All my wine blogs, Borja, Garnacha, Rose wines, Spain

Borsao Rosé 2011

When I saw this year’s new release of Borsao Rosé on the shelf, I could not resist. How could you go wrong with a rosé wine from the famous Garnacha region (Campo de Borja), that only costs $6.99 a bottle?

I am a big fan of Borsao wines – and it’s not just because I was lucky enough to visit their vineyards and the winery few years back.

I already enjoyed their wines before that, for years. But when you are given the opportunity to meet the winemaker, to see the soil, vines and people involved in all that labor, the love for the brand gets another vibes.

Old vines Garnacha (Alto Moncayo Mountains,  Borja
Old vines Garnacha (Alto Moncayo Mountains, Borja

It’s is mainly because their wines are consistently really good. From the cheapest (or better said inexpensive) line of bottles such as Monte Oton, Borsao Tinto – that range around $5-8 retail, to their incredible Tres Picos, unbelievable value for under $20. Not to forget about their newest project, Borsao got involved in, the superb Alto Moncayo wines.

Therefore I am familiar with the taste of Garnacha wines coming from this winery, especially the old vines with their very typical spice, sweetness and a very concentrated dark fruit flavors. Credit to those attributes goes to the high quality old vines (the winery doesn’t have records on some of their oldest vines, to figure out how old they really are), and the very unique soil of red clay (rich in iron), mixed with red slate, that they were planted in. The Borsao vineyards are located high in the Alto Moncayo mountains (I still remember how sick I felt when Inigo Alberto drove us, very fast, up and down those mountains, on the dirt roads, in his little car.)

Our guide Inigo and Jose Luis - the Borsao's winemaker
Our guide Inigo and Jose Luis – the Borsao’s winemaker

So how was the Borsao rosé? Lovely, rich salmon pink color, as the Garnacha grape gives it a lot of color from its thick skin. Refreshing, fruity scent of raspberries and dark fruit. At the first sip, it felt like – OK, lovely, not particularly exciting wine, nice for summer (and great for that price, right?). A lot of fruit, I missed the acidity to balance it out, it almost felt  (as my husband put it), a little flat. Still, much better than many rosé wines I tasted lately, for a much higher price. Don’t forget, for years I am being spoiled by Muga Rosé, that I consider one of the best Rosé wines made in Spain. So balanced, so rich, simply delicious.

But then we took a bite into our turkey sandwich, I prepared with sweet roasted peppers, lightly drizzled with hot Sriracha. The other sip of Borsao rosé was very surprising.

Hey – the wine’s true colors showed up! The heat of the sauce brought up the spices in the rosé, suddenly it felt balanced much better, it was vibrant, it woke up all our senses. I loved it – and must say, it’s a damn great bottle of rosé for that price!

I just hope that since my last visit, my new Spanish friend Inigo finally got his desired hummer that I strongly  advocated for with his bosses!

Carinena, Garnacha, Great wines under $10, Red blends, Red wine, Spain, Tempranillo

Las Valles 2009

Produced by: Bodegas Virgen del Águila
Grape: 50% Tempranillo, 40% Garnacha, 10% Syrah
Region: Cariñena

This is one of those unexpected finds that might become your next house wine. I was preparing my private wine dinner at home for the first weekend of January. When my menu was decided, I came to my favorite wine store to buy the wines. Campos Reales, an unoaked red wine from La Mancha, Spain was in my mind, when composing the third course of my menu.

I needed wine that had a lot of character, yet it wasn’t too big to overpower my smoked salmon/spinach rolls. To my disappointment, the wine manager told me that the distributor was out of stock till maybe February. Well, that didn’t help. It was obvious that I will have to improvise.

When I asked my friend, the wine manager Tryg, what he would recommend instead, a wine that would be similar style to Campos Reales (and unoaked), we walked through isles and pointed out few bottles. The last one was Las Valles. I looked at the label and it said: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Syrah. Hmm, sounds pretty big red to me.

“Are you sure it’s not a big wine?” I asked Tryg. He promised me it’s not – and that it would be probably his favorite out of those he showed me so far. I grabbed 3 bottles. The price was unbelievable and I figured – let’s open one a taste it before my guests come to wine dinner party and I embarrass myself.

