‘Twas the week before Valentine’s

First I thatched the nest and then I fed the birds

First I thatched the nest and then I fed the birds

Why did I choose this image to introduce a Valentine’s Day post on wine? What pairs perfectly with Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, long weekends and Valentine’s day? When restaurants are either swelling with humanity or closed on major holidays and I want to eat out, where do I turn? Chinese. Happy Chinese New Year this coming Monday, February 8th. Welcome to the Year of the Monkey.

This coming Saturday the VINTAGES February 6th release does not coincide with the pink as floyd February 14th holiday so while you wait for next Sunday to arrive, enjoy a mild bite of Chile Peppers. “See what’s in store. Stay all day.” This song merges beautifully into the Love of Your Life. How does YouTube know?

Quite a mixed bag defines the February grouping. The south of France makes hay but I’ve also got Greece, Spain, Barossa, Piedmont and Burgundy in the regional to country mix. Enjoy.

First the pink stuff.

Roses

The Rosés of February

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Ap Languedoc, France (373985, $16.95, WineAlign)

The occasions may be rare, but sometimes Rosé needs a half a year to simmer and to show its true colour. What once seemed to be red meets Rosé is now classic, typical, essential blush from Provence. Terrific amalgamation of the holy varietal trinity, with Cinsault the anchor, rock and catalyst to prop up Grenache and Syrah just as they need to be. From soft fruit to a grind of pepper, with aridity and salinity always on stage. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted January 2016 @GBvins  @FwmWine  @AOCLanguedoc  @LanguedocWines

From my earlier note:

Dry, floral, medicinal, quite tight and angled, not angular Rosé. The sea salinity and briny strawberry confluence is quite striking. Doesn’t really linger so in the end it’s a bit of a simple quaffing Rosé but what of it? That’s right. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015

Pierre Sparr Brut Rosé Crémant D’alsace, Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Alsace, France (39016, $18.95, WineAlign)

Graceful and pink lithe, like cold smoked salmon, delightful Pinot Noir Rosé fizz. Nothing earth shattering, breath taking or barrier breaking, just well made blush bubbles. The structure and balance are really spot on. Finishes strong and with confidence. Helps to define this genre of Crémant’s creamy texture, matched in contrast by its stony, flinty and mineral style. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted November 2014 and January 2016  @AlsaceWines  @VinsAlsace  @drinkAlsace  @ProfileWineGrp

Lallier Grand Cru Rosé Champagne, Ac Champagne, France (385179, $56.95, WineAlign)

Stoic, startling and nearly, dare I say, revelatory Rosé. Righteously rustic and demandingly devilish. A craftily concocted cool-custard cupid. The talc and the drift are exceptional, wafting aromatics and waving me in, to curl up and be embraced by its charms. This has Valentine’s Champagne scripted with pitch perfect elegance. A Grand Cru effort to be sure. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @LallierAy  @azureau

Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2013

Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2013, Naoussa, Greece (23218, $13.95, WineAlign)

A most consistent Xinomavro untouchable at the price, with the hallmark Syrah-like pepper notes pricking and popping from base and necessary red fruit. This sample is a bit muted aromatically but the palate is alive, kicking and very sound. Think of pomegranates, fresh figs and kalamata olives, a mountain view and the warming afternoon sun. All for $14. Though many Xinos can age for seven to 10 years, this Naoussa is meant for the here, now and tomorrow afternoon. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @boutari  @KolonakiGroup  @DrinkGreekWine

Pasión De Bobal 2012

Pasión De Bobal 2012, Dop Utiel Requena, Spain (439679, $16.95, WineAlign)

Clean, direct, massaging Spanish expression of the here and now. A winemaker’s message from an outpost with an endemic grape variety known as Bobal, 100 per cent employed to speak of that place. It does so ripely with cagey dramatics and an acidity seemingly so specific to varietal. This will pave roads for a geek’s obsession and should lay tracks for a consumer’s diversion. It’s worth the detour. Like Aragonese or Catalan Garnacha. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @BSierraNorte  @DOUtielRequena  @ProfileWineGrp

Sister's Run Calvary Hill Shiraz 2013

Sister’s Run Calvary Hill Shiraz 2013, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia (222018, $16.95, WineAlign)

On this hill ripe, pure, Barossa fruit fills the glass, “handing out bread and jam just like any picnic.” Don’t be looking for a battle of acidity and tannin on the edge of a savoury, mythical Epping forest. Seek fruit, find fruit. A genesis of material for straightforward Shiraz. If you’ve $16 in your pocket and a deep, rich, red fruit Shiraz is what you’re looking to find, this is the place to stop. “Here come the Cavalry.” Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @Gr8TanninWines

Cave De Roquebrun La Grange Des Combes Saint Chinian Roquebrun 2013, Ac Languedoc-Roussillon, France (155804, $18.95, WineAlign)

From Schistous hillsides of Roquebrun, this firm and friendly SGM is the bomb of Beziers. Meaty and wise, its heart beats out of sheer size and from beauty. The opposite of a ferric beast, the valley of the barns wields a weapon but one of glistening, polished stone. The accomplished battle ready fruit knows no limits. Tannins though fierce do nothing to hurt the cause. Syrah (50 per cent), Grenache (30) and Mourvedre (20) adds up to really good Schist. Do you trust a gorgeous wine? Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted January 2016   @AOCLanguedoc  @LanguedocWines  @Eurovintage

Finca Del Marquesado Gran Reserva 2008

Finca Del Marquesado Gran Reserva 2008, Doca Rioja, Spain (384248, $21.95, WineAlign)

A 2008 Rioja that looks, smells and acts like 2008, a plus and a positive rolled into one determinate, fruit roll-up, old-school package. Dried red berries once fervently ripe, now concentrated and dehydrated performing as classic regional flavours would. The acidity persists and the tannins have a leg or two to stand on. This will not improve or go any long distance but for now and two or three years more it’s about as delicious a Rioja red as you are want to taste. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted January 2016  @RiojaWine_ES

Pierre Sparr Schoenenbourg Riesling 2011

Pierre Sparr Schoenenbourg Riesling 2011, Ac Alsace Grand Cru, France (664995, $22.95, WineAlign)

Sparr’s little piece of the Schoenenbourg is a fine one, exemplified in this tidy, gritty and shiny happy Riesling. The tones are not tiny, perhaps tinny and certainly tropical. Mango and pineapple make heady way but the acidity and the tannin are up to the task. This is quite Germanic in my opinion, not new world Alsace. And it’s tasty as need be, with longevity on its side. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @AlsaceWines  @VinsAlsace  @drinkAlsace  @ProfileWineGrp

Joel Gott

Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (444059, $35.95, WineAlign)

Molten comes to mind from this California Cabernet, as in lava and chocolate. A load of pepper marks its territory and fruit wades through the spicy mocha. Under the sheath there can be no mistaking the grape (with help from Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) or the place and yet something ionic speaks, leaving me to wonder where this will go. The chemistry is procured by a hint of carbonic, whole bunch pressing and lees stirring for texture. At present they are not in synchronized rhythm. I would say that instant gratification and crowd pleasing was the intent but the opposite happened and that may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. A year from now this could be a true pleasure in value to drink. I think I wanted to hate it but I can’t. It is possessive of terrific, classic character. I will love it instead. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January 2016

Bellene and Bouchard

Domaine De Bellene Les Charmes Dessus Santenay 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (435032, $35.95, WineAlign)

From the flats between hills of the lieu-dit Charmes Dessus, a calcaire pebble’s throw away from the 1er Cru Clos Rousseaux. Adolescent acting fruit comes off of young, 10 year-old vines in Santenay, the most southerly wine-producing commune of the Cote de Beaune. Tight, flinty, developing beneficial bitters of a Burgundy that needs a bit of time to accrue a touch of honey to help the medicine go down. Quite rich and reductive. Very good value. Really good value. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @RochedeBellene  @Nicholaspearce_

Domaine Laroche Vieilles Vignes Les Vaillons Chablis 1er Cru 2012

Domaine Laroche Vieilles Vignes Les Vaillons Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)

Gorgeous and wealthy Chablis of all that makes this unparalleled style of Chardonnay tick. Flinty, struck stone entry, vineyard hyperbole of mineral and the geology of ancients. Lithe, lifted, lightness of being but always brought back down by the minerality. Some flavour density by way of old vines wisdom and persistence that just won’t stop going. Superb quality. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @Select_Wines  @BIVBChablis

Schistes

Secret De Schistes 2011, Igp Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (440669, $41.95, WineAlign)

IGP in which schist happens. Such a bruiser this Château de l’Ou Côtes Catalans, an example the likes this market rarely sees. These Schistes bleed hematic into fruit warmed excessively by the sun. Languedoc-Roussillon that runs with the Rhône terribilta to purpose largesse and rocking good times. This is a very demanding wine, loaded with peppery spice and rabid energy. It needs years to settle. Hopefully its secrets will then be revealed. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted January 2016  @ChateaudeLou  @AOCLanguedoc  @LanguedocWines

Colla

Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (596890, $51.95, WineAlign)

The Dardi Le Rose ranks as one of the most consistent performers, mired in tradition and crafted without compromise. The 2010 is a spot on example of balance in Nebbiolo, gritty, floral, tannic and ethereal. The weight is an ambient one, the aromatics resourceful and respectful to varietal and to nature. Dried roses and fresh tar, drier cherries and strolls through verdant gardens. Not the beast of Bussia but certainly bussing its weight in age. This will go quite long. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted January 2016  @glencairnwines  @regionepiemonte

Plus one, just because it’s Valentine’s Day.

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Les Clous 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $64.00, WineAlign)

Essentially 1er Cru pearl of a vineyard in origin, on marly ground, “walking tightrope high over moral ground.” Such a pretty Chardonnay of faith and of love, subtle, slightly smoky, linear and purposed towards the divine. A lemon drop jam without sweetness and a tart edge that is miles from sour. There are no holes, stops or delays, with acidity that drives forward and length stretching to further length. Grace in gossamer layers. A marker in the Meursault sand. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted January 2016  @WoodmanWS  @BourgogneWines  @bourgognespress

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Winter wine matters

Mr. Frost the melting snowman

Mr. Frost the melting snowman

Tell me you’re not looking for a January cure. A cure for what ails, a respite from depressing news, a way to get through winter’s second and third trimesters. I know you are upset at losing some of your favourite rocks stars or wholly annoyed with those who are. Regardless of which camp you’re in, look me in the eye and tell me a good, honest, proper and satisfying bottle of wine won’t help.

The simplicity of wine is a beautiful thing. A vine grows and produces grapes. That fruit is picked and ferments itself with help from yeast it just happens to carry in its luggage. Time passes and wine is made. No one had to invent it. The most basic example of shit happens.

With a little help from a farmer and a winemaker wine can become something very special. Choosing which examples pass the test is less than automatic and takes many years of trial and error, but eventually the equation reaches a tipping point. This is where probability begins to win over doubtfulness.

VINTAGES spins the wheel again this coming weekend with a list one hundred strong. I have chosen fifteen to win the hearts of the cold, the depressed, the sad, the first responder, the liberal, the conservative, the left, right and all points in between, the cultural injustice fighter, the social media troll and the curmudgeon. Whoever you are or imagine yourself to be, one of these wines may just make you feel a whole lot better. It’s alcohol, after all.

