A Taste of Bodegas Contino

Last fall, my wife and I spent 17 glorious days in Spain.  It was the trip of a lifetime. Our itinerary included Barcelona, San Sebastian (amazing food), Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, and Granada (The Alhambra is a must – simply awesome!).  Of course, being the winos, we also squeezed in some time in La Rioja.  Our trip to Rioja was facilitated by Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino (“Contino”) Winemaker Jesús de Madrazo Mateo, and his wife Maria Alvarez, CEO of Fine Wines Connection.

I met Jesus last year at a tasting of “ ”C.V.N.E.” (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) and Contino (click here for details of one of the most amazing tasting I’ve EVER been too!) at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City.  I mentioned to him that my wife and I were planning  a trip to Spain, and he was kind enough to extend an invitation to Contino.

He and Maria are most gracious hosts. They helped us with hotel (Los Augustinos in Haro – highly recommended!) and restaurant reservations (the fabulous Rekondo in San Sebastian!), and made recommendations various restaurants, and bars. But the highlights of our time in Rioja was dinner at their home , and our visit to Contino.

A Taste of Contino

The picturesque 200 year-old farm house at Contino

About Contino

Contino makes single-estate Riojas from their 62 hectares of vineyards located just outside the town of Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa.   It is owned 50/50 by CVNE and the Perez Villota family, and their wines are distributed by CVNE

The estate, situated on the northern bank of the river Ebro, includes a farmhouse that dates back 200 years alongside their state-of-the-art wine-making facility.  It is planted primarily to Tempranillo, but you’ll also find some of the oldest vines of Graciano in Rioja on the estate,  along with limited amounts of other grapes such as Mazuela  and Garnacha.  Graciano is an indigenous Spanish grape variety used in the estate wines, and Contino also produces an excellent 100% bottling of Graciano.

In the times of the Reyes Catolicos (Ferdinand of Aragon and Elisabeth of Castille) the distinction of ‘Contino’ was conferred on each of the continuation of the Life Guards who protected the monarchs and their family. The Contino Pedro de Samaniego was rewarded with the estate of Laserna from which the Contino estate derives its name.The Contino labels show a figure of Saint Gregory, founder of the Benedictine monastic order and the patron saint of vine growers.

A Taste of Contino

Jesús de Madrazo Mateo explaining the unique terroir of the Contino Vineyards which is situated in a meander of the Ebro river, with a land rise at the opposite end, and sun exposure east to west across the vineyards.

Jesús de Madrazo Mateo is a fifth-generation member of the Real de Asua family. They founded and still own a controlling share of CVNE.  His father, Jose Madrazo Real de Asua, who was on the CVNE board of directors and GM of Viña Real brand, conceived the idea of creating the first single estate Bodega in Rioja, and founded Contino in 1973.

Jesús studied viticulture at Madrid’s prestigious University of Agriculture, and is an Agricultural Superior Engineer. He started training at CVNE in 1988, and took his first paid position in 1995 in the CVNE technical department as an assistant winemaker.  He’s been the head winemaker for Contino since 1999.

A Taste of Contino

This outstanding blend of Viura and Grenache Blanc with a floral, green apple, and mineral character was a most refreshing start to our wine tasting!

After Jesus gave us a very in-depth tour of the winery we settled in for tasting through five wines selected by Jesús….

IMG_3677

My tasting notes on the wines follow:

  • 2009 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Garnacha Rioja - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Promising strawberry, cherry, spice and a hint of dried rose aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and bright with medium acidity. It shows charming strawberry, cherry, and spice flavors, and a lingering finish. Aged for 12 months in second use barrels (soaked in wine with white 2007) and then aged 12 months in oak casks. (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Expansive black and red fruits, smoke, leather, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied with supple tannins, well integrated oak, and a bit of minerality with black cherry, strawberry and spice flavors, and a lingering finish. Raised in French and American oak. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Gran Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Appealing black cherry, plum, anise, leather, cedarwood and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied and well structured, and polished with a silky texture. It shows black cherry, red plum, caramel, and spice flavors, and a long sweet finish. Blend of 70% Tempranillo and equal parts Garnacha and Graciano. Should continue to get better with further cellaring. From magnum (only format available) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Variedad Graciano - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Alluring blueberry, cassis, white pepper, dried herb, warm spice, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, and well structured with bright, focused fruit, very good acidity and chewy tannins. It shows blueberry, black currant, and spice flavors. Long finish. (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Viña del Olivo - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Exuberant, very appealing black fruit, warm spice, and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, harmonious, and masculine, yet refined with youthful tannins and blackberry, black cherry, warm spice, mineral flavors. Long finish. Blend of Tempranillo (88%) and Graciano (12%) grapes aged for 17 months in 70% French, 20% American, and 10% Hungarian oak barrels. The hand-harvested grapes are grown around a 800 year old olive tree – hence the name. (92 pts.)

After tasting through the wines, we settled in for a splendid and most memorable al fresco Riojan lunch.