Wow, that wine was fantastic! So I went on-line and looked it up. I learned that: “Las Valles” is produced by Bodegas Virgen del Águila, a modern, progressive cooperative near the town of Paniza that also produces wines under the “ia” label for Hand picked selections. The bodega offers a wealth of vines (nearly 5,500 acres!) planted in prime terroir (more than 2,500 ft above sea level!) nestled against the Iberico mountain range.

This includes a wealth (nearly 190 acres) of old, 50+ year-old Garnacha, Tempranillo and Macabeo vines, as well as newer plantings of international varietals. ”

This red blend was stainless steel fermented and never saw an oak. Well, I can tell you, this may as well be my new house wine. Especially for the price of $ 7.99 I paid for it. That’s a serious steel!

Tasting notes:
Beautiful aroma of fresh red berries, cherries or raspberries. On the palate this is clean, medium body wine. Really nice exposure of mixed wild berries flavors spiced up with Syrah (or is it old vines Garnacha?). Either way, Las Valles is totally impressive wine, especially for that price. Complex, balanced with perfect acidity to pair easily with many foods. Loved it, and so did everybody else at my wine dinner.

We might have just found our next favorite! See, sometimes it’s good when you need to change plans. What seemed like a bad news first, let me to discover something new and exciting! Don’t miss the chance to taste it!
And yes, I still love Campos Reales, whenever it’s going to be available again.

Dry – Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 8.00

Ideal food pairing:
Roasted peppers and eggplant dip, Vermicelli con melanzana, Vegetable lentils, Shish kebab with eggplant hash and Tzaziki sauce, and many more… mild cheeses, Italian Antipasto, spiced cured meats etc.

Borja, Garnacha, Old vines, Red wine, Spain

Borsao Tres Picos 2008

Winemaker: Jose Luis
Grape: 100% Garnacha (Grenache) Old Vines
Region: D.O. Campo de Borja, Spain

See other wines from this producer:
Monte Oton
Alto Moncayo Veraton

Professional reviews of this vintage:
Robert Parker : 91 points
International wine cellar: 91 points

Named by the three mountain peaks bordering this vineyard, this wine will take you by surprise. I remember first time I tasted this wine and was totally impressed with it. At that time, it was about $14.00 a bottle.I immediately picked it as one of the wines for my upcoming Spanish wine dinner – a when we came to the date, I was only left with few bottles for my wine dinner.
The inventory of Tres Picos was already gone. Sold out.It was very upsetting, because everybody loved the wine and wanted to buy some. That tought me a lesson to keep an eye on values like this one and buy it immediately when the vintage is released.
When I visited Bodegas Borsao, a producer of this wine, I began to understand why. Located high on the slopes of Moncayo Mountains, the old vine Garnacha have to struggle in really rough terrain. Low nutrition soil results in low yields (less than 2 tons per acre).

See my blog about my visit to Borja

But the quality of the wine is so high, it doesn’t need an additional support of heavy oak to get the body and concentration it needs to shine. There are only few thousands cases made for the United States market and they go fast.

The fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Only half of the harvested grapes are aged in French oak barrels for 10 months. The rest is aged in stainless steel.

Despite that the wine shows huge complexity, and incredible balance. It was instant love every vintage, since I first tasted it. A friend just brought me a bottle of the latest, 2008 vintage. I couldn’t wait to open it and I was very impressed, as always, when I finally tasted it.

Tasting notes:
Intense aroma of dark cherries and light aroma of wild flowers. Beautiful, ruby red with purple tones. On the palate it offers you a huge expression of ripe fruit, blackberries or dark cherries, with light dust of cocoa and lovely spice that makes you to longing for more. It reminds me of a really good Cotes du Rhone red.

Garnacha here is incredibly balanced with just right amount of acidity and silky tannins. It’s worth to decant it or at least to leave the bottle open for an hour or so. It will slowly grow on your tongue, as you continue sip it. To me, this is very seductive, clean, elegant and impressive wine with a really long finish. Tres Picos is a wine of ridiculous value (as it always was) and I need to buy some more before it’s gone!

