T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…2008 Raventos i Blanc Cava L’Hereu Reserva Brut

This post is an “update” in that I blogged about the 2007 Raventos i Blanc Cava L’Hereu Reserva Brut last year (see below for link).  That vintage also made my “Top 10 Sparkling Wines Under $20” list.  So how’s the 2008 vintage?  Before I get to that, now that I’m a Cava convert here’s the 411 on Cava.

Unlike Champagne, 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:

  • Must be made in the traditional method.
  • 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 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.

The producer of this sparkler, Raventós i Blanc, is the only Cava producer to estate grow (on about 200 acres of land that has been in the family since 1497!) and bottle all their wines.  Their Cavas are all vintage dated, which also sets them apart.

2008 Raventos i blanc Cava L’Hereu Reserva Brut

2008 Raventos i Blanc Cava “L’Hereu Reserva Brut

Region: Spain>Catalunya>Cava

Variety - 60% Macabeo, 20% Xarel.lo, 120% Parrellada

Residual Sugar – 8g/Liter

$20, 12% a.b.v.

Production method: Traditional Method;

My tasting notes follow:

Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, and yeast, green apple, and mineral aromas. On the palate, it shows a wonderfully creamy mousse uncommon at this price point.  It is dry, refined, and approaches medium-bodied with apple, mineral and a hint on citrus flavors. Medium finish – 90pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food because of their crisp acidity, and effervescence (think scrubbing bubbles)  This paired surprisingly well with one of my favorite ethnic foods , Jerk Chicken with Red Beans and Rice, and Fried Plantains.  When I took a bite of the spicy Jerk Chicken, et al , and took a sip of the Cava, it became ever so slightly sweeter in my mouth.  Then the acidity and effervescence cleansed my palate and invited me to take another bite!

Recommendation: So far, this is my favorite Cava.  It cost $20, and easily drinks like many $40 sparklers I’ve enjoyed in terms of complexity and refinement (including some entry-level Champagne)  I highly recommend! Click here to find this wine, or the 2009 vintage, which is currently available.

Wine Of The Week – 2001 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Crianza Viña Gravonia

My wine of the week for March 10-16 is the 2001 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Crianza Viña Gravonia.  Man that’s a long name!  If you’re not familiar with Spanish, let me break it down for you – “Rioja Blanco” means White wine from Rioja – “Crianza” refers to how long the wine is aged in accordance with Spanish labeling laws (more on that later), and “Viňa Gravonia” is the vineyard from which the grapes for this wine are sourced.

What’s different about R. López de Heredia (“LdH”) is that they are straight-up traditionalists!  The winery was founded in 1877, and is still family owned. They don’t use chemicals, or machines in their vineyards.  But what really makes them old school is that they age their wines for an outrageously long time.  Take this wine for example, it was released last year after 4 years of barrel aging, followed by 6 years of bottle aging!  Since this wine is labeled as a “Crianza”,  Spanish labeling laws require it be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak.  So this wine is aged 10x longer than required…now that’s old school!

Nowadays, single vineyard wines are fashionable.  LdH has been doing single vineyard wines for almost 100 years!  The four vineyards from which they source their grapes are Viňa Tondonia (the oldest -founded in 1913, and most famous), Viña CubilloViña Bosconia, and Viňa Gravonia (a.k.a. Viňa Zaconia) the source of grapes for this wine.  Viňa Gravonia is located close to the winery on the banks of Ebro river on south-facing slopes with poor, rocky white soil.  The average age of the vines is 45 years, and the vineyard is all planted to Viura grapes.

My tasting notes follow:

Pale gold color with complex aromas of beeswax, spiced apricot, citrus, and a hint of petrol. The palate follows the aromas in terms of complexity. The wine has a silky smooth, mesmerizing lanolin like texture, zesty acidity, and is very dry. It is medium-bodied, and slightly oxidative with tart lemon, apricot, and mineral flavors with a long finish. 100% Viura (a.k.a. Macabeo) from LdH’s Viña Gravonia – 91pts

This wine is a very food friendly wine.  In fact, I don’t think most folks will enjoy its own because of its slightly oxidative aromas and flavors, which are the result of the long aging.  But it’s hard to beat with food.  It would be great with tapas, fish, and shellfish, risotto, salad, poultry, and of course paella.

