All my wine blogs, All wine reviews, La Mancha, Red wine, Spain, Tempranillo

Pallas 2011 – a very cheerful wine

Winemaker: Rafael CoñizaresPallas Comp
Grape: 100% Tempranillo
Region: La Mancha, Spain

See other wines from this winemaker:

I was excited to find this new Jorge Ordoñez/Rafael Coñizares join venture (Venta Morales project), a new wine from La Mancha, called PALLAS.

When I saw its label, it brought back some memories. The memories of my visit to Span, region of La Mancha, and my first meeting with the winemaker Rafael Coñizares. He seemed to be very shy, soft spoken man, who didn’t like to talk about his wines much. Or, could it be that I didn’t speak Spanish and he didn’t hold a conversation in English? Either way, we both preferred to drink those wines rather than talking about them.

Rafael Coñizares
Rafael Coñizares

The label of this new, 100% Tempranillo wine, is full of stones. Just like the large river stones, an underlayment of unique La Mancha sandy soils, with lots of iron, clay and chalk. La Mancha, the largest wine region in the world, with around 474,000 acres of higher altitude land devoted to vine growing, is “nurturing” its vines with rough winds, cold winters and hot summer days, turning into cold nights.

Combine that with almost no rainfall, and Rafael’s devotion to keep vine’s yields very low – and you have the recipe for concentrated, deep colors and superb flavors in wine.

moje logo small3Tasting notes:

Although this wine was stainless steel fermented, and didn’t age in oak, it offers surprisingly dark, ruby, almost purple color. Lovely aroma of dark berries and perhaps a little dust of cocoa.

On the palate it was fresh, full of yummy fruit flavors, reminder of dark cherries, sweet and acidic blackcurrant from my mom’s garden, with a little spice of black pepper. When you got to drink a greatly made wine , without oak, it actually shows you the bare, clean, unmasked wine flavors in its best glory. I loved what my husband said about Pallas, when he took his first sip: this wine is cheerful!  Yes, it’s rich fruity flavors with silky tannins made our dinner cheerful event.La Mancha

Incredible value wine for hard to believe $8.00.  I left my second bottle opened till next day, and almost liked the wine better than when I first opened it. Which is sometimes the case with some really expensive, big reds, when the wine is not “opened” enough yet. But it hardly happens with wine in this price range. Kudos to Jorge and Rafael for this one!!!

By the way, if you follow my blog for a while, you know that I am crazy about Spanish wines. Especially those that I can consider “house wine” based on their, more than reasonable, price. Jorge Ordoñez, my favorite Spanish wine importer, put his seal on many great, affordable wines from different parts of Spain. Its common denominator is the uncompromising quality, no matter what the price tag. You can imagine why I felt like a kid in the candy store, when I saw this shelf at Boca Raton’s Whole Foods. Wow, they have some wise wine manager there!


All my wine blogs, Red wine, Rioja, Spain, Tempranillo

My very special birthday wine

Few years back I have got a very special bottle of wine. Something, I would most likely never buy myself, even if I wanted to. For a simple reason – way over my acceptable spending budget.

Finca Allende Aurus label
Finca Allende Aurus label

I have got this bottle as a bonus for my work, promoting my big passion – Spanish wines. Keeping it for a few years,  I decided just this last week, to open something really, really special on my birthday. So I reached for THAT bottle: 2004 Finca Allende AURUS.

What is so very special about this wine? Well, aside from superb ratings from about every wine critic there is on the map, this wine is made from very old vines  – Tempranillo and Graciano grapes, with very low yields. That usually on its own is a promise of great, concentrated flavors in the wine. The winemaker also added that after very strict selection, just best bunches of grapes were harvested and went under another selection in the winery. Wine then aged in Tronais barrels for 18 months and was bottled unfiltered.

Here is what Wine Advocate said about this wine:

“The 2004 Aurus is 85% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano from 60-year-old vineyards with tiny yields. It was barrel fermented and aged in 100% new French oak. A saturated purple, the wine is currently more reticent than the Calvario aromatically although the same elements are present. The wine is still a baby, with lots of fat, sweet, layered, mouth-filling fruit, plenty of structure, and a pure, super-long finish. It merits as much as a decade of bottle age and should still be drinking well two decades from now. Kudos to Finca Allende for a magnificent set of 2004 Riojas!…96 points” WA 2/07.

