Comfy Spanish wines for the fall weather


One of my simple pleasures during the fall weather is to enjoy a bold and gutsy wine with some comfort homemade food for a weekday or weekend supper. I take out my crockpot and let my imagination run wild with the creation of wonderful stews and roasts. Hell, I even abuse of the oven too!!!. These days, I have been doing a lot of cooking and stocking up for the winter, it seems-thats what my wife says.

For a comfy wine, what i am looking for is two things: great quality with the lowest price that I can get. Basically, I am looking for a pleasure that does not require too much fretting over. In Spain, there are many wine regions that deliver this style of wine. I tend to give preferance though to the wines of the Mediterranean-specifically Yecla and Aragon region.  Yes, I love Monastrell and Garnacha. Both grapes deliver the wines to get you through those cold days.

I also enjoy white wines as well. In a white, what i am looking for is body with a creamy texture. Freshness is important with a medium acidity. Grapes that could do the job include Chardonnay, Macabeo from Southern Spain as well.

Bodegas Castano Hecula Monastrell 2014. SAQ Depot #  10946334 $12.40

Sunny black fruit mediterranean style (black cherry, cassis) with deep accents of licorice, violets and spice. On the mouth, full body and rich with smooth tannins. Flavors are consistent with the nose. A nice wine for a cold weekday evening. Good with roasts or chicken in mushroom sauce.


Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013. SAQ # 11664902.$20.00

A steal for $20 bucks at the SAQ. Decant at least 30 min and leave it to chill  on your balcony. On the nose, great aromatics of black cherry, Chinese five pepper spice with a marvelous minerality streak. On the mouth, plush with firm and round tannins. Have it with braised bee shoulder and polenta.


Castillo de Monseran 2015. SAQ#  00624296 . $9.75

Dont let the small price of this wine fool you. On the nose, the wine displays generous aromas of red berry fruit, pencil shavings and cracked peppercorns. On the palate, charming and ample. Will leave you wanting to have another glass.  I like to have it with pasta and tuna with a drop of pesto sauce.


Castano Chardonnay / Maccabeo 2015. SAQ # 10855758. $14.15

Elegance, character, and freshness define this wine. On the mouth, soft with delicate citrus and floral notes. A wine for pleasure for a friendly price. I enjoyed it very much with a chickpea curry with green peppers and pumpkin.


Bodegas Luzon Blanco 2015. SAQ # 12559987 . $16.45

Fresh and energetic with touches of white anc citrus fruit. On the mouth, round and fresh with a good acidity and a pleasant woody note. Have with salmon in cream sauces.


Monastrell, wine deity of Yecla


A Monastrell from Yecla, was one of the first wines that I tasted when I arrived in Madrid in the late Summer/early fall of 2002. The place where I bought it was a tiny well stocked wine shop near the Retiro park. I explained to the owner of the shop, a man in his late 50’s that I was learning about Spanish wines. He showed me a reccomendation and I said, that the wines from Yecla are one of the best kept secrets of Spain. The man explained to me that the old Monastrell vines from Yecla yielded magical wines and that Robert Parker was going crazy for them. To this day, i do not remember that producer but I think that it was Bodegas Castano.


After picking up the bottle, I went to the food market section of the Corte Ingles to get myself some mushrooms ” Trompeta de los muertos” and some beef cubes. I did a stew to have with the wine. I will never forget that supper of that evening in my apartment in Madrid. That Monastrell had a heady scent of blue fruits with fascinating scents of earth and flowers. The wine was bringing out the flavors of the mushrooms and they in turn were communicating with the wine. The experience reminded me of the short story of Julio Cortazar, the aquarium. I was converted…


What makes the Monastrell from Yecla so special?. First is the altitude where the vineyards are located. Yecla soils are located between 400 meters and 800 meters. In addition,They are deep with good drainage and with a high content of chalk. Furthermore, the climate is continental with mediterranean influence. Temperature oscillate between -7º in the winter and 42º in the summer, with an average of 3.000 sunshine hours a year. This is a grape that loves important differences in temperatures. More important, it likes hot weather and cold winters. Its the reason why it develops thick skins and produce those fascinating heady flavors.

Yecla is pretty small appellation making big wines. There are 11 wineries in which 9 of them bottle their own wines and the rest sell in bulk. This is small wine region with an international clientele. Most of the production is exported, being USA, Canada and Germany, their biggest markets.

The Castaño family has been participants of the Yecla wine scene for many generations. In the 1950’s Ramon Castaño Santa founded the winery. Deemed an avant-gardiste , he modernized the winery with a passion for Monastrell.