Popov

Popov Versnik Merlot 2011, Tikves, Macedonia (429746, $13.95, WineAlign)

Morality for the masses from parts unknown. Macedonian Merlot plush in carpeted ease. A touch of vinicultural funk bleeds into the drupe for good constancy. Wood is a factor but only for texture. Roast pork would work. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @bozvenimports  @WineofMacedonia

Ferme du Mont

La Ferme Du Mont Première Côte Côtes Du Rhône 2013, Ap Rhône, France (251645, $15.95, WineAlign)

The berries are the lead, the middle act and the finish. Extreme in fruit, fully ripened and punching well into classes. Acidity walks along with what heals and together the impression is regionally spot on. No need to look elsewhere for CdR style. Fashioned to induce consumer approaches that occur early, often and with heavy repetition. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted January 2016      @RhoneWine

Rabl

Rabl Langenlois Grüner Veltliner 2013, Kamptal, Austria (377457, $16.95, WineAlign)

A rouser this Rabl, highly aromatic and filled with creamy green dressing. Langenlois mineral by quatenary rocky red outcrop chip and scrape through the herbs and the citrus. Though a touch lean at present this has the legs and the foresight to age, like Semillon, like Riesling, like good Grüner Veltliner. Really persistent wine. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted January 2016    @austria_in_ca  @AustrianWine

Desmoiselles

Château Des Demoiselles 2010, Ac Castillon Côtes De Bordeaux, France (348755, $17.95, WineAlign)

A bit of a brooder this Castillon, dusty and all in with Merlot speaking as it should. Typically ripe, not wood shy and instantly gratifying as per the vintage so considering the cost this offers good reason to drink, but not cellar Bordeaux. The flavours add in dark chocolate with tangy angles opening windows and doors. Two to three years of simple pleasure. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted January 2016  @BordeauxWines  @HalpernWine

Pouilly

Domaine Chatelain Les Vignes De Saint Laurent L’abbaye Pouilly Fumé 2014, Ac Loire, France (958801, $19.95, WineAlign)

Slight hyperbole of Sauvignon Blanc with epitomizing smoky flint and vegetation healthy to overgrowing. Fresh and spicy, thematic and screaming out loud. The abbeys always make the most authentic wines. This one is no exception. Classic serial killer. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @WoodmanWS  @LoireValleyWine

Morgon

Laurent Gauthier Grand Cras Vieilles Vignes Morgon 2013, Ac Beaujolais, France (279059, $19.95, WineAlign)

Lovely floral entry and good close encounter with the Morgon kind. Certainly on the ripe black cherry trellis but not over, no, by no means over. Firm, charred tight and charcoal lit with the acidity to propel and excite. Gamay as it should be with a red lactic finale. Well done. Cras, cras, not cray, cray. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted January 2016  @DiscoverBojo

Pecina

Señorío De P. Peciña Crianza 2011, Doca Rioja, Spain (313726, $22.95, WineAlign)

Old school alert. Fruiting body notes of telomorph yeast and room temperature evaporations. High tones and waves of liqueurs. Big old wood barriques and a slow evolutions over decades, with knowledge ingrained and methodology followed with religious zeal. Cherries and cedar, leathers and all sorts of gamy hides. Attack one and put two away and see the past in the distant future. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted January 2016  @BodegasPecina01  @LeSommelierWine  @RiojaWine_ES

Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (350108, $23.95, WineAlign)

The confident, well-delineated structure of a Blue Mountain wine furthered here, with Chardonnay you are simply and unequivocally happy to drink. Mild, mild wood. Minor, minor but present reduction. Flavours overtop flavours, like green apple dipped in mellifluous agave. Salinity, a touch of flint and just general copacetic effectualizing behaviour. Another winner. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @BlueMtnWinery  @winebcdotcom

Louis

Eric Louis Sancerre Rouge 2013, Ap Loire, France (66613, $24.95, WineAlign)

Red Sancerre plumb, plum too and cerise. Iron strength and a cumbersome ratification to be certain, for longevity and plenty that comes before. From flavour favour savour to acidity tannin in continuum. Rolls through the numbers and the highlights. Alcohol subtlety is a friend at 12.5 per cent and playing bigger than others twice the size. You can use this terrific example from Eric Louis for just about anything your experience desires. Sip, grill fish, finish post meal. Anything really. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted January 2016  @EricLouisWinery  @LoireValleyWine

Martin Ray

Martin Ray Chardonnay 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (57067, $28.95, WineAlign)

A really nice, relatively inexpensive example from the RRV. The aromatics are balanced with notes ranging from melted duck fat on golden roasted potatoes to a garden with vegetables ripening under a warm morning sun. The attitude towards the barrel is well adjusted and integrated, the flavours built of viscosity and generosity. Quite impressive and persistent with a spice accent on the finish. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @martinraywinery  @rogcowines  @sonomavintners

Marchand

Marchand Tawse Saint Romain 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (440206, $31.95, WineAlign)

The genesis of reduction is the man, even four plus years into its time in bottle, here on earth. What to make of this showing at this juncture? From Saint Roman, The Melodist, “Pindar of rhythmic poetry” and very restrained in wood. Who would dare to make Chardonnay this way from this place, to wait for so long. “And all this time has passed me by? It doesn’t seem to matter now.” The fixed expression, the weight gain, the lean, flinty, bony structure in change. Not yet, not yet a musical box of flesh but it will be. Patience for another year. Great acidity. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @MARCHANDTAWSE  @Burgundy_Direct

Cotes de Nuits

Marchand Tawse Côtes De Nuits Villages 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (440263, $31.95, WineAlign)

Conspicuously and distinctly Pascal Marchand perfumed village Burgundy to showcase regional distinction in the vicinity of affordability. Smells like roses and the aromal water imparted by fresh petals. Tastes like ropey strawberries, a squeeze of cranberry and a crush of pomegranate. Transports to walks up and down slopes in the morning mist. Will wait for fairer weather to come and a harvest table set al fresco. Pinot Noir off grace to invite friends and co-workers to the table. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @MARCHANDTAWSE  @Burgundy_Direct

Girardin

Vincent Girardin Vieilles Vignes Santenay 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (435552, $37.95, WineAlign)

An old vines Santenay from Girardin that demarcates a line back to the way things used to be. Modernity cast aside this is a firmer and cooler Santenay and it is very young. Not yet shed its carbon fat, stemmy tannin and barrel weight. This will need three years to settle, find its strokes and to allow the fruit to be extracted from its tannic and wooden house. “Oh the heart beats in its cage.” Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted January 2016

Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (928028, $49.95, WineAlign)

Quite approachable for the normally firm and hands off in its youth Barbi. Always with a foot firmly rooted in the past and yet the house seems to be slowly waltzing into the modernity of the future. This has hallmark roses and cherries under leathery hides but also a beautifully bright and dynamic luminescence. It also carries a silky texture that should have it pause less than the habitual five years to fully shine. So, a newer and earlier gifting Sangiovese and that’s quite alright. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted January 2016  @FattoriaBarbi  @ConsBrunello  @Noble_Estates

Franus

Peter Franus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (907477, $66.95, WineAlign)

The floral aspects of this mountain Cabernet are a delight to behold. The ripeness and concentration are optimum to be sure and are mitigated by a cool, altitude-salubrious repairing factor. Cassis and a hint of what smells like juniper are noted. It’s quite botanical actually, in distillate, not fresh or dried. The Franus angles are direct and retractable. Traces steps up and down, in switch backs and with a creamy, acidity backed rise, fall and repeat. Peter elicits notes heightened “in the firmament above and in the deep.” This 2012 is a sustainer, a Parvadigar, a prayer set to music. Very musical Cabernet, scaling, of arpeggios et al. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @ProfileWineGrp

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Garnacha covered part five: Calatayud

In October of 2015 WineAlign colleague Sara d’Amato and I travelled together with Christopher Waters of Vines Magazine.  The trip’s mission was to discover Spain’s Wines of Garnacha in their natural habitat, the five distinct and allied Denominación de Origen in the regions of Aragón and Catalonia.

Calatayud, Aragon, Spain

Related – For a comprehensive report by Sara d’Amato and I read WineAlignDiscover the Flavours: Wines of Garnacha

The journey has already established a forever Garnacha embed into our hearts and minds. The adage of “keeps on giving” was spinning forth from the gift of five erudite nights in Zaragoza and four synoptic days of Garnacha immersion through the DO’s of Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Somontano and Terra Alta. On the fifth morning it was high time to get out of Zaragoza city and head southwest, to the fertility fields of Calatayud. The feeling immediately impressed, of calm and wonderment created by gently rolling hills through wide open spaces.

Related – Garnacha covered part four: Terra Alta

100 year-old #garnatxa vines @docalatayud #vinasviejas

100 year-old #garnatxa vines @docalatayud #vinasviejas

Related – Garnacha covered part three: Somontano

Between a rock and a #garnatxa place @docalatayud @winesofgarnacha #garnacha #grenache

Between a rock and a #garnatxa place @docalatayud @winesofgarnacha #garnacha #grenache

Related – Garnacha covered part two: Cariñena

Related – We’ve Garnacha covered part one: Campo De Borja

Before continuing with this fifth and final installement on Garnacha, thanks again must be afforded to our hosts; The Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (Instituto Español de Comercio Exterior, ICEX), the Wines of Garnacha campaign and the office of Garnacha Origen. First to Aragón Exterior Managing Director Ignacio (Nacho) Martinez de Albornoz and Head of Wines from Spain (ICEX) Alfonso Janeiro. To Sofía González Martínez, Ivo André Alho Cabral and Roser Mestre for their guidance and companionship.

Sofía González Martínez and Los Canadienses with our host Javier lázaro Guajardo, Secretary of the Calatayud PDO

Sofía González Martínez and Los Canadienses with our host Javier lázaro Guajardo, Secretary of the Calatayud PDO

Calatayud

Garnacha rules in this Denominación de Origen. It is here where winemakers hang on with clenched grips to ropes made of hope and the idea of “keeping the secret alive.” The master plan is to perpetuate the passion, the centuries of accumulated knowledge and the drive for a prosperous future. The task currently resides under the tutelage of Presidente de la DO José Félix Lajusticia.

Calatayud is one of the latest harvesting DO’s, in fact the vintage was still in motion during our visit on October 23rd and would not finish until late October or early November. Cooperatives play a major role, like Bodegas Virgen de la Sierra which farms 650 hectares of vineyards. Older Garncaha vines are 80 – 100 years old. One bush vine produces one kilo of fruit for one bottle of wine and the market supports the flow through with one euro paid to the grower. That needs to change.

Abandoned vineyard in #calatayud where 100 year-old vines are farmed for one euro per vine

We walked the boundless and endless vineyards with Javier lázaro Guajardo, Secretary of the Calatayud PDO. We also came upon abandoned Macabeo (Viura) vineyards, sitting in silence, waiting to be ripped out for almonds, apricots and olives. The equation is simple. Wake up the world and open eyes to such travesties and to the sentient upright varietal that is Garnacha with the indisputable quality it can deliver. Find two euros per kilo and turn $9.99 wines in North America into ones that fetch $19.99.