This is an excellent wine, and at $25, it’s a good value.  I wish I had more!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…2008 Raventos i blanc Cava L’Hereu Reserva Brut

For this week’s sparkler it’s back to what’s becoming a favorite of mine, Cava.  Unlike Champagne, Cava isn’t from a particular region, 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, in 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.
  • 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.

The producer, Raventós i Blanc, is the only Cava producer to estate grow (on about 200 acres of land that has been in the family since 1497!) and bottle all their wines.  After commissioning an in-depth study of their unique estate, it was determined that there are 44 individual parcels, each managed separately.  All the fruit is biodynamically farmed, handpicked and processed via a gravity flow system.  Their Cavas are all vintage dated, which also sets them apart.

I previously reviewed (and very much enjoyed) the 2007 vintage of this wine, so I was eager to try the 2008 vintage.

2008 Raventos i blanc Cava L'Hereu Reserva Brut

2008 Raventós i Blanc Cava “L’Hereu” Reserva Brut

Region: Spain>Catalunya>Cava

Variety – 60% Macabeo, 20% Xarel.lo, 20% Parrellada

Residual Sugar – 6g/Liter

$18, 12% a.b.v.

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Very light straw color with tiny bubbles

Aromas: Green apple, brioche, and faint mineral aromas.

Body: On the palate a creamy, delicate mousse uncommon at this price point.  Approaching medium-bodied mouthfeel

Taste: Green apple, citrus and mineral flavors.

Finish: Medium

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate refreshing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This was delightful as an aperitif and with food.   Try this one with tapas, especially seafood tapas, or maybe grilled seafood such as grilled scallops.

This is another winner from Raventós!   It’s a classy Cava that delivers exceptional value for the money!  90 pts   (Click here to find this wine)

Have You Ever Had a 10 Year Old Rosé?

It’s that time of year in Cali where the last vestiges of Indian summer manifest itself sporadically.  I write this on one of those fleeting, but delightful 80 degrees day in mid-October for which California is famous.  On days such at this, I reminisce about a summer (one that was far too cool for my liking), and on this particular day, I’m thinking about a Rosé truly unlike any other I’ve ever experienced, the 2000 Lopez de Heredia (“LdH”) Rosado Gran ReservaViña Tondonia.

LdH, one of the oldest family owned oldest wineries in La Rioja, Spain, has a reputation for outrageously long aging of their wines, in the barrel and in the bottle.  Consider that the 2000 vintage is the current release of their Rosé, when the vast majority of Rosés are from the 2010 vintage.  The wine was aged 4 years in old American oak barrels produced from their own cooperage, then aged another 6 years in the bottle!  That is simply unheard of for a Rosé.  The source of grapes for this wine is Viña Tondonia, planted between 1913-1914.  And as befits a wine designated Gran Reserva, it’s not made every year.  The most recent preceding vintages were ’93, ’95, ’97, and ’98.

The result?  An exquisitely unique, interesting, aged Rosé with great complexity.  So much so that when I purchased it (along with a few other Rosés), I was actually “warned” that it was not a typical Rosé.  I understand why.  It’s a bit of a cult wine, familiar mostly to wine geeks, wine “experts”, sommeliers, and aficionados of slow food movement (including Alice Waters, V.P. of Slow Food Int’l, and proprietor of Chez Panisse where an LdH Rosé has been on the wine list for 40 years).  It’s not for everybody, because rather than youthful primary fruit, this wine has a wondrous multitude of secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors.

