Michael is right- Spanish wines= value… more bang for your buck. One of my favorite go-to Spanish wines is the 2007 Juan Gil Monastrell from the Jumilla region of Spain. Monastrell is the Spanish version of Mourvedre, which is a principle blending grape in Rhone blends (and I LOOOOOOOVE me some Rhone blends.) Until trying this wine I had never had Mourvedre on its own, but I must say it’s made me a huge fan! The color is a beautiful deep ruby with a nose of white pepper, black cherry, raspberry, and a little hint of oak (it’s aged for 12 months in French Oak Barrels.) The palate had a nice balance of fruit and alcohol with hints of juicy plum, black cherry, and a tiny bit of that oak followed by a kick of pepper and spice. This wine is well-structured with nice tannins, a long finish, and an almost effervescent quality to it as it opens up. It received a 91 from Wine Advocate and can be found for as little as $12. WHAT? I know.
P.S. Make sure to let it breathe- it’s a wine that keeps getting better as it opens up.
I can sum up spanish wines in one word: value. By value I don’t mean cheap wine, I mean getting a lot for what you pay for. It’s like watching a film by Pedro Almodóvar and walking out feeling like you’ve seen three films for the price of one. Or eating one paper thin slice of Jamón Serrano and having the satisfaction of feasting on the whole pig.
Spain unlike any other wine producing country in Europe, has emerged from a troubled past of inconsistent and archaic winemaking into a diverse source of good juice. There are many pioneers to thank for this transformation, including Alvaro Palacios, Miguel Torres, and of course Jorge Ordonez. Coupled with new wine regions popping up more often then Lindsey Lohan does in the news has led to the production of quite a bit of wine. More wine equals lower prices. This is not to say that Spain’s winemaking traditions have been lost, they have simply been improved. Long standing bodegas like Muga, Emilio Moro, and Vega Sicilia are still crafting beautiful wines that will age beautifully.
One region that is now producing a multitude of wines is Castile-La Mancha. Castile-La Mancha is the center of Spain, and the center of mass wine production. More wine equals more value and one of these values is Venta Morales Tempranillo. Vinified in stainless steel, this wine is fresh, but not light or too fruity. With dark berry notes, and rich color it has surprising amount structure and complexity for under 8 bucks.
Occasionally a delightful sub-five dollar bottle of wine will hit my lips. I’m usually disappointed, but not surprised. But on the rare occasion I strike gold, I’m in love. And when the bottle costs two dollars?! So while you bums are traipsing through the Trader Joe’s wine aisle picking up cases of Charles Shaw at two bucks a pop, I’ll be lugging home cases of two dollar vino from Fresh & Easy. And you know what? Mine will rock the socks right off Chuck! That’s right. Joe’s not the only game in town for delicious wine on the cheap. The source of this deliciousness I speak of? I sometimes hesitate to reveal my secrets as I worry the competition may someday infringe upon my ability to continue enjoying a certain bottle, but alas here goes nothing.
Enter Saludas Vino de la Tierra de Castilla. Say that ten times fast. First we’ll figure out what the label means, then move onto the part where we drink. In passing, I’ll say “Saludas!” and you’ll say “What?” and I’ll tell you that I’m just sending my regards in Spanish. Simple. Moving on. “Vino de la Tierra” literally translates to wine from the land — in this case, the land of Castilla. What this really indicates is that we are drinking Spanish “country wine” not suited to the designation of Denominacón de Origen. This is much the same thing as a French wine labeled Vin de Pays or an Italian labeled Indicazione Geografica Tipica. Don’t make the mistake of writing these wines off or you’re missing out on some great budget bottles.
Ahhh, time to taste. Saludas bottles a rosé, white and red. I’ve tried the white on several different occasions, the commonality being the festive mood that followed the first swig each time. This is fun wine. Forget oak, complexity, aging, all that. The Saludas white is all about being young and fun. Bury your schnozz in the glass for a sniff and prepare to be delighted by green apples and lemon lime. Now open up your throat and let the wine wash over your palette and if you are anything like me you’ll be noting the notes from the nose traveling on down along with some more citrus and maybe even some straw and grass — seemingly appropriate for a country wine. I get some acidity on the tail end and feel my tongue puckering a bit, but overall the experience is all good at two dollars a bottle (or twenty for a case!). My suggestion: Head to the beach with a few bottles and enjoy some cheese and crusty baguette under the sun!
Last week I stopped by Fig Restaurant at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica to check out their “FIG at Five” Happy Hour- (from 5pm to 6pm certain wines by the glass, cheeses & charcuterie, and snacks are all $5 each.)
Usually at your typical happy hour, the wine selection, well… sucks. But I’d had all but one of the wines on the “FIG at Five” list and can vouch that they are all EXCELLENT wines. Since I hadn’t yet tasted the Juve y Camps Cava I went with that and it was delightful. I also snacked on some delicious goat cheese with lavender honey.
Though FIG is an incredibly high-quality establishment, they don’t take themselves too seriously, which is refreshing. Everyone from Erin (the bartender that evening) to Matthew (the creative director of FIG) went above and beyond to make me feel welcome. In fact, I felt so at home that I stayed for dinner!