Garancha vines, Calatayud

Garancha vines, Calatayud

Calatayud is like a bicycle wheel,” with the river Jalón running through the centre. Remains of winemaking date back as far as 153 BC. Marcus Valerius Martialis from the Roman town of Bibilis documented winemaking in the first century made by Cistercian monks who founded the Monasterio de Piedra, now the museum for the PDO. The region works the effects of an extreme continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters that combine for upwards of 50-60 degrees of variance.

Hey...Macabeo #calatayud

Hey…Macabeo #calatayud

The night before we paid a visit to another Zaragoza resto to feast on local specialities and to get a glimpse of Garnacha from Calatayud. At Borago Cantina we tasted Cruz de Piedra, Altovinum Evodia, Altos Las Pizarras, Las Rocas Viñas Viejas de San Alejandro and Clos de Baltazar El Heroe Garnacha Viñas Viejas.

Borago Cantina, Zaragoza

Borago Cantina, Zaragoza

Clos de Baltazar El Heroe Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2013

Clos de Baltazar El Heroe Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2013

Tempura is a many splendored and endemic Spanish thing, Borago Cantina, Zaragoza

Tempura is a many splendored and endemic Spanish thing, Borago Cantina, Zaragoza

At the offices of the DO in Calatayud we were presented the following wines.

Thou shalt not blink should these @docalatayud #garnatxa command higher prices. And they should.

Thou shalt not blink should these @docalatayud #garnatxa command higher prices. And they should.

Cruz de Piedra

Cruz de Piedra

Bodega Virgen de la Sierra Cruz de Piedra Garnacha Tinto Selección Especial 2013, DO Calatayud, Spain (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

From 50-100 year old vines out of the largest cooperative and the stable of Axial Vinos, special selection, the “cross of stone,” to guide the pilgrims. Magnified, elevated acidity and tones, lashing the red berry fruit, offering exhilaration and consternation. Six months in oak for a shine and with faith to seek happiness. A demanding wine, rich, clay-limestone cakey, citrus expansive, blessed by bitters, tinged in tar and crackling with char. Fierce tannin, actually, for Garnacha. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted October 2015  @louisgeirnaerdt

Albada

Bodega Virgen de le Sierra Albada Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2013, DO Calatayud, Spain (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

Song of the ancient vine growers, or dawn, or both, in meaning. Curious, musty, reserved, muted, of perception in tobacco and spices. So very rustic, leathery and reeking cedar, the aromas coming out with aeration though the tannin are tough and demanding, Still, this does not give away much, especially considering the longer ferment and the fact of American Oak. No vanilla or white nut, not necessarily a bad thing, but again, curious. Not nearly as expressive as the second of two bottles tasted in Zaragoza the previous night. That second bottle was much more expressive, integrated and rich, with acidity piquing. Would like to see this with some further integrated age. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015

Altovinum Evodia 2014, DO Calatayud, Spain (Winery)

A custom cuvée for Eric Solomon from 800-900m vineyards and 60-80 year old vines. The name means “perfume,” a person’s scent passing by. No oak, great acidity, rock, slate and aridity. This is a very pure expression, unencumbered, unadulterated, liquorice red and black. The freshness and the soil aspect so front and centre is just perfect. Terrific wine that lets the basic purpose of Garnacha to speak and to shine. Must agree with the “place over process” notation on the bottle. Tannin is certain of itself and willing to keep this grooving alongside acidity for three to four years. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted October 2015  @EuropeanCellars

Las Rocas

Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha 2011, Do Calatayud, Spain (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

From vines 70 years of age in vineyards at 900m of altitude. A very warm, soothing, inching up the heat scale Garnacha with each passing breath. Quite the fruit to rock perfume, very concentrated, jammy, nosing red currants, plums and strawberries. So much fruit. All in. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted October 2015  @BSanAlejandro  @TrialtoON

Las Pizarras

Bodegas y Viñedos del Jalón Las Pizarras 2011, Calatayud, Spain (Winery)

The winery dates back to 1960’s and the fruit from vines 60 plus years of age. Just one month in French oak gives barrel kisses in vanilla and leather, despite the short stay. As a 2011 it is offering delicate balance and small notations from that wood. Silky, in threads through the nose, in linen on the palate and in glide on the finish. Cool, slightly savoury, elegant, so interesting to taste a Garnacha with just a kiss of oak and post four years in bottle. Says so much about the quality of the grapes, the winemaker’s confidence to let is rest before releasing. This program is unlike any other that I tasted, not just in Calatayud, but in all of Aragon and Catalonia. Valiant, brave, sure. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @bodegasjalon

Altos Las Pizarras 2011

Bodegas y Vinedos del Jalon Altos Laz Pizzaras 2011, Calatayud, Spain (WineryWineAlign)

The same fruit but this time 11 months in oak. Richer certainly, a hyperbole of expression as compared to the unplugged, with more tannic structure and extraction from the barrel. Bound by a cure, a natural weighty funk, liquid chalk and the acidity preserved. Stronger, by the wood and the tannin. This feels like a wine that has yet to alter its initial course, that it will take three more years before change is going to come and five to seven before its slides back down the other side of the Moncayo. Drink this between 2017-2022. The fruit aromas will stand, alongside the tannin and will begin to peel away in 2019-2020. Tasted October 2015

Casa Escartin, Calatayud

Casa Escartin, Calatayud

Mushrooms, Casa Escartin, Calatayud

Mushrooms, Casa Escartin, Calatayud

After our visit into the hills and vineyards of Calatayud our final Aragon feast took place at Casa Escartín, a local joint with a sense of the parochial as much as any we visited the entire week. The Garnacha from the region and the winemakers sent us packing aboard a rush hour train back to Madrid.

Good bye #calatayud

Good bye #calatayud

A Francis Bacon #madrid moment, were I in the frame #figurewithmeat #jamon

A Francis Bacon #madrid moment, were I in the frame #figurewithmeat #jamon

When in Madrid #churros

When in Madrid #churros

Los Canadienses with Wines of Garnacha's Sofía González Martínez, Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Los Canadienses with Wines of Garnacha’s Sofía González Martínez, Plaza Mayor, Madrid

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Twitter: @mgodello

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15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

Old Sherry at the Cariñena Museo del Vino

Old Sherry at the Cariñena Museo del Vino

“You can choose your philosophy of critiquing just as you choose how to live. The freedom to personalize or substantiate thoughts on structure sacrifices the detail to meaning and meaning to preciseness.” I wrote that nearly a year ago. It holds true, as before, near, dear and clear to me today.

Extreme cold ushered in January of 2015 and the obvious lede was Coming wine from the cold. Halfway through the month an epiphany of sorts knocked upside the cerebral cortex, elaborated upon in Varietal Spanish wine. That smithy precursor would lead to revelations in October.

As January wound down and I prepared to hit the Niagara Icewine Festival, (revealed in We the Icewine) I first asked a matter of fat cat factual question, Is writing making a mess of wine? “The combined fugitive pieces of wine and its critics pose questions without answers. They must be asked very slowly.”

Related – Mind blowing wines of 2014

The weeks of suffering through frozen days and night breeds reflection and thought. While the temperatures remained cursedly south of 20 I begged the question, Why drink that?, “looking for heroic entablature and architectural wonder in bottles of wine. We see them as DNA and in their liquids we can read their entire future. We sip them again and again until we taste them for the first time. To remember generations.” Have wine forget winter.

Good bye and thank you for your hospitality South Africa @WOSA_ZA @WOSACanada @CapeWine2015

Good bye and thank you for your hospitality South Africa @WOSA_ZA @WOSACanada @CapeWine2015

I penned If it’s value you want, it’s South Africa you need and later in May, Shades of South Africa. Oh sweet, naive, wait until you travel there and see what’s really up, Godello. Same for A new Greek morning and Getting into Greece. One week in the Peloponnese and my psyche would be altered forever.

In March I explained Why it matters to taste wines again, urged sharing through the practice of Take a bottle, leave a bottle and waxed parenthetical in yet another meaningful soul-searching moment. Why hate wine? was waged with a comment on “the wine geek who hates certain wines. The wine aficionado who picks on specific bottles, bullies them to the point of hatred. Slags them beyond reproach. Rants to the world about the injustice of their existence.” Bugger off.

The Old Third, Pinot Noir 2008

The Old Third, Pinot Noir 2008

Then April. “The Ontario wine industry is the best kept secret in the world. It has grown, accelerated and advanced with more success than might have been imagined as recently as five years ago. Ontario winemakers have figured it out. The “world-class” comparative humanities of aging and longevity aside, the comprehensive and widespread phenomenon of excellence, regardless of vintage, is now an Ontario reality.” Now you know the answer to Why taste Ontario?

Related – 15 Canadian wines that rocked in 2015

In May further validation with Searching for Somewhereness and I’m a little bit County, setting the stage for an October visit to proportion enormity across ridges and eskers. Further understanding culled in The Old Third and older County wines and The ridges of Prince Edward County.

Saturday night @barquebbq #smokerschoice and '08 @bodegasmuriel #rioja #spain

Saturday night @barquebbq #smokerschoice and ’08 @bodegasmuriel #rioja #spain

“Wine is a commensurate animal, altricial such as it is, acaudal, acersous, agnostic, aculeate and allocryptic such as it is not. Wine that is not so much off the beaten path as actually growing on one.” Path straying wines. The game changer happened one day in May at Barque Smokehouse with Chiara De lulis Pepe and The natural wines of Emidio Pepe.

Cool Chardonnay at Ridley College

Cool Chardonnay at Ridley College

The June WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada followed Ontario Wine Awards judging, inclusive of tastings at Niagara College, Creekside Estates, Ravine Vineyard, Trius, Treadwell CuisineDomaine Queylus and The Good Earth Wine Company. A great, learned experience at Master classes of Terroir shed brilliant light on Gamay. Then the most important query of the summer. Can Chardonnay get any cooler? Well, one of two. Great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Nova Scotia? My maritime wine sojourn is summarized in East coast swing 2015: Time, tides and wine.

View of the mountains from Tetramythos, Aigialia, Peloponnese

View of the mountains from Tetramythos, Aigialia, Peloponnese

My great Greek Achaian adventure was told in three tales, Till I reach Achaia groundBring me Achaia love and Gateway to Achaia, from Roditis to Mavrodaphne

South Africa’s memories spilled out in waves, from Once upon a time in the Western Cape to Wines of South Africa: It’s the fling itself, through South African duck dynasty and Wines of South Africa: Go Cars Go.

The Empire of Garnacha

The Empire of Garnacha

October and November trips to Aragaon, Catalonia and Franciacorta opened eyes and expanded minds like never before. We’ve Garnacha covered part one: Campo De Borja was followed by CariñenaSomontanoTerra Alta and Calatayud.

With Pablo Alvarez (#vegasicilia) and Laurent Drouhin (#josephdrouhin) at #fourseasonstoronto for #primumfamiliaevini Can there be a more visceral wine experience than tasting some of the world's greatest wine estates and all the while their principals just seem to only talk about history and family? Makes me think about parents, grandparents and children. About accomplishments, passing torches and smelling roses. Or something like that.

With Pablo Alvarez (#vegasicilia) and Laurent Drouhin (#josephdrouhin) at #fourseasonstoronto for #primumfamiliaevini…Can there be a more visceral wine experience than tasting some of the world’s greatest wine estates and all the while their principals just seem to only talk about history and family? Makes me think about parents, grandparents and children. About accomplishments, passing torches and smelling roses. Or something like that.

