Revisiting an old friend: Alejandro Fernandez wines.

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Alejandro Fernandez created Pesquera in Ribera del Duero and forever changed the face of Ribera del Duero. By the early 80’s, Pesquera persuaded the top wine government organizations and Ribera del Duero was granted status in 1982. And you know the rest of the history…the ascension to stardom of Pesquera and the appellation.

Alejandro Fernandez Condado de Haza may be less famous than its sister winery, Pesquera, but it also produces terrific wines that are classically built Ribera del Dueros. Less powerful than his big brother, but with more restraint and elegeance, this monovarietal Tempranillo wine comes from vines originally planted in 1989 on an ideal, south-facing slope of calcareous clay soil, with some gravelly sections as well as a vineyard slope downward towards the Duero river.

 

 The Condado de Haza 2012 (  SAQ #00978866, $26.85) , exhibits an amplifying nose of crushed blackberry, plum,currant, cedar, and more. It, also, possesses a rich, savory feel in the mouth to counteract  its considerable structure and ripe tannins. It is firm, full-bodied, and full of flavor.Aged 15 months in oak barriques, this sophisticated but intense wine offers plenty to enjoy now, yet it will continue to improve in bottle for a decade or more. Clearly, the 2012 Condado de Haza is one of the finest Tempranillo wines from Ribera del Duero

Alejandro Fernández and his wife Esperanza Rivera, after setting up Tinto Pesquera and Condado de Haza in their native Ribera del Duero, continued expanding their horizons afield in the Spring of 1998, purchasing  Dehesa La Granja bordering the Guareña River in the province of Zamora, in the heart of one of Spain’s earliest-recognized wine regions.

Known in the  20th century as “La Granja Valdeguareña de los Moleros”, the 1800-acre ranch had been developed  by the Moleros brothers to the breeding of fighting bulls, still in operation at the time of purchase. However, from the 17th through 19th centuries the estate had a strong tradition of winemaing During that time the local wine producing area was known throughout Spain and Europe as Tierra del Vino.

Alejandro quickly  set to work reconverting the estate to wine production, with 525 acres of old-clone Tempranillo planted by late 2000. House and ranch compound were renovated and a modern winemaking facility installed, directly over the 17th- century cellars. Meanwhile, Alejandro discovered plots ungrafted old Tempranillo vines in the Guareña River Valley which have formed the basis for concentrated red wines beginning with the 1998 harvest.

Meanwile, Alejandro found ungrafted old Tempranillo vines in the Guareña River Valley which have formed the basis for concentrated red wines beginning with the 1998 harvest.

 The Dehesa La Granja 2012 ( SAQ # 11896691, $22.20)   has smoky dark fruit, toasty oak and dark chocolate aromas on the nose, with an impressive structure and muscular tannins of this terrific Spanish red wine made from Tempranillo grape.  Like a Pesquera but cheaper in your pocket.

El Vinculo was Alejandro Fernandez quest to demonstrate that La Mancha could produce greatest wines. Like its predecessors, the 2012 El Vinculo ( SAQ #11896691, $22.20)  brings out a contagious charm with beautiful aromatics and plush juicy flavors. Blackberry and currant nuances and flavors mix with hints of sandalwood, Asian spices and touches of new oak to delight the nose and the palate. One discovers deep down flavors and power as well as subtle complexity in this El Vinculo.

 

Riojas, Toros and what to drink with strawberries in season.

At a glance, the title of my blog post, may not make sense to you. However, you may be having these items in no particular order. Let me put it in plain words: BBQ meats with Riojas and Toros and desserts based with strawberries.

If you are in Ontario, the latest vintage LCBO Catalog ( available from July 8th), offers some interesting Spanish Goodies. Interesting wines to try include the Rioja Bordon from Bodegas Franco Espanolas and Pruno Finca Villacreces.

Bodegas Franco Espanolas

This bodega goes  back to the immigration to Rioja by a group of French wine producers  looking for new sources for grapes to meet France’s demands. This was the end of the XIX century, after phylloxera devastated the French vineyards.