FIG at Five is definitely worth checking out. Bonus- the happy hour isn’t limited to the bar area… so grab a seat outside and enjoy some delish wine and some delish snacks while you enjoy the ocean breeze. Not a bad way to spend an evening (or 5 bucks) I’d say…
While we haven’t hit the “dog days” of Summer, the grill is quickly becoming the workhorse for culinary activity. Red meat was in order last night, and I was looking for a wine with some heft.
As I wrote in an earlier entry, I am a big fan of the Los Rocas Garnacha. Great price, good fruit, and quite lively for a Grenache.
Grenache can be more misses than hits for me, much like Pinot Noir. It’s thin skinned like Pinot, making it susceptible to a slew of problems. It is also low in acid, tannin, and ripens late. Many of the wines can taste like cough syrup. Though if managed correctly in the vineyards, and planted in an appropriate regions, they can be wonderfully juicy and complex. Being the acid-head that I am, I still prefer Grenache blended with a more acidic grape such as Carignan and Syrah to give the wine additional structure.
What did I decide on?
2008 Bodegas Ateca Garnacha “Atteca” ($12.99)
Most of my mornings are quick, filled with confusion, a bowl of cereal, and coffee stains. Once in awhile I crave serious breakfast food, and more than likely it will be cooked à la breakfast for dinner. This time was no different. I needed pancakes, and I was craving the buttermilk kind. The acid in buttermilk not only lends itself to additional flavor, but it also reacts with baking soda, which adds rise to the pancake. Airy on the inside, and crisp on the outside.
What to drink?
I was after some Moscato d’Asti, and not just any. Sometimes Moscato d’asti can be quite sweet or even cloying. I don’t mind the sweetness as long as I am pairing it with something richer and sweeter, french toast perhaps. This time I was looking for one that was sweet yet acidic enough to compliment both the buttermilk and maple syrup.
2009 La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglia ($12.99)
This story begins at Whole Foods Venice, where I ran into our very own Michael (who is the wine buyer at Whole Foods.) I’ve been recovering from a tonsillectomy and needed to ease myself back into wine, but since my palate has been off I needed to make sure in the event I couldn’t enjoy the wine I didn’t waste a whole lot of dough. Michael suggested I try the 2008 Borsao Red Wine- a blend of 80% Garnacha and 20% Tempranillo. It was $8.99 at Whole Foods and can be found as cheap as 7 bucks. It’s a great table wine- dark ruby (almost purple) in color, light-to-medium bodied, with notes of raspberry, mineral, and a little smokiness. For 7 bucks, it’s actually quite good- 7 bucks well spent, I’d say.
Living on the other side now, I often find it difficult to source some of the wonderful wines I became fond of from both Oregon and Washington. I needed a way to find these wines without having to join every last winery mailing list.
Red Mountain, WA. August, 2008
Luckily, a crew like Avalon Wine exists where I can keep in contact with my tried and trusted, and be introduced to new ones which seem to be popping up all too quickly.
There is a ‘Best under $20’ section that I glance over often, and though it is only to dream now that I am on a budget, I still find myself staring at highly sought after wine which Avalon manages to stock. I know where to come when I fall off the horse. Until then, it is not hard to find some wonderful, inexpensive options on this site that will help put more bottles on the table. If you have some time and want to learn more about N.W. Wine, Avalon Wine has plenty of in-depth coverage regarding veteran producers and historical vineyards, as well as first looks at what’s to come. A site well worth the visit.
Ever listen to others discuss certain wine regions as otherworldly? Or glance through photos of vineyards that seem surreal? Me too.
Before I landed in the Mosel last Fall for work, I had seen pictures, sampled the wines, and absorbed the stories from others who had previously visited. As I attempted to process all of this information, my thoughts settled on two themes; It was steep, and it was steeper than I could imagine.
Pictures can’t possibly do the region justice. The Mosel is without question one of the Wine Wonders of the World. Aside from average inclines of 60 Degrees, and slopes riddled with slivers of blue, grey, and red slate, these vineyards spoon the contorted Mosel river.
Why is hugging a river significant?
Have you ever dipped your foot in water on a cold day and expected to feel a similar chill only to be surprised by the waters inviting warmth? Water is an amazing heat store. Like all large bodies of water, the Mosel river moderates the surrounding air temparature. Lending heat on cool nights, the river plays a major role in getting Riesling ripe.
It was the best of wines. It was the worst of wines. Or something like that. Some bottles of wine throw me off and I’m left wondering what just happened even after drinking every last drop. Such was the case with a bottle of 2008 La Granja Tempranillo. So what did I do? I went back to the store and bought another bottle. But let’s go back to the beginning.
A Thursday or three ago, being my favorite night to partake in the pleasures of the palate, I was perusing the trusted wine aisle of Trader Joe’s on the hunt for tasty new wines on the cheap because let’s be honest, why pay twenty quid for a bottle when four or five will do you well. And then I saw a pig for $3.99 and thought to myself, if this is fabulous then I’ll be back tomorrow for eight more bottles. Enter La Granja.