Tasting Group 75 Selections for January

2012 Bodegas Viñátigo Tinto Joven                                                            Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain 

100% Listan Negro.  The Canary Island chain, off the north coast of Africa (Morocco) has a diverse group of microclimates. As in much of Sicily, its striking landscape is host to entirely volcanic soils which impart a unique minerality to its wines.  Viñátigo considers themselves to be an example of symbiosis between wine and volcano.  Due to the geographical isolation of the Canary Islands, varietals that are obsolete on mainland Spain are still being planted as they have remained unexposed to Phylloxera, the deadly louse that destroyed much of Europe’s vineyards in the late 19th century. Tenerife is one of the islands in the chain, situated between tiny La Gomera & Gran Canaria.  The vineyards here reach an elevation of 3000 feet and are terraced into the steep hillsides. On Tenerife, red wines are more common and are mostly made from Listan Negro.  This wine is a sleeper!  It is squeaky clean, bright & juicy and tastes of earthy ripe raspberries.  Listan Negro is distantly related to the Mission grape, one of the earliest varieties planted in California.

2010 Bodegas Perez Pascuas “El Pedrosal”                                                  Ribera Del duero, Spain        

100% Tempranillo.  Tempranillo goes by many names in Spain; in Ribera it is known as Tinto Fino.  Ribera del Duero holds many benefits for its native grape of Tempranillo. In particular, the high altitude of 2600 – 2700 ft above sea level allows the grapes to maintain higher acid levels, important for a warmer climate.  This acidity allows for the freshness found in this young vine Tempranillo, despite its 14% alcohol level.  Aging for 12 months, six months in American and six months in French barrels, gives it a pleasant whiff of vanilla.  It is very straightforward, a well-made example of what the region has to offer, with flavors of dried fruit, coffee and cherry laced with mocha.

Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla Oloroso Sherry                                         Jerez,  Spain             

100% Palomino.  Sherry is Spain’s treasure but is woefully under-appreciated, perhaps because it is misunderstood.  The common perception of Sherry likely involves a distant cobwebby memory of grandmother sipping a sweet brown mystery elixir from a cut crystal glass, or worse, the “cooking sherry” sold in supermarkets that is loaded with salt and who knows what else!  The truth is that sherry is truly is a magic elixir.  It starts life as a dry wine that is fortified with neutral spirit and then is guided to its eventual style (Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, etc.) depending on its character in youth.  Finos are yellow, dry, tangy, light and delicate.  Also dry, Olorosos are the winter sherries – the color of mahogany with deep, rich, warm, nutty flavor.  Their complexity is a result of long aging in the unique fractional-blending Solera systems the region is known for.  Enjoy a nip in the evening before bed.  Have it alone to contemplate its wonderful complexity or with a bit of dried fig & walnut cake…


Tasting Group 150 Selections for December

2001 Cune Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva                                                           Rioja, Spain 

The Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, or CVNE, was born in Haro, La Rioja, Spain, in 1879. CVNE is one of the most renowned and historic bodegas in all of Spain & consists of 3 wineries: Cune, Vina Real & Vinedos del Contino (single vineyard). Each of the three estates produces a distinct style of wine from a distinct terroir, and each of their flagship bottlings occupies a well-deserved place in the pantheon of great Spanish wine. This Imperial is comprised of Tempranillo: 85%, Mazuelo: 5% & Graciano 10%. The wine is sourced almost exclusively from elegant Rioja Alta fruit. 2001 was an epic vintage in Rioja with the promise of years of development ahead.  We chose this wine this month because of the recent attention Spain has gotten – with 9 wines on the Wine Spectator’s 2013 Top 100, including the top spot, it appears that Spain is finally getting the recognition it so rightly deserves.  In fact, this is the wine that took the #1 spot, albeit an older but equally fine vintage. No matter… we’re  splitting hairs… tremendous value here.

2003 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon                                                            Napa, California     

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc & Merlot.  Here is a chance to own a little bit of history! Mayacamas Vineyards is a wine estate located in the Mayacamas Mountains that divide the Napa and Sonoma valleys.  Perched high (2,300 feet high!) on craggy Mt. Veeder, Mayacamas is one of the pioneering wineries of the Napa Valley.  It was first built in 1889 and has been long-recognized for making a classically-structured style of wine very close to the long-lived Cabernets of Bordeaux.  Earlier this year, Charles Banks, former owner of Napa cult wine Screaming Eagle purchased the property, taking over the property from Bob Travers, who had not deviated from his methods since he and his wife, Elinor, bought Mayacamas in 1968.  Banks promised to be a resource, rather than a re-inventor, as he has been a fan of the wines as they are for many years.  Indeed, there is re-planting to be done and the winery equipment could use updating.  Although 2003 was on the warmer side, high elevation offers some protection to the mountain fruit from which Mayacamas is sourced, retaining acidity that is typically lost to heat.  Drink now.