2009 Bodegas Vinae Mureri Xiloca

2008 Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Blanc - SemillonPrice: $9.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Classical Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Located just outside of the Calatayud D.O. (famous for Las Rocas, amongst other inexpensive Garnachas), Xiloca actually reminds me of the incredible value these wines presented about 10 or so years ago: big, juicy, spicy, plump berry fruit, without the sense of overt fruitiness nor dumbed down to simplicity, which unfortunately has become very common in many Spanish (and French) Garnachas of late. Produced from vines averaging 80 years, yielding only 1/3 ton per acre (!), in arguably one of the world’s best suited terroirs for Garnacha, this wine offers a whole lot for the money. Highly recommended.” (Joe Manekin, K&L Spanish Wine Buyer)

What I Think:

(14%) 100% Grenache – Picked this one up after receiving an email offer from K&L Wines. Rich, earthy nose loaded with cherries. On the palate this one is rich, lush and juicy but yet balanced. Nice spice and berry fruit but backed by a mineral, rocky acidity that adds dimension to this wine. Very enjoyable with nice layers of complexity and an earthy finish that goes on and on. Granted I’m a sucker for Grenache but at $10 this is a gem! Just bought 3 more bottles…

Rating: Buy It

Wine Geek Notes: Imported by Classical Wines; Produced from vines averaging 80 years; Yields managed to only 1/3 ton per acre

2010 Bodegas Muga Rioja Blanco

2010 Bodegas Muga Rioja BlancoPrice: $13.00 via Bodegas Muja*

What They Said:

Per Wine Library “The 2010 Blanco is a blend of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia fermented in new French oak where it remained sur lie for 4 months. White flowers, mineral, melon, and mineral notes inform the nose of this tasty, lively, impeccably balanced wine. This lengthy effort is an outstanding value for drinking over the next 3-4 years.” – 90 Points, Jay Miller The Wine Advocate

What I Think:

(13%) 90% Viura, 10% Malvasia – Ripe, lifted citrus blossoms on the nose. Fuller bodied, juicy and lush on the palate with peach, tangerine and melon flavors. Turns a bit oily with a mineral driven acidity before the oak imparts a pleasant vanilla creaminess which leads to a tart, spiced, finish that lingers nicely. An interesting use of oak (this one is barrel-fermented) as it is clearly present but interplays well with the vibrant, ripe fruit. The end result is a wine that strikes a nice balance between the fruit, richness and acidity. At $13 or so retail this one shows some nice QPR.

Wine Geek Notes: 90pts Wine Advocate, 88pts Wine Spectator

Rating: Interesting (this one had a unique appeal that I look forward to trying again)

*This wine was received as a press sample.

2010 Blanco Nieva Verdejo

My summer Top 10 list rolls on with yet another new grape. Verdejo. For many years Verdejo was used to make an oxidized Sherry-like wine until the 1970′s when Marqués de Riscal paved a new path for a more refreshing offering. A decade later, in the 80′s, these were recognized with DO status and another three decades after that I am first experiencing them. What did I think?

Price: $16.99 @ Vinos Unico imported by Vinos Unico

What They Said:

2010 Blanco Nieva VerdejoPer The Spanish Table “Blanco Nieva is a classic Rueda region white wine made from the indigenous Verdejo grape. Crisp, bright and refreshing, this tank fermented wine will work as a stand alone refresher on a hot day as well as during a meal where it will pair well with salads, egg dishes and all manner of seafood. The vines that produce the fruit for this wine are quite old (40+ years). Some of the vines are planted on original root stock that still thrives in this region thanks to the sandy soils that resisted the phylloxera. blight of the previous century. To taste this wine is to experience the true flavor of Northern Spain.”

What I Think:

(12.5%) 100% Verdejo – Yellowish with a green hue in the glass. What a nose on this beauty! Intense grassy, grapefruit aromas. This one is immediately fresh, crisp and vibrant on the palate with bright, zesty lime flavors over a stony, mineral backbone. Passion fruit emerges on the mid-palate and remains throughout the dry, refreshing finish. This wine isn’t shy. It will smack you over the head and you are going to like what you get. The firm acidity here makes this one a compliment for nearly any food (ceviche would be my first choice). It is also perfectly suited to drink on its own. Pair with a sunny day! I’m getting me some more of this one. Viva Verdejo!

Rating: Wow!

While I’m a big fan of this one it may be a bit hard to find. If you’re itching to try your first Verdejo I’ve also enjoyed the Shaya which seems to be more widely available.