2000 Lopez de Heredia Gran Reserva Rosado Rioja - photo courtesy of R. Lopez de Heredia website

The wine is made from 60% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, and 20% Viura.  According to Maria Jose de Heredia, the Viura gives the wine freshness, while the Tempranillo gives the capability of aging.  What I love about this wine is that is built for spicy hot foods such as Patatas Con Chorizo Riojano, Indian, and Chinese dishes.  And unlike many other fine Rosés I’ve enjoyed, this one can handle full-bodied foods as well.

While not for everyone, I highly recommend you try it at least once. If you do decide to give it a try, it’s a Rosé that should never be drunk too cold.  My own experience bears this out.  As the wine got warmer, I picked up more aromas and flavors and it seemed to improve its affinity for pairing with foods.  So take it out of the fridge, let it sit for 15-20 minutes, before embarking on a Rosé journey unlike any other!  And remember, Rosé it’s not just for summertime.  They’re such great food wines.  Drink ‘em all year round!

My tasting notes follow:

Coppery onion skin color with great aromatics including slightly oxidative aromas of butterscotch, almond, and spice.  On the palate, medium-bodied, silky smooth, fresh, complex and balanced. Very dry with tart red berry, blood orange, and touch of vanillin flavors.  Long finish.  This is definitely a food wine.  We enjoyed with spicy hot Indo/Paki cuisine and it was a great pairing! – 91 pts

T.G.I.F. Bubbly – NV Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava

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 the Segura Viudas Cava Brut Reserva , a Cava from Spain produced by Segura Viudas.

I’m really starting to like Cava!  It tends to have a great QPR, adds sparkle to any occasion, and is oh so food friendly.  What’s not to like?!

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 12 different wines.

NV Segura Viudas Brut Reserva

NV Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava

Region: Spain>Catalunya>Cava

Variety - 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel.lo

Residual Sugar – 9g/Liter

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; Aged 15 months on lees.

Alcohol by volume: 11.5%

Cost:$9

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light straw color with fine bead of bubbles

Aromas: Bread dough and lemon-lime citrus

Body: Light bodied, with moderately creamy mousse

Taste: Green apple, and tart citrus

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their pairing versatility with a variety of foods.  I enjoyed this with spicy Pakistani-Indian food, including Tandoori Prawns, and Goat Curry!  But I’d recommend with lighter fare to match this light-bodied straight forward, but immensely enjoyable Cava.  Try this with smoked seafood topped salad, or seafood paella.

This is an exceptional value at less than $10 – especially for a Reserva level Cava!  This is definitely a “go-to” everyday Cava for me. I highly recommend!  87 pts

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T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – 2007 Raventós i Blanc Cava L’Hereu Reserva Brut

After my faith in Spanish Cava was restored by the “2007 Raventós i Blanc L’Hereu Nit” Brut Reserva Cava, I decided to try the non-Rosé version of the same wine this week. The wines are from the same vintage, so the difference between the two is the absence of  red grape, Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvèdre) from this wine.  The juice from Monastrell gives the Rosé its color.

As I mentioned in my post about the Rosé version, unlike Champagne, Cava isn’t from a particular region, 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, in 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.
  • 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.

The producer, Raventós i Blanc, is the only Cava producer to estate grow (on about 200 acres of land that has been in the family since 1497!) and bottle all their wines.  Their Cavas are all vintage dated, which also sets them apart.  This wine is also a “Reserva” level Cava.

2007 Raventós i Blanc Cava L’Hereu Reserva Brut

2007 Raventós i Blanc Cava “L’Hereu” Reserva Brut

Region: Spain>Catalunya>Cava

Variety – 60% Macabeo, 20% Xarel.lo, 20% Parrellada

Residual Sugar – 8g/Liter

$18, 12.5% a.b.v.

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Very light straw color with tiny bubbles

Aromas: Green apple, sweet chalk, and a faint ocean breeze, or mineral aroma.

Body: On the palate a creamy, delicate mousse, yet approaching medium-bodied mouthfeel

Taste: Green apple, lime and a bit of orange peel on the back palate.

