Tag Archives: Tempranillo

Codorniu Raventos

Rioja vs Ribera del Duero: A Tale of Two Tempranillos

Can you taste the difference between Tempranillo from Rioja and Ribera del Duero in a blind tasting?

The question was posed to a group of wine professionals last week. We had gathered at St. Cecilia in Buckhead for a lunch and tasting with two Spanish winemakers: Diego Pinilla of Bodegas Bilbainas in Rioja and Jorge Bombin of Legaris in Ribera del Duero. The wineries are part of the Codorníu Raventós group.

Both winemakers offered a glass of what they felt was the characteristic Tempranillo of their region. They then offered a brief history of their winery and how the location affects the Tempranillo grape, to assist us in guessing each wine.

Spain wine mapBodegas Bilbainas is located in the city of Haro in Rioja Alta (within the darker shaded portion in orange on the map). It was established in 1901, and was the first bottler in Rioja. With the Atlantic Ocean 100 miles to the north, the vineyards are influenced by the Atlantic climate. Clay soils give the vines water little by little, and mountains protect the vineyards from getting too cold.

Legaris is located along the Duero River in the Ribera del Duero region (within the darker shaded portion in yellow). It was established in 1999, bringing together tradition and innovation. The vineyards are planted at an average elevation of 2800 feet, and are influenced by a harsh continental climate with hot summers and low rainfall. Pebble soils reflect the sunlight back towards the vines.

Based on the terroir and growing conditions, Tempranillo from Rioja is typically higher in acidity with floral and red fruit notes. Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is typically higher in alcohol content with black fruit notes.

Then it was time for the blind tasting. After knowing what differences to look for in the wines – acidity, alcohol and fruit – it was clear that the wine on our left was from Rioja, and the wine on the right was from Ribera del Duero.

The wines were revealed: Viña Pomal 2010 Reserva from Bodegas Bilbainas and Legaris 2011 Crianza.

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rose wines

Five Rosé Wines to Enjoy this Summer

The summer of rosé is in full swing! It’s an international love affair, with rosé wine being made around the world from a variety of different grapes.

Try one of these AG picks tonight:

Cune RosadoCune Rosado Rioja 2013
Rioja Alta, Spain

From CVNE (pronounced Coo-nay), a family owned and operated winery founded in 1879 in Haro, Rioja, this dry rosé is 100% Tempranillo. Produced using the saignée or bleeding method, the juice was removed from the grape skins and seeds after around 24 to 48 hours, resulting in a magenta-pink color. Floral aromas introduce flavors of strawberry, tart cherry and red currant.
$14, 14% alcohol by volume

Esporao Defesa RoséEsporão Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2013
Alentejo, Portugal

Established in 1973, Herdade do Esporão is a family-owned estate and winery that takes its name from the tower on the property that is thought to have been built between 1457 and 1490. This rosé is a blend of Aragonez and Syrah. The grapes underwent pneumatic pressing after a short period of skin contact. Bright pink in color with berry aromas, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry and Victoria plum, with a hint of mint on the refreshing finish.
$15, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Bridge Lane RoséBridge Lane Rosé 2013
North Fork of Long Island, New York

This wine comes from Lieb Cellars, founded in 1992 on Long Island’s North Fork. Lieb was the first winery on Long Island to plant Pinot Blanc, which has become their signature wine and makes up part of the blend in the Bridge Lane rosé. The 2013 wine is 63% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 8% Pinot Blanc, 5% Riesling and 3% Gewurztraminer. Light and easy to drink with a pretty pale pink color, the wine has flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and rose petal.
$18, 11.9% alcohol by volume

Cape Bleue RoséJean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2013
Provence, France

The grapes for this wine from the noted French winemaker come from hilly vineyards near Salon de Provence, an area influenced by the nearby Mediterranean Sea.  It is a blend of 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvedre, and was made using the saignée method. Salmon-pink in color,  the aromatic wine will transport you to the South of France. Flavors of ripe strawberry, red cherry and rose are layered with subtle fennel and white pepper notes.
$14, 12.5% alcohol by volume

Houchart RoséDomaine Houchart Rosé 2013
Provence, France

Bought in 1890 by Aurélien Houchart, the 90 hectare estate near Aix-en-Provence and the foot of Mont Sainte Victoire has been consistently farmed since Roman times. Today it is owned by the Quiot Family and run by Geneviève Quiot, Aurélien’s great granddaughter. This Côtes de Provence rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This crowd-pleaser is pale peachy-pink in color, with delicate flavors of strawberry, loganberry and watermelon that culminate in a crisp finish.
$11, 12% alcohol by volume


Surprising Lake County Wines

By Maxine Howard

What is so surprising about Lake County wines? The surprise is that they’re interesting, well-made, and reasonably priced.