Far out, man

Far out, man

Here are some mind blowing wines tasted in 2015.

Tetramythos Roditis 2014

Tetramythos Roditis 2014

Tetramythos Roditis 2014, PDO Patras, Greece (SAQ 12484575, $15.75, WineAlign)

Pulled from four vineyards at 650-850m of altitude and from vines 19-42 years old. No skin contact though it shows a light, slight tinge of colour. Nearly platinum in its yellow hue, perhaps attributed to organics says Papagiannopoulos, Eighty per cent was achieved through natural ferment (with zero malolactic) plus “one tank for security.” Roditis can go clean or develop anti-austerity, texture, viscosity in the direction of a dirty projector. The Tetramythos glides “forward through the clover and the bergamot.” I can see what she’s seeing. Tasting like a leesy ripe peach, this is the best “basic” Roditis tasted in Achaia. Serious match of Aleria Restaurant‘s Sea Bass Tartare. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

To taste again @lafouceller in @doterraalta is today's master plan @VINOS_ICEX #lovegarnacha #garnatxablanca #crdoterraalta

To taste again @lafouceller in @doterraalta is today’s master plan @VINOS_ICEX #lovegarnacha #garnatxablanca #crdoterraalta

Lafou Celler Garnatxa Blanca 2014, DO Terra Alta, Spain (WineryAgentWineAlign)

Ramon Roqueta Segalés, winemaker, soothsayer, visionary, seeker of the Garnatxa Blanca of today from “a narrow valley.” Ramon is very concerned with the valleys, the landscape, the geology, how the wind, the mediterranean climate and the ancient rivers that run through, having left their glacial deposits, all combine for this particular and most important expression of Garnatxa Blanca. Established in 2007, this wine was first released in 2011. Combines old and young fruit, some harvested fresher at a greener stage and others picked later, riper, brought together. Vinified separately, with some skin maceration, looking for fat to surround acidity. Ripe fruit (10 per cent) sees oak, the rest in egg shape concrete tanks with six to seven months of lees contact. Smells like a ripe peach, fresh and without sugar but instead a sprinkling of subterranean, ancient riverbed harvested salt. The tang is layered, variegated, mineral, mastered over and in corralling of oxidation, elaborated with gentle but forceful demand. “We learned that you can get a balance by harvesting and an early and a later stage, sometimes three times.” Finishes with lime, fresh squeezed, sweet tonic and distilled flowers. A wine that has succeeded in “mastering the oxidation process.” Plus the tannic (anti-oxidative) aspects offered in micro-oxygenation from the slightly toasted new oak. Approximate price $28.95 CAN. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted October 2015  @lafouceller  @oenophilia1

Maps & Legends, from Cartology to Flotsam & Jetsam @ChrisAlheit @ZooBiscuitsWine #alheitvineyards #hermanus #capewine2015

Maps & Legends, from Cartology to Flotsam & Jetsam @ChrisAlheit @ZooBiscuitsWine #alheitvineyards #hermanus #capewine2015

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam Days of Yore 2014 (Winery)

Chris Alheit’s brand might allude to a chapter in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers but Days of Yore must pay some homage to the 80’s thrash metal band and with great irony. This Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault blend is no Doomsday for the Receiver and certainly No Place for Disgrace. What it is instead is pure liquid brilliance. Old 1960 Cabernet Sauvignon bush vines are (even if unintentionally) farmed the way they used to be, back in the days of yore. Now cropped, tended and produced in pitch perfect cure, the resulting wine (when Cabernet is blended with Albeit’s dry-farmed, stomped and tonic-singular Cinsault) shows smoky depth and musicality. Sour-edged or tart can’t begin to describe the tang. It’s something other, unnameable, sapid, fluid and beautiful. It brings South Africa from out of the heart of its wayfinding darkness. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted September 2015  @ChrisAlheit  @ZooBiscuitsWine

"If you can see the differences of terroir in Gewürz, then you won’t see it in Riesling" @AlsaceWines #olivierhumbrecht

“If you can see the differences of terroir in Gewürz, then you won’t see it in Riesling” @AlsaceWines #olivierhumbrecht

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2011, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $64.00, WineAlign)

This is the most northerly Zind-Humbrecht vineyard, in Hunawihr. Like oil and water from this to 2012. So much more richness, unctuousness, classic western European riverbank gluck and heavy weighted metal. Layers upon layers of texture though not nearly as dramatically sweet as it might appear to be. Hides it so well, thanks to those remarkable Windsbuhl gifting phenols and intense grape tannin. This has presence so very rare in Gewürztraminer. In the end its a glass full of liquid gems, polished, elegant and refined. Allow the sugars several more years to fully realize its potential relationship with the acidity. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted November 2015  @olivier_dzh  @TrialtoON  @AlsaceWines  @VinsAlsace  @drinkAlsace

Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Maipo Valley, Chile (403980, $70.00, WineAlign)

The 2010 Don Melchor harkens backwards, to years like 2001 and 2003, rephrasing and rewriting the paradigmatic book. From seven contiguous, sub-divided blocks of Cabernet, the ’10 speaks most highly of Lot Two, emphasized by chocolate, menthol and mineral, in cohorts with Lot Four, in elegance and depth. Extended glom and time-lapse picking between April 22 and May 27 was the casualty turned blessing of a cooler growing season in the semi-arid Mediterranean-like scrub desert of Puente Alto. The alluvial motion hauteur of slow-ripened fruit can’t be overestimated. The frame by frame capture has resulted in aromatics wafting off the charts; violet, anise, roasting cocoa bean, garrigue, ferric filings, mortar on wet stone, Cassis and eucalyptus. There is no heat, rendering the 14.6 declared alcoholic irrelevant. Best of all, it smells like Chile as much as it does Cabernet. There is no need to discuss the (97 per cent) CS in terms of Bordeaux, that is until you taste. Then the tobacco angst and silky texture elicit Margaux. Black currants and fine chocolate melt on the finish, still with a mouthful of stones. For winemaker Enrique Tirado, this may be his “El opus.” It will age effortlessly for 12-15 years. For anyone who purchased this wine more than 10 vintages ago, comparing current cost can be a byproduct in natural preoccupation. Who would not want a return to the sub-$50 Don Melchor going back a decade or more? Yet while tasting the present decimus, $100 crosses the fiscal mind and seems completely apropos. At $70 the clarity and sonority of its value is the blazon of an epistle. Few Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wines from Bordeaux or Napa Valley can compare. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted April 2015  @conchaytoro  @MikeAikins1  @DrinkChile

Mullineux & Leeu Syrah Iron 2013, Wo Swartland, South Africa (WineryAgentWineAlign)

If such cure, grip, ferric grab and intense tannin has ever infiltrated South African Syrah it has not yet found its way over to me. In a side by side comparative tasting with the Schist Syrah this one wrestles to win. The Schist is all perfume and soft elegance. The Iron draws power to strength from strength. It is an unrelenting conduit of energy, from soil clearly designed to outlive humanity. The Syrah is a product of geological wonder and winemaking that steps aside to let the terroir speak its mind. Demanding and filled with tension now, time will soften the stranglehold and loosen the wires. Lots of time. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2015  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxChris  @Nicholaspearce_

Fleury Père et Fils Cépages Blancs Extra Brut Champagne 1990, Champagne, France (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

The expediency of weighted oxidation in flight flies effortlessly as a traveller propelled with verve and intrepid behaviour. Dried tangerine and so many tannic aspects are exaggeratedly exceptional for Champagne, fast forward thrusted and draughted with effortless urge. Derived as if from concrete shaped in purest form, of and before life. The dried fruits and a pith so calming are gathered for a level of citrus almost never before encountered. A very, very special 25 year-old bottle of bubbles from a pioneering organic and biodynamic producer in Courteron. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted February 2015  @ChampagneFleury

Most exciting wines tasted in a long time @winesorarg #carasur #bonarda #criolla #argentina #valledecalingasta

Most exciting wines tasted in a long time @winesorarg #carasur #bonarda #criolla #argentina #valledecalingasta

Cara Sur Bonarda 2014, Barreal, San Juan, Agrentina (Approx. $140)

Dry farmed, mordant and agile varietal red, a garagiste of a dirt road, in minuscule production, from natural run-off water and wild yeast. Only 500-600 bottles are produced, from north of Mendoza, in the Valle de Callingasta and Zuccardi funded. The natural cure is off the charts, the Emidio Pepe of Argentina, in which winemaking is really just perfect. Smells like the scrape of the amphora, already imbued of the aromatics of years, the answers of age, the design of ancients. You could keep this in the glass for a week and it will hardly evolve. Imagined as a 40 year wine for sure. Purity incarnate. Drink 2015-2040.  Tasted August 2015  @winesofarg

As I get on the 707 @penfolds 1999 #cabernetsauvignon carries me far away #treasurywineestates #southaustralia #bookofdreams

As I get on the 707 @penfolds 1999 #cabernetsauvignon carries me far away #treasurywineestates #southaustralia #bookofdreams

Jonata La Sangre De Jonata Syrah 2008, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County, California (220517, $150.00, WineAlign)

A tremendously ripe, rich and layered Syrah that has few equals or rivals in California so in that sense the price is benevolently justified. Winemaker Matt Dees is no flash in the pan. His wines are cerebrated and cogitated with no stone left unturned. They are showy, chiselled wrestlers, boxers and ultimate fighters but they are the real deal. This ’08 is a veritable protein potpourri, of wafts from the finest boucherie, all hung limbs and wrapped sheep’s cheeses, in caves, on counters and under glass. The expression is also very Côte Rôtie meets côte de bœuf rôtie, with added luxe perfume, chalk and lacy grain. The fruit boundaries are endless, the chew meaty, cured and smoky. Ultra Syrah of never wavering red fruit in a packed vessel with alcohol declared at a meagre 14.9 per cent. Even if it is really more like 15.5, the wealth of fruit, acidity, tannin and structure can handle the heat. With so much happening, this wine will age like the prized hind quarters and mother’s milk solids it smells of. Jonata La Sangre De Jonata Syrah 2008 says something and I’d love to hear what that is 15 years down the road. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2015  @WoodmanWS  @CalifWines_CA

As I get on the 707 @penfolds 1999 #cabernetsauvignon carries me far away #treasurywineestates #southaustralia #bookofdreams

As I get on the 707 @penfolds 1999 #cabernetsauvignon carries me far away #treasurywineestates #southaustralia #bookofdreams

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, South Australia, Australia (Agent, $175.00, WineAlign)

The Bin 707 was first produced in 1964 though passed over from 1970 to 1975 and then in 1981, 1995, 2000, 2003 and 2011. With Grange in mind, were it to look in the mirror, it would see its reflection as Cabernet Sauvignon. A true South Australian Claret, multi-regional blend from Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Padthaway, Robe and Wrattonbully. The ’99 was the 28th and as I get on board in 2015 and taste the 707, it carries me so far away. Today, in this world and how we play it, this is as fresh as Cabernet Sauvignon can be. It reads like a book of dreams. It is a miller of fruit, in secondary ester of refinement. It is a jet airliner, leaving behind a voluminous, velutinous trail of exhaust. “I feel like it’s all been done,” but not like this, aged for 18 months in 100 per cent new 300 litre American oak hogsheads. Not with this precision from veraciously selected fruit. Not like this. Look to 2025 for the tertiary period to begin. Drink 2015-2024. Tasted August 2015 @penfolds  #treasurywineestates 