While Spanish cuisine varies tremendously across the different regions, they all have one thing in common: the use of fresh, local flavors with plenty of olive oil and garlic. And that’s why I adore Spanish food!

Check out a few of my favorite things…

A Taste of Contino

Queso de Cabra and Queso de Roncal

These stuffed peppers were to die for and paired wonderfully with the Contino Garnacha

A Taste of Bodegas Contino

I don’t know what it’s called…but it was scrumptious!

Another Rioja classic dish that is a match made in heaven  with Rioja is lamb chops grilled over vine cuttings.

A Taste of Contino

Sweet, succulent baby lamb chops grilled over grape-vine cuttings

Put simply, our visit was an unforgettable vinous and gastronomic delight!

Related post you might like:

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

 

#DrinkPink Rosé of the Week; 2013 Bodegas Ostatu Rosado

Rosé season is in full bloom, although truth be told, it’s Rosé season for me pretty much year-round for me!  With that in mind, I’m cranking up my annual series of weekly “Drink Pink!“ Rosé tastings.  It’s my quest for the best Pink Porch Pounders for $20 or less!  This week’s rosé is the 2013 Bodegas Ostatu Rosado.

The Winery

Bodegas Ostatu is a family winery located in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa region in La Rioja, Spain.

The winery is owned and operated by the Saenz de Samaniego family, who have been in the area for many generations.  Most of that time they grape growers who sold their grapes to other wineries. But in the late 60s Doroteo Asunción made the decision to make and sell his own wines rather than selling his grapes on to other wineries.

The Sáenz de Samaniego Family Photo by Steven Alexander

The Sáenz de Samaniego Family
Photo by Steven Alexander

The vineyards, which are protected by the Sierra de Cantabria range, are composed of ochre coloured chalky clay soil, with an average age of 50 years. The estate is composed of over forty hectares of vines located in and around the town of Samaniego.

According to importer De Maison Selections Inc, until recently, all Ostatu wines were produced using the carbonic maceration process. Such wines are made to be consumed young and are popular with many locals.  However that philosophy changed when Frenchman, Hubert de Bouard de Laforest of Chateau Angelus saw the unique potential of the terroir of Ostatu vineyards. As a result, wines are now produced using traditional fermentation, and yields in the vineyards have been reduced in order improve the quality of the Ostatu wines.  As a result Ostatu is able to produce wines which live up to their full potential.

The Wine

This wine is one of Ostatu’s latest projects.  Fruit for the wine was sourced from some of Ostatu’s oldest and highest elevation vineyards, this wine is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, and 30% Garnacha (Grenache Noir). It was fermented in stainless steel vats.

13% alcohol | Retail – $14

photo (40)

My tasting notes follow:

Deep pink color with generous watermelon, raspberry and wet stone aromas. On the plate it approaches medium bodied, and is dry, lively and refreshing with tart cherry, raspberry, and subtle spice flavors underscored by an appealing minerality. Medium finish. 

Rating: B+ This has everything you want in a Pink Porch Pounder.  It’s clean, crisp, fruity, dry, and food friendly. And  the price is right at under $15. Recommended! >>Find this wine<<

Pair with: I enjoyed this with Spinach, smoked turkey and burrata salad!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2001 Marques de Legarda Gran Reserva

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine of the Week is the 2001 Marques de Legarda Gran Reserva Rioja.

The Winery

Marqués de Legarda is one of two labels sold by Bodegas de la Real Divisa.  Founded in 1367, Bodegas de la Real Divisa is one of Europe’s oldest wineries.  It is located in  the Rioja Alta village of Ábalos.

Along with Marqués de Riscal and Marqués de Murrieta (with which I’m familiar) Bodega de la Real Divisa is one-third of the trinity of the region’s most storied wineries.  In the 1860s, they were the first in Spain to age their wine in oak barrels, as the French did. They were the first winery in Rioja to receive a medal at the Exhibition of Bordeaux in 1895.  The winery is still owned by its founding family.

The Wine

Marqués de Legarda , is produced in very limited quantities. Gran Reservas, such as this wineare only made in exceptional years and come from the very best vineyards.  In fact, the previous vintage of Marqués de Legarda was 1995.

It’s a blend of 91%Tempranillo, 7% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo 2% from estate vineyards. It spent 37 months primarily in used American oak, with about a 30% portion of used French oak, before being bottle for an addition 3 years!

Retail – $30; Drink now or hold for another 7-10 years!

photo (36)

See the plastic netting around the bottle? Early in the 20th century as some of Rioja’s producers had made great improvements and offered wines far superior to others, unscrupulous merchants started to paste labels from the top wines onto undistinguished bottles. To prevent this, the wineries started putting wire mesh around their bottles. Today it is a tradition that still holds for many wineries.