2006 Chapillon Priorat Reves

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

2006 Chapillon Priorat RevesPer Trader Joe’s (pdf) “Tenacity and grace—that’s Priorat. This small region, southeast of Barcelona, is known for its steep hillsides, hot days and unforgiving, slate-based soils (known locally as licorella). Cultivated since the Carthusian monks in the Middle Ages, this formidable terroir, now a Spanish Denominació d’Origen Qualificada (DOQ1), gives rise to grapes that are equal parts perseverance and elegance. Their juice is surreal: intense and stunningly structured with soft tannins. Experience it in Rêves.”

What I Think:

(14%) 40% Carignan, 35% Garnacha, 25% Syrah – Dense and dark in the glass. Aromatically interesting with dark fruit, sweet cigarbox, spice and graphite notes. Supple and dense (again) on entry with tart blackberry flavors this one shows slight creaminess and vanilla on the mid-palate before leading to a short, dry leathery finish with mild tannins. On open it seemed overly oaked but this blew off with time. This wine showed nice structure and balanced throughout. Certainly an interesting find for $9.

Rating: Buy It – This wine might not be for all but if you like a dry, rich, dense wine or are comfortable trying something new at this price point it is worth giving this one a shot.

For those willing to spend just a bit more Joe over at Good Cheap Vino recommends the 2003 Les Mines Priorat which you can pick up as part of the 5 cent sale at BevMo for $12.52 a bottle. Joe has this to say; “This bottle is severely under-priced and could easily take on bottles that are $40-$50.” and compared it to the Reves as so “for $4 more, the Les Mines Priorat 2003 is 20 times better”. I know I am going to try and track a bottle down and you may want to do the same…

Vina Valoria Rioja Flight with Vinos Unico

Vina Valoria Rioja Tasting MenuNow those of you that know Luis Moya (the founder of Vinos Unico) know that he is tireless. Be it touring on the 25 grapes bus, looking for new wineries to add to his portfolio or making more of his own wine he is always up to something… I’m guessing his friend knew the same when he decided to store the Vinfinity wine vacuum system in his garage while he looked for a new home for it here on the west coast. It didn’t take Luis long to start thinking about how he could put it to use. And boy aren’t we glad he did!

So what did he come up with? How about a flight of Rioja spanning 4 decades? How about being able to taste the whole flight for ~$25? You can count me in! As I’ve yet to find my wine sugar daddy with that well stocked cellar that is looking for an apprentice to teach, if you are out there do leave a comment ;), I rarely get to taste aged wines. Given that we had two on offer here the pre-dated my birth and this was certainly quite the unique opportunity. The best news for those local to the bay area? This wasn’t a one and done event. These will be on offer at Sabor of Spain in San Rafael (tasting menu above) through the end of the year. A perfect way to treat yourself during the holiday week! If you do make it out there or have had these wines before I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And now to my notes starting with the white…

  • 2004 Viña Valoria Viura Rioja Crianza – (12.5%) 100% Viura – Dry and medium bodied with lively acidity and crisp apple and lemon flavors. The mid-palate shows a firm mineral structure with an interesting beeswax overtone. This one sees some neutral American oak which integrates nicely on the finish with hints of spice. Definitely a food friendly offering this one would go well with some seafood off the grill. If you aren’t familiar with the style of Rioja Blanco this one can serve as a classic introduction…

And now (via photo) allow me to introduce the reds…

Vina Valoria Rioja Flight with Vinos Unico
  • 2005 Viña Valoria Rioja – (12.5%) 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, and 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) – Medium colored with meaty notes, a bit of musty oak and loads of dark fruit, mint and spice on the nose. Juicy cranberry flavors greet you on the palate with nice acidity. The mid-palate is dry and leather with some tannic bite around the edges. The finish is warm and comforting. This one would have showed better had it been paired with food and will very likely improve with a few more years in the bottle.
  • 1992 Viña Valoria Rioja Gran Reserva – (12.5) 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, and 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) – Medium red in color at its core this one turns orange around the edges. Such a fantastic nose with layered subtleties I could smell this one for hours. Light to medium bodied this one is classic Rioja with dried cherry and cranberry flavors. From there a tart, acidic structure emerges with underlying mineral notes that keep this one nicely balanced throughout. The finish here shows pepper, sage and nice tingly tannins. Smooth, round and delicious! I hope to encounter another glass, or better yet bottle, of this on sometime soon…
  • 1973 Viña Valoria Rioja – (12.5) 70% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano, and 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) – More fruit on the nose here than the ’92 but much less complexity on the palate and almost lacking in acidity. This one comes across as one dimensional and a bit flat. My thought was that it was beyond its peak but according to those in the know it is more likely this one has just shut down for a while and will be back to drinking well sometime soon. Based on others tasting notes it appears that may indeed be the case…
  • 1968 Viña Valoria Rioja – (12.5) 70% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano, and 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) – Brick red at its core turning to orange on the edges. A nice nose, reminiscent of the ’92 but much more subtle belying its age. Delicate on the palate this one showed layered flavors (meat, mushroom and more) on the palate with a soft acidity and mellow dark fruit on a smooth, lasting finish. Still so vibrant if you tasted blind you’d likely guess it was six years old before the 40+ years old it is…