Twenty-one wineries from Lake County (just north and east of Napa) showed off their recent vintages at a tasting in San Francisco in September. We only had a chance to sample about a third of the offerings, but came away with a desire to visit Lake County to explore others.

The whites had a light touch. Sauvignon Blancs predominated but there were some lightly oaked Chardonnays. The reds exhibited bold flavors and nuances created by some interesting variety combinations.

Langtry Estate and Vineyards had one of our favorite white wines. The 2011 Guenoc Sauvignon Blanc was made from the Musque clone, from the Loire Valley, so it had some characteristics of a Sancerre. It showed terrific fruit at the start, continued with hints of the minerality you would find in its French cousins, and finished with dry grapefruit notes. At $16 a bottle it seems like a great option.

Among the red wines offered, Rosa D’Oro had two interesting bottles. The 2010 Primitivo (Italian Zinfandel) was a full-bodied wine with ripe berry flavors and the peppery accent you would expect from a Zinfandel. It is priced at $20. The 2010 Aglianico (an Italian variety related to Cabernet) was a substantial mouthful. The fruit was well balanced, there was a bit of earthiness, and the firm tannins should allow it to age well. It costs $24 a bottle.

Steele Wines showed off an interesting blend called Outcast Red ($22), which included Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Petit Verdot. The bold, dark fruits were balanced nicely by earthy tones for a spectacular taste.

Another fascinating blend was a joint production of Shannon Ridge Winery and Vigilance Winery. The 2010 Dalliance ($19.99) is a blend of Zinfandel, Barbera, Syrah, Tempranillo and Grenache. It lures you with a spectacular deep color and aromas of blackberry and cherry. Here again, the blending of grapes with varying characteristics results in a complex, full-bodied wine with balanced fruit, a mellow taste and a dry finish.

Lake County wineries produce small quantities each year that are not as widely distributed as their better-known counterparts from Napa. But if you can find them you will discover they are well made and worth a taste.

For more information visit the Lake County Winery Association at www.lakecountywineries.org.

images from the Lake County Winery Association’s Facebook page

Numanthia: Bold Red Wines from Toro

By Robin Alix Austin

With a name like Toro, you’d expect this region in Spain to produce big and bold wines. That’s one element of the wines of Numanthia – red wines that have intense dark fruit flavors and massive tannic structure. Yet these wines also have elegance and finesse, a bull and a matador coming together in a show of artistry.

The matador of Numanthia is Manuel Louzada, a winemaker who is able to reel in, tame and refine the Tinta de Toro grape. This is a variation of Tempranillo that has adapted to the hot climate of Toro. Compared to Tempranillo, Tinta de Toro has thicker skin and a darker color.

Toro is located northwest of Madrid in the western area of Castile and Léon. It has a continental climate with long, hot summers and little rain. In Toro harvesting grapes at just the right time is extremely important for preserving the fresh fruit flavors and maintaining an appropriate alcohol content in the wine. As harvest approaches, Manuel tastes the grapes every two to three days to determine when they are ready to be picked.

Manuel shared a taste of Numanthia’s current releases while in town for the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Numanthia was one of the few non-American wineries and the only Spanish winery participating in the weekend of wine events.

Numanthia was founded in 1998 and pays tribute to the area’s heroic past. The estate took its name from the towns of Numancia and Tiermes, whose people resisted Roman invasion in 134 BC by preferring death to surrender. Numanthia’s vines are strong too, resisting the Phylloxera outbreak that devastated Europe’s vineyards in the late 1800s.

During the High Museum Wine Auction, Numanthia’s wine held its own among the numerous full-bodied Napa Cabernets. All made entirely from Tinta de Toro grapes, these are wines so intense and mouth-filling you’ll almost want to chew them before you swallow.

The first wine Manuel shared was the 2009 Termes, made with grapes that were harvested from 30 to 50 year old vines. The wine spent 16 months in oak barrels.

Manuel’s aim with the Termes was to capture the lively and fresh fruit that he tasted in the vineyards. Deep magenta in color, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry, plum and fig layered with cinnamon, vanilla and tobacco. Chewy tannins give the wine a pleasant weight in the mouth.

The second wine Manuel shared was the 2008 Numanthia. The grapes for this wine came from 60 to 100 year old vines. The wine spent two years in new French oak barrels and another year in bottles before it was released.