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with leather, red fruit, damp earth, balsamic and spiced vanilla aromas. On the palate it’s light-boded and elegant, yet intense, with harmonious strawberry, mixed ripe and sour cherry, spiced vanilla and mineral flavors. Long finish. Gains complexity with time in the glass. 13% alcohol.  >>Find this Wine<<

Rating: A-Outstanding value at $30!  This is a traditionally styled Gran Reserva from a spectacular vintage.

Pair with:  Sauteed mushroom, Duck confit, Roasted Squab or Pheasant, or fall or winter stews.

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
Related posts you might enjoy:
__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2001 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2001 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial.

The Winery

La Rioja Alta is one of the most renowned producers of traditional Rioja wine. Their history dates back to 1890 when it was founded as the Sociedad Vinicola De La Rioja Alta by five viticultural family’s from both Basque and Rioja regions of Spain.  No long thereafter the name was changed to La Rioja Alta.

The company owns two wineries with the original building located in Haro.  The second, modern winemaking facility was built in 1996 at Labastida just 1.5km to the north-east.   The estate covers 360 hectares of vines with parcels in much of the best parts of the Rioja Alta subregion of Rioja.  The estate is planted primarily to Tempranillo, along with small amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo, along with 63 hectares of Garnacha (Grenache) vines in the Rioja Baja subregion.

The winery has its own cooperage producing barrels from oak imported from America and dried for two years.

The Wine

The Viña Ardanza Reserva has been elaborated by La Rioja Alta since 1942! it is named after one of the founding families. It is only produced in the best years, and  the 2001 vintage was rated “Excellent” by Rioja Control Board.  La Rioja Alta thought so highly of this wine that it called it Reserva Especial, only the third time one of its wines has earned that designation, along with 1964 and 1973.

The wine is made up of 80% Tempranillo from thirty year old vines from their vineyard in Fuenmayor, and 20% Garnacha coming from very old, goblet-pruned vines 600 meters above sea level in Rioja Baja. The Tempranillo spends 36 months in American oak. The Garnacha spends ‘only’ 30 months in oak to preserve its freshness.  The  components are blended and bottled. The wine receives a further four years  of  bottle aging. Aging wines this long in American is virtually unheard of!

You can find this wine here.  The wine was produced in 2002, or 2003 the current release is the 2004.  I’m definitely going to check that out.  I’m also going to seek out some other wines from the monster 2001 vintage!

Wine of the Week; 2001 Vina Ardanza

My tasting notes follow:

Dark brick garnet color with intriguing earthy, leather, smoke, dried red fruit, fresh meat, vanilla, cedar wood and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s light-medium bodied,  wonderfully complex, balanced and fresh with a silky texture, smooth well-integrated tannins and tart-ish cherry, vanilla, spice oak, and leather flavors. Long finish, clean finish.  13.5% alcohol.

Rating: A-; Great value in a mature Rioja at $30, and a superb example of traditional Rioja wine.  If you’re looking to drink aged wines that won’t break the bank look to Rioja!

Pair with: An excellent wine to accompany charcoal-grilled meat, roasts, small game, medium-aged cheeses, Iberian cured sausages, etc.

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week and Great QPR: 2010 Teso La Monja Romanico

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2010 Teso La Monja “Romanico”

Winery

Bodega Teso La Monja was founded in 2009 by the Eguren family, who sold their very successful Numanthia-Termes winery to luxury-goods giant Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) in 2008.  The Eguren family, which hails from Rioja where it own three other wineries, were instrumental in putting Spain’s Toro region on the world wine map with its high-end cuvées Termanthia and Numanthia.   The winery is located in the  Denominación de Origen (DO)Toro, not too far from its more well-known neighbor, DO Ribero del Duero.

According to Spanishwine.com

DO Toro – near Ribera del Duero, similar landscape, similar grapes, but Toro claims its own clone of Tempranillo, the Tinta de Toro variety.  Toro reds are chewy, inky reds, massive with oak, or unoaked, with a signature spicy Toro note. Home of very old vines, some of the oldest in Spain.

The key to Toro’s quality is its altitude, at 2,000 to 2,500ft above sea level the region’s growers can depend on cool nights to “set” color and flavor in the grapes ripened in the torrid summers.

Wine

This is the entry-level wine from Teso La Monja.  The wine is made from 100% Tinta de Toro (the local clone Tempranillo) aged in 100% new French oak for six months. The fruit for this wine come from vineyard between 15-20 years old.

It’s definitely a “New-World” style – less rustic, and a more fruit-forward higher alcohol style.

Wine of the Week and Great QPR 2010 Teso La Monja "Romanico"

2010 Teso La Monja “Romanico”

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque purple color with black and red fruit, dried tobacco, and anise aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied focused, and vibrant with blackberry, cassis, bittersweet chocolate and spice flavors. Medium-Long finish. Great QPR at $15!

