Tempranillo is an inky rich dark red varietal that excudes excellent ripe fruit and tannins, especially in hot areas. Rioja and Ribera del Duero Spain produce tempranillo as the main red varietal (with some exceptions).
located in the North Central region of Spain underneath the Pyrenees mountains and the Cantabrian Mountains. It has a mitigating river- Ebro, which runs westward to the Mediterranean sea
there are three sub regions have diverse terrain and climates (Alta, Alavesa and Baja). The first two are calcareous clay whereas Baja is ferrous and alluvial soils (great for Garnacha!)
Tempranillo primarily in addition to Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan)
Crianza is aged 24 months prior to release with 12 months in oak; Riserva is aged 36 months prior to release with 12 months in oak
Historically 100% American oak, however modern techniques and the French influence (and oak) has been the shift!
Ribera del Duero Spain
located on the Mesata plateau of the Castilla y León region. This area is surrounded by the Cantabrian Mountains with the Duero river passing west through to Portugal and the Atlantic ocean.
flat and rocky terrain consists of layers of silty-clayey sand, limestone, marl and chalky concretions.
minimum of 75% Tempranillo, with a maximum of Garnacha.
4. same aging requirements as Rioja
Vega Sicilia placed this region on the map with a fresh new style in the late 1800’s, however it was the 1980s with investment in modern technology that released the popularity valve to the world.
Summer is in its peak. It is a time of harvest, growth and a bit of spiritual retreat. We give salutations to Spain with this pilgrimage through our Spanish selections in honor of our many friends that live in Spain and walked the El Camino de Santiago:
The El Camino de Santiago or the St. James Trail travels through the northern border Pyrenees mountain range between France and Spain. Travelers walk this path for personal and spiritual growth. Imagine if you were on that journey. You finish your day at St. James in Santiago in the most North Western coastal corner of Spain and begin your journey through the wine regions of Spain. The journey begins in the northwest coastal areas of Spain across the northeast coastal then down to the center of Spain in La Mancha.
From Santiago, you will travel to Rias Baixas. The calmest coastal area on the Atlantic coast, it is one of the exclusive areas to harvest sea life. It is also known for refreshing Albariño and with rich pine and eucalyptus landscapes. The lush maritime area of the North West Spain is where the sea rules cuisine and industry. Our producer, Bodegas as Laxas has been producing Albariño since 1975. A refreshing wine, with a glyceric finish, it lingers on the palate with exacting acidity. Pairing with this would be a hearty ceviche halibut salad tossed with fresh pimentos, oranges and crisp jicama.
Though as hard as it may be to extract oneself from the coastal winds and scents, we continue to move forward to dive deep into the heart of Spain to find red varietals. On to the plateaus of the Iberian Peninsula, we travel to Castilla y León. Nestled together and surrounded by Cantabrian mountains to the north, Zamora mountains to the south, and Sistma Iberico mountains to the south east, the Meseta plateau is at a higher elevation providing hotter days and cool evenings. These landscapes protect the vineyards from the coastal influences we just experienced in Rias Baixas. Here, the Duoro River begins and travels east through Portugal to the Atlantic Ocean.
Bodega Casto Pequeño cultivates its Tempranillo here in these dynamic conditions. With vineyards in Castilla y Leon, Rueda and Toro, Bodega Casto Pequeño produces complex wines, with suppleness and structure and rich cherry and strawberry driven wines. Classic regional pairings would be Judias del Barco con chorizo (sausage and bean soup), Morcilla de León (blood sausage) and Cangrejos de río con tomate (Crabs Rio in tomato).
Due east in the area of Spain in the in Ribera del Duero region, Bodegas Rauda produces Tempranillo in a more refined modern fashion with ample fruit and elegance. Pairings with these wines would be similar however preferred favorites are braised hen with saffron and tomato or Manchego cheese with roasted peppers and mushrooms!