Fino, Don P.X. '86 and '62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Fino, Don P.X. ’86 and ’62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Bodegas Toro Albalá Don P.X. Reserva Especial 1962, Do Montilla Moriles (424085, $205.00, WineAlign)

Unlike the 1986 which under recent European law (because it is not a red wine) must not be named Gran Reserva, this grandfather of a Pedro Ximenez is free to be what it’s supposed to be. A wine that was housed in a home somewhere in the village 10 years before the winery was created. A wine harvested in 1962, then took two months to ferment (to 7 or 8 per  cent alcohol). Estate distillate was added to fortify and raise it to 17 per cent, followed by a slumber for two years in concrete vats. The final resting place was in American wood where it slumbered peacefully for 49 years until it was bottled in 2011. In a show of future forward thinking and in retrospect, of historical allegiance, the signature on the bottle belongs to its original maker. Egresses from such delicate aromas, from citrus to coffee and stands in remarkable freshness belying its 50 years. The nuts are smoked with a zesting by citrus and a dusting in nutmeg. Chestnut and hazelnut curiously form a crasis of sensation, airy and creamy like mousse, sabayon or Caudreau. If you allow it, the finish will not let go. The sugar (300 g/L RS) and acidity (5.73 g/L TA) are the tangible aspects of its futuristic longevity. Like the ’86 this is another dessert wine secured of natural preservatives; undefined, magical, impossible. These wines opened could last for 20 plus years, unchanged. Unopened that number could surpass 100, without question, no problem. Like honey, this is an earthly substance that can last, seemingly forever. So, one glass of P.X. every day, going forward, for self-preservation. Drink 2015-2060. Tasted October 2015  @LeSommelierWine

The line-up from Emidio Pepe

The line-up from Emidio Pepe

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 1983, DOC BIO Abruzzo, Italy (Agent, $279.95, WineAlign)

Give Emidio Pepe’s reds thirty odd years to develop and the impossible happens. To postulate in a moment’s assessment without remembering the pious tradition with which this was made would be a crime against Pepe, Abruzzo, the natural world and the wonders of the universe. With this much passage the spice cupboard that emits is wow times a thousand. Clove, cinnamon, cardamon, orange peel, galangal and like golden raisins that pass through quarries to become rubies. This wine is perfect. It has not broken down an iota. It requires no decanting. It defies logic, perception and time. There is no sediment, only energy. Speaks from the glass as if it were a child of destiny and mythology. The 1983 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva arrives from along the same road taken but its transmogrification proves that the result, with thanks again to the endemic froth, is different every time. Drink 2015-2029.  Tasted March 2015

Gaia Gaja and 1978 Barbaresco #veryproud #nebbiolo @StemWineGroup

Gaia Gaja and 1978 Barbaresco #veryproud #nebbiolo @StemWineGroup

Gaja Barbaresco 1978, Piemonte, Italy (Agent)

Tasted with Gaia Gaja as an added, as good a bonus as there ever was to an already exceptional line-up of Gaja wines, the 1978 Barbaresco is untangled, untwisted and liberated. Nebbiolo spoken with the utmost clarity. Cherries falling from the tree the moment the tips of fingers come within a hair of the touch. Spring is indeed in the air (despite it being early fall), a trick of the Gaja Genesis tale, “fields of incentive covered with green.” A mesmerizing Barbaresco, pure as driven snow, clear as a pool of fallen rain, quiet as an undisturbed slumber. Ancient longings of leather and dusty cocoa are but pipe stuffing, not yet lit. This Nebbiolo is pretty, feminine, beautiful and forcefully elegant. “When you’re asleep they may show you, aerial views of the ground, Freudian slumber empty of sound.” Only available from Nebbioli of the highest caste and order. Drink 2015-2028.  Tasted September 2015

Five little ducks all in a row @BellaVistaVino #anothersongaboutthefizz #franciacorta #largeformats #1987 #1989

Five little ducks all in a row @BellaVistaVino #anothersongaboutthefizz #franciacorta #largeformats #1987 #1989

Bellavista Winery Brut Sparkling 1987, Franciacorta, Italy (From a Six litre bottle, Agent, Winery)

Tasted alongside a 750 mL, Magnum, Jeroboam and nine litre 1989. The Methuselah is the first wine to show similarly to any of the others so the comfort level rises and yet this rocks out flinty and reductive most like the 3L. The energy is consistent, but here the spice is magnified and the nutty sense that showed in the Magnum has come forth. This seems to combine the pique aspects of both the Magnum and the Jeroboam. A best of all worlds bottle plus what it brings that neither had. Absolute freshness. Does not evolve in the glass in its first few minutes like the others that came before. It evens glistens unlike the others, as if it knows how complex, special and alive it is. This is the bomb for sure. Dart straight through the heart. Crazy exceptional Sparkling wine. It should be interesting to try and assess, which is a major act of liberty in assumption, to gauge with accuracy how format affects age. To close one’s eyes tight and place a number on each wine, to where it has evolved and why. Here, Jeroboam still three to five years away from even that beginning. Truly. Drink 2018-2037.  Tasted November 2015  @BellavistaVino  @Noble_Estates

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Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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In a gadda da vino baby

Charcuterie and Appetizers @barquebutchers by the Greek Silver Fox, Chef @JoCastrinos

Charcuterie and Appetizers @barquebutchers by the @greek_silver_fox, Chef Jo Castrinos

It’s December, baby. In Ontario that means one thing. Cash money for the LCBO. Lineups longer than a 1988 Moscow bread line. If you’re from somewhere other than this magical, monopolized place we call wine central you just wouldn’t understand. You would not be privy to and giddy with isles stacked in pyramids of critter red and whites, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Absolut Durian. Wait, that would be cool.

No, not la vida loca. We are not talking about living the crazy life to make you cool. No party trick, no Spanglish, no politically incorrect, Urban Dictionary Ricky Martin slur. Not this either. “The awkward silence and/or major anticlimax that follows the confession of a big secret that everybody else already knew.”

You want it all in December, the most wine for the money, for gifts, to bring to the holiday party, to stack some away in the cellar. You want the Garden of Eden in a bottle.

In a gadda da vida, honey.

Let me tell ya.

With the ghosts of Christmas gem releases now just a strange, uncomfortable and debilitating nightmare trailing away in the rear-view mirror of Visa cards maxed out past, now is the time to focus on what’s real. To concentrate on purchasing wines in your price bracket, wines that speak of people, places and who will be drinking them.

I have combed, tasted and considered the releases now on shelves for this weekend’s December 12th offering. The parameters are $15 to $35, something for everyone, to purchase with confidence and to equip you with a most necessary advantage, to present them with pride no matter the circumstance. Ten wines to work the holiday room.

Cabriz Reserva 2012

Cabriz Reserva 2012, Doc Dão, Portugal (21410, $17.95, WineAlign)

Such a juicy red, of honest imporosity and primed with acidity to prop and speculate. Bang on for the price, in its weight class and with the charm of sweet adolescence. Solid Dao with a whole lot of propensity to mix and match with the multitude of foods at your table. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted November 2015  @wines_portugal  @winesportugalCA  @Noble_Estates

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Pic Saint Loup 2011

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Pic Saint Loup 2011, Ap Coteaux Du Languedoc, France (376491, $18.95, WineAlign)

Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache blend from the Pic Saint-Loup mountain peak and limestone cliff flanks of the the Coteaux du Languedoc. Sharp with concentrated red fruit, tight acidity and just enough tannin to render this marketable to a five-year plan of evolution. Real and as naturally forged as they come from Gérard Bertrand’s Cross Series reds of southern France. Prime example from and one to celebrate a terroir like Pic St Loup which continues to play the unheralded outlier. Really fine and just the right and correct amount of attitude. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted November 2015  @GBvins  @FwmWine  @LanguedocWines

Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Sparkling Riesling 2013

Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling Sparkling 2013, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (370361, $19.95, WineAlign)

Only a year and in conjunction with an improved Sparkling wine vintage for Riesling, short work has elevated the young Spark’s game. A repeat lees performance initiates the conversation, of cheese melted overtop composite laminate, with yeast burgeoning about. In 2013 the concrete crispness is cemented deeper, etched into stone and thus completing the sub-$20 legacy. That winemaker Paul Pender can coax Riesling character, striking Sparkling wine resolve and yet hover in the air of litheness, well, this is the kneading. Silty, salty earth and soft transitions to citrus acidity are a requiem for success as per the Twenty Mile Bench/Limestone ridges vouchsafe common. Can even imagine a bit of time turning this into sparks and honey. Drink 2015-2019.  Last tasted November 2015  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender

Ernie Els Big Easy 2013

Ernie Els Big Easy 2013, Wo Western Cape, South Africa (220038, $19.95, WineAlign)

Big Easy, Stellenbosch

Big Easy, Stellenbosch

A massive amount of fruit, caked earth and big, bouncy reduction is packed into this free swinging Western Cape red blend. The reduction mixes with Rhone bacon and its own regional gamey notes. This is both typical and radical. It is made in a style that many love and will continue to love and yet others will balk at its generational specificity. The clean, pure focus in Rhone varietal terminology teams up to subdue the Cabernet though that variety does add lushness to smooth out some of the hard edges. Tons of flavour. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted November 2015  @ErnieElsWinery  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2011

Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2011, Doca Rioja, Spain (397166, $21.95, WineAlign)

Another terrific vintage for the varietal Ley, wrapping a wreath of pure Graciano fruit around your neck and letting you lay back with a sip of something beautiful. Pure floral liqueur, the violets and the sweat, the sweet fruit and the citrus accent. Soft lactic acid and chewy with an accent of dark chocolate and spice. A bit more burly than the ’09 and certainly increasingly oak apparent but a good mouthful nevertheless. Let it rest for two years to let the wood sink in. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2015  @BaronDeLeyRioja  @RiojaWine  @AMH_hobbsandco

Stratus Evergreen Red 2008

Stratus Evergreen Red 2008, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (437434, $24.95, WineAlign)

Where has this been? This harmonious composition, like a Starland Vocal Band, Cabernet Sauvignon (30 per cent) plus Cabernet Franc (30) friendship with a healthy dose of Merlot (27) and a bit of Petit Verdot (4) in minor support. The acidity and the tannin have nearly fully waned but it’s a real pleasure to drink at this seven-year mark. Pretty fruit, creamy texture, just enough energy left to keep the party grooving, weightless and soaring in the air. Some chocolate and dessert like tendency but with the right kind of salty main course or just a few sips leading to that point, this will be an afternoon delight. “My motto’s always been ‘when it’s right, it’s right.’ Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night?” Herbal finish is cool and Northern Ontario like in its slow, easy exhalation. Extra points for the foresight, the opportunistic release point and the effort in a hit or miss vintage. The Evergreen Brickworks market’s loss is the LCBO’s gain. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted November 2015  @StratusWines

Versado Malbec 2013

Versado Malbec 2013, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (317008, $25.95, WineAlign)

