok with that.

Here in the Bay Area, we are blessed with several micro dairies and creameries.  I have found that the closet product to the Zoff yogurt – which I had to replicate because it left me craving more – is the Saint Benoit natural yogurt.  Available at Whole Foods and other small markets, this French-style creamy yogurt is the closest approximation to heaven I can muster without making the yogurt myself.  A touch of homemade jam and I am set for the day.

Agricola Zoff also has a charming bed & breakfast, which includes the delicious farm fresh products.  With a bucolically quiet setting, I am ready to go back and drink it all in for a week.

Happy travels!

Google

 

Barcelona is for…

Welcome back! Here we are, on day 1 or day 2, depending on how you look at it,of my whirlwind spin through Barcelona, Penedes, and Priorat.

Getting here was certainly enough of and adventure for anyone, let alone someone that is 5’11” and mostly legs, not to mention a tad wider than the last time she few coach.

To catch you up, I left my house at 11:00 PST on March 10th. After spending at least 1.5 hours in the check in line – which in itself i absurd for an international departure, it then took another 30+ minutes to clear security and enter the International Departures hall in SFO.

Lucky me, I somehow managed not only to score a middle seat, I also managed to achieve that travel mecca – the completely full but not yet overbooked plane. Now, I would have happily given up my fabulous middle seat if it had meant taking a flight that either was not sardine city, or that my possibilities of getting a coveted upgrade (ha fat chance!) were more than 1 billion to one.

So there I sat, in my spiffy middle seat. Luckily, I shelled out the extra fee for the extra leg room, because honestly if I had not, this would not have been pretty. As it was, my middle seat was the next to last row in Economy Plus. That would have been perfectly fine, because my seat mates were really nice fellows, until…

After watching the first movie and eating a rather unsatisfactory lunch, I downed two melatonin in the hopes that I could catch at least a few hours of shuteye, knowing that I arrived in Frankfurt at 9:30am. Well, that apparently was not going to happen.

I am pleased to report that the row behind me was occupied with three people who simply should not keep their traps shut. Even after multiple announcements by the flight crew to please close your window shades, be quiet and let people rest due to the very short night, what I heard for the next 13 hours (and I do not exaggerate when I say this) was the equivalent of 2 nine year old boys playing Angry Birds. Now this was not the soft lilt of a French accent. This was the percussive staccato of two — increasingly inebriated — Germans — who would. not. shut. up.

To add a sprinkling of joy to this situation, which could be heard through both earplugs and headphones, two older gentlemen were having a rather animated conversation in the emergency exit row immediately behind my German buddies. And what I mean by animated is loud. Why they felt that it was their right to stand there, in front of the people who lucked out and got the exit row who were also trying to sleep, is beyond me.

So here we are, in Frankfurt. No sleep. No brain cells. It’s really only 1am my time since we had just switched to Daylight Savings Time, but I was zonked. Of course, I had 3 hours to kill in the airport. Unbeknownst to me, once you exit the United/Lufthansa International Terminal, you kinda enter no man’s land. There was literally one cafe which was a mix of German airport food and Asian fusion. Hrm ok…After 2 coffees and 2 stale pretzels for lunch, and several tours down the A concourse, I discovered some additioanl shoping optinos, but at that point I had to board my second hop.

Would you like to make a guess as to how many school groups can fit on one Airbus 320? C’mon! Guess! I’m thinking about 100. The airport was teeming with mostly American school groups which were clearnly on spring break. It warmed my heart to hear the hacking coughs that were about to get on my flight.

Things observed to this point:

    • Travelling for just under 22 hours is less than desireable. Do whatever you need to to make it faster, more direct, or break it up.
    • Smoking cubbies are bizarre, tiny enclosed boxes where you walk in, light up and walk out with more smoke in your clothes than in yoru lungs.
    • While you are not allowed to smoke in the airports, you can smoke in cubbies, and everyone still smokes like chimmeys, particularly in Germany and Spain.
    • March is school group travel time. There are hundreds of French adn American stuhigh school students wandering around Barcelona
    • Get to the tourist sights EARLY or you will be in line fo rabout six years.

My feet hurt, and my still not reparied foot is about the size of a basketball. Remember your drugs when you are on a plane for that long!