Crossing over plateaus to the Ebro River, we will head due east to the Navarra and Rioja regions directly under the Cantabrian Mountains. The transition from the dry plateau climate with Atlantic coastal influence to the continental plateau climate with mountain winds highlights the varietals distinctness and shows how they thrive in different environments. It is here that a stronger prominence of other varietals are grown, such as Garnacha, as well as a stronger use of French varietals (including Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) in conjunction with the traditional Tempranillo.
Navarra is nestled north east of Rioja, and is part of the Way to St. James if one walks through the vineyards of Valdizarbe. It is a historic area, more noted for tradition than wine, and secretly one of my favorite regions in Spain. Marques de Montecierzo is rich in culture almost as much as the pilgrimage to St James. Limestone clay soils and tunnels underneath an ancient mill house, the family cultivates the vineyard in sustainable practices.
Rioja, southwest of Navarra, has grown dramatically in popularity. Driven primarily by Tempranillo and Garnacha, the French influence is still strong with notes of French oak rather than American oak. Our friends at Zuazo Gaston are located near the village of Oyón (pictured above), and they highly recommend the nearby town of Logroño for local cuisine. Alberto Anoz, our contact at Zuazo Gaston says that a typical local menu would be: “Menestra de Verduras” (vegetable stew) or “Patatas a la Riojana” (potatoes with Spanish sausage) with “Chuletillas al Sarmiento” (baby lamb chops grilled with vine branches, pictured below). He recommends the following local restaurants: En Ascuas (where they make very nice grilled meats, including Chuletillas al Sarmiento) & Cachetero.
He also suggests visiting the “Calle del Laurel”, a local street in Logrono with plenty of small bars and excellent tapas.
Traveling to the north eastern part of Spain, sitting on the Mediterranean coast is the Catalonia region (pictured below). Here we enter Spain’s most cultivated and modernized wine region, but even with growth and investment, they cherish their traditions and have stayed close to their roots. Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine, hails from this area and is produced with the varietals Macabeo, Parellada, Xarello, methode tradionale. The bubbles are sassy and vivacious with lush textures on the palette. Bodegas Maset has taken great care in executing an elegant and voluptuous Cava. They are also known for their production of exciting reds with varietals such as Cariñena and Garnache. Pairings for Catalan regions are influenced with Mediterranean coast (olive oils, vegetables, legume, pastas), lamb, cheese, anchovy, tuna and cod.
For a special local dish, our friends at Bodegas Maset recommend Pollo asado con chalotas, ciruelas y piñones (roast chicken with shallots, prunes and pine nuts). Their dear friends Sandra & Xavi (who live in Barcelona less than an hour due east of the winery) write a cooking blog, Els fogons de la Bordeta, where you can find this recipe!
Into the heat and depths of Spain, we find La Mancha. Low density and difficult living conditions due to the arid temperatures, however wind mills and agriculture thrive. This intensity produces some thrilling Tempranillo and Syrah. Bodegas y Vinedos Tavera blends their Cendal with a touch of Syrah which is able to withstand the hot days and chilly nights. In Valdepeñas and Tierra de Castillo, the Bodegas Juan Ramirez family stands firm with tradition and makes their wines with 100% Tempranillo (vineyards pictured below). Pairings in this region would be Cocido Madrileño (meats, sausage and garbanzo beans), garlic soup and pisto (vegetables of squash, tomato and peppers).
Time restricts our travels but journeys never have to end, Spain can be limitless. Hearty in its wine, food, tradition and culture, each region is represented through and noted through its specific nuances from its agriculture, culture and growth throughout the centuries. Spain is an exploration of the senses and a heartwarming reminder that tradition is a foundation not a decal. A pilgrimage for the spirit as is many times found through sharing with good friends at the table from a vineyard and the land.
Guest Wine Writer, Sommelier & Dining Room Manager at Volterra in the historic neighborhood of Ballard in Seattle, WA
Kicking off a new year, we thought it would be fun to do a comprehensive tasting series featuring as many single grape varietals as we carry in the shop. We counted them up. (There are 60+!) We put them in alphabetical order. And we’re ready to go! Here’s the schedule. If you make a good chunk of these tastings, you will have tasted the vast majority of single grape varietals grown around the world today. We’ll offer a little educational overview on each grape including tasting notes & where it’s grown. The rest is up to you. Ready, set, go:
Every year, the summer months signal that wonderful time of year when many different people decide to make their love for one another public & tie the knot. As with any celebration, sparkling wine is a necessary ingredient in making every fête additionally exceptional (what’s more elegant than a champagne flute filled with bubbly?) Portalis carries quite a few options of outstanding bottles of champagne/sparkling wines, including cava (from Spain).