Dry – Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: under $ 18.00

Ideal food pairing:
Gourmet sliced pork with Mirasol peppersPork chops with wine and capers, Easy pork chops with onions and pepers, Shish kebab with eggplant hash and Tzatziki sauce, My traditional lasagna,Lamb burgers with relish mayo,and many more options

Borja, Garnacha, Red wine, Spain

Alto Moncayo Veraton 2007

Winemaker: Australian winemaker Chris Ringland (in cooperation with Jose Luis)
Grape: 100% Garnacha (Grenache)
Region: D.O. Campo de Borja, Spain

See other wines made by Bodegas Borsao:
Monte Oton
Borsao Tres Picos

Reviews of this vintage:
Wine Enthusiast October 2010: 91pts
Stephen Tanzer: 92pts 2010 review: 92pts

In the Moncayo mountains, located just below the famous Rioja, in elevation among 1,200-2,000ft above the sea level – somebody wisely planted Garnacha.

Some of the vineyards are now over 100 years old. Some of the vines (as I was told when visiting the D.O., don’t even have exact record about their age. The rough terroire, poor nutrition soils and low yields – that’s always a promising combination for exceptional wines.

Bodeagas Borsao, that first started to take advantage of this potencial, produces a wide range of inexpensive, yet exceptional wines. Among their most popular are probably Borsao Tinto, newly Monte Oton, Borsao Crianza Seleccion or Tres Picos.

Although the first 2 of these wines are unoaked, rich and fruity red blends (Garnacha, Tempranillo, some Cabernet Sauvignon), their price is deep under $ 10.00 retail. Well balanced wines with a quality that has almost no competition at this price point. I had the pleasure to visit Tres Picos vineyard (-planted with old vines Garnacha, on the slopes of Moncayo Moutains), personally a few years ago.

Read my blog about the visit in Borja and see more picture

As the name suggests, there are 3 hills (tres picos) on the horizons of the vineyard and the vine has to struggle through rough terrain, with low rainfall, resulting in low yields. Although Tres Picos is very rich and full body, one would never guess that it is also stainless steel fermented (as their inexpensive cousins). Only half of the grapes for Tres Picos are aged in French oak for about 10 months. That’s how powerful is the Garnacha from the Moncayo Mountains.

Bodegas Alto Moncayo, created more recently in the town of Bulbuente, is joint venture of Jose Miguel San Martin, Jorge Ordoñez, Bodegas Borsao and Dan Philips in conjunction with famous Australian winemaker Chris Ringland. The Bodegas cultivates 153 acres of old clone Garnacha vines planted on hillside vineyards (few of them terraced), which are located in 3 villages.

The important ingredient is a very unique soil of red clay (rich in iron), mixed with red slate. Hillsides are also very poor in organic matter and shalow. Only the finest selection of the old vines Garnacha goes to three wines, produced at Bodegas Alto Moncayo: Alto Moncayo, Alto Moncayo Veraton and Aquilon (that is harvested from old vines hillside selection).

Veraton, coming from the town of Vera de Moncayo, comes from vines that were trained in the vaso system. Green harvesting, that lowers the already low yields, brings the vine to it’s maximum concentration and high quality. Hand selected, only the most perfect mature bunches are harvested within days, passing the vineyard several times.

The workers kept grapes in small boxes to prevent bruising of the fruit. Another careful selection was done on the winery’s sorting tables. Fermentation took place in a small open vats and wine then aged in new French and American oak barrels for 17 months.

Tasting notes:
Dark ruby color, and rich aroma of dark fruits, ripe plums and dark berries, with a hint of oak. On the palate you taste rich fruity wine, with notes of wild raspberries, blackberries and spicy oak. Beautifully balanced, impressive and complex, with velvety tannins that will soften even more with few years in the bottle.

One of the best Grenache expressions out there in this price range.

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: under $ 29.00

Ideal food pairing:
Rich meat stews, Beef Bourguignon , Beef Brisket with Roasted Grapes, Beef Chorizo, My Best Chili Recipe, Shish Kebab with Eggplant Hash, Lamb Burgers with Relish Mayo, Lamb Chops with Dried Cherries and Port, Galician Paella

All my wine blogs, Garnacha

My first ever Veal Osso Buco with Garnacha Par Excellence

My first ever Veal Osso Buco with Garnacha Par Excellence

I know, I should be probably dieting like everybody else. I need it. But I didn’t make any New Year resolution regarding my weight issues. I watch what I eat year around. Unfortunately, for some reason, it doesn’t always show. Why bother when I know I will be hosting a private wine dinner the very first Saturday of 2011?