The result of the quest for sourcing new grapes ended in 1890 when Frederick Anglade Saurat, a Bordeaux negociant, formed a joint venture with winegrowers and investors from Spain to create Bodegas Franco Espanolas. The partnership ended in 1922 when the Spanish owners bought out their French partners.

Today, the bodega is owned by the Eguizabal. They have turned this company into a well-respected winery that caters to all price ranges.

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During la Grande Degustation of Montreal, I had the chance to taste their 2008 Reserva. By law, a reserva must be aged in barrel for two full years and held in bottle for another two before release . This is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo. It spends that two years in medium-toast American white oak, with racking from barrel to barrel every six months. It is quite elegant with brooding black and  light-cured tobacco leaf undertones. On the mouth, is quite round and harmonious with flavors bringing to mind  toffee, marzipan, sage, and anise. Their 2011 is retailing for $19.95. LCBO #194753.

Globetrotter Francois Lurton.

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Francois Lurton was in Montreal, in early June to present his wines.

Working with Michel and Dany Rolland, Lurton founded the original Campo Eliseo estate in Toro 16 years ago.  This was his introduction into the Spanish wine industry.

After mastering the reds, now Lurton wants to make one of the best whites of Spain. It is an ambitious project but Francois is well aligned to make this happen.

Francois commented to me that Rueda has become a big business focusing on volume and bland wines. His vision for Rueda is to create a super growth that will  pull up the appellation all together. Although his production of his verdejo is an eye raising 250,000 bottles, he is able to combine the best of both worlds: quantity and quality.

His Rueda is impressive ( for my tasting note, see my previous post on Vinos and Paella). Lurton picks ripe the Verdejo  and ages in less to give its creamy texture.  The Verdejo ferments at low temperatures and in a mix of vessels such as barriques, stainless steel and concrete egg fermentation tasks.  This system allows the wine to gain an increased depth in complexity in the aromas and texture in the palate.

Tasting the wines of Lurton from Spain

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El Albar Barricas Tierra de Leon 2012. SAQ # 10358006. $22.05

Predominant nose of toasty aromas. Cacao,  Ethiopian coffee dark beans with strawberry, raspberry jam and balsamic condiment. Structured and  tannic but overall with a sense of balance and harmony.

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Campo Eliseo 2009 ( Presented at La Grande Dégustation de Montréal 2015). ( Private Import QC, Vins Fins)

Modern nose. Lots of new wood with wild blackberries. On the mouth, fleshy with lots of tannins and concentration. Seems unbalanced at the moment but will need a few years in the cellar to come all together.

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Campo Alegre Toro 2012 ( Presented at La Grande Dégustation de Montreal 2015). ( Private Import QC, Vins Fins)

On an international style, yet very appealing. Very dark ripe blue fruits with an incredible depth of spice. Full body, dense with lots of chocolate and coffee nuances. Long finale.

Sweet accords: Strawberries and wine?

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A perfect pairing of strawberries with the appropiate wine can be so amazing that it’s worth putting the effort to get it just right. Stay away from rosados (still or sparkling), as any wine without a decent dollop of residual sugar will taste  sour and horrible next to the sweet fruit. But if you overdoit with very rich dessert wines, and you threaten to overwhelm the relative delicacy of this sublime berry fruit.

I definitely would go with a sweet muscat. Muscat produces good versatile dessert wines. They are juicy and fresh-tasting, even when they come from a warmer region and are bold tasting  and weighty in texture. Think apricots, oranges, a drop of caramel. And think affordable. Moscatels from Valencia in Spain are extraordinarily well priced and fit the bill to go with strawberries.

I recently tasted  the Dona Dolça Moscatel Valençia ( SAQ # 11096618, $14.55) with a strawberries and zabaglione cream and it was a hit!!!. A Moscatel de Alejandría, it display notes of honey, nougat with peach and citric undertones. On the mouth, it was well-balanced. Not too sweet with a refreshing acidity complementing well the nature of the dessert.