Wine making has been around in Spain for centuries (it was discovered that the Phonecians introduced winemaking to the Penedès about 7,000 BC). But it wasn’t until around 1870 that cava was developed as a perfect accompaniment to tapas (small plates served throughout Southern Spain). Tapas tend to be cooked using large quantities of garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, olives & salt. “Les bombelles” as ‘bubbles’ are known in the Catalan dialect cut through these strong flavors and refresh the palate [note: this is also why fried foods go so well with champagne].
The best cavas are produced in the region of Penedès (Barcelona is the capitol of this region). This is one of the most well-known regions of Spain not only because of the city of Barcelona itself but also due to some of its famous former residents (Miró, Dalí, Picasso). Today there are about 175 cava producers in the region who combine the native grape varietals of Macabeo, Parellada, & Xarel-lo (plus chardonnay in some instances) in order to create the perfect cava.
The same production method is used for cava as it is for champagne: méthode champenoise or secondary fermentation. Cava is also classified in the same way as champagne depending on sugar content. A cava can be (increasing from bone-dry to sweet) brut nature, extra brut, brut, extra dry, dry, demi-sec, or sweet. One huge way that differentiates cava from champagne is the behavior behind each; cava is meant to be drunk alongside any night’s meal, whereas champagne obviously is a luxury reserved for special occasions. Thus, cavas are generally much more affordable.
Here are a few cavas that are perfect to help you celebrate!
Bodegas Maset NV (nu) Cava Reserva
Reg $14.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Bodegas Maset has been making their delicious Cava for more than 200 years! This NU Reserva has crisp, clean, citrus fruit notes of apple & pear. Fine, elegant & festive! Delicious with smoked salmon, rich cream sauces, or marinated olives.
Bodegas Maset NV Cava Del Lleo Brut
Reg $14.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case: $11.19
The del Lleo Brut has light fruit aromas on the nose with fresh, delicate white fruit notes playing on the palate as gentle bubbles linger through the dusty finish!
A big thank-you to all of you who have so wonderfully supported our direct import wines over the last few months. We’ve had so much fun spreading the “J. Strecker” label all over the city (and beyond). We started out with two containers of French wines that were a big hit right from the start. The best thing about importing wine is that there is always more delicious juice to come…and come it has – with a vibrant red & yellow flag. Move over France, there’s a new wine in town – bold fruit, elegant oak, spice and silk, whatever your dream is — you can find it in our new Spanish line-up.
To say we are excited about our recent container of Spanish wines is a bit of an understatement. Believe me, there is something for everyone here, no matter if your style is old or new world – the wines will take your palate for a ride. The sales team had the opportunity to taste all of the wines the day after they arrived and frankly, we were blown away by how amazing they tasted so quickly from their long journey. Jens, however, was not surprised at all. He hand-selected these wines on one of his buying trips last spring. With a knowing grin on his face, he just watched us as we ‘oohed and ahhed’ over each Spanish delight. He definitely has a gift for spotting quality for the money, and that’s why I will always drink whatever he is pouring. Taste and learn my friends, you too will become a believer.
Below are a couple of my personal favorites, but there are many more to be enjoyed. They range from the easy & smooth-fruited (gulpable comes to mind) to the more chewy, dark-berried, ‘must have a grilled steak right now’ kind of wine. Several of these wines are offered by the glass at the bar, so feel free to stop by and taste for yourself what Spain hasto offer.