Rating: A-

Pair with: Tapas (olives, jambon, chorizo, sardines, marinated mushrooms, Spanish cheeses), Paella Mixta, Mexican fare (tacos, nachos, and chile relleno), and grilled meats.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA:> SpainCastilla y León> Toro
  • Grape Varieties: 100% Tinto de Toro
  • Cooperage: Six months in new French Oak
  • Retail: $15
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: Now – 2016
  • >>Find this wine<<

Wine purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

 

Wine of the Week and Amazing Value: 2011 Rio Madre Graciano

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2011 Rio Madre Graciano.  This week’s wine is something different and a great value too!

The Winery

This wine is produced by Bodegas Y Vinedos Ilurce, which was founded by the Escudero family in 1940. It’s a family operation – the fourth generation of this family of vintners is now working on the wines. All aspects of the wine making process are shared by the entire family.

Wine of the Week; 2011 Rio Madre Graciano

Bodegas Y Vinedos Ilurce Cellar (Image courtesy of the winery)

The winery is located in Alfaro, La Rioja, Spain, where the family owns 60 hectares of old vine Grenache (a.k.a. Garnacha), Tempranillo, and Graciano grapes.

The Wine

This wine is made from 100% Graciano.  Graciano is a grape I’d never heard of before trying this wine.  That’s because it’s primarily used a blending grape in Rioja wines, which are dominated by Tempranillo.

According to Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible

High-quality but not widely Spanish grape, with delicate slightly spicy flavors. Used primarily in Rioja as part of traditional Rioja blends.  Also found to a small extent in Languedoc-Roussillon, where it is called morrastel

From the bottle…

“Graciano is a Rioja grape which adds so much to the Rioja blend: great color, good acidity, wonderful blue/purple fruited lively fruit. Rarely is it bottled as a single varietal wine, but on the rare occasion that it is, and it’s affordable, it is worth checking out.

My first thought when I tasted this wine was it’s delightfully spicy! My second thought was…$10 bucks…Really?!

2011 Rio Madre Graciano

2011 Rio Madre Graciano

My tasting notes follow:

Opaque violet color with spicy ripe mixed berry, cola, licorice, and a bit of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied and fresh with blackberry, pomegranate, cherry, spice, and mineral flavors. Medium long finish. 

Rating: A- (90pts):  This wine is a way over delivers in terms of quality for the prices. The best thing I can say about it, is that I will buy more!  Check it out!

Pair with: Tapas such as spicy cheese and sausage tortilla or Spanish stuffed tomatoes; grilled lamp chops, Beef chili or Pasta Bolognese!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14%
  • Closure: Nomacorc
  • AVA: >Spain>La RiojaRioja
  • Grape Varieties: 100% Graciano
  • Cooperage: 10 months in French oak
  • Retail: $9.99
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: now – 2015
  • >>Find this wine<<

Wine purchased for review.  

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

T.G.I.F. Bubbly – Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut

My wife and I make it a point to drink sparkling wine on a weekly basis.  It’s typically Friday night…thus “T.G.I.F. Bubbly”  It’s a celebration of sort to the end of the workweek.  She get’s to drink, and enjoy the bubbly, while I get to drink, enjoy and blog about it!  This week’s bubbly is Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut , a Cava from Spain produced by Segura Viudas.

Cava isn’t from a particular region in Spain, rather it’s a term used for Spanish sparklers made in the traditional method (known as Méthode Champenoise) used in France.  While there are some other regions in Spain that also make Cava, about 95% of the production comes from the traditional home of Cava, the Penedes region in Catalunya (a.k.a. Catalonia) The basic rules for making wines that may be called Cava are as follows:

  • Must be made in the traditional method (secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle)
  • Must age on lees in the bottle in which it will be sold for a minimum of 9 months, 18 months for Reservas and 24 months for Gran Reservas.
  • All the grapes used for must be white grapes – the 3 most common being Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Parellada (pronounced pa-re-yada), and Xarel.lo (pronounced cha-rel-low) – unless you are making a Rose, in which case certain red grapes are permitted.
  •  Macabeo (a.k.a Viura in Rioja) contributes acidity, freshness, and fruitiness; Xarel-lo brings body, alcohol and depth of flavor, while Parellada adds delicacy, and elegance to the blend.

The producer, Segura Viudas, is part of the Freixenet family of wines that includes Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma.   They use proprietary yeast strains cultivated at their in-house yeast farm, in the secondary fermentation.  This cuvée is composed of 7 different base wines: 3 of Macabeo, 3 of Parellada and1 of Xarel·lo.

I’ve been keen to try this one, but I keep buying the Segura Viudas Brut Reserva which is our ”house” Cava. It’s also a wine that also made my “Top 20 Sparkling Wines Under $20” list last year.  In addition to the two wines noted here, Segura Viudas makes 5 other Cava’s imported here to the U.S. –  Extra Dry, Brut Rose, ARIA Extra Dry, ARIA Sparkling Pinot Noir, and Reserva Heredad, their top of the line Cava (which along with the Brut Rosé is on my wins to try list!).

