Saturday, July 30, 2011

Juan Gil Jumilla 2008

I've said it before and I'll say it again. With all due respect to Argentina, the best values in the wine world these days are coming out of Spain. Spain is a country whose winemaking pedigree goes back thousands of years. Until recently most parts of Spain including Jumilla, were focused on quantity rather than quality and although they produced a lot of wine, the wine itself was mostly made by large industrial cooperatives destined for a box or a jug.

Jumilla is one of many up and coming regions in Spain that I just love for great values. It was one of the last regions in Europe to be hit by the phylloxera bug and the plague that hit it actually resulted in some good. After being devastated by phylloxera in 1989, Jumilla's production was reduced to one third of what it was, and the local growers and bodegas quickly had to find a way to transform their business. Some of them had the crazy idea of selling less but better wine with a focus on fine wine instead of bulk production. In a way, phylloxera almost forced the local wineries to focus more on quality. I'm here to say I'm happy it happened.

Although the D.O. allows some other grape varieties, 85% of what is grown in Jumilla is Monastrell. This is a native Spanish grape that is called Mourvedre in France and most of the rest of the world. Monastrell based wines tend to be big, ripe, and fruity, and at their best there can be a lot behind all that great fruit.

The Juan Gil Jumilla 2008 is a deep, dark, purple-red in color. The Monastrell grapes are harvested from 40 year old vines (some of the lucky wines that made it through the phylloxera invasion) grown in chalky, rocky soils, and the wine is aged for 12 months in French oak before bottling. The nose brings aromas of blackberry and black raspberry with a hint of blueberry jam and leather. In your mouth the dark berry fruit is just fantastic and is joined by some black cherry flavors. Some structure is provided by the tannins that follow all that juicy fruit. The fruit rides these tannins like a slow-building wave into a finish that has some length to it.

I had the Juan Gil Jumilla with a big old juicy cheeseburger and somehow I just love Jumilla with burgers. It would also work great with any grilled red meats or even some authentic smoky BBQ. At a price of around $14, this is a really good value, and it breaks my own personal norm of generally not liking wines that are 15% alchohol or more. I definitely recommend letting this decant for an hour or so before drinking, but if you give it some breathing time it's really tasty.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Atteca Old Vines Garnacha Calatayud 2008

I am admittedly a huge fan of Spain and Garnacha or Grenache as the French call it, and I love the different expressions of this grape that you will find from varied terroirs in different parts of the world. This native Spanish grape makes wines that are varied in flavors, body, and other characteristics, but to me so many delicious examples can be found throughout the wine world but especially in northeast Spain and southern France. Flavors can range from light red berries to intense dark fruits with all sorts of other elements mixed in. Garnacha is also believed to be heavily influenced by the age of the vines. Many Garnachas claim to be made from "old vines" which is a term that is hard to define, but I found many of these old vine Garnachas to be easy to enjoy.

The Atteca Old Vines Garnacha is made from grapes grown in a hillside vineyard 3000 feet above sea level in the little known but up and coming region of Calatayud. The vineyard was first planted in the late 19th century and many of the vines are 80 years old or even older. In your glass the wine has a very deep garnet color that is slightly tinted purple. The nose brings mixed red and black berries with a pleasant herbal element that I might call garrigue if this were a Southern Rhone Grenache. On the palate I get some really nice blackberry and black cherry fruit that is backed up by very nice tannins. There is also a nice mineral element that really comes through on the rather long finish.

Overall this is a great wine with some up very nice fruit up front and a rocking finish! I would put this up against a lot of $30 to $50 Priorats or Chateuneuf-du-Papes, and I picked this up for $15! This is a great value that would pair very nicely with grilled red meats. Go get yourself a bottle and a nice steak and enjoy!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Domaine des Entrefaux Crozes Hermitage 2009

Its time for me to start admitting to myself that I really enjoy Syrah. It's a grape that can make some really wonderful wines when grown in the right terroir by a winemaker who is on their game. The parts of the world that I've found that are making great Syrah are not all that plentiful, but there are a few. The Northern Rhone in France is certainly leading the pack, but Ive also seen some nice Syrah's from Washington, California (results are mixed here but there are some good ones), and even Spain and South America.

You'll notice that I don't have Australia on my list, which is the second largest producer of Syrah (or Shiraz as they call it) in the world after France. Although they make a lot of Syrah/Shiraz, there isn't too much of it that I've found to be great. In fact, I find most of their Shiraz to be over extracted, one dimensional, and frankly pretty boring and uninspiring. Now my point here isn't to pick on my mates Down Under or inspire people to throw a boomerang at the nearest kangaroo, but I do want people to think about Syrah and not just Shiraz. In the US, wine retailers sell a whole lot more Shiraz than we do Syrah, and many consumers only know Shiraz in the Aussie style. If you fall into this group, give a Syrah from Washington or Argentina a try, and you might find a very different wine than the Shiraz you know. Better yet, try something from the Northern Rhone like the Domaine des Entrefaux Crozes Hermitage 2009.

In your glass, the Domaine des Entrefaux Crozes Hermitage 2009 is a dark purple-red in color. The nose brings cassis and plum with some spice and black pepper. On the palate you get more of the plum and berry fruit, but the fruit is pretty subdued and complemented by some spice. The wine has a very healthy dose of acidity and mild to medium tannins that linger quietly on the very long finish.

Overall, this is a very nice bottle that can be found for just under $20. It is extremely well balanced and more old world in style, and it will pair nicely with a wide variety of meals. So go out and give a Syrah a try, and if you're already a fan of Syrah as opposed to Shiraz, I think you will probably enjoy this one.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Valdrinal Crianza Ribera Del Duero 2004

Although there are many great regions in Spain for Tempranillo, Tinto Fino, or any of the many names that different parts of Spain call this varietal, I have to say that for my money Ribera del Duero gives me the most bang for my buck. This example from the 2004 vintage is no exception to that rule, and delivers whole lot of bold, juicy flavor with finesse for a mere $14.

Made from 100% Tinto Fino that is aged in French and American oak for 12 months, the Valdrinal Crianza Ribera del Duero 2004 is deep garnet red in color. The nose brings cherry and dark plum fruit with an earthy element that brings an added dimension to the bouquet. On the palate you get a healthy dose of cherry fruit up front with notes of earth, cedar, and spice on the finish. Acidity that is just right and very nice tannins that are clearly present but not overwhelming make this a well balanced, very food friendly wine.

Overall, this is one heck of a bargain that brings a fantastic balance between fruit and finesse for under $15! This wine would work very well with a wide variety of dishes, but like any really good Spanish wine, it leaves me wanting some Jamon Iberico, Manchego and Zamarano cheese, and other delicious hot or cold tapas.

On a side note, I got this from the new Stew Leonard's store in Carle Place, NY where the staff was friendly and helpful and very knowledgeable. The key to any good wine store is a knowledgeable staff.