Finish: Medium-long

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate refreshing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This was was delightful as a aperitif and with food.  I enjoyed it with fish tacos from a local taqueria. I was pleasantly surprised that it held up quite well with the spicy salsa I favor on tacos, fish or otherwise.  Try this one with tapas, especially seafood tapas, or maybe grilled seafood such as grilled scallops.

This one is another winner from Raventós! It was comparable in enjoyment, complexity, structure, to other sparklers at this price level, and many, including Champagne that cost more.  I’d buy this one again in a heartbeat, and it’s a very good value.  I heartily recommend!   90 pts  

Cava…it’s not just for Mimosas anymore!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – 2007 Raventos i Blanc “L’Hereu de Nit” Brut Reserva Rosé Cava

While doing this “T.G.I.F, Champagne and the like” series, I’ve only reviewed one Cava. I was disappointed with it.  To be fair, I’ve only had a few, but the few I’ve had, more so bring to mind Mimosas than a sparkler I’d enjoy on its own, or with a diverse range of foods.   Then I read an article entitled Looking for Love in Cava: The vast difference between quality and value-priced Cava, which made me wonder if I wasn’t looking for Cava “love in all the wrong places”.

Here’s what I’ve learned since my previous Cava post.  Unlike Champagne, 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.
  • 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.

The producer, Raventós i Blanc, is the only Cava producer to estate grow (on about 200 acres of land that has been in the family since 1497!) and bottle all their wines.  Their Cavas are all vintage dated, which also sets them apart.

2007 Raventos i Blanc Cava L'Hereu de Nit

2007 Raventos i Blanc Cava “L’Hereu de Nit” Brut Reserva Rosé Cava

Region: Spain>Catalunya>Cava

Variety - 55% Macabeo, 15% Xarel.lo, 15% Parrellada,  15% Monastrell

Residual Sugar – 8g/Liter

$20, 12.5% a.b.v.

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Very pale salmon color with a copper hue, with a fine bead

Aromas: Fresh baked bread, strawberry, and red currant with slight floral and spice note.

Body: Refined mouth feel with a soft creamy mousse.  Nicely balanced with some complexity

Taste: Raspberry, red currant, and soft minerals.

Finish: Medium

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, especially Rosés which can fit a broad palette of flavors on a chef’s menu, whether the chef is someone else, or you!  This was wonderful with the grilled salmon we had for dinner.

I really enjoyed this, and it’s changed my mind about the what Cava can be.   It was comparable in enjoyment, complexity, structure, to other sparklers at this price level, and some, including Champagne that cost more.  I’d buy this one again in a heartbeat, and it’s a very good value, especially for a Rosé.  I heartily recommend!   89 pts

Drink Pink…Top 10 Rosés!

They say the first step is to admit you cannot control your compulsion…here it is then…I am a Rosé fiend!  Not only are Rosés my hands down favorite during the warmer months of the year, I enjoy Rosé pretty much all year-round because it’s such a versatile food friendly wine.  For example last week, on the hottest day of Summer 2011, so far, I made Chipotle-Rubbed Flank Steak w/Gorgonzola Sauce.  I wanted a chilled wine because it was hot, but also a wine that would stand up to the meatiness of the steak, the spiciness of the spice rub, and the brininess of the Gorgonzola cheese sauce.  A Rosé from Spain was just the ticket and paired wonderfully with the dish.

I’ve been on a serious “Rosé Run” between the beginning of May and now; having tasted at least 25 Rosés from California, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.  With that brief, but salient background, here are my Top 10 Rosés of 2011…at least so far…I’m sure I’ll be trying more throughout the summer!

First, the method to my madness:

  • The wines are ranked in inverse order.
  • If I scored wines the same, price is the tiebreaker, with the lower priced wine being ranked higher.
  • For more detailed information including the region from which the wine comes, grape varietal(s), more detailed tasting notes/comments,  and a Wine-Searcher.com link to find the wine, click on linked name of the wine.