Rating: 96 points – reviewed in Wine Advocate # 169 on Feb-07

Rating: 94 points – reviewed by International Wine Cellar

But all this still doesn’t mean the wine has to be super special, right? What if you can’t care less about ratings? Well, to me, this wine was special also for these reasons:

1) I was very fortunate to visit Finca Allende and tasted the whole superb portfolio of this modern Rioja winery right there, with their charming export director Nathalie Leboeuf. (I was selling their wines in U.S.A. during my wine sales career).

Finca Allende visit
Finca Allende visit

2) I have got this bottle from a person whose opinion I treasured very highly, and he gave it to me for my exceptional  work with Spanish wines. I don’t mean to brag about it here, but it doesn’t happen every day that one will get such an expensive bottle just for “doing their job”. The fact that he, out of all people, acknowledged my efforts, made it so much more special.

3) The wine really was a treat. Probably still too young (the critics predicted that this vintage may have potential to improve over 1-2 decades), but already quite approachable. Not at all big powerhouse, but fine, complex, lovely, silky wine that will go places in time (if I had more bottles, I would definitely love to try 2004 Aurus again in 5 years). But I don’t. Drinking this wine reminded me of those few beautiful days I spent in sunny Rioja.

Rioja in the sunset
Rioja in the sunset, photo: Vera Czerny

Funny, before I moved to Florida this spring, one of my wine loving friends, also a former customer, told me: “Florida?? Why? Nobody drinks wine there, they all drink White Zinfandel or coctails! No more beautiful winter evenings, sipping a nice, rich Cabernet in front of the fireplace…” Well, I am here to testify that none of his predictions are true. Not only did I find a lot of wine enthusiasts here (and not just those that retired). But the fact that I decanted this wine outside on my patio, in October, still in my shirts, on the beautiful warm evening, and enjoyed it under the stars of Florida’s gorgeous sky – didn’t take a bit from the overall experience and enjoyment. Just the opposite.

It was my first ever birthday in warmth (I spent the day on the beach) and this charm in the bottle made it so much more special!

All wine reviews, Red wine, Ribera del Duero, Spain, Tempranillo

Barco de Piedra 2009

photo: Friederike Paetzold

Last year, during my Spanish wine classes, we had a very unique opportunity to taste several Tempranillo wines, from different regions of Spain, in the row. As you might know, Tempranillo is one of the best grapes to express its terroire. Although I enjoy classic Tempranillo from Rioja region, I am always excited to taste a difference, coming from variety of soils and elevations. One of my new favorite Tempranillo expressions from this wine tasting was quite special Barco de Piedra 2009 from Ribera del Duero.

Quite special? Here are just few reasons why it stands out:

* As there is a lot of effort these days to create “universally loved” big, bold reds, some of Tempranillo wines coming from Spain suffer from its winemaker’s tendency to fit in that category. How? By adding unnecessarily too much of oak which sometimes results in masking the true, unique style of Tempranillo based wines.

photo: Friederike Paetzold

The founders of Bodegas Barco de Piedra – business partners Alberto Orte and Patrick Mata, together with Borja Osborne, decided to go the exact opposite direction.Their goal was to let the grape variety, grown on the hillside of the Quiñón Estate, shine on its own. The partners and its winemaker, Alvaro Trigueros, were well aware of the fact that Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero shows enough tannins and power on its own – so why would you over perfume and over power it with an additional prolonged oak aging?

photo: Friederike Paetzold

The weather conditions (the cool nights and hot days) at their vineyard, located in the western area of Ribera del Duero, result in Tempranillo grapes (called here Tinto Fino) with thicker skin, translated into wines with much more intense and concentrated color and flavors, than anywhere else in Spain. No need to put heavy makeup on already beautiful girl!

* Ribera del Duero became a very sought after region lately, and it’s quickly becoming as popular as perhaps Rioja or Priorat. Unfortunately, with that fame usually comes unpopular side effect – higher prices of wines. Here, too, Bodegas Barco de Piedra goes the other way, against the flow. This superb, small production, single vineyard full of organically grown 25 years old vines, seriously over-delivers for its $15 price tag!