 

 

Two Hearty red wines to complement your meat fix

Yesterday, I was BBQ a tough piece of pork loin in the BBQ. I did a marinade of tamari, brown sugar and sambal olek with a touch of bourbon and sesame oil. It was stunning and it was a perfect match for two previous reds that I tasted in the morning. One from Ribera del Duero and Toro.

Yaso 2012. DOP Toro. SAQ # 12298975. $21.25

Charming red fruits and spice. Full body, nice freshness with ultra fine tannins. Not too much oak with pleasant notes of flowers such as roses and violets. Long and very elegant.

Senorio de los Baldios Crianza 2009. DOP Ribera del Duero SAQ # 12417807. $22.10

Very spicy nose. Quite aromatic bringing to mind cloves, anise, stewed prunes. On the mouth, structured and potent. Cocoa, cofee with lots of lush new wood. Grainy tannins. A beast of a wine. Excellent candidate for a cellar.

And I pair these with the below picture. The Yaso worked better complementing and bringing a certain freshness to the asiatic notes of the pork. The Ribera del Duero was good too, specially with the charred parts of the meat but it had a bit too much power for the meat. It would have been better with beef.

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New Spanish wine arrivals at the SAQ Cellier

Recently, I have been tasting a number of Spanish new wine arrivals that are part of the latest SAQ Cellier catalog. These wines over deliver in quality at their price point and are excellent choices for weekday suppers. Here are my favorites. These Spanish wines were awarded very high scores by renowned critic Robert Parker. We all know how he loves Spanish wine.

In Red:

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Agricolas Aguaza SA RA DA Seleccion 2009. $15.30. SAQ Code: 12744816 , Bodegas Almansenas, Castilla La Mancha. ( Represented in Quebec by SDVF)

This wine come from the Almansa wine appellation. At 850 meters above sea level, the vineyards of Aguaza are located in Albacete near the mediterranean ocean.

Fresh and silky on the mouth with a slight sweet sensation. Love its voluptuous tannins and flavors that bring to mind blueberry, blackberries and blackberries with a slight balsamic and oak touch. Very persistent finale. This is a wine that will please both the new wine amateur and the wine expert. I paired it with Penne with meat sauce and it went wonderful. It will also go well with beef and pork stir fry.  92\100

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Terra d’Uro Finca la Rana 2011. $19.15. SAQ Code: 12775241, Hacienda Terra d’Uro, Toro. ( Represented in Quebec by SDVF)

Terra d’Uro is the proyect of Oscar Garrote, Cristiano Van Zeller y Pipa Ortega. The Uro wines are situated relatively high above sea level ( 750 meters) in the area of Bardales. The vineyards are a mix of tinta de toro, prephyloxeric, from 25 years to 140 years. La Rana is their entry level wine, aged 11 months in french barrique.

Compared to its peers in the apellation, La rana is a lighter and more accessible wine. Lovely nose evoking red and black fruits, spices and Mediterranean herbs ( Rosemary and Lavender come to mind). On the mouth, the wine is full body with muscular tannins. Fresh, yet very elegant and balanced. Imposing poise in a classy style.  Enjoy every bit of this wine with grilled deer medallions in a green peppecorn sauce. 96\100

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Bodegas Paniza Viñas Viejas de Paniza 2012. $15.95. SAQ Code: 12721905, Bodega Paniza. Aragon. ( Represented in Quebec by Valmonti.)

From the D.O Carinena, comes this high altitude Garnacha bottling made with up to 100 years old vines. Paniza is made around the village of Paniza. The vines enjoy a continental climate with a marked contrast in temperature between night and day. In addition, the amount is very low ( 360 mm) while the sunlight hours are quite high. Also, the Garnacha sits on a marvelous terroir composed of schist, chalk, loam and red clays.

On the nose, very marked aromas of black cherries, herbs with some nuances of dark chocolate. On the mouth, the wine is full body, very flavorful with a dense structure. Tasting it reveal aromas of black fruits, licorice with vanilla bean,oak and mineral dust. Excellent value for the price paid. Perfect with grilled lamb chops. 88\100.