How do you diet with 5 courses and 5 different wines??

Food to me is very important part of well being. And not just any food, it must be good too! I love the whole process getting the idea, working, improvise and play with it, until it’s done to my liking.

My Osso Buco story wasn’t different. I saw some nice looking veal shank in Whole foods. Since I have never made it before (but I had it in the restaurants), it represented a challenge. I decided it shouldn’t be so hard and bought two good looking veal shanks.


OK, there was another reason too. But let’s start from beginning.

Thanks to an unbelievable generosity of a dear friend (let’s call him JO), part of my almost empty “wine cellar” got an unexpected makeover last week. Unexpected, but very, very appreciated!


Suddenly, I needed to create a special dinner to accommodate a very special bottle of wine. No problema para mí!

I started by looking for the recipe. I wanted the best, so I looked up Mario Batali’s version. I agreed with him that there is a beauty in simplicity (as long as you have fresh quality ingredients). Just to compare, I also looked up other respected Italian chef’s recipes but returned to Mario’s base.

Yet, as always, I ended up not following the recipe completely. But when the philosophy of the dish is understood, I believe it can take few twists here and there.

See my version of recipe here

As I was cooking my memory took me back to he beautiful Moncayo Mountains we traveled to visit the vineyards of D.O. Campo de Borja. Rough terrain that my stomach remembers as well. Inigo Alberto, (our guide) for some reason drove crazy fast.

Up and down the hills, on the dirty little roads, in his small car, gas and brakes, until I got car sick. My sickness later disappeared – about the time we got to Alto Moncayo wines during our wine tasting.

(Inigo later asked me to mention it in front of his bosses – so maybe they would finally buy him the Hummer he has repeatedly asking for). I totally brought it up in my thank you speech and you can see that it was received very well). I wonder if he got the car yet…
Anyway, visiting Bodegas Borsao and Alto Moncayo was one of the highlights of our Spanish trip. Our kind hosts spent quite some time with us, answering all our nosy questions and tasting their great wine portfolio with us. The catering chef, who brought an excellent menu for the tasting, even interrupted his vacation to be there! And, they have some of the most impressive tasting room we have seen!

The vineyards of Bodegas Borsao and Bodegas Alto Moncayo have a great potential – some of them located in about 2,000 ft elevation, planted between 1910-1967. Old vines have an extremely low yield, additionally decreased by green harvesting. The age of vine, the quality of the fruit, high elevation and a challenging soil is a promising combination for an incredibly rich and complex wines. And that’s exactly what you get here.

Starting with their super bargain Borsao red, Monte Oton or Tres Picos, to the high end of Alto Moncayo and Aquilon, these wines are a showcase of Garnacha Par Excellence. Although Campo de Borja is not as famous D.O. as for example Rioja, Ribera del Duero or Priorat, these wines are getting the attention they deserve! And the professional wine ratings are reflecting that as well.

Alto Moncayo Veraton 2007:
Wine Enthusiast October 2010: 91pts
Stephen Tanzer: 92pts 2010 review: 92pts!

2006 Vintage: Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: 94pts

The winemaker Jose Luis works closely with famous Australian winemaker Chris Ringland, who oversees the winemaking process. Jose Luis told us that exact age of some of their vines is unknown….

So, that’s my story with my first ever Veal Osso Buco and Garnacha Par Excellence relationship. It was delicious, although the wine ended up being much bigger than the dish. Next time, I will prepare a steak or lamb. We absolutely didn’t mind it though, and finished the delicious bottle. You can’t really put it back to the bottle once you decanted it. Ok, you can, but we didn’t feel like it.

Before my last sip I had a tiny bit of dark chocolate (and I am not a big fan of pairing chocolate with wine) – but it was an amazing transformation! This big, excellent Garnacha, approached by cacao became a velvety sensation.

And as far as the diet talk goes, isn’t veal a diet meat after all? I know, not the shank particularly, I hear you. Just so you know – it was delicious, but no, I didn’t eat the whole thing…