Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Picks: Vintages Release -- April 3

Here’s my shopping list for the Vintages Release on April 3.

What am I looking for? Three things.
Organic: wines certified biodynamic or organic
Off the Beaten Track: lesser-known or underappreciated traditional varietals, unusual blends, or underappreciated regions
Value: good wines at less than $30

And I try to keep the list to a dozen.

Nothing in this release, but check out the FEATHERSTONE BLACK SHEEP RIESLING (below) for its sustainability practices.

Off the Beaten Track
This release focuses on Spain, one of my favourite regions and home of one of my favourite varietals, Tempranillo. Lots of quality, lots of variety. Here are my Spanish picks:

Two whites:

LEIRA ALBARIÑO 2008, DO Rias Baixas (Galicia, Spain); #115816; Price: $16.95; 12.1% ABV
Yes, I love the Albarino. A perfect spring/summer wine from the northwest of Spain, just north of the border with Portugal. Citrus, tree fruit, minerality, floral. Perfect with seafood.

CVNE MONOPOLE 2008, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #66951; Price: $13.95; 13.0% ABV
One of the oldest, and best, wineries in Rioja Alta. 100% Viura, the principal white grape grown in Rioja. Fermented in stainless steel, no oak.

Now the reds, sticking with Rioja to start:

BODEGAS LAN RESERVA 2004, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #42929; Price: $19.95; 13.0% ABV
80% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo, 10% Garnacha. Aged in barrels with American oak staves and French oak heads for 12 months, followed by 24 months in bottle. The founders derived LAN from the name of 3 bordering wine regions: Logrono (Rioja), Alava, Navarra.

LEALTANZA GRAN RESERVA 2001, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #927913; Price: $27.95; 13.5% ABV
100% Tempranillo. Fermented in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation in French oak vats, followed by 24 months in French oak and 36 months in the bottle. Work in the vineyard is manual, no fertilizers or herbicides. Shows why Rioja Alta is king.

VIÑA ZACO TEMPRANILLO 2006, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #146209; Price: $14.95; 13.5% ABV
More from Rioja Alta but in a modern, fruit-forward style. 100% Tempranillo. Good value.

And now from elsewhere in Spain:

GABA DO XIL MENCÍA 2008, DO Valdeorras (Spain); #166199; Price: $15.95; 12.5% ABV
Known for its Albarino (if known at all), Galicia has returned also to red wine production, many, many years after the phylloxera devastation. This wine is from 100% handpicked Mencia, the native red varietal. Fermented with natural yeasts. The label features the iconic bridges found within the Santa Cruz region.

FINCA SOBREÑO CRIANZA 2006, DO Toro (Spain); #40360; Price: $17.95; 15.0% ABV
100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo). Aged for 7 months in American oak (which I think is better suited for Tinta de Toro than French oak), then 6 months in bottle before release. Toro is another re-discovered wine region that has enjoyed rapid expansion since the ‘90s. Founded by Rioja producers, Finca Sobreno began production in 1998.

LATRIA VINO TINTO 2006, DO Montsant (Spain); #155424; Price: $18.95; 13.5% ABV
Celler Malondro harvests Garnacha and Carinena as a 50/50 field blend. Aged 8 months in French and American oak.

Leaving Spain, we have room for 4 more, a white from Ontario and 3 reds:

FEATHERSTONE BLACK SHEEP RIESLING 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Ontario); #80234; Price: $16.95; 10.0% ABV
The winemakers use sustainable practices in the vineyard: carbon-molasses spray, planting crops between each row of grapes, organic compounds to control mould and mildew, no insecticides, “beneficial” insects to control insect pests, a hawk to discourage other birds that like to eat the grapes, and sheep that prune excess foliage and unripe grapes from the vines! Light-bodied and dry, this should make for excellent summer quaffing.

DOMAINE LAURENT MABILEAU BOURGUEIL 2008, AC Bourgueil (Loire, France); #69666; Price: $13.95; 12.5% ABV
Dammit, we don’t see nearly enough Loire Valley wines at Vintages! This is classic Cabernet Franc, the “signature” varietal of Bourgueil.

CAVE DE ROQUEBRUN LA GRANGE DES COMBES 2007, AC Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun (Languedoc, France); #155804; Price: $16.95; 14.2% ABV
A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre from a great vintage.

SKOURAS SAINT GEORGE 2007, AO Nemea (Greece); #162321; Price: $16.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Aghiorghitiko (AKA St George...and no wonder), native to Nemea in Peloponnese, which has seen much investment in wineries over the past 20 years. Fermented in stainless steel, aged in used French barriques for 12 months and six months in bottle.

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