Segura Viudas Aria

My tasting notes follow:

Very pale green yellow color with fresh bread, stone-fruit, and nutty aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied with a surprisingly explosive moderately soft mousse with apple, pear, and mineral flavors. Medium finish – 86pts

Rating: Recommended!  I prefer the Brut Reserva which has some citrus notes (which I prefer) that I didn’t pick up in this one, and this one is a couple of more bucks, but I’d buy again!

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). I think this one works well as work both as an aperitif (Kettle-style potato chips, and seasoned popcorn are coming to mind), or main courses like pizza, grilled poultry or prawns, sushi, sashimi or lobster mac and cheese. Even pair with a light dessert like shortbread cookies, or fresh fruit!

Looking for more ideas? Segura Viudas USA has one of the cooler websites I’ve seen in terms of pairing their wines with food.  They give you the choice of using their food pairing app (it’ll cost you your email address), or connecting to Facebook, and according to their website…

Using your food-related LIKEs and restaurant check ins on Facebook we can instantly find a wine that is perfectly matched to your tastes!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 12.1% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: > SpainCatalunya> Cava
  • Varietal(s): 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel-lo
  • Production method: Traditional Method; Aged on lees at least 15 months
  • Dosage: Brut
  • Retail: $11.99 (BevMo), but available for as low as $8.
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: Now
  • >>Find this wine<<

Wine purchased for review

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Value Alert…2011 Zestos Vinos de Madrid Old Vines

From time to time I come across a wine with a surprisingly good quality/price ratio (‘QPR”).  The 2011 Zestos Vinos de Madrid Old Vines, a Spanish wine from the DO Madrid is such a wine.  I purchased this bottle from my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants.

Not familiar with the DO Madrid?  Join the club! Even many Spaniards are unaware that wine is being produced in Madrid.

DO Madrid is located south of the capital.  It is divided into 3 sub-zones – Arganda, San Martin, and Navalcarnero.  The area earned the coveted DO (Denominación de Origen) status in 1990, so it’s relatively new.

The fruit for this wine comes from the high-elevation district of San Martin de Valdeiglesisas at 2,850 elevation.

Here’s what K&L says about the wine…

Given the fresh, raspy mixed berry fruit, the name “Zestos” is indeed apt (though it actually is Spanish for “basket.”) Typical of garnacha from around the higher elevation vineyards of San Martín de Valdeiglesias (just outside of Madrid), there is a subtle yet undoubtedly present tannic backbone and firm minerality adding punch to this everyday red. It should stand up nicely to any range of dishes in your winter repertoire, even braised meats. Another example of the great potential of wines being made in the villages just outside of Madrid.

vinos de madrid old vine garnacha

My tasting notes follow:

Inky violet color with cherry liqueur, raspberry, black currant, and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with surprisingly good acidity, present but well behave tannins, and black cherry, black currant, raspberry, spice, and mineral flavors. Medium finish. 

Rating: 87pts – Recommended. This wine is a great value at $10.  I’ll be buying more!

Here’s the wine geek stuff:

Where it’s from: SpainMadridVinos de Madrid

The grapes: 100% Grenache (Garnacha) 40+ years old

Aging: Stainless steel and concrete tanks of 10,000-liter capacity

Age of vineyards:40-50 year-old vines

Cost: $9.99

Alcohol: 14%

Production: 30,000 cases made, 10,000 imported to the USA

Closure: Cork

>>Find This Wine<<

Top 20 Sparkling Wines Under $20!

Over the past couple of years I’ve made it a point to blog about sparkling wines. For a time I blogged about a different sparkling wine on a weekly basis (At one point I tried 30 different sparkling wines over a 30 week period!).  Though I’ve gotten away from it in recent months, it’s not because I stopped drinking sparkling wines (I still drink bubbly pretty much on a weekly basis; I don’t wait for a special occasion and neither should you!), rather it’s because after a year and a half of trying more than my fair share of sparkling wines from around the world, I’ve found many I enjoy that have become repeat purchases.

While I love Champagne, it’s more expensive (entry-level examples start at around $30) than its sparkling wine brethren (I did find one for under $19.99, but didn’t care for it enough to purchase it again).  There are just too many other sparkling wines i enjoy more (especially since I’m footing the bill;-)…

Please allow me a moment on the Sparkling Wine soapbox..

  • Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne, the real stuff only comes from the Champagne region of France
  • Sparking wines are great wines – drink as you would other wines (i.e. don’t limit your consumption to special occasions), including trying different styles (White, Rosé, Red, Blanc-de-blancs, Blanc-de-noirs, Brut, Extra-Dry, etc.)
  • Sparkling wines are under-appreciated food friendly wines – If I’m not sure about a food a wine pairing, you can bet I’ll reach for a bottle of bubbly!  Besides being the only wine that’s socially acceptable to have with any meal, sparkling wine is one of the few wines that can take you from appetizers to dessert!