Bodegas Maset NV “NU” Reserva Brut Cava
Reg $14.99 | INSIDER $12.99 | Mixed Case $10.39
Grapes: Macabeo, Parellada, Xarello
Aged 30 months in oak casks, this Cava has the quality of a fine French cremant. Pear & almond aromas with a creamy mouth-fill, great acidity with a dry, light citrus finish. When you drink bubbles as much as we do, this refreshing Cava is certainly a blessed discovery.
Bodegas Casto Pequeño 2010 “Chamelin”
Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $15.99 | Mixed Case $12.79
Need a “go to” white that’s a crowd pleaser but different from the usual suspects? This Verdejo does not only please, but pretty much everyone that tries it wants their own bottle. Crisp with a mellow-richness, notes of lemon peel & apple. Great with cheese & seafood.
Bodegas Juan Ramirez 2001 Alba de Los Infantes
Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $15.99 | Mixed Case $12.79
From Valdepeñas, a gorgeous red made from 50 year-old vines and aged 15mths in new French oak. Chewy, with dark berry, licorice & cocoa. Finish is bold, dark velvety fruit with a fair amount of grip. Roasted meats, Serrano ham or strong cheese would suit this wine just fine.
Bodegas Marques de Montecierzo 2007 “Emergente” Tinto Reg $12.99 | INSIDER $11.99 | Mixed Case $9.59
Grapes: 40% Tempranillo, 30% Garnacha, 30% Merlot
Looks can be deceiving. This un-oaked value-priced red has a lot going on in the bottle. From the Navarra region of Spain, this family-owned winery produces top quality wines. Medium-bodied with layers of raspberry, dark cherry & moderate spice. Super easy sipper that will pair well with grilled meats, paella or just on it’s own.
While the wines of Ribera Del Dueroare getting more & more recognition in the international market, winemaking in this region dates back about 2000 years, to the Roman times. Located in Spain’s northern plateau, 2 hours north of Madrid, the Ribera region stretches along the Duero River. This harsh, rugged plateau is known primarily for one grape: Tempranillo, which thrives on its extreme climate and high elevation (up to 3000 feet).
Photo by Fernando Fernández / WENAEWE ~ Granted by the Consejo Regulador de Ribera del Duero. 47 more wonderful photos of Ribera del Duero at DrinkRiberaWine.com>
I first traveled through Ribera del Duero in 1982 in an old Passat station wagon with my friend, Stephan Griesmeyer. My memories are of rural desert where we drank lots of jug wine and had a great time. I revisited the area in 1986 when I lived in Barcelona and already the change was underway. More wineries had popped up and the wines were different: more modern, not as rustic. I anxiously await my next trip to Ribera del Duero (which with the import business shouldn’t be too far off) because the transformation since my last visit is amazing. Simply put, the wines coming out of this part of Spain are world class, with their flair directly linked to the extreme climate & terroir. With piping hot summer days, cool nights and a short growing period, the older vines are stressed & compact, producing wines that are dense, full-bodied and I am in full agreement with Catherine Reynolds (owner of Queso y Vino & Tasting Circle panelist), who once described a wine these wines as hedonistic pleasure bombs.
There are several classifications for wines produced in Ribera Del Duero. Joven wines, which are, in general, fruiter, and are aged 3 to 6 months, show no oak characteristics & are meant to be consumed young. Crianza wines are aged for 2 years & display well-balanced tannins & a velvety mouth-feel. Reserva wines are aged 3 years, with a minimum of 1 year in oak barrels. They are elegant & intense with a rich, lingering finish. Gran Reserva wines are aged 5 years, with a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels & show complexity, good structure & are well ageing wines.
El Quintanal 2006 Vendimia Seleccionada Ribera Del Duero
Sweet bouquet of black cherries, toasty oak, licorice & smoke. Medium- to full-bodied, complex & good concentration. Packed with blackberry & cassis fruit & notes of licorice, black raspberries & minerals. Fine tannins on the long finish. Protos 2008 Ribera Del Duero Roble Wonderful effort for the money. Wonderful aromas & flavors of ripe blackberries, black cherries, dark chocolate & notes of smoked herbs. Elegant, smooth texture & structure. Delicious all the way to the fruity finish.
