2008 Terracita Tempranillo

2008 Terracita TempranilloPrice: $9.00 @ Pasternak Wines imported by Pasternak Wine

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Feel like dancing the Flamenco, running with the bulls or lounging on the Costa del Sur? Grab a bottle of Terracita, gather your friends and share a little piece of authentic Spain. Terracita is elegant and full bodied, balancing the signature red raspberry flavors of Tempranillo with vanilla and toasted coconut. A solid choice with barbeque spicy sauces and tapas of course.”

What I Think:

This one is made by Bodegas Roqueta and hails from the “region” of Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla which is similar to Vins de Pays designation of France. The “Vinos de la Tierra” designations are, according to Spanish law, a transitional term for areas that can, after 5 years, apply for “Denominación de Origen” status. During this time they benefit from greater freedom than exists under the D.O. system to produce wines as they wish. This gives them leeway in terms of more flexible vineyard management, vinification and aging techniques with more “approved” varietals. The result can be wines that are more innovative and exciting than those of D.O.s. What was the result here? A nice, light wine (which I received as a sample some time back) bursting with bright cherries integrated onto a dry, herbal, earthy backbone with hints of oak, toast and vanilla on the finish. In a word quaffable. Feel free to grab this one whenever that fits the bill.

Rating: 12th Bottle

If you’re interested in another take check out what Rob had to say about this one on the Wine Post.

2008 La Granja Tempranillo

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Evaki

What They Said:

2008 La Granja TempranilloPer the bottle “La Granga 360, means in Spanish “The Farm 360″. It is located in a traditional Tempranillo grape wine growing region in the north of Spain. The little pig is flying because it expresses a song which the Spanish children sing when somebody has asked for something which is impossible to realize, has a dream or says something absurd.

An everyday drinking soft rounded, juicy red wine, with rich ripe raspberry flavors. A great match for barbeque roasted pork chops, spare ribs, sausages, grilled vegetables, and cheeses.”

What I Think:

This one is from the same producer, and the same region, as the company behind the Abrazo label and imported by Evaki who also brings other familiar names such as Condesa de Sarabella and Panilonco to Trader Joe’s. These wines are generally priced in the $5 neighborhood and deliver on that price point. That said, none have had me scrambling back to buy that next bottle. Most leave me with a lingering curiosity of whether the next bottle might be better. In a nutshell, they do just enough to make you think about coming back for more. With that context in mind we cracked the screw cap on this one.

On opening this one was super tight with the acid notes overpowering all else so back went on the cap. I tried it again the following night, what an improvement. The bottle description on this one is extremely accurate, at least the tasting notes I can’t really attest to the rest. On the palate you are greeted with juicy berry/cherry flavors that are met with a dry, herbal component towards the middle that integrates nicely. The finish coats the mouth dry cherry fruits that don’t necessarily last, they just stay. Literally. It leaves you smacking your tongue until you decide to wash them away. I mentioned early most bottles from this imported leave me wondering if the next bottle can be any better, I’m just hoping this one is as good as my first experience as it has the potential to be my favorite Spanish red in recent memory from Trader Joe’s. I’m going to grab a few more bottles; you might want to do the same. I’ll confirm with my 2nd bottle but, as mentioned, be sure to give this one some time (perhaps even overnight) if it starts off wound up a little too tight.

Rating: Buy It

If you’re interested in another take check out what Jeff had to say about this one on Viva la Wino!

2007 Bodegas Luzon Jumilla

2007 Bodegas Luzon JumillaPrice: $6.99 @ K&L Wines imported by The Henry Wine Group

What They Said:

Via wine.com “The 2007 Luzon is 65% Monastrell and 35% Syrah. Purple-colored, it exhibits a bouquet of spice box, violets, and blueberry. On the palate this smooth-textured wine offers generous savory fruit, good balance, and a pure finish. Drink it over the next 2-3 years.” – Wine Advocate (08/08)

Enthusiast’s #1 top value wine of 2008 and 90 points! They write: “Truly captivating wine for under $10? Yes, Luzón’s Monastrell-Syrah blend is exactly that. It delivers huge plum and spice notes, with tobacco, herbs and smoked meat working their way into the game. Remains powerfully fruity and spicy in the mouth, with a long, minty, medicinal finish. Competes with thousands of wines priced higher. Overdelivers by a lot!” (12/15/2008)

From Wine Spectator: “Smoky and inky notes, along with licorice, frame flavors of cassis, mineral and game in this firm, juicy red, which is focused and expressive.” (02/09)

What I Think:

Couple the above praise with the price tag and I’m surprised it took as long as it did for this one to show up on my radar. On opening this wine you know it is no joke. A huge nose filled with black pepper and dark fruits. On the palate it virtually explodes with juicy plum and blackberry flavors that comingle nicely with spice and herb notes in the palate. Towards the end the fruit muscles these to the side and turns slightly tart which leads us into a dry, tannic finish that lingers. Nothing subtle about this one, it beats you over the head.