Ok…now that that’s off my chest…

Champagne Glasses

Image couresy of Grape Sense – Glass Half Full

Your best bets for finding quality for the price sparkling wines under $20 are to:

  • Here in the U.S. – look for sales on most major California labels, Chandon, Gloria Ferrer, Mumm, and Roederer are in wide distribution and frequently significantly discounted. At least one of those brands is on sale at my local grocery store every week for less than $20 ( and often less than $15…)
  • If you prefer sparkling wine with as Champagne-like character, look for Cava from Spain, or  Crémant from France (Crémant de Bourgogne, Limoux, Alsace, and Loire). They’re produced using the same method as Champagne, so you’ll get a more yeasty character,and save some coin.
  • If you prefer sparkling wine with fruitier aromas and flavors, and you’re not hung up on the method of production, look for Prosecco from Italy.
  • Sparkling wine is made the world over, so you can find good value in sparkling wines from South Africa, Australia and even South America.

Here are my Top 20 sparkling wines under $20 (click on the bold italicized links for my more detailed blog posts from my T.G.I.F. series of weekly sparkling wine tastings) It’s a diverse list geographically, and stylistically. There is with bubbly from Argentina, Australia, California, Spain, Italy, and South Africa. And there is Brut, Rose, Blanc de Noir, and even a dessert sparkling wine. Many can be found at grocery stores, or large beverage retailers like BevMo, and Costco. Others may be more challenging to find, but are definitely worth seeking out.

  1. Taltarni Brut Tache - (Australia)  Lovely pale salmon color with floral, stone fruit (peaches/apricots), and fresh-baked scone aromas. On the palate, approaching medium-bodied, with a creamy mousse with watermelon, red berry, and a bit of hazelnut flavors. Dry with a light fruitiness, good acidity, and a clean medium long finish. >>Find this wine<<
  2. Schramsberg Mirabelle North Coast Brut Rosé - (California) Delicate pink color with strawberry and bread dough aromas.  On the palate, moderately creamy mousse, good acidity, focused, fruity, yet dry, and lively, with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of citrus, and spice flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  3. 2011 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain)  Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, white flower, yeast, apple aromas. On the palate, a wonderful creamy mousse uncommon at this price point, dry, and approaching medium-bodied with apple, and a hint on citrus flavors. Medium finish >>Find this wine<<
  4. Törley Doux Tokaji (Hungary) The only dessert bubbly in the bunch – Pale straw yellow color with lots of pin prick sized bubbles and brioche, apricot, mineral and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it shows a creamy mousse, and is sweet but nicely balanced very good acidity with apricot, peach, and vanilla flavors. Made from Furmint grapes. 11% alcohol >>Find this wine<<
  5. Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley - (California) - Light golden straw color with plentiful, persistent stream of tiny bubbles, and sweet yeast, fresh-cut green apples aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with soft texture, zippy acidity, between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla flavors.
  6. El Xamfra Cava Mercat Brut Nature - (Spain)Pale straw yellow color with lot of bubbles, and floral, stone fruit, citrus and slight sweet yeast aromas. On the palate, it has a surprisingly explosive mousse, and approached medium-bodied with stone fruit, citrus, and toasted nut flavors. Medium finish. 11.5% alcohol. Zero dosage. A great value! >>Find this wine<<
  7. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige - (California) - Light golden tinged straw color with biscuit, sweet citrus, red fruit and subtle floral aromas. In the glass it displays lots of tiny bubbles. On the palate it is medium-bodied with fairly creamy mousse and cherry, vanilla, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  8. Vinos de Terrunos German Gilabert Penedès Brut Nature Rosat - (Spain) Cherry red color with a frothy mousse showing tiny dispersed bubbles with yeast and red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s dry owing to zero dosage (no added sugar) with fresh cherry, raspberry, and a hint of mineral flavors. This Rosé is a blend of Trepat and Garnacha. >>Find this wine<<
  9. 2010 Antech “Cuvée Eugénie” Crémant de Limoux - (France) Light straw color with brioche, Fuji apple, and floral aromas.  On the palate, crisp with zippy acidity, a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet green apple, pear, and a bit of citrus flavors.  Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  10. François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Brut (France) Light straw yellow color with lots of tiny bubbles, and brioche, and apple aromas. On the palate, it has a delicate mousse, is off-dry with apple and mineral flavors. 100% Chenin Blanc >>Find this wine<<
  11. Graham Beck Brut Rosé - (South Africa) Watermelon pink color with a hint of silver with aromas of yeast, and raspberries.  On the palate, a creamy mousse, fruity, yet dry, with crisp acidity and raspberries, cherries flavors, with a slight mineral overtone, and a hint of citrus on the back palate.  Short-medium finish. Great QPR! >>Find this wine<<
  12. La Marca Prosecco - (Italy) Very pale straw yellow color with white flowers, stone fruit, and a whiff of tangerine aromas. It shows an active stream of tiny bubbles. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and fresh with a creamy mousse and peach, and tangerine flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  13. Deligeroy Crémant de Loire Brut - (France) Pale yellow color with a bit of bronze tinge and brioche pear, raspberry, and mineral aromas. On the palate it was light-bodied,and between dry, and off-dry with good acidity, and a prickly mousse with pear, raspberry, and mineral flavors. A Blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. >>Find this wine<<
  14. Scharffenberger Brut Excellence - (California) Pale yellow-bold color with tiny bead of bubbles that dissipated somewhat quickly, and bread dough, faint apple aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied, with a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet fruity sweet apple, and lemon-lime flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  15. Gruet Blanc de Noirs - (New Mexico)  Salmon color with an abundance of dispersed tiny bubbles with brioche and apple aromas. On the palate approaching medium bodied with a moderately aggressive mousse, balanced with pear, sweet baking spice, vanilla, and nuanced citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  16. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut(California) – Very light straw color with persistent bead of smallish bubbles, and fresh bread, apple, citrus,and a bit of ginger aromas.  On the palate, it shows a moderately creamy mousse, with apple, pear, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  17. Reginato “Celestina” Rosé of Malbec - (Argentina) - Intense strawberry red color with intermittent stream of tiny bubbles with baked bread and ripe cherry aromas. On the palate, fruity, yet pleasingly more dry, than off-dry with an explosive, creamy mousse, and with delicate almost imperceptible tannins, with flavors of cherries, raspberries, and a hint of spice. >>Find this wine<<
  18. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva - (Spain) Light straw color with fine bead of bubbles with bread dough and lemon-lime citrus aromas.  On the palate, light bodied, with moderately creamy mousse with green apple, and tart citrus flavors. Short finish. This one is “everyday” sparkler for me.  It’s a great value at $9/bottle! >>Find this wine<<
  19.  Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut(France) Very pale straw yellow color with toasty pear, citrus and hint of spice aromas and tiny bubbles. On the palate it’s fresh and fruity with pear, fuji apple, a vanilla, and sweet baking spice flavors.  Wonderful QPR @$10! Available at Trader Joe’s
  20. Korbel Natural - (California) Pale golden-yellow color with yeast ,red fruit, and apple aromas.  On the palate light bodied, crisp, between dry and off-dry.  Straight-forward with cherry, apple, minerals, and a touch of honey flavors.  Short-medium finish. >>Find this wine<< 