And there you have it! In retrospect the two things I remember the most are the nose of the ’92 and the youth of the ’68. Hopefully I can make it over there to experience these one more time before they disappear. As mentioned above, if you do the same let me know your thoughts…

2007 Viña Honda Monastrell Jumilla

Price: $9.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Grapes of Spain

What They Said:

2007 Viña Honda Monastrell Jumilla90 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The 2007 Vina Honda Monastrell (100% varietal) was raised in stainless steel tanks. Purple-colored, it offers up a fragrant nose of underbrush, mineral, spice box, and blueberry. Layered, mouth-filling, and succulent, this forward effort will offer much pleasure over the next four years.” This monastrell is amongst the best I have tasted this year. Warm plum aromas, with hints of pomegranate and a trace of a spicy, pungent root vegetable quality, lead to a terrific mouthful of inexpensive red wine. Intense pomegranate, cherry and cranberry fruits show plenty of presence and purity. A great deal in everyday drinking red.

What I Think:

(13.5%) 100% Monastrell (or Mourvèdre) – Ruby at its core and thins to garnet on the edges. This one shows cherries with green peppercorn and clove notes on a slightly sweet nose. The wine starts medium bodied with juicy red currant and cherry flavors. A mineral component emerges along with a nice acidity and notes of cedar which keep this well balanced and smooth throughout. The finish is short and slightly sweet with an oak driven creaminess and hints of pepper that lead to a lingering tannic finish. Despite the finish being on the shorter side this is an lively, appealing wine that is well structured and at $10 delivers fair value for the price point.

Rating: Pricey

Summer Stash: Revisting the Port4lio Tasting 2010

While I’m at home working on this post Luis (@VinosUnico) & Frank (@BlueDanubeWine) are busy driving the #25grapes bus all over California. Tonight they are in San Francisco which means I am decidedly in the wrong place. What is this #25grapes tasting you ask? You won’t come across your “ordinary” grapes here but rather a bunch you have likely never heard of (take a look), such as Bical, Maria Gomes, Crljenak Kastelanski and Irsai Oliver. Luckily for me I was able to join them for their Port4lio Tasting back in May and have been revisiting a handful of those wines throughout the summer. Which ones? Glad you asked…

a few Portuguese whites...

You’ll see two bottles of the Trajarinho (my review) but I think I drank more like a hundred. A perfect summer wine; ‘nuff said! The Muralhas ( my review of the ‘05) is a more refined version of Vinho Verde; just as crisp and refreshing but more structured and better fit to pair with a meal. a few reds...

The Urbanite Redart is another of my summer favorites and a wine I often recommend. Here is the review I posted to Grape Stories ; “(13.8%) 40% Cabernet, 30% Syrah and 20% Zinfandel – Big juicy blackberry fruit up front on a creamy vanilla backbone. Seems like it may go over the top but a solid dose of acidity kicks in to help maintain the balance and manage the plush, rich fruit. A smooth and pleasing full flavored wine with a warm, toasty finish showing hints of barrel spice that linger on nicely for some time. Nice depth/complexity for the price point!”
a few from off the beaten path...

The Hilltop (11%) shows a nice, light stony nose with peach notes. Light bodied with a firm mineral backbone and lemon stone fruits on the back of the palate. I found it clean, simple and pleasing. A perfect match for a sunny day. The Dingac (12%) is a light, juicy red that can be paired with meals where you might more traditionally reach for a white. That said it is lively and has enough acidity to stand up to the pasta I enjoyed with this one. The Crnko Jarenincan (1L, 11%) is floral driven and off sweet in texture with nice acidity. A pleasant, refreshing wine that though hailing from Slovenia enlists the common suspects in this blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. A fine quaffer with a pop top to boot…

There you have it. Have you had any of these? Any similar favorites to share? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

* I paid for all these wines with real American dollars though Luis at Vinos Unico did hook me up at wholesale cost. Thanks Luis!

2006 Campo Viejo Tempranillo Crianza

2006 Campo Viejo Tempranillo CrianzaPrice: $9.99 imported by Pernod Richard

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “This blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo is an intense ruby red wine with aromas of black fruit and vanilla. Velvety and elegant, it’s an old world wine with a new world attitude, and it is downright addictive with roasts and firm cheeses.”