The rocks beneath the earth precede the rich, dark fruit. After the berries and the candy beets and the spices subside the flowers grow and take over the room. The vintage brings more layers than before. Malbec of character and belief, even a touch of good VA, a coat that only the Southern Hemisphere can provide. It is not usually present in Mendozan Malbec so it’s really a breath of fresh paint here in the Versado. Great purity. Protracted length. Most expansive and intriguing vintage to date. The Reserva will be killer.  Last tasted November 2015

Domaine Karydas Naoussa 2010

Domaine Karydas Naoussa 2010, Dop Naoussa, Greece (272013, $26.95, WineAlign)

A rich, nearly creamy mouthful of Xinomavro, full on red fruit and as much scorched earth as prescribed to be necessary. There is plenty of front end acidity and back-end tannin though the pathway between is rocky, jagged and bumpy. I’d like to see this again in two or three years to see if it has smoothed out. For now it’s certainly edgy and divided though I will admit it has gained my full, undivided attention. Time will tell. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2015  @KolonakiGroup  @winesofnaoussa  @DrinkGreekWine

Domaine Hamelin Chablis Beauroy Premier Cru 2012

Domaine Hamelin Chablis Beauroy Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France (391805, $33.95, WineAlign)

May just be the most well-rounded Premier Cru Chablis in the Ontario market today and orbits would not be its prescribed or described path. Linear more like it, star-shooting with trailing sparks from its steely beginnings out of stainless silo. Well-rounded because it draws fruit from every level of Kimmeridgien subsoil up and down the hills, from the bottom of the valley to the top of the slopes. Also because of its pinpoint unoaked Chablis accuracy, from mineral on the tongue to citrus receding and recoiling. So very clean old bones fruit (up to 35 years old) and direct at a price point most Premier Cru fail to touch. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted December 2015  @BIVBChablis  @oenophilia1

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2012

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2012, Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

Classic and I mean classic Chianti Classico, cured, ancient, fruit forward. Modern, gritty, tannic, spicy, desperately in love and bound by leather. Tea and liqueur, all in Chianti Classico. Some iron and animale, bitters, tonics, cherries, medicines, all of the above. Acidity raging, thunder clapping, lightning striking. Needs seven years to shed emotional tears, fully settle and be a memory of its intense self. A wine that will remember. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted November 2015  @chianticlassico   @rogcowines

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Garnacha covered part four: Terra Alta

Terra Alta

Terra Alta

This is the fourth of five instalments concerning the wines of Garnacha from the regions of Aragón and Catalonia.

Related – For a comprehensive report by Sara d’Amato and I read WineAlignDiscover the Flavours: Wines of Garnacha

In October of 2015 WineAlign colleague Sara d’Amato and I travelled together with Christopher Waters of Vines Magazine.  The trip’s mission was to discover Spain’s Wines of Garnacha in their natural habitat, the five distinct and allied Denominación de Origen in the regions of Aragón and Catalonia.

Related – Garnacha covered part three: Somontano

Our host in Zaragoza was The Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (Instituto Español de Comercio Exterior, ICEX), the Wines of Garnacha campaign and the office of Garnacha Origen. The trip was orchestrated with expertise by Aragón Exterior Managing Director Ignacio (Nacho) Martinez de Albornoz and Head of Wines from Spain (ICEX) Alfonso Janeiro. Our chaperones were Ignacio, Sofía González Martínez, Ivo André Alho Cabral and Roser Mestre, in Zaragoza and on expeditions to the five DO’s that comprise the wines of Garnacha.

Related – Garnacha covered part two: Cariñena

Related – We’ve Garnacha covered part one: Campo De Borja

Terra Alta

Crossed off the bucket list is a visit to the land of Garnatxa Blanca, Catalonian of the heart, in drive and from desire. The journey from Zaragoza to the furthest afield of Garnacha’s five D.O’s passes through vast stretches of landscapes in painted desserts and sculpted of mountain congeries. Soon the valleys begin to wind and snake their way between the limitless hills, tracing paths carved out in memory of long ago raging, ancient glacial rivers. The road slices through terraced panal, the spongy soils of Terra Alta, davenports to vines cultivated by the most prolific producers of white Grenache in the world. In Terra Alta, that number occupies 49 percent of the total Spanish production.

Terra Alta can be found in the southwest corner of the northeast corner of Spain. In a nutshell it may be incongruously defined as a large geographical area, “la más meridional de Cataluña,” with a small population of a mere 12,000 inhabitants. The prevailing winds, el Cierzo from the north and the summer Garbinades, “the Arab wind” from the southeast, add humidity, to protect from vine disease and to help finish a grape’s ripening process. Unlike its Aragonese brethren, the grape varieties grown in Terra Alta at times need a little help from their friends. To that end, five years ago an irrigation system was created, useable from May to September, to also help with the ripening process.

Interpid travellers in Terra Alta: WineAlign's Sara d'Amato and Godello

Interpid travellers in Terra Alta: WineAlign’s Sara d’Amato and Godello

It is fascinating to note that when Pablo Picasso was sick he came to Terra Alta for the air. He also came for the wine. He drank what was called vino brisat, skin macerated white wine, somewhere between orange and straw wine. After his health was restored, he returned three years later and apparently developed his cubist style in Terra Alta. Picasso, innovator and oenophile privy to 21st century thought, knowing that white wines produced with a maceration step contain significantly more health restoring and promoting polyphenols than those produced in a more traditional way. Records show that Garnacha has been grown in Terra Alta dating back to 1647.

Cracking the wonders of #garnatxablanca @lafouceller #concreteegg @doterraalta

Cracking the wonders of #garnatxablanca @lafouceller #concreteegg @doterraalta

Terra Alta’s trump soil card is the panal, with its ability to retain moisture with nary rock or stone encumbrance. There are also soils imbued of limestone richness and a lack of organic material. The mediterranean climate combines abundant sunshine with little rainfall. Of the 6,000 total hectares planted, 1,400 is devoted to Garnatxa Blanca and the average annual production is seven million kg of grapes or, 50 hectolitres per hectare.

The DO “Terra Alta” (DOTA) was recognised provisionally in 1972. Together with Alella, Conca de Barberà, Empordà, Penedès, Priorat and Tarragona it is one of the seven historic denominations of origin of Catalonia. The first label noted as D.O. Terra Alta was 1984 and that wine was white. And so, today there are two symbols of guarantee, one for the D.O. as a whole and the other granted for whites. “SOM Terra Alta Garnatxa Blanca – 100×100.” More than simply a guarantee of 100 per cent Garnatxa Blanca composition, these wines must be deemed to score at least 85 out of 100 points in sensorial quality by the Consell Regulador. “Or you don’t get the sticker,” says proprietor of Altavins Viticultors de Batea Joan Arrufí, current president of the D.O. “Everyone is on board because it is necessary to put Terra Alta on the map.” The credo is “Cuerpo Y Alma,” or in Catalan, “Cos I Anima.” Body and soul.

John, Paul, George and Ringo ready to play @doterraalta #garnatxablanca tunes for #loscanadienses

John, Paul, George and Ringo ready to play @doterraalta #garnatxablanca tunes for #loscanadienses

What is so curious about the White Grenache here is that more than any other Garnacha, red or white, produced in the five D.O’s of Aragon, the Blanca of Terra Alta has proven its ability to age. Arrufí tasted a 2001 the day before we arrived, saying “it’s perfect,” having changed from white fruits (banana, apple, apricot) to frutos secos (nuts), honey and almond flowers.

Winemakers presenting in today’s market are mostly young, the children of the older generation, adding freshness, elegance, new blood and a willingness to embrace technology. Unique to Terra Alta, the new generation is taking over the winemaking. Ask one how to prevent oxidation? Hand-pick, before the sun hits mid-sky, ferment at low temps and protect with lees. Good plan.

Borraja, potato, sauce of peas, Casa Lac, Zaragoza

Borraja, potato, sauce of peas, Casa Lac, Zaragoza

The night before heading out on the long trek to Terra Alta we pre-tasted some of the region’s wines at Ricardo Gil’s Casa Lac in Zaragoza. In Gandesa we met with Joan Arrufí at the offices of the D.O and then travelled to taste with the winemakers at Lafou Celler, followed by another tasting in the restored shell that once housed Corbera d’Ebre‘s destroyed church. It was at this meeting where the most poignant event of the Aragon trip took place.

The art of survival and restoration #corberaderbe #spanishcivilwar #terraalta

The art of survival and restoration #corberaderbe #spanishcivilwar #terraalta

During the Spanish Civil War the Nazi warplanes dropped their bombs and Corbera d’Ebre was completely destroyed at the Battle of the Ebro (25 July–16 November 1938). The upper part, known as Poble Vell (Old Town), including the church were kept. One of the bombs landed in the river, killing a young girl and tossing her brother into the water.

A beautiful gift to #teamcanada @waters_wine @saradamato from #terraalta #manuelalvarez #corberadebre #spanishcivilwar #canadiansoldier #mackenziepapineau

A beautiful gift to #teamcanada @waters_wine @saradamato from #terraalta #manuelalvarez #corberadebre #spanishcivilwar #canadiansoldier #mackenziepapineau

A Canadian soldier from the Mackenzie-Papineau batallion fished him out. That boy, Manuel Álvarez, spent his life looking for the soldier. He finally found him 40 years later, in Vancouver. El Soldado Alto (The Tall Soldier) is the book Álvarez wrote to thank him and keep the story alive. Upon arrival in Corbera d’Ebre the story was recounted to us, Los Canadienses, along with a presentation from Ramón Gironés Julia, treasurer of Associació del Poble Vell, with a copy of the book. The Canadian soldier’s battalion was named after William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau, leaders of the rebellions of 1837 in upper and lower Canada. They sought liberty, social justice and democracy, a spirit which the Canadian volunteers carried to Spain. Our job now, as the next Canadians to visit Corbera d’Ebre, is apparently to save the wines of Terra Alta. We’ll do our best.

Sofía González, Wines of Garnacha and Señor Valiente, Vins de Mesies

Sofía González, Wines of Garnacha and Señor Valiente, Vins de Mesies

After the tasting in the historic village we went for lunch (ending at 6:15 pm) at Nou Moderno in Gandesa. The cooking and service by Rosa & Josep M. Vallespí is something every visitor to Catalunya need experience. We continued to taste the regional wines with Joan and the winemakers. The wines tasted were the following: Ilercavonia, by Altavins; Vallmajor Garnatxa Blanca and Tipicitat by Celler Batea; Edetària Selecció Blanc, by Celler Edetaria; Clos Dalián Crianza and Clos Dalián Crianza Blanco, by Cellers Unió; Mesies Garnatxa, by Ecovitres; Els Amelers, by LaFou; and Vila-Closa Garnatxa Blanca, by La Botera.