Creta 2007 Ribera Del Duero Roble Another wonderful value. Aromas of ripe dark berry fruit. Medium-bodied, elegant, with an almost lush texture. Lots of blackberries, cassis, dark plums & prunes with some spicy & herbal components. Fine tannins on the fresh finish.
It’s a lovely part of the world with delicious wines!
These are some of my current favorite picks from around the world. If Santa got my wish list, these wines would be at the top!
Domaine De La Meuliere 2008 Chablis
Burgundy, France ~ $25.99 | Sale $22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39
Fine, flowery nose. Vibrant fruit with lots of weight & a long, stony, delicious finish.
Abeja 2009 Chardonnay
Washington State ~ $39.99 | Sale $35.99 | Mixed Case $28.79
Elegant, rich & full. Smoky, toasty aromas give way to fantastic apple & pear fruit with some peach notes. Butterscotch & hazelnut on the finish that lingers.
Evening Land 2009 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon ~ $29.99 | Sale $26.99 | Mixed Case $21.59
Spicy baked cherry pie, plum & wild berry aromas turn elegant & refined. Full-bodied, but not too heavy to allow the rich flavors to dance on the palate. Long finish.
Gary Ferrell 2007 Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley, California ~ $44.99 | Sale $40.99 | Mixed Case $32.79
Elegant & powerful, with lots of raspberry & cherry fruit, with notes of clove & anise. The aromas & the long finish leave you wanting more.
Château Pichecan 2003 Margaux
Left Bank, Bordeaux, France ~ $43.99 | Sale $39.99 | Mixed Case $31.99
Concentrated blackcurrants & blackberries on the nose. Super-elegant, with soft, velvety mouth feel, but firm structure. Wonderful concentrated cassis fruit with cocoa & herbal notes all the way through the finish.
Domaine Faury 2007 Saint Joseph
Northern Rhône, France ~ $41.99 | Sale $37.99 | Mixed Case $30.39
Dark but racy, with fantastic aromas of raspberries, olives & lavender. Flavors of cassis, ripe, dark plums, olive tapenade, with a dash of roasted sage on the finish. This wine is so interesting; it will keep you busy for a while.
Dessilani 2005 Caramino
Piedmont, Italy ~ $39.99 | Sale $35.99 | Mixed Case $28.79
This wine is a symphony! Super-complex & elegant with a violet bouquet. The vibrantly pure fruit quality of this fine red, with its flavors of black cherry & smooth, dark chocolate is irresistibly seductive & beautifully balanced. Out of this world.
Arzuaga 2005 Ribera Del Duero
Ribera Del Duero, Spain ~ $33.99 | Sale $30.99 | Mixed Case $24.79
Elegant, focused & well-balanced, with wonderful dark fruit, herbal & leather notes. Lovely depth & a smooth, long finish.
Mollydooker 2009 The Boxer Shiraz
McLaren Vale Valley, Australia ~ $28.99 | Sale $25.99 | Mixed Case $20.79
Ripe, fleshy & full-bodied, with gorgeous flavors of black cherries, blackberries & blueberries, with notes of bay leave & black olives, swirling all the way through the long finish.
Achaval Ferrer 2007 Quimera
Mendoza, Argentina ~ $40.99 | Sale $37.99 | Mixed Case $30.39
Powerful & complex, dark & brooding, with intense aromas of blackberries, black cherries & licorice. Full-bodied, with a velvety texture & polished tannins. Beautiful down the road.
Mark Ryan 2008 Dead Horse
Red Mountain, Washington ~ $49.99 | Sale $44.99 | Mixed Case $35.99
Full, dark & dense, but smooth, velvety texture with lots of blackberry, black cherry & raspberry flavors, combined with dark chocolate & coffee notes. Mark keeps his foot on the gas pedal all the way through the finish. Very impressive!
Sparkman 2008 Ruckus Syrah
Columbia Valley, Washington ~ $45.99 | Sale $41.99 | Mixed Case $33.59
Big, plush & dark, with layers of dark fruit, black cherries, blackberries & black olives. Supple, harmonious & expressive as the finish goes on & on. Amazing!