More importantly, Barcelona is lovely. It’s in the mid-60s, the beer is great, and while there are crowds in the touristy sections of town, it’s also a wonderful old rambly city.

This afternoon I’m off to Penedes to learn about Cava. There will be a siesta in my very near future! Happy tavels!

Getting Vertical

Vertical:  To be upright.

Wine does a lot of things to people.  It evokes joy, it livens your tastebuds, it might even make you melancholy.  It can also make you a little Sideways.  When last we saw erstwhile Miles and sidekick Jack in the novel Sideways (and the subsequent movie which while it’s one of my favorite wine movies ever, is not exactly true to the book…ok most movies aren’t but still.  If you haven’t read the book READ THE BOOK!)  Jack was married (perhaps ill advisedly) and Miles was reconnecting with The One – Maya.

Now, several years have passed, and Vertical explores Miles’ life after Santa Barbara.  If you remember Sideways, you know that Miles has a troubled relationship with his mother.  Now aging and unwell, Miles has the unwelcome task of caring for her, and helping her move to another state so she can spend her final days with her estranged sister.

Miles has tried and failed, and tried again, quit drinking, and is attempting to ride out the success of his now published novel, without much luck.  The demands of his publishes and commitments for press engagements are pushing him in  to a hole as deep as the one he was in when the book wasn’t publishable at all.

Bring in Jack, who’s philandering ways and hard drinking habits have now landed him in hot water woith his now ex-wife.

Both a buddy road trip story and a bittersweet look at the life of two middle aged best friends, Vertical explores the relationships of two friends, for good or bad, as they muddle through the difficulties of every day life, love, alcohol abuse and aging parents.

Vertical is tragically sad in places, and hilariously funny in others, in a way sideways was not.  I find it much more real, honest, and open in looking at the realities of life.

I can’t recommend this follow up enough, particularly if you read the book Sideways, and didn’t just watch the movie.  Vertical follow it up with the realities of fame, the perils of life, and how you balance the two.

I’m thrilled to announce that Rex will be speaking in person at the 10th Annual Pinot Summit on February 25th in San Francisco.  After hosting a #winechat twitter session a few weeks ago, I find him engaging, self deprecating, humorous and absolutely delightful.  You can follow him on Twitter as well.

I hope you can join us for this one of a kind event!  Tickets are $130 for a full day of Pinot tasting, educational seminars, and the Grand Awards.  Alternatively, you can opt for the Grand Awards tasting only.

I am trying to do more book reviews now.  I read like someone from Freaks & Geeks, and occasionally I get press copies for review.  This one however, I bought for myself.

Happy reading!

 

Welcome to Madrid!

here it is, 6pm in Madrid, and the sun is going down. We arrived about 8:30am, blearly eyed and exhausted after a terrible flight to Philadelphia, and a mediocre one to Madrid. But in Madrid we are!

Sadly, with the time change and the early morning arrival, all we could do was take a long nap and then invest in what was probably the best hotel meal ever. A plate of cheese, some jam on croquettes and a bottle of wine soon restored me. Sort of.

I was awake enough to wander the back streets of the Barrio de Aeropurto to find the local Farmacia – bascially a local Walgreens, in order to recuse my poor, dry, cracked and split hands from their nasty fate. Yes kids, the first thing I bought in Spain was Neosporin and Band-Aids. Excited yet?

Now, I’m back in my hotel room, with VERY expensive wifi, looking forward to 9pm when I can safely go to bed and not feel like a sloth. But first, despite the very late lunch at 4pm, we will will venture out somewhere in the nearby vicinity for tapas and more wine. Because, well, that’s what you do in Spain!

Tomorrow we are off to Toledo, the ancient capital of Spain, which was occupied by Jews, Moors, and others for centuries before the capital moved to Madrid. Then, we are off to Rioja to drink lots of delicious wine and see the sights.

Pictures to come – genius me, in addition to forgetting my personal first aid kit neccetating the trip to the Farmacia, somehow forgot the really cool gizmo I got for Christmas that links my other cool gizmo (fancy pants new DSLR camera) to my iPad. Since I’m only using my iPad on this trip, it kind of screws up my master plan of sharing day by day shots with you but – I will find a solution!

Good morning, and good night, and see you in Rioja!

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