What are your favorite sparkling wines under $20? I’d love to give them a try!

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Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is all about soul warming foods.  You know, those soups, chili, stews, and other soul warming treat we seek when the weather turns cold.

When I first saw the theme, my first thought was of “Soul Food”. I’d  bet that “Soul food” is one of those phrases that if you ask 10 people what it means, you’d get 10 different answers!  Soul Warming foods and Soul food are one in the same to me, and when I think of Soul food, the first dish that comes to mind is Gumbo!  We have a tradition in our family of making Gumbo each New Year’s day, but it’s  a soul-satisfying meal whenever there’s a chill in the air.

Since I’m a Wino with latent foodie tendencies, I decided let my foodie nature rise up, and do a dish, and wine pairings this week!

Here’s my Seafood Gumbo (we …OK make that “I”, call it “Yumbo” – lame right?..but I like it!)

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

For me, there are two things you’ve got to get right to make a gumbo – the “roux” (I prefer mine to be dark brownish), and you must have stock that is chock full of flavors.  Sure you could take a short-cut, and go with store-bought (I’ve done that for a  ” quick and dirty” version of this dish, but the flavors are not as complex and intense for me. If you get those couple of things “right”, it’s clear sailing thereafter!

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper
Author: 
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Cajun
Serves: 10-12
 
Adapted from Emeril's Classic Seafood Gumbo recipe
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups finely chopped onions
  • ¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • One 12-ounce bottle amber beer
  • 6 cups Shrimp and Crab Stock
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small Dungeness crabs
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon Emeril's Original Essence
  • 2 cups shucked oysters with their liquor
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped tender green onion tops
Instructions
  1. Follow directions for cleaning and prepping crab to be cooked (click here, except remove crab legs and claws. Follow directions for Shrimp and Crab stock, except add crab shell and crab butter (roe) along with shrimp.
  2. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, and add the oil. Allow the oil to heat for about 5 minutes, then add the flour to the pot. Stir the oil and flour together with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Continue to stir the roux for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the color of milk chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and Shrimp and Crab Stock to the pot. Season the gumbo with the thyme, bay leaves, crabs legs, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne. Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.
  3. Season both the shrimp with 1½ teaspoons Essence. Stir the shrimp into the gumbo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the oysters to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the gumbo and season if necessary.
  4. Garnish with the parsley and green onions and serve in shallow bowls over white rice.
Notes
Recommended Wine Pairings - I paired this with the Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. It would also pair well with Viognier, a dry Rosé, or White Zinfandel. If you elect to go with a less spicy version try a Pinot Noir!

 

Take a look at the culinary cornucopia the #SundaySupper team has put together for this week’s gathering around the #SundaySupper table! My recommended wine pairings (click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase) are italicized.