On a side note, it was interesting to be reading Alice Feiring book, How I Saved the World from Parkerization while drinking this bottle. Guessing this is exactly the type of bottle she had in her crosshairs as she was holding that pen in her hand. While I do fancy the pure, natural wines she advocates for, to me, there is a time and place for these fruit bombs. My only complaint is that there is no reason on earth this bottle should not have been under a screw top. So grab a bottle, make something very hearty (think hamburger or something rich with sauce), pull the cork and enjoy this juicy quaffer.

Rating: Buy It

NV Albero Sparkling White

NV Albero Sparkling WhitePrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per RJ’s Wine Blog “Very nice bubbly for $5, that’s for sure. Nice acidity levels, but still a creamy / buttery finish, with just a touch of lemon and the right amount of crispness. The bubbles are closer to a Prosecco than a champagne, which I really like because I think you can taste the fruit and the wine more with lighter bubbles than with most champagnes. Definitely competes with a $15 – $20 bottle of champagne and much more flavor than most sub-$15 champagnes I’ve tasted. Overall, a great value at $5.”

What I Think:

Having tried both the Monastrell (Mourvedre) and Tempranillo from Albero with lukewarm results this one was on my pass list until I stumbled on RJ’s review mentioned above. On opening the first thing I notice is the lack of bubbles in the glass, as in almost none. On the nose crisp white fruit notes, apple and pears. Simple on the palate, not much flavor at all. The overall structure is yeasty and/or creamy but nothing is happening on top of it. Just a slight hint of citrus/tartness on the finish. Nothing wrong with this one, just better options available. That said, I think this one jsut doesn’t match my palate as the sentiment on this one across the blogsphere as been widely positive.  At 11.5% reminds me of the NV Espiral Vinho Verde from Portugal which checks in at 9%. I prefer that one, with its effervescent quality it reminds me more of a sparkler than a still white wine.

In need of other sparkling recommendations? The Zonin Prosecco is my pick in the more traditional flavor profile style. Another favorite is the Schloss Biebrich Sekt from Germany.

Rating: Skip It

Editor’s Note (05-Jun-2009): Per my comment below I modified this post to reflect that the general impressions of this wine across the internet have been largely positive.

2006 Albero Tempranillo

2006 Albero TempranilloPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Tempranillo Barrica is made by Spain’s Oldest Estate Bottled Winery. Spain’s finest, proudly made with hand selected certified organically grown grapes. Albero Tempranillo Barrica is perfect when enjoying with friends or in giving the gift of wine.” <– thanks for all the helpful information :)

What I Think:

Reading the bottle I find two bits of information for me to start my investigation. The first is to Iranzo Vineyards. Checking the site there is no mention of this offering there. As we learned from the Terrenal Mendoza Cab it could be the case that they are relabeling one of the offerings we see here as the Albero that landed in Trader Joe’s. That is pure speculation of course. The second clue is to Latitude Wines. If anyone from either of these companies is listening I have some advice. Please, I repeat please, never post your web address somewhere (like the bottle!) when you have nothing for me to see on the other end!

Ok, got that off my chest. Now let’s move on to the main event, the wine. As you can see from above the world, nor the winery, has much to say about this one. My friend @oenanist does. He tipped me off to this one via comments and posted a review on cork’d as well. What did I think? On the nose I sensed dark fruit with hints of spice (and possibly some green vegetal) aromas. Sage? Or maybe it was floral, violets? On the palate a nice dose of cherries greeted me that turned a bit sour towards the mid-palate. That was followed by a nice dry finish on the back of the throat that tickled with light tannins. This was night 5, hardly remember day 1 but it seems a lot smoother. Compared to a typical light, juicy Tempranillo this one seems a bit heavier in the mouth and darker in fruit. My verdict, drinkable but not all that memorable. I’d stick with the Raimat over this one but that is just my opinion. Let me know what you think…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Condesa de Sarabella Viura

2007 Condesa de Sarabella ViuraPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Evaki

What They Said:

Per the Importer “Made from ancient low yield viura bush vines planted in the Denomination De Origen high in the mountains of northern spain. It has rich aromas of banana and citrus fruits. Serve as a aperitif or with rice dishes, fish and shellfish.”

What I Think:

Viura was a new grape to me so I did some research. The Wine Info Site was the first stop where I learned this; “In Spain, Macabeo is an important variety for the production of white wine. In Rioja this variety is called Viura.” I paused for a second before moving on as this one is from Catalyud which is a nearby neighbor of Rioja where they apparently use Viura to describe the grape as well. Next, the Wine Geeks clued me in to that “Together with the varietals Parellada and Xarel-lo it is used in the production of the sparkling Spanish wine Cava.”. I dig Cava, cool.