Nou Moderno Restaurant, Gandesa, Terra Alta

Nou Moderno Restaurant, Gandesa, Terra Alta

Celler Batea Vall Major Garnatxa Blanca 2014, DO Terra Alta, Spain (Winery, WineAlign)

With the intent to drink in the first year and quality to price ratio in mind, here the entry to Catalonian Garnacha Blanca. Sees 12 hours of skin contact, stainless steel housing after and with previous attention paid to low fermentation temperatures. Fresh as a brook running through a green spring glade. Pretty flowers, scintillant of acidity, young as a “back up the truck” kind of white. It’s chewy too. Has length of itself, from itself and for itself. Me, myself and I Garnatxa Blanca. From low yields in one of the higher production areas of Terra Alta. Tiny bitters arrive late, but still, that Terra Alta length. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted October 2015  @CELLERBATEA1

Los Canadienses taste and talk with the winemakers of Terra Alta at Celler Lafou photo (c) https://www.facebook.com/labotera.satlabotera/?fref=ts

Los Canadienses taste and talk with the winemakers of Terra Alta at Celler Lafou
photo (c) La Botera

Vins La Botera Vila-Closa Garnatxa Blanca 2014, DO Terra Alta, Spain (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

“It’s also a young wine,” admits Laia, the winemaker. Built on crisp acidity from young vines and more structure from some older ones. Then blended together for a balanced White Garnatxa. The older vines come bound with an increase in altitude. “We play with the two, hand in hand.” This has a deeper, slightly medicinal or tonic inflection. Mostly from Panal soil – so there is richness and citrus, a preserved lemon. Such a different expression – strikes as more complex but at the inconsequential expense of freshness. Approximate price $15.95 CAN. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted October 2015  @Bateabotera  @thatslifewines

Vins La Botera Vila-Closa Garnatxa Blanca 2013, DO Terra Alta, Spain (WineryAgentWineAlign)

Tasted in Toronto nearly a year ago. The handpicked Garnatxa Blanca from 35 year-old vines left to develop on the riper side of the equation blended with acidity elevating, younger fruit. Real cold soak plus three months of lees contact in stainless steel. So yes, this is a steely version, very much in the vein of straight-up Chablis. Bottled simplicity, limestone reckoning. Could drink this like water anytime the mercury rises. Approximate price $15.95 CAN. Drink 2014-2016.  Tasted November 2014

To taste again @lafouceller in @doterraalta is today's master plan @VINOS_ICEX #lovegarnacha #garnatxablanca #crdoterraalta

To taste again @lafouceller in @doterraalta is today’s master plan @VINOS_ICEX #lovegarnacha #garnatxablanca #crdoterraalta

Lafou Celler Garnatxa Blanca 2014, DO Terra Alta, Spain (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

Ramon Roqueta Segalés, winemaker, soothsayer, visionary, seeker of the Garnatxa Blanca of today from “a narrow valley.” Ramon is very concerned with the valleys, the landscape, the geology, how the wind, the mediterranean climate and the ancient rivers that run through, having left their glacial deposits, all combine for this particular and most important expression of Garnatxa Blanca. Established in 2007, this wine was first released in 2011. Combines old and young fruit, some harvested fresher at a greener stage and others picked later, riper, brought together. Vinified separately, with some skin maceration, looking for fat to surround acidity. Ripe fruit (10 per cent) sees oak, the rest in egg shape concrete tanks with six to seven months of lees contact. Smells like a ripe peach, fresh and without sugar but instead a sprinkling of subterranean, ancient riverbed harvested salt. The tang is layered, variegated, mineral, mastered over and in corralling of oxidation, elaborated with gentle but forceful demand. “We learned that you can get a balance by harvesting and an early and a later stage, sometimes three times.” Finishes with lime, fresh squeezed, sweet tonic and distilled flowers. A wine that has succeeded in “mastering the oxidation process.” Plus the tannic (anti-oxidative) aspects offered in micro-oxygenation from the slightly toasted new oak. Approximate price $28.95 CAN. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted October 2015  @lafouceller  @oenophilia1

Lafou Celler Garnatxa Blanca 2013, DO Terra Alta, Spain (WineryAgent, WineAlign)

Tasted in Toronto nearly a year ago, the mind’s eye and memory back remember a gorgeous wine, full of salient alkali in zest form, calcified sweet white flowers and the cleanest, most elegantly drawn lines. A prodigy of anti-terse White Grenache statements, so obviously cared for, from healthy vines the mild treatment by lees, wood or common concrete. In a nutshell, worth every penny of its $29 tag. Drink 2014-2023. Tasted November 2014

Los Canadienses @waters_wine @saradamato & @altavins getting serious with @doterraalta #garnatxablanca #joanbautistaarrufi #terraalta #lafou

Los Canadienses @waters_wine @saradamato & @altavins getting serious with @doterraalta #garnatxablanca #joanbautistaarrufi #terraalta #lafou

Altavins “IL” Ilercavònia Garnatxa Blanca 2014, DO Terra Alta, Spain (Winery)

Named for the people in the west of Catalonia, Iberians who lived in Terra Alta and the surrounding areas from the 6th to the 1st century BC. From old vines (up to 46 years) shown cold fermentation and three days of skin contact. Time in 400L oak barrels (five months) on the fine lees. Here the most bronzing of all the White Garncaha we’ve been shown, certainly on the oxidative side. Fine pretty flowers and equally fine bitters on the finish. Fine acidity as well. All of this speaks to the phenolics, all pieces of essential White Grenache, all aligned. Herbal and platinum, in hue forward to sensation. This is the adult expression and a wine that can and will age (2001 was the first and we are told it lives very much still). This is very grown up, another chapter all together. Already showing what it will be – very mineral and yet acidity not the same in any way, as compared to the others. Yet very long. slowly, evocatively, long. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted October 2015  @altavins

Los Canadienses taste with the winemakers of Terra Alta at Codera d'Ebre<br /> photo (c) La Botera

Los Canadienses taste with the winemakers of Terra Alta at Codera d’Ebre
photo (c) La Botera

Edetaria Selecció White Vinyes Velles 2013, DO Terra Alta, Spain (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

From a fourth generation family vineyard in Gandesa, a project that began in 2003. Fully, completely Garnatxa Blanca, from a group of old vineyards, cooled down a degree or two more than the norm for 24-48 hours, with skin maceration. Barrel fermented in small casks for eight months, this also leans oxidative but never gets there, even less than the IL. White flowers, imaginations of futures thickened by honey and glazed in apricot. Possessive of a Riesling-like nose, Sémillon lean and pinpoint accurate clarity. Such a proclivity to seek evolution this alternative custodian of the Garnatxa varietal necessity. Seeker and keeper of tradition and to let the world know what has always been possible. This has acidity. It really has it. Bridges so many philosophies, histories and realities; Alsace Riesling, South African Chenin Blanc, Greek Roditis. Approximate price $39.95 CAN. Drink 2015-2023  Tasted October 2015  @EdetariaCeller

Edetaria Selecció White Vinyes Velles 2012, DO Terra Alta, Spain (WineryAgent, WineAlign)

Tasted in Toronto nearly a year ago. From the famous panal soil, fossilized sand dunes low in organic material and even lower in yields. Managed in go it alone ways for Terra Alta, with grapes kept gelid at zero degrees during the process and individual plot vinification prepared in 300L oak barrels. Primary aromas are the launching point and the end game. Eight months later a most unique aroma subsists and emits potency, leading to layering. A portent for pure distillation in White Grenache. Approximate price $39.95 CAN. Drink 2014-2021.  Tasted November 2014

Edetaria Garnatxa Blanca 2013 and Mesies Garnatxa 2014

Edetaria Garnatxa Blanca 2013 and Mesies Garnatxa 2014

Ecovitres Vins de Mesies Garnatxa 2014, DO Terra Alta (Winery)

Founded in 2002, Ecovitres stands alone in philosophy meets execution. The organics are a no-brainer in  their minds, in a land where the winds blow and vine disease is less than a deterrent or an issue. Here the producer of the eco-Garnatxa, from lots of cropping and the moving of soils for humidity, Such a soil impart in this Tinto, brimming with cure, natural charcuteries derived from a range of protein and fresh, liquid chalky red fruit.”This is what Red Garnatxa should be,” insists winemaker Señor Valiente. A wine of light colour, of natural yeasts, of freshness and of minimal sulfites. Just a minor pump over to keep the cap wet, from drying out and from letting foreign agents to enter. Very brave for making wine this way, without pre-pioneers. The irony is not lost, on me or Señor Valiente. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted October 2015  @VINSdeMESIES

One final wine, tasted at Nou Moderno Restaurant in Gandesa. The day was already 10 hours old, many courses had been consumed and we knew there were many more to come a mere three hours away. So I did not take notes here, but I can say this. Red Garnacha from Terra Alta has the ability to age.

Talking 'bout aged red #garnacha @lafouceller 2009 #terraalta #batea #bodyandsoul #cosianima #cuerpoyalma

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Garnacha covered part three: Somontano

Breath taken away by Jose Antonio's Secastilla #garnacha with altitude @DOSomontano #aragon

Breath taken away by Jose Antonio’s Secastilla #garnacha with altitude @DOSomontano #aragon

This is the third of five instalments concerning the wines of Garnacha from the regions of Aragón and Catalonia.

Related – For a comprehensive report by Sara d’Amato and I read WineAlignDiscover the Flavours: Wines of Garnacha

In October of 2015 WineAlign colleague Sara d’Amato and I travelled together with Christopher Waters of Vines Magazine.  The trip’s mission was to discover Spain’s Wines of Garnacha in their natural habitat, the five distinct and allied Denominación de Origen in the regions of Aragón and Catalonia.

Related – Garnacha covered part two: Cariñena

Our host in Zaragoza was The Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (Instituto Español de Comercio Exterior, ICEX), the Wines of Garnacha campaign and the office of Garnacha Origen. The trip was orchestrated with expertise by Aragón Exterior Managing Director Ignacio (Nacho) Martinez de Albornoz and Head of Wines from Spain (ICEX) Alfonso Janeiro. Our chaperones were Ignacio, Sofía González Martínez, Ivo André Alho Cabral and Roser Mestre, in Zaragoza and on expeditions to the five DO’s that comprise the wines of Garnacha.

Related – We’ve Garnacha covered part one: Campo De Borja

Somontano

The centuries have seen to winemaking in Somontano though it was not until April 30th, 1984 that the protected designation of origin was granted by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture. What has transpired, transformed and transmogrified in 31 short years is astonishing.

Canadian journalists in the vineyards of Secastilla, Somontano. Photo (c) Ivo André Alho Cabral

Canadian journalists in the vineyards of Secastilla, Somontano. Photo (c) Ivo André Alho Cabral

The proof lies in a day of Somontano pudding. First a 130 km drive north out of Zaragoza, to the place they call “at the foot of the mountains” and a visit to the D.O office in the regional capital of Barbastro. A perfectly pressed early morning café and an overture of origen by local el presidente Mariano Beroz Bandrés sets the denominational stage. Second, a hike along with viticulturalist José Antonio through the highest bush vines vineyard belonging to Secastilla of Viñas del Vero.

Viñas del Vero's José Antonio in the Secastilla vineyard

Viñas del Vero’s José Antonio in the Secastilla vineyard

Next, a round table presentation, tasting and discussion at cellar door slash naturally lit, modernist Bodega Pirineos. Finally, remedying and restorative lunch at state of the art, colossal tanks and all, wine bottle art gallery installation, architecturally brilliant Vinos Enate.

The Barrel Cellar at @VinosEnate. Muchas gracias for the tour and the hospitality. Para todo @DOsomontano

The Barrel Cellar at @VinosEnate. Muchas gracias for the tour and the hospitality. Para todo @DOsomontano

The DO Somontano region is located at a height of between 350 and 1,000 metres above sea level and from Secastilla’s vineyard the six castles visible on peaks and throughout the Secastilla valley spread across the blue demure of a brilliant mid-autumn day. The view from Enate is nothing special, that is unless you are the kind of person that is moved by the awesome splendour of foothills and peaks fronting the drama of the Pyrenees.