Here we go…

10.  2010 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis -  Spain.  Pink with silver hue color of watermelon flesh.  Strawberry,  and wet stone aromas. On the palate, bone dry, light-bodied, and fizzy with mouth-watering acidity, with strawberry, mineral, and citrus flavors. Medium finish. (88 pts) – $21

9. Frick Winery Cinsault Rosé  -  California.  Dark pink with a reddish hue. Strawberry, and tart cherry aromas.  On the palate, between dry and off-dry, medium bodied, with a trace of tannins, and strawberry, cherry, spice, and a touch of pomegranate flavors.  Medium finish (88 pts) - $19

8.  2010 Quivira Rosé North Coast -  California.  Faded pink color. Strawberry and spice aromas.  On the palate, closer to off-dry than dry, and approaching medium bodied with strawberry, melon and spice flavors aroma.  Short finish.  (88 pts) – $17

7.  2010 Château d’Esclans Cotes de Provence Whispering Angel - France. Very light salmon pink with a copper hue.  Offers melon, and mineral aromas.  On the palate light bodied, and dry with not quite ripe melon, citrus, and little bit of earthy flavor.  Medium finish.   (89 pts) - $17

6.  2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare -  California. Salmon color with raspberry, and mineral aromas.  On the palate light bodied, balanced with strawberry, melon, apricot flavors.  Medium finish. (89 pts) – $15

5. 2010 Dashe Cellars Vin Gris  - California.  Deep strawberry red color.  Strawberry, dried cherry, and spice aromas.  On the palate, balanced with lush mouth feel with lively strawberry, cherry, spice and mineral flavors.  Medium-long finish.  (89 pts) - $14

4.  2010 Bodegas Muga Rioja Rosado -  Spain.  Light pink color with pale orange hue.  Strawberry, apricot and melon aromas.  On the palate, dry with medium acidity, moderately complex.  Tangy with strawberry, orange/tangerine, and mineral flavors.  Medium finish. (89 pts) -  $13

3.  2009 Bonny Doon Vineyards A Supposedly Clever Winemaking Protocol I’ll…Ca’ del Solo - California.  Bright strawberry red color with pale orange hue with strawberry, and melon aromas. On the palate,  medium bodied with a hint of tannins, good acidity, and juicy strawberry, melon, and just a bit of kiwi flavors.  Barrel-fermented. Brought to mind a chilled light bodied red wine.  Medium finish.  (90 pts) - $16

2.  2010 François Chidaine Touraine Val de Loire - France. Lovely light salmon pink color with wild strawberry, floral, and faint dusty aromas.  On the palate, complex and tart with lively acidity, and strawberry, tart berry, and orange flavors.  Medium long finish.  (90 pts) – $13

1.  2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Mourvèdre Ode to Lulu Rosé - California.  Gorgeous eye of the partridge color with fragrant raspberry, white peach, wet stone, and floral aromas.  On the palate, approaching medium bodied, dry with wonderful acidity, and mouth feel, with spicy white peach, citrus and mineral flavors.  Medium-long finish (91 pts) - $20

Although, my Top 10 is dominated by Cali Rosés, that’s because I prefer to taste before I buy, and my proximity to Northern California’s wine regions affords me the opportunity to do that.  Of course, I’m also up for trying wine recommended by other “Winos” I trust, and that’s how I was introduced to a few of the wines.

Not only is the my list dominated by Cali wines, I noted that all but one of the wines is made from various Rhone varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, or  Cinsault among a few others), and that’s not happenstance.  I think Rhone varietals add a layer of spiciness to the wines that I really enjoy.

Do you have a favorite Rosé?  If so, leave me a comment! I’m always looking to try something new, and the Summer is young!!

Is La Mancha ready for Primetime?

Last week, I attended my first wine event as a member of the “trade”.  The event was hosted by “Wines of La Mancha“.  Since it was my first such event as a member of the trade,  I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than Spanish Wine – which I enjoy, having had wines mostly from the La Rioja, Castilla y Leon, Aragon, and Galicia regions.  It was a walk-around tasting with 11 wineries represented.