What I Think:

Given I’ve been having a rough patch with Tempranillo of late when I was offered the opportunity to sample this Campo Viejo which is the gold standard for a value offering in this category I didn’t hesitate to accept. Random aside, do you know what Crianza indicates? I didn’t but Wikipedia did. Spanish wines are often labeled based on their ageing. The three most common designations are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Crianza is aged two year with a minimum of six months in oak, Reserva three years with a full year in oak and Gran Reserva five years with eighteen months in oak. That requirement for two years of ageing makes this 2006 the current release from Campo Viejo. There some wine trivia for you. Now let’s get back to the wine.

Dark fruit and spices on the nose with barrel notes omnipresent throughout. This wine is warm and comforting on the palate with soft cherry and floral notes. It almost reminds me of wrapping up in a familiar blanket on a cold winter (or San Francisco summer) night. The mid palate shows a firm acidity to keep this one nicely balanced before giving way to a creamy vanilla finish laden with barrel notes and sour cherries. A simple, enjoyable wine that it is widely available and better yet affordable. Given that you can always consider this a safe choice when you have paella (or a simple BBQ dish) on the menu. Also a great place to start if you’ve yet to try Tempranillo. How about you? Anyone out there have a favorite Tempranillo of their own to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Rating: 12th Bottle

*as indicated above this wine was indeed received as a sample

2005 Monte Ducay Cariñena Reserva

2005 Monte Ducay Cariñena ReservaPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per Bodegas San Valero (on the ’06) “Beautiful morello cherry colour, with brick red sparkles. Fragrant and delicate in the nose. Refined bouquet, rich and well balanced. The aftertaste is long and persistent.”

What I Think:

As mentioned in a previous post this one has some interesting packaging as it comes wrapped in brown paper. From a marketing perspective I’m not sure how that would have affected me but we will never know as buying this one was a foregone conclusion based on a mostly positive review by Jeff over at Viva la Wino!. Funny enough like him I ripped the wrapper offer expecting to find something underneath but alas no. Either way, no matter. Let’s get to what’s in the bottle.

This one is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon (special shout out to Æsop for tracking that one down!) On opening you get all wood on the nose with the only exception being some barrel spices that manage to sneak through. The palate starts with an overpowering herbal acidity which takes a moment to reveal some sour, under ripe cherry flavors that come across on a juicy backbone before leading to a hot finish. This wine becomes more approachable with time showing some dark fruit aromas on the nose and remnants of the same on the finish. This leaves me in somewhat of a conundrum as initially I almost hated it but found a trace of enjoyment towards the finish. Couple that with the fact that others have liked it and perhaps I’ll give it another try but not likely. If I do, one thing is for sure I’ll be giving it lots of air and pairing it with strong foods or cheeses. Hoping for better I tried the 2008 Darien Tempranillo ($6) the same night and that one didn’t work for me either.

So how about you? Have you had any Spanish wines you’ve enjoyed lately? If so let me know in the comments below. I look forward to hearing!

Rating: 12th Bottle

1999 Luna Beberide Tinto

Price: $19.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Grapes of Spain

What They Said:

1999 Luna Beberide Tinto VdT Castilla y LeonPer K&L Wines “This is an incredibly rare, fully mature, Spanish gem. Produced from the steep, slate, terraced vineyards of Bierzo by Spain’s legendary Mariano Garcia (while he was still making wine at Vega Sicilia!), here is a beautiful example of a perfectly aged Spanish wine that has developed quite beautifully in bottle. Produced from 40% Cabernet, 30% Merlot and 30% Mencia, think of it as a supple, balanced, old school styled Bordeaux blend with a Castillian twist. Savory cherry, hints of sage leaf, green and black peppercorn and an unmistakable character of mature Cabernet family aromas (many people liken Mencia to Cabernet Franc, which completes this Graves style blend) make for one gorgeous bottle of wine. And Mariano Garcia made it at the same time he was busy working on Vega Sicilia “Unico,” which is a good few hundred dollars more. For fans of good, honest affordable bordeaux and old school California Cabs, this K&L exclusive could be right up your alley.”

What I Think:

Given I have a case of the ’05 in the cellar I had to take the opportunity to see how this one might age. This bottling, an interesting blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 30% Mencia, is the Spanish version of Bordeaux and seems it may be worthy of a name of its own (e.g Super Tuscan). Perhaps we should let the wine decide…

On the nose it shows gorgeous dark fruit and herbs. The palate shows dry cherries and black olives (with a hint of rhubarb) that frame themselves with a dry, cedar backbone. The finish shows this wines age with perfectly integrated tannins and spices that last and last. For those sensitive this wine may be overly dry but I still find it to be smooth, silky, and elegant. If you missed the chance to try the ’99 K&L Wines just sent me an email to let me know the 2000 (which they described as “more muscular, ageworthy, and a bit more impressive” is now in stock. I already added a bottle to my cart, hope it can deliver on their promise!

Thanks to Viva La Wino for tipping me off to this one! You can find his thoughts here.

Rating: Wow!