Castano has 500 ha of vineyards scattered in the yecla denomination. Campo Arriba in the northern part of the d.o is richer in limestone while Campo Abajo is richer in Clay. This gives the wine the perfect combination of power, structure and aromatics.


Their Hecula is their classic entry level wine. The wine spent 6 months in inxox cuves and another 6 in wood barrels ( 80% french and 20% american). SAQ#11676671. $13.95 Here are my tasting notes:

A fantastic value from Yecla. Aromas of ripe black fruits with complex barnyard nuances. On the mouth, full body with notes of caramelized expresso beans and blue fruits. Rustic, brambly but well made.


On the other hand, Solanera is a custom made wine for key markets such as the North American one. It is a majority blend of old vine Monastrell (70%) with the remainder Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Garnacha Tintorera ( 15%). Here are my tasting notes for the 2013 vintage. SAQ #11664902. $20.95

Rich and inviting bouquet. Deep notes of ripe blue fruit such as cassis jam and blueberries. In addition delicate notes of dry mint and licorice with a background of different leathers and other animal nuaces. All this in a cloud of violets, roses and other aromatic flowers. In the mouth, full body, powerful and structured. Balanced by a cool acidity. Retronasal flavors of dark chocolate blueberries, wood and dark raisins. Noble tannins with a pencil lead, mineral fennel streamlined finish. Will age for the next 5-7 years


Two Pack Spanish wines to combat the nasty cold



It seems to me that we have jumped to the winter season already in Montreal. Where did the fall go?. On the last few week or so, we have jumped to subzero temperatures With this type of weather, all i want to is to stay home, make some hearty dish and drink some robust wines all day long.

If you are looking for body and character, Yecla and Alicante are the places to drink up in Spain. These Spanish wine regions produce wines with a mediterranean character full of character and spice. Monastrell is the principal red grape in both appellations giving wines with a heady bouquet and big body. Other international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are also permitted. When they are included in the wines, they take a mediterranean.

I recently reviewed two wines given for press review of A.O.C & Cie, Châteaux et Domaines Inc. Both of them comes from the same family, Bodegas Castano. This a family domaine that lead estate bottling in the Area giving Yecla an international reputation for quality wines, away from the bulk image of the past. They also have been a pioneer in Spain working with Monastrell. The first wine Hecula is made by The Castano in their home appellation Yecla. They have been making wine since the 1950’s. Salinas is a more recent project of the family ( 2000) in the lower part of  Alicante with a conglomerate of Swiss investors.  The best part of these wines is that they are under $25 and will not hurt your pocket.




Castano Hecula. SAQ Code:  11676671. Price; $13.95

 Old Vine Monastrell, 37+ years. 6 months aging in (80% French – 20% American oak / 50% new)

Aromas of dry and roasted black fruits with heady nuances of black earth and balsamic notes. Of these, mint, eucalyptus and black licorice. In addition, the signature animal notes of Monastrell are very present such as leather and various other animal notes. In the mouth, the wine is dry and corpulent with lots of preserved black fruit character and a remarkable earthiness and minerality. Fleshy tannins and a medium acidity. The wine presents a delicious smoky and medium lingering finale. 92\100



Sierra Salinas. Puero Salinas 2010. SAQ Code: 11963751. Price: $24.30.

Mostly Monastrell (80%) with Cabernet Sauvignon ( 13%) and Garnacha Tintorera (7%).  Vineyards coming from limestone soil, poor in organic sediments. 15 months aging in French oak barrels

On the nose aromas that recall deep black and blue fruits with dry licorice, spices and well integrated oak notes recalling powdered cocoa and coffee. In the mouth, full body with a viscous texture. Flavors remind me of more of that blue-black fruit character with a hint of barnyard character and leather. 90\100

Now for the food. I am a firm believer in wine & food regionality. So, I decided to go along with a dish made of chickpeas, serrano ham and chorizo sausage for the wines . The recipe is courtesy of food & wines from Spain. This is a quick dish that can be prepared on a weekly evening, or if you prefer for a weekend supper. Both wines are an excellent companion for this dish. The smokiness and animal notes of the ham and sausage  in the dish complements well the aromatic notes of the Monastrell. Same thing of the pimenton which makes shine the spicy notes of both wines. The texture of the chickpeas act as vacuum for the tannins of the wines, giving a polished texture to them.

With this last words, I will leave you until my next post!!

Buen Provecho!!!