It turned out to be a top shelf event at Robert Fountain Studio in the Potrero Hill neighborhood in San Francisco.  In particular, the food served was remarkable, with whole roasted pig being the centerpiece of a bounty that included a wonderful assortment of Spanish tapas-style small plates.

Click images to enlarge

I must confess I knew little about the La Mancha DO.  While doing some “discovery”, I noted little (The Concise World Atlas of Wine), or nothing ( The Wine Bible) was said about La Mancha – thus the event; to heighten awareness of this wine region which lives in the shadows of more renown wine regions in Spain like La Rioja, Catalonia  (Priorat),  Castilla and Leon (Ribero del Duero), and Andalusia, from which Sherry hails.

Here’s the 411 on La Mancha:

  • Part of the Castilla-La Mancha autonomous community
  • Largest of 9 DOs in Castilla-La Mancha, which is the largest continuous vine-growing area in the world
  • Claim to fame – The stomping grounds of the famed literary figure Don Quixote
  • Climate – According to a local proverb – “nine months of winter and three months of hell”
  • Authorized red grapes: Cencibel (a.k.a Tempranillo, Grenache, Moravia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah
  • Authorized white grapes: Airén (pronounced “Aye ran”), Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Chardonnay, Verdejo, Moscatel de grano menudo, and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Achieved DO status in 1976
  • Known for producing wines with great price/quality ratio, and formerly known for producing bulk wines
One of the things I found interesting about La Mancha, is that they have more than the 3 classifications used to designate the ageing of wine common to Spain (Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva).  In addition to the three aforementioned classifications, La Mancha wines are also classified as “Young” (Vino Joven) wine, and Traditional.  The Young and Traditional wines see no oak.  In fact, the Young wines are intended to be comparable to famous (or infamous depending on one’s tastes) Beaujolais Nouveau from France.

It’s always fun for me to try new grape varietals.  I tried Airén, and Macabeo, on a standalone basis, for the first time.  And there were some wines I really enjoyed, and/or found interesting.

My favorites whites:

Anil Macabeo – 100% Macabeo. Tropical fruit, herb nose.  Tropical, citrus palate.  Juicy light-medium mouth feel.  Short finish – 87pts

Allozo Verdejo – 100% Verdejo.  Grassy, citrus, faint vanilla nose.  Stone fruit, citrus palate.  Light bodied with crisp acidity, and slightly bitter on back palate.  Short finish – 86pts

My favorite reds were:

La Villa Real Reserva – Aromatic nose of black currant, oak, and spice.  Black currant, dark cherry, chocolate palate.  Med-long finish – 88pts

Casa Antonete  Gran Reserva – Black currant, oak, leather nose.  Cherry, coffee palate, and smooth tannins.  Long finish – 90pts

Casa Antonete Crianza – Intense cherry/black currant liqueur nose.  Vibrant cherry palate. Balanced. Medium finish – 89pts

Torre de Gazate Reserva - 50/50;Cencibel/Cab blend. Tobacco, cherry, oak nose.  Currant, cherry, spice palate.  Medium finish – 87pts

I was also pleasantly surprised at the prices for the higher quality wines. Most of the wines lived up to their great price/quality reputation.

On the other hand, I found the majority the whites I tasted to be a bit austere for my tastes.  And quite a few of the reds, too tannic for my tastes (And i like a wine with some grip).  I also found that I didn’t care much for the Young wines I tasted. But, I also think the wines may have been served too warm, and I look forward to trying a Young wine again served at a cooler temperature.

The verdict? For me, I enjoyed the wines, though not as much as comparable wines I’ve had from Rioja, Ribero, or Priorat.  However, it’s clear to me that La Mancha is a full participant in the Spanish wine revolution that’s bringing modern wine making techniques, experimentation with other than traditional grape varietals, and new plantings/re-plantings to Spain.  While it’s “not there yet” La Mancha is on the rise, and on my radar!