With this wine you still find the fresh fruit of the Termes but it is enhanced by additional flavors of white pepper, molasses, cloves, dark chocolate, black tea and licorice. The texture is just as intense as the flavor, with sweet tannins and a crushed velvet mouthfeel.

The final wine was a showstopper. Speaking about the 2008 Termanthia Manuel said, “I feel honored to make a wine like this.”

The grapes for the Termanthia came from vineyards that were planted between 1870 and 1890. Manuel used delicate winemaking techniques to produce this wine including destemming by hand and “pisado,” stomping the grapes by foot during fermentation. The skins were so thick, said Manuel, that the men were able to stand at the top of the vats without their feet sinking in.

The wine went through two series of aging in new French oak barrels, spending a total of 20 months in oak.

The 2008 Termanthia is a wine you could spend hours describing. Complex aromas of blackberry, cedar, cocoa and spice expand and evolve on the palate. Layers of black cherry, cassis, clove, mocha, truffle and vanilla add depth, while delicate flavors of rose and violet add elegance. Concentrated yet silky tannins give the wine a lively mouthfeel, and the finish has long lingering notes of black fruit and spice.

This is the kind of wine that makes you crave a steak – and demands the finest dry aged cut. It’s a wine you want to sip all evening, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the intricate flavors and how it changes over time in the glass.

To learn more about Numanthia visit www.numanthia.com.

This is part of a series of articles on wines from the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Click here to read more.

Colorado Wine: Bookcliff Vineyards

Before I could leave Colorado I had to try some of the state’s wine.  There are more than 40 wineries in Colorado but unfortunately I only had the chance to check out one.  Fortunately it was a good one: Bookcliff Vineyards.

Bookcliff Vineyards was founded in 1999 by husband and wife John Garlich and Ulla Merz.  Their 33 acre vineyard is located in an area of western Colorado known as “the Vinelands,” a place where grapes were grown in the early 1900s.

The tasting room is located inside their fermentation and bottling facility, a relatively small warehouse in North Boulder.  When I walked inside I was greeted by Justin Jannusch, Bookcliff’s assistant winemaker who also led the tasting.  It was intimate and informal, the perfect atmosphere for enjoying a tasting.

Bookcliff grows 10 varietals (Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Muscat Blanc, Orange Muscat, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Black Muscat), and has an impressive range of wines for its size.  In the tasting room I had a hard time narrowing down the choice of wines to taste among the 16 offered.

I decided to start with two whites.  The 2008 Viognier ($16) was a delicious introduction to Colorado wines.  Flavors of lime and honeydew give way to a clean finish that had just a hint of spice.  Next was the 2008 Riesling ($14), sweet yet light with notes of green apple and a crisp finish.

Moving on to the reds, my first wine was the 2004 Merlot ($14).  With its fresh red fruit flavors, it reminded me of the Merlot from Long Island that I enjoyed during my trip to the North Fork.  Next I really liked Friday’s Folly ($11), an upbeat red blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah), that has bright cherry and plum flavors.  It’s smooth and very easy to drink, making it a great wine for pizza or pasta.

I was almost surprised at how much I enjoyed the 2008 Tempranillo ($25).  It has lively flavors of cherry and red plum rounded out by cedar and vanilla.

My favorite of Bookcliff’s reds was the 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($25).  Raspberry, black cherry and plum flavors finish with a hint of smoke and spice.  Gentle tannins give the wine a smooth mouthfeel.  Like all of Bookcliff’s reds, this wine is very versatile and can pair with a variety of meat and pasta dishes.

I ended the tasting with the Finali ($20), a port-style dessert wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes.  Fruit forward with some spiciness and sweet without being syrupy, this wine goes well with dessert or on its own.

As I was savoring the wines Justin gave me a tour of the facility, showing me everything from the crusher and destemmer to the bottle labeling and corking machines.  It was nice making a personal connection to the winemaking process at Bookcliff, and it really enhanced my tasting experience.  I definitely recommend visiting the tasting room or vineyard, or pick up one of their wines if you travel to Colorado.

For more information on Bookcliff Vineyards visit bookcliffvineyards.com.

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AG Pick Under $15: 2000 Ribereno Tempranillo

Spanish Tempranillo can be a tough varietal for some red wine drinkers.  Its flavors range from bright red fruits to earth and spice, to strong and musty barnyard notes.  If those last flavors have turned you off to Tempranillo, the 2000 Ribereño Tempranillo will get you to come back.