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Albet i Noya Xarel-Lo El Fanio 2014. $19.50. SAQ Code: 12674221

Albet i Noya are pioneers in organic winemaking in the Penedes region of Spain. Their wines are pure and flavourful. El Fanio is monovarietal Xarel-Lo aged 6 months on the its lees in oval porous cement tanks and in acacia barrels. The grapes are grown in terraces on La Guardia hillside. They originates from vines located in Turó de la Gúardia, one of the most unique places in the Serra del Ordal. The grapes are treated with biodynamic methods to bring out the minerality of the Terroir. The soils are characterised by for being poor in organic matter,  permeable and for being sandy-loam.

On the nose, this wine brings to mind delicious floral notes with vegetable and mineral undertones. Very fresh and delicate. Medium body with flavors reminiscent of white fruits. Very good with a shrimp rice with green peas. 85\100.

 

Spanish Halloween wines: Numanthia and Termanthia

Its Haloween weekend in a few days and I thought that I would this ghoulish yet commercial holiday to talk about some wines that are in a way scary in a sort of way. I would like to talk about two of the most iconoclastic Spanish wines, Numanthia and Termanthia.

Castilla y Leon is the region were the famous Toro wines are produced. This Spanish region has a long oenological tradition, which dates back to the times of the ancient Greeks.

In the Middle Ages, wines from Toro became a hot ticket item in Spain, so much they received royal endorsement.They were the choice of wine of the Spanish Conquistadores of the Spanish armada that colonized the New World, and later, during the 19th century, they were exported to other European countries affected by the devastating phylloxera plague that left vineyards barren for decades.

Toro wines are made from a single type of grape named Tinta de Toro, which belongs to the same family of Tempranillo, used in Ribera del Duero. These legendary Toro vines are tough. Some are 140 years old.  They are hardy and resistant, able to endure the region’s extreme climate temperatures  from harsh winters and scorching summers. Situated in northwest Spain, on clay plateaus and slopes, those vines give out intense, aromatic, and powerful wines year after year.

One of the wineries is Numanthia, located in the town of Valdefinjas, Province of Zamora. Currently part of the LVMH Group, the winery was founded, in 1998, by the Eguren family with the sole mission of making the best wines in Toro.

The winery’s name is a tribute to Numantia, an ancient settlement known for its brave resistance to Roman invasion. In 133 AC, the town was stored by legions led by the Roman General Scipio. Its citizens resisted, heroically, for years, opting for death rather than surrender and dishonor. Numantia has become a historic icon of resilience and endurance, characteristics that define the Toro vineyard, a true warrior, able to overcome merciless weather and resistant to plagues.

Numanthia owns 121 acres of vineyards. About 20 are planted with vines 70 to 100 years old, but it is also important to bring into attention a small plot of 12 acres, in Argujillo, that is 120 years old. The land is divided into parcels facing south and southwest, with an average altitude of 2,300 feet. These vines produce thick clusters of small grapes, rich in color and with strong tannins, despite the  fact that the yield is quite small: 2,000 to 3,600 pounds per acre, perhaps one of the lowest in the world. For these reasons,  In order to adapt to the extreme climate, the vineyards have lowered their production, but, as a trade off, offer a high concentration of fruit, resulting in complex wines of great balance and finesse.

Along Vega Sicilia and Pingus, the wines of Numanthia were my first introduction to fine Spanish fine wines. I have fond memories of drinking Numanthia while I was living in Madrid, Spain. Wonderful wine to have with Lechon asado. Termanthia is amazing as well but is more a wine of meditation than to eat with it. This is to show that the appellation can make world class wines that can par with the best of France and Italy.

With this final note, I will leave with this video that I found on youtube. Wine Spectator interviews Manuel louzada, the director and winemaker of Bodegas Numanthia. In five minutes, the video really captures the essence of Numanthia. There is liitle left at the SAQ Selection brances and SAQ Signature of these wines. So get the last bottles while you can. It is a shame that the new generation of young wine lovers and sommeliers express no interest for these classically made wines.