Bodega Enate, Somontano

Bodega Enate, Somontano

After lunch a tour through Enate’s labyrinth of great halls and hallways concludes with a mind’s daydream into a Sean Connery Bond film imagined.

Big tanks of Bodega Enate, Somontano

Big tanks of Bodega Enate, Somontano

In the hills of Somontano low-fertility, brown limestone soil and its soft, permeable underbelly encourages roots to penetrate the earth, to extract just the right amount of limestone. The surrounding mountains protect the vines from the extreme cold and the rain.

Secastilla Valley, Somontano

Secastilla Valley, Somontano

Somontano is planted to 4200 hectares (of a total 205,000, 95,000 of it agricultural). There are 20,000 inhabitants, 43 villages, 424 growers, 31 wineries, 15 varietals, 200 wines and 15,000,000 bottles produced annually. Of that total, 70 per cent sold are domestically. The wide range of grape varieties cultivated are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, Syrah, Parraleta, Moristel, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Macabeo (Alcañón), Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Red and White Garnacha. Six of these last varietal wines are involved in the Wines of Garnacha program. Mariano Beroz Bandrés talks about the collective approach for their wines. “Market niche, medium-high price, fresh, fruity, touch of oak, for young and innovative consumers.”

Somontano wines at Bodega Pirineos

Somontano wines at Bodega Pirineos

Our hosts from Wines of Garnacha and Garnacha Origen Sofía González Martínez and Ivo André Alho Cabral sat in with Sara D’Amato, Christopher Waters and I to taste the following Garnacha wines: La Miranda de Secastilla Garnacha BlancaLa Miranda de Secastilla and Secastilla, by Viñas del Vero; Pirineos Garnacha, by Bodegas Pirineos; Mascún, by Bodegas Osca; Batán de Salas Monovarietal Garnacha, by Batán de Salas.

Restaurante Bal D'Onsera, Zaragoza

Restaurante Bal D’Onsera, Zaragoza

As we did each night previous to five D.O. visits around Aragon, we tasted the following day’s wines while at dinner in Zaragoza. Somontano accompanied Josechu Corella’s Michelen star Bal D’Onsera. Chef Corella’s cuisine is distinctly Aragonese adscititious of quality sea ingredients, to balance out any possible meat overkill on the heels of a Zaragoza week in celebration of the festival of the Pilar. Gastronomy harmonized, magnetized and gathered automatically for the people. Chef’s plates and bowls aligned, as if by invisible connections, to protein, from produce and by molecular touch, in textured attraction, together, without fail. Eleven courses of plentiful exigency chaperoned by the discreet and propitious staff. This amuse bouche was not one of the expected 10.

In the beginning: Oyster, seawater foam, sea algae, citrus teardrops #baldonsera #josechucorella #Zaragoza #amuse #estrellamichelin

In the beginning: Oyster, seawater foam, sea algae, citrus teardrops @baldonsera #josechucorella #Zaragoza #amuse #estrellamichelin

The Somontano wines were tasted at Restaurante Bal D’Onsera, at Bodega Pirineos and over lunch at Bodega Enate.

Viñas del Vero La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca 2013

Viñas del Vero La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca 2013

Viñas del Vero La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca 2013, DO Somontano, Spain (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

The first vintage was 2002, from purchased pre-existing vineyards, going back 60 years. The vineyard source is “Pago La Miranda” in the Secastilla Valley. Four months in Allier Forest French Oak. Subdued specs design this white wine; ph of 3.1, even lower sugar at 1.5 g/l and moderate acidity in at 5.38 g/L. These are the specs of balance, restraint and impossible not to discover-achieve elegance. A re-discovery of the rarity here in Garnacha Blanca, replete with a mineral forest of fruit, rock and wood. That acidity rules and combines with texture for variegation. This has foothills brush, herb and citrus running through. It is as far from lean and miles from fat. It travels a river through the middle of a valley. Mediterranean temperament and a bite into olive, almond and caper. Sea brine and lemon that mines like teardrops that burst when bitten. Just as it hits the tongue it pops and releases a zesty, juicy, fresh citrus flavour. Though the clarity to age is yet unclear, at three years it will likely lean oxidative, though that development will appear as slow as an early autumn wind. Approximate retail price of $16 CAN. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @VinasdelVero  @WoodmanWS

Ocean Martini Salad, green pea crème, eco-tomato foam, galician white tuna, cucumber sorbet, violet potato crunch #baldonsera

Ocean Martini Salad, green pea crème, eco-tomato foam, galician white tuna, cucumber sorbet, violet potato crunch #baldonsera

Viñas del Vero La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha 2013, DO Somontano, Spain (WineryAgent, WineAlign)

Based on vines planted in 1998, beyond youthful in many terroirs but just a baby by Somontano-Secastilla standards. Blended with a minor amount of Syrah (12) plus the native varietal addition of Parraleta (3). Similar specs to the whites with just slightly elevated pH and rS. Vineyards are La Miranda, Prudence, La Mata and La Primade. Eight months in oak. The intent is fruit over savour, freshness beyond herbiage. It lies somewhere in the middle – the middle road trodden, the density is less than laden, the liqueur below a spirited threshold. High quality fruit from a giving vintage with acidity to prop up protein, lactic preparations and La Miranda itself. This Garnacha is focused and fortuitous, coming from solid fruit out of vineyards clearly delineated for their purpose and their capability. Clarity of Garnacha Tinto, with Mediterranean influence, manifested in olive brine and balsam, void of volatility, char and roast. No game, but with game in the name of purity. Elegantly cool, silk threaded and good length. Approximate retail price of $16 CAN. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015

Somontano winemakers at Bodega Pirineos

Somontano winemakers at Bodega Pirineos

Pirineos Garnacha 2013, DO Somontano, Spain (WineryAgent, WineAlign)

Presented by Jesús Astrain Losilla, Director Téconico – Enólogo. From 12 year-old vines, located in traditional vineyard areas/sites, mixed with continental largesse in purple Mediterranean flora and snacks, such as almonds, olives, etc. This brings diversity and in combination with dry farming, vineyard selection for Garnacha and vinification, this ’13 goes at it beautiful, modern funky. Has the soil rubber reduction (it’s under screw cap, keep in mind) and the quick vanilla meets lavender impart of French meets American wood. Combines a barrel’s envelope with clay soil’s natural corrective. A lactic, chalky and liquid smoke impart. Chalk and rock, much red citrus. Most north facing vines for Garnacha in all Spain – makes for freshness. Really crushes as tomato just picked as well, with acidity fully intact – so the thought of such a gastronomy pairing would work well. A red wine for the “I only drink white wine” crowd. Reminds me so much of Alsace Pinot Noir, thanks to the little rainfall. This grows on you with complexity, if you give it time. More ease than demand. Does fruit, Garnacha, Somontano as it should and will. A Somontano statement, manifesto, declaration. Structure, structure, structure. Approximate retail price of $14 CAN. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @BodegaPirineos  @TheVine_RobGroh

Batán de Salas de Beroz Garnacha 2011

Batán de Salas de Beroz Garnacha 2011

Batán de Salas de Beroz Garnacha 2011, DO Somontano, Spain (Winery)

Nicolás Brun Aguerri makes the wines at this small bodega, in production of 300,000 kg’s of fruit annually. Pragmatically trying to make wines “for now and up to three to five years.” Here red Garnacha looking for something beyond freshness, working on aromatics, through a staggered harvest and six months in barrel, along with eight per cent Syrah mixed in. This has the deep sense of cure, like charcuterie, of meaty complexity. A solid second vintage and though there is tar, char, salinity, protein and grain, it has readily ranging though integrated acidity. Fresh is not the operative but alive and kicking butt is. Has reached this slight oxidative state and should linger there for two or three years more. A different style, not rebellious by any stretch and a great window in the Garnacha-Somontano potentiality. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted October 2015  @Batandesalas

Bodegas Osca Mascun Garnacha 2010, DO Somontano, Spain (Winery)

Produced since 1998, Mascun is always on point with 100 per cent varietal wines. Vines grow at between 350-550m. Mascun comes from the Latin, “house of witches.” After malolactic is completed the cask work is shared for 12 months between French and American oak. The first bottle indicates another slightly oxidative and pretty if verging on potent Garnacha, with a hint of tea. The supernatural Grenache, the witches Garnacha. A second pour is different, with more verve, acidity and fruit that stands out with much more hustle and animation. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted October 2015  @BodegasOsca

One of 10 paragons from chef's menu degustation @josechucorella Grilled Galician White Tuna, salted radish, sea algae, sun-dried cherry tomato, sweet onion sauce, smoked olive oil #baldonsera #estrellamichelin #Zaragoza

One of 10 paragons from chef’s menu degustation @josechucorella Grilled Galician White Tuna, salted radish, sea algae, sun-dried cherry tomato, sweet onion sauce, smoked olive oil #baldonsera #estrellamichelin #Zaragoza

Vinas del Vero Secastilla Garnacha 2010, DO Somontano, Spain (WineryAgent, WineAlign)

Based on vines planted as far back as the 1940’s, from the Guardia, Miranda and Botiguero vineyards. The lost valley, a discovered vineyard and not far from 100 year-old vines. Non-irrigated, poor stony soils, low yield, high concentration all work to fight what oxidative tendency that Garnacha might gravitate towards. Vines at 700m interspersed with almond and olive trees. Ten months in barrel, stabilized naturally. New barrels, for structure and age. Those barrels go to La Miranda after the first year. (Whites come from Chardonnay). Possessive of perfectly complimentary volatility. Very alive and fighting. The lush texture is driven like a stake through a beef heart with the acidity and a fine grain of tannin and line. Approximate retail price of $32 CAN. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015

Alubias Estafadas and Guindilla, Bodega Enate, Somontano

Alubias Estafadas and Guindilla, Bodegas Enate, Somontano

Bodegas Enate Chardonnay 2011, DO Somontano, Spain (Winery)

An oaked Chardonnay welling in gemstones, butter and salinity. Acidity end energy are set to full throttle. Fruit fills the crooks to brimming. Oak is not shy but rendered in decisive integration. Its reductiveness coupled with some years in bottle make for a showy wine in recognition of its own amour-propre. That ability to flaunt its wares is backed up by a surprisingly most excellent structure from what is not the most well-known Chardonnay region on the planet. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @VinosEnate

At the end of a Somontano day we drove further north to take in the medieval village of Alquezar. A bucolic, ancient place only needed be described in images.

"As we gaze out on, as we gaze out on," #alquezar #somontano #pyrenees

“As we gaze out on, as we gaze out on,” #alquezar #somontano #pyrenees

"Looking up, I noticed I was late." #alquezar #somontano #pyrenees

“Looking up, I noticed I was late.” #alquezar #somontano #pyrenees

Good luck wild boar hooves of Alquezar

Good luck wild boar hooves of Alquezar

"In the middle of the road you see the darndest things" #alquezar #pyrenees #somontano

“In the middle of the road you see the darndest things” #alquezar #pyrenees #somontano

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign: Michael Godel

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