Ribereno TempranilloRibereño Tempranillo is from Ribera del Duero in north central Spain.  It’s made with 100% Tempranillo grapes and aged for 4 months in American oak.

The 2000 Ribereño Tempranillo has a nice balance of fruit and rustic Old World characteristics.  For a wine that costs less than $15, it’s surprisingly lush and layered.

Aromas of red fruits and spice introduce flavors of plum, raspberries and dried cherries.  These give way to earthy notes of cinnamon, tobacco and a hint of cedar.  Well-integrated tannins give the wine a silky mouthfeel and make it easy to drink.  The finish is lingering and pleasant.

The 2000 Ribereño Tempranillo is a food-friendly wine that works well with a variety of grilled meats and tomato-based dishes.  Pair it with chicken, pork, lamb, beef and stews.

A bottle of the 2000 Ribereño Tempranillo costs around $11.

Bodegas Farina Returns to the U.S.

For years the wines of Bodegas Fariña have been one of Spain’s best kept secrets.  But now the winery that put Toro on the map as an important wine making region is returning to the United States.

Manuel FarinaLast month I had the opportunity to meet winemaker Manuel Fariña and taste several of the current releases.  Mr. Fariña, who inherited the winery from his father in the late 1960s, comes across as friendly and passionate about winemaking.  His somewhat reserved demeanor hides his truly impressive achievements.  Mr. Fariña is considered the founding father of the Toro wine region and played a key role in the region’s modernization.  He was the first to install stainless steel fermentation tanks, the first to implement temperature-controlled fermentation and the first to use a destemmer.  Mr. Fariña also moved up the grape harvest by one month to September, which resulted in more elegant wines with lower alcohol levels (13% to 13.5% instead of 17% monsters).

Today Mr. Fariña and his son Bernardo produce wines that celebrate Toro’s native grape: Tinta de Toro.  You’ll know it elsewhere in Spain as Tempranillo.  In tasting Bodegas Fariña’s wine, it’s interesting to see how the flavor of Tinta de Toro can vary dramatically with oak and aging.

Colegiata whiteThough Bodegas Fariña primarily produces red wines (as do other wineries in Toro), its white wine shouldn’t be overlooked.  The Colegiata White is 100% Malvasia.  It’s a perfect Miami wine — aromatic and refreshing, ideal for sipping outside on a hot evening.  Crisp flavors of green apple and white peach are balanced with mineral notes and lively acidity.  It’s a nice match for seafood, salads and soft cheeses.

The Colegiata Rosado is the bridge between Bodegas Fariña’s whites and reds.  It’s made from 100% Tinta de Toro.  The skins remain in the juice for 12 hours, giving the wine a deep pink color.  The Colegiata Rosado is a rosé for red wine drinkers.  Packed with strawberry and raspberry flavors, it tastes more like a light red wine.  It pairs nicely with seafood, salads and white meats.

The Colegiata Tinta de Toro displays all the characteristics of the Tinta de Toro grape.  Like the white and rosé, it is fermented in stainless steel tanks.Gran Colegiata Barrica This fruit-driven wine is bursting with red fruit flavors.  Juicy cherries, raspberries and strawberries are enhanced by good acidity and soft tannins.  This wine is very versatile and is a nice alternative to Pinot Noir.  Pair this with meat dishes, pasta and cheese.

For a more sophisticated red, try the Gran Colegiata Barrica.  It’s 100% Tinta de Toro from approximately 30 year old vines and is aged for four months in 50% French oak and 50% American oak.  The wine is elegant and well balanced with ripe berry flavors and a hint of violet.  Subtle oak flavors give the wine extra complexity.  The Gran Colegiata Barrica pairs nicely with grilled chicken, lamb and beef.

Gran Colegiata CampusThe crème de la crème of Bodegas Fariña is the Gran Colegiata Campus.  It’s 100% Tinta de Toro handpicked from pre-phylloxera vines that are between 70 and 140 years old.  The wine spends 15 months in 50% premium new French oak and 50% premium American oak.  The final product is a muscular yet elegant wine with a lush, three dimensional taste that you’ll want to savor for a long time.  Intense flavors of cherry, plum and raspberry mix with licorice, spice, vanilla and tobacco.  Enjoy this with grilled meats and deeply flavored foods.

Bodegas Fariña wines start around $10 to $15, with some of the barrel-aged reds costing in the $40 to $50 price range.  The wines will be available first in Florida, then elsewhere in the country.

For more information visit bodegasfarina.com.