* All the effort, invested in the labor intensive vinification of this wine, usually results in much more expensive wine in the bottle. As the winery publishes, only the best bunches from three different sites are selected during the harvest. All clusters are then carefully  de-stemmed and crushed. The not yet fermented juice mixes with the skins for 2-3 days and after that, cold fermentation takes an additional 11 days. Extended post-fermentation maceration is carried out for another 8 days.

Fermentation and malolactic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is finally ages for just 5 months (!) in 300-liter 85% French and 15% American oak barrels. All that work for about 5000 cases of wine. There are much more expensive wineries, calling themselves boutique, producing 20+ thousand cases per vintage. But Bodegas Barco de Piedra is truly boutique, organic and pretty much hand made wine!

* All the effort to pay attention to every little detail results in an incredible red wine, a true showcase of the superb Ribera del Duero wine region. Yes, their Tempranillo tastes completely different than the one from Rioja or perhaps from La Mancha. But that’s how it is supposed to be! That’s what I love about it. Despite the short time spent in the oak, Barco de Piedra charms with deep color, beautiful aromas of dark fruit and spices and enough concentrated flavors to satisfy even the “full flavors, big reds” lovers. I appreciate the notes of dark plums, spices and earthy flavors in this wine. The complexity and balance promises an aging potential for another few years.

Now tell me, where you can get all that for 15 bucks?

Red wine, Spain, Tempranillo

Dacu 2010

Produced by: Bodegas Emeritas
Winemaker: Alberto Orte
Grape: 100% Tempranillo
Region: Ribera del Guadiana, Spain

I usually pick a bottle or two of my favorite Pinot Noir for the holidays. This year, I will make an exception, as I already purchased a case of this great, newly discovered wine! Tempranillo might be my favorite grape, but what is the most seductive about it is the fact that where ever it grows (throughout the Spain), it absorbs the characteristics of its origin.

(Interestingly enough, Spanish native Tempranillo doesn’t do that well anywhere outside of Spain). So let’s say comparing 100% Tempranillo wine from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Toro or perhaps La Mancha – is like drinking four completely different wines.

Dacu isn’t exception to this rule. The grapes for this wine, although coming from a single-vineyard, are farmed on 3 different soil types (as the vineyard is divided), so it is also vinified in 3 different methods to suit the fruit from each soil type. Tempranillo vines are located altitude of 1,837 ft. above the sea level and showcase an entirely unique characteristics.

To preserve the excellence of the fruit, Alberto leaves wine in oak for the minimum time. Grapes are typically mixed with their skins for two weeks, with light soaking. After maceration and fermentation are complete, the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in the barrel.
This superb, refreshing then wine ages for just three months in French ( 3 years old) oak barrels.

Ribera del Guadiana, the second largest appellation in Spain, is currently not very well known to many people, including some Spaniards. Bodegas Emeritas (formerly known as Bodegas Ortiz) was founded in 2007 by Jose Ortiz, Alberto Orte and Patrick Mata. Their goal was simple: to make an excellent value wine. Despite all the extensive labor and attention to every detail, this bottle is priced under $ 10.00. Yes, they keep their promise, and definitely over-delivered!!!

Tasting notes:
Beautiful clean, ruby color with lovely aroma of fresh fruit like raspberries and wild flowers. On the palate this is light – to medium body wine (as it is opening up) with sexy spice on the tongue. Completely unique, seductive flavors beautifully balanced with acidity.

If I didn’t know it spent a little time in oak, I would swear it was made in stainless steel or betonage, as you can hardly detect any signs of oaky flavors. All you taste is an excellent ripe fruit (like raspberries, cherries, even a little red plum or blueberry).

Dacu is a modern, vibrant, fresh deliciousness, with velvety delicate tannins. Wine is gaining body as it’s opening up in the glass.  In the price point (under $10.00) it is a steal for any appreciative wine enthusiast! Take a note, and go buy this new house wine of mine!

Dry – Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: under $10.00

Ideal food pairing:
I already tried this wine with variety of food – latest with flat bread pizza with roasted peppers, red onions and mushrooms. This is extremely food friendly wine – and I am planning to pair it with my Thanksgiving dinner. I will let you know how that worked!

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.