Main Entrees: 

Pair these main dishes with Pinot Noir.  Look for the 2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir. It’s a silky smooth Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a core of raspberry  and spice aromas and flavors, with caramel edge. Why it works: Pinot goes with just about everything.  It’s a white wine, in red wine clothing, which makes it incredibly flexible with dishes and methods of prep.  Pinot is sublime with poultry, and complements foods that are slow roasted, or braised.

I recommend a Chardonnay for these dishes.  Look for the 2009 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. It’s a medium-full bodied Chardonnay that’s undergone malolactic fermentation, that’s moderately oaked.  The oak aging brings vanilla and caramel notes to the party to go along with its ripe apple, tropical fruit and lemon cream character.  Why it works: The texture, and weight of wine complement the dish, and it has enough acidity to “cut” the dish a bit and prepare the palate for the next mouthwatering bite.

Pair this dish with a Tempranillo from Rioja Spain.  I really like the 2007 Viña Eguia Reserva. It’s shows great balance between oak and fruit with a cherry, dried herb, spice, leather and vanilla character.  Why it works: Tempranillo is an underrated food pairing partner.  It’s tends to be a light-medium bodied earthy red wine. It’s between a Pinot Noir and Cab.  It’s fruity with moderate tannins, and acidity making it a good fit for somewhat spicy fare like Spanish, Mexican and similarly spiced fare.  

Pair this classic Italian dish with Sangiovese.  Try the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, plus a couple of other indigenous Italian grape varieties from Tuscany  It shows juicy red and black berries, with some licorice and spice notes supported by soft dusty tannins.  Why it works: The food of a place and the wine of a place is always a good place to start when pairing wine and food.  On top of that, its high acidity, together with its medium-bodied character enable it to stand up to more substantial dishes.  Sangiovese is a wine that loves dished prepared with fresh herbs, rich thick soups, mushrooms and tomato based dishes

Pair this dish with an Edelzwicker, a blend of the “noble” Alsatian varietals of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  Look for the 2011 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker. It’s an aromatic white wine with a stone fruit, spice, and hint of citrus character. Why it works:  The spicy character of the wine, along with some sweetness (spicy likes sweet) and acidity make a great match!

Chili/Stews:

Pair these hearty dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  One of my favorites is the 2010 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon “H3″  It’s from Washington State, and is a bold wine that delivers delightful floral, dark fruit, cocoa aromas followed by plum, black cherry, vanilla and cocoa flavors. Why it works: Cab works well with red meats, dishes with earthy, herbal elements.  This youthful wine has plenty of fruit which make it a nice complement to longer cooked meats and stews.

Try these dishes these with a Cru Beaujolais (not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau hitting the store shelfs soon), a wine from France made from the Gamay grape. Look for the 2010 Georges Debœuf Moulin-à-Vent with a wild red fruits, and white pepper character that a juicy easy drinker.  Why it works: Like Pinot Noir, the Gamay grape is naturally high in acidity, and is light-medium bodied with low tannins. It pair well with dishes with veggies,earthy flavors. Great picnic wine too! Er..but I digress;-)

Syrah is a good match for these hearty flavorful dishes.  I like the 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz from Australia. It’s has a fruity core of black cherries, plums, baking spices, and vanilla that balanced by some oak.  Why it works: Syrah is an ample full-bodied wine that likes thicker, fuller dishes like slow braises, stews (especially tomato-based), and one-dish meals.

Pair these dishes with the Sangiovese noted above:
Pair these dishes with the Pinot Noir noted above:
Pair this dishes with the Tempranillo from Rioja noted above:

Soups:

Pair these soul-warming soups with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Pouilly-Fumé region of the Loire Valley in France. Look for the 2011 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc.  It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity.  Why it works: Sauvignon Blanc with its “green” (gooseberries, lime, green olive, papaya character and a mineral component attributable to the terroir of the Loire Valley make this a good match for vegetarian soups, spicy (hot) fare, dishes with acidic ingredients.  It’s a very versatile food pairing partner in that it work nicely as a complement or a contrast.

Pair these satisfying soups with Pinot Gris.  I recommend the 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris Signature Collection from Oregon. It has juicy lemon-lime, stone-fruit, green apple, pineapple and spice character.  Why it works: Pinot Gris likes ethic foods, especially coconut-milk based curries. 

Pair the rest of the soups with the aforementioned wines as noted in parentheses:

Desserts/Beverages:

Pair this Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (That Skinny Chick Can Bake) with the Terra d’Oro Zinfandel “Port”, a dessert wine made for chocolate! I like the what the Wine Enthusiast says about it…”The first duty of a Port-style wine is to be dazzlingly rich and sweet yet balanced in acidity, and this bottling is all that. Waves of blackberry jam, cassis and dark chocolate are brightened with zesty acidity

  • White Hot Chocolate with Orange – GirliChef

Join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  And join us at 7pm EST, for our live weekly #SundaySupper chat.   All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

And be sure to check out the #SundaySupper Pinterest board. We’d love to feature your Sunday Supper Soul Warming Recipes and share them with all of our followers.