Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Picks: Vintages Release -- March 19 2011

Regular readers know that I’m a HUGE fan of Spanish and Portuguese wines. Why?  I love unusual, indigenous Varietals and blends.  The Iberian Peninsula is chock full of them:  Tempranillo (with its many aliases), Alvarinho & Albarino, Viura, Verdejo, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca...all are in the mix this week.  It’s a dream come true!

This week also offers “California Superstars”, a group of 8 wines that, for the most part, are overpriced for what they offer. But if you’re in a mood to splurge, then go for Dominus or Pahlmeyer.

Again this week, nothing organic. Maybe they’re saving up for a theme release?

On the Iberian Trail


1 from Portugal, 3 from Spain...all featuring indigenous grape varieties...

VARANDA DO CONDE ALVARINHO/TRAJADURA 2009, DOC Vinho Verde (Portugal); #966663; Price: $13.95; 12.0% ABV
A blend of Alvarinho (70%) and Trajadura (30%). Alvarinho is the Portuguese name for what the Spanish call Albarino. Trajadura is also an indigenous grape that's used to add weight. Fermented for 10 days. Drink now with some molluscs!

AGRICOLA CASTELLANA CUATRO RAYAS VERDEJO 2009, DO Rueda (Spain); #194787; Price: $14.95; 12.1% ABV
100% Verdejo, the signature grape of Rueda in northern Spain, along the Duero River. Fermented for 21 days in stainless steel vats using native yeasts. Left on its lees for 3 months. No oak. Verdejo is typically herbaceous with minerality, nuttiness (are you out there, Kyle?) and bitterness on the finish. In short, a fabulous wine with seafood.

BERONIA VIURA 2009, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #190801, Price: $13.95; 12.5% ABV
100% Viura, what Riojans call Macabeo, the most common white grape variety in northern Spain. Barrel fermented in French oak, then left on its lees for 5 months. Drink ASAP.

LEIRA ALBARIÑO 2009, DO Rias Baixas (Spain); #115816; Price: $16.95; 12.1% ABV
100% Albariño, the wonderful Varietal from Galicia in northwest Spain, directly north of Portugal. A great spring/summer aperitif.


More indigenous grape varieties...3 from Portugal, 3 from Spain...

CISTUS RESERVA 2007, DOC Douro (Portugal); #145052; Price: $18.95; 14.0% ABV
A blend of Tinta Roriz - aka Tempranillo - (40%), Touriga Franca (40%), and Touriga Nacional (20%), the same grapes used to make Port. Fermented in stainless steel vats. Aged for 15 months in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Ideal with braised meats or blue cheese.

QUINTA NOVA POMARES 2008, DOC Douro (Portugal); #214007; Price: $16.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks for 8 days. Partly aged French and American oak for 4 months. Unfiltered.  Same grapes as the wine listed above, but much less time in oak.  Should make for an interesting contrast.

ENCOSTAS DE ESTREMOZ TOURIGA FRANCA 2004, Vinho Regional Alentejano (Portugal); #190561; Price: $17.95; 14.5% ABV
100% Touriga Franca from Alentejo in southern Portugal. Fermented over 8 days, followed by maceration for 25 days. Aged in new American and French oak barrels for 7 months. Alentejo is a newer wine-producing region in Portugal, still finding its way. In this wine, the producer (SA da Lagarteira) is trying Touriga Franca, which is indigenous to northern Portugal. Worth a try!

EL COTO CRIANZA 2006, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #190504; Price: $14.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Tempranillo from vineyards across Rioja: Baja, Alta, Alavesa. Fermented in stainless steel vats. Aged 12 months in American oak barrels, then 6 months in the bottle before release. Try it with roast chicken.

LEALTANZA RESERVA SELECCIÓN 2004, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #208223; Price: $17.95; 13.5% ABV
100% Tempranillo. Fermented in stainless steel tanks for 15 days, with 20 additional days of maceration. Malolactic fermentation in French oak. Aged for 24 months in second-use French oak, then 6 months in Allier French oak vats, then 12 months in bottle.  Think steak.

VIÑA MAYOR RESERVA 2004, DO Ribera del Duero (Spain); #209155; Price: $25.95; 14.0% ABV
100% Tempranillo. Fermentation on the grape skins; maceration for 21 days. Malolactic fermentation in barrel, then fined. Aged 18 months in French and American oak barrels, then 18 months in bottle.  Lamb chops, anyone?

Off the Beaten Track

A bottle of red, a bottle of white...

BOLLINI PINOT GRIGIO 2009, DOC Trentino (Italy); #951319; Price: $16.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Pinot Grigio from Trentino in northeast Italy, where Pinot Grigio has a chance to shine. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, left on its lees and skins for 4 months.

HENRY OF PELHAM RESERVE BACO NOIR 2008, VQA Niagara Peninsula; #461699; Price: $24.95; 13.5% ABV
100% Baco Noir, a hybrid grape variety (crossing a Vitis Vinifera with a Vitis Riparia). Baco Noir is generally not highly regarded except for the efforts of one producer: Henry of Pelham, whose efforts are very impressive. Aged in new, one-, and two-year-old American oak for 15 months. Definitely a winter wine but no rush, it can age a few more years.

Bonus Pick!

PISCO SOLDEICA, DO Ica (Peru); #214106; Price: $29.95; 40.6% ABV
Pisco Puro, the famous brandy from Peru! Made from 100% Quebranta grape variety. Fermented, then immediately distilled. Aged for 3 years in stainless steel before bottling. Consume it neat (as any other brandy) or in a Pisco Sour. Careful…it packs a wallop!  Trust me.  Click here for my tour of a Peruvian Pisco plant.

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