Thoroughly educated I open the bottle. Take a sniff…No banana that’s for sure. Some light fruits on top of notes of grass and hay. On the tongue the initial impression is of Viognier based on the up front viscosity. As we reach the mid palate my thought shifts to a light Sauvignon Blanc which lasts all the way through the citrusy finish. All in all, this wine does not stand up and get noticed and could easily be considered plain. I’ve seen it referred to as a “pleasant little white” which I think is a perfect description. Interested in experiencing something new? Give it a try. Otherwise look elsewhere.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 Bodega Pirineos Mesache Blanco

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Winebow Brands International

What They Said:

Per Wine Advocate “The 2005 Mesache Blanco is an intriguing blend of 35% late-harvested Macabeo, 35% Gewurztraminer, and 30% Chardonnay fermented and aged in stainless steel. Light gold in color, the bouquet of this crisp, refreshing effort is given a lift by the Gewurztraminer component. In addition to the lychees, there is a hint a banana and other tropical fruits. On the palate, this dry, medium-bodied wine is surprisingly ripe, rich, and long. Drink it over the next two years. 2/28/2007″

What I Think:

Wow! Nice stuff! I was shocked here…A very unique mixture that attracted me as something new. This was a winner, a lovely combination. Chard usually leads to my dismay but provided great balance here vs. the sweet, crispness of the gewurzt which introduced the hints of citrus fruits. Amazingly full bodied with a long finish. Like nothing you have ever had before, get some now.

Rating: Bulk Buy

2006 Abrazo Del Toro Carinena Tinto

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Evaki

What They Said:

Per quaffability “First was a new 2006 vintage of the Grenacha Tempranilo blend; like the previously reviewed 2004 and 2005 versions, this is an amazing value with much more in the way of spicy fruit flavors than anybody can expect these days for $3.99 (sometimes it’s $2.99). A great wine for the price.”

What I Think:

After reading about this one over on quaffability I decided to heed John’s advice and pass on the syrah but give this Grenache/Tempranillo (80/20) blend he has been enjoying for years a go. On doing some research I found this wine comes from the far north of Spain from a region named Aragon bordering France and the Pyrenees. I enjoy many of the wines from the French side so this seemed like a good indicator. Other notes of interest include; Calatayud is the big appellation in this region which also includes the sparkling area of Cava.

With carne asada on the menu this seems like the logical answer and it didn’t disappoint. Slightly similar to the Aglianico I had recently enjoyed, I found light red fruit on the nose with hints of spice running along the backbone. A bit on the dry side there were tastes of strawberries that led to a earthy, spicy finish. This is quite a pleasing effort and a wine worth having around for everyday drinking and then some.  I know I’ll be getting more.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Santo Negro Jumilla Monastrell Selection

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Mejia America

What They Said:

Per the winery “Tasting note: It has a violet red cherry color, aromas of red fruit, it is velvety and balanced on the palate, with excellent tannins.”

What I Think:

Given my recent experience with the Carro Tinto Monastrell blend I was encouraged to forage the shelves at Trader Joe’s once again for Spanish gems. This one I had before and wasn’t impressed but given recent events and the price tag I thought it might be worthy of another go. So after dinner one night I thought I would see what it was all about.

At first taste it was terribly sour. I immediately put the cork back in the bottle sour. Spending the night in the bottle it became smoky moving into day two. At this point it was drinkable but still a bit tart on the edges thought the dry finish was pleasing. Day three saw more smokiness and the wine was better, but at this point it had climbed maybe to average. It was almost interesting by the end. Given the price point I was willing to give it some leeway as a 12th bottle but for me it is imperative that these perform as soon as the cork is pulled. Here this wine gets a failing grade warranting a rating of “Skip It”.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Senorio de Barahonda Carro Tinto

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Ole Imports

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “90 points from the Wine Advocate! They say, “The 2005 Carro is an unoaked blend of 50% Monastrell, 20% Tempranillo, 20% Syrah, and 10% Merlot. Medium ruby-colored, it has a lovely perfume of damp earth, pepper, cassis, and blackberry. This is followed by a sumptuous wine with layers of ripe, sweet fruit, excellent balance, and no hard edges which totally belie its ridiculously silly price point. The wine is an awesome value. I had thoughts of a higher score but readers might think I’d lost my mind. The Bellum project, in which Ole Imports is involved, started in 2002. It is dedicated to showing what can be achieved from 100% old-vine Monastrell in the up-and-coming D.O. of Yecla. It goes without saying that the price-to-quality relationship of these wines is extraordinary. 2/28/2007″

This winery owns what amounts to among the oldest Monastrell vineyards in Spain. This rich and mouth-filling red, made from a blend of 50% Monastrell, 20% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo and 10% Merlot, offers that value that is almost our of this world!”

What I Think:

I had a bottle of this Monastrell a few weeks back and was thoroughly impressed so with tacos on the menu it didn’t take me long to choose a wine. Given previous positive experiences I think I built up my expectations, like the summer blockbuster movies, a little too high. That said I quickly moved past some initial let down and found myself once again really enjoying this wine. That dark purple color and chewy texture kept me coming back for more. Even with nary a tannin it still paired nicely with the food. I am ready to go pick up a half case of this one. The shopping list is growing.

Rating: Bulk Buy