Have a good halloween and don’t eat all the candy. Keep some for me.

The wines:

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Numanthia 2008. Price: $63.00. SAQ Code: 12134575

It has a dark, and deep red color with intense ruby highlights. Its bouquet  is vivid and very complex. At the beginning, there are marked notes  of red and black fruits (currants, raspberries and blackberries), perfectly integrated with savoury spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, black pepper, licorice and toasty aromas. On the palate, the wine is fleshy with well-endowed tannins. The finish is long and elegant with  more aromas of spices, raspberry, cocoa and toasted oak that enhance the complexity and  fine hand of this world class wine. 97\100. Perfect to sip by the fire on the haloween night.

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Termanthia 2011. Price: $179. SAQ Signature Code:  11646819

Powerful nose of cassis and other ripe dark forest fruits with a good dose of newoak.On the palate, more luxurious oak sweet spices with a good acidity with round and  powerful tannins. Extremely  concentrated. A beautiful monster of a wine. Long, lush and decadent. However, not expressing its full greatness yet. but I would love to taste this again around 2030 to see what has become. 99\100. The wine to bring for a hunting trip.

Spanish presence at the Festival Vins de Terrebone 1\4: Spanish caballeros of LBV International

Every year for the last 10 years or so, I assist to the Festival Vins Terrebone. It has become a tradition of mine.  It is one of the biggest wine festivals in the Lanaudière. You can taste more than 1000 wines from some of the most important wine agencies established in Quebec. The products can be found both at the SAQ and in the private import system. This is a small winelover’s dream

I was quite pleased by the Spanish presence at this year edition.  Here are my tasting notes. From the stand of LBV International, I was very fortunate to taste the following wines:

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Imperial Gran Reserva 2007. Code SAQ:12203796. $51.50

This wine is dominated by Tempranillo, with a good proportion of Graciano and Mazuelo added to complete the blend.. Maturation takes place in new French and American oak and one has to wait patiently for 24 months prior to bottling.

Iconic, to say the least, this Cune Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja is the stuff of wine dreams… It’s here for a long time, so you can wait a decade or two to savor it, or just a year or two if you cant. The luxury of choice and time for winelovers!! If sooner is your preference, I say open your beautiful bottle and give it some air while you prepare a big plate of patatas con chorizo to eat with your first glass.

Cedary. Lovely ripe black fruit expression with pencil shavings nuances. Tar and chinese ink undertones. Perfect oak integration. On the mouth, plush with a good concentration. Noble and mature tannins with an exquisite balance. Long and racy. Retronasal flavors remind me of dry mountain leaves, flowers. Long aftertaste. Perfect Rioja. 100/100

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Contino Rioja Reserva Rioja 2008. Code SAQ : 12347159 . Price: $26.40

Contino is a single-estate bodega (62 ha of vineyards) based in a 200-year-old farmhouse just outside the town of Laguardia in the Alavesa region.  The estate’s name comes from the royal guard of 100 soldiers who protected the monarch. The label is adorned with the bust of San Gregorio, the patron saint and protector of vineyards

On the nose, traditional american oak aromas with lots of cedar, tobacco and roasted black fruit nose. In addition, herbs. On the palate, amazing elegance. Chewy fruit bringing to mind dark plums. Magnific finale. 95\100

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Fontaura Aponte Reserva 2005 Toro. Code SAQ: 12259407. Price: $23.90

The wines of Toro, an appellation next door to Ribera del Duero tend to be richer and more extracted than its neighbor. In some instances, they can be heavy and out of balance. However, it seems to be the exception with Fontaura. This is a property that its origins go back to the XIX century. The estates comprises 120 ha and the wine is a blend from old vine tempranillo vines situated at different parcels of the estate.

Wild Blackberry nose, almost passified in nature with dry indian spices. On the nose, full body. Jammy fruit. Retronasal reminding me of butterscotch with dark chocolate and cocoa. Smoky with mineral flavors and smooth and mature tannins. 90\100.