• New Spain Hotspot

    New Spain Hotspot

    Collaborative efforts between friends have been a common thread within The New Spain wine scene that I've seen blast off over the last few years. In Madrid's Sierra de Gredos mountain range, we've focused earlier on the highest-end single-vineyard bottlings of Comando-G. Now, we turn to a different source—the most crystalline and elegant interpretation of this granite terroir, which embodies the value play.

    The four partners (Javier Garcia, Laura Robles, David Velasco, and David Moreno) met while hiking in the Sierra de Gredos mountain range, located 80 km east of Madrid. All had unique backgrounds related to wine, each bringing a different element of expertise to this project founded in 2009. The lineup of wines is terrific, but at $27 per bottle, their GR10 is the perfect model of how delicacy and transparency can be a Spanish red's leading traits, not just a supporting element.

    GR10 is a blend of 85% Garnacha, 10% Cariñena, 3% Morenillo, and 2% Syrah. I'm always inclined to use words like "crunchy" and "snappy" to illustrate how the red fruit profile expresses itself here. There is certainly a core of energy and an abundance of minerality, but these fresh fruit qualities take me back to tasting grape clusters picked off the vine. This has always been a personal requirement for me falling in love with any wine—a serious connection to the raw material harvested. It's this fundamental, natural component that should echo from a wine when first tasted.

    The Four Monkeys, as they call themselves, clearly share this passion for lively and fruit-forward wines. It's also their brilliant, non-interventionist approach in the cellar that gives GR10 such sophisticated texture and structure. Totally seamless, full of bright minerality, savory spices, and explosively pure fruit persisting on the long finish.

    It's been inspiring over the last three years being introduced to so many new Spanish projects that simply get it. In the realm of value reds, the 4 Monos Tinto GR10 is the wine that's pulled me in the very most.

    —Max Kogod

    Posted by Sydney Love
  • Straight Outta Haro:  Lopez de Heredia Back-Vintage Treasures

    Straight Outta Haro: Lopez de Heredia Back-Vintage Treasures

    Founded in 1877, the winery has maintained a level of excellence and held onto a deeply traditional winemaking philosophy that's simply the model for Rioja today. When Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta began his venture he quickly realized that by purchasing grapes there was simply no way to ensure high quality. And with that, the Tondoñia vineyard was planted in 1913.

    Today's offer also coincides withe one of the most long-awaited events of the year, when Lopez de Heredia's California importer announces small allocations of back-vintage Rioja wines sourced directly from the region.

    Today, I'm happy to offer a small collection that has just arrived. In addition, today's list features other Rioja estates, all bottles coming directly from Spain through the same California importer.

    Founded in 1877, the winery has maintained a level of excellence and held onto a deeply traditional winemaking philosophy that's simply the model for Rioja today. When 
    Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta began his venture he quickly realized that by purchasing grapes there was simply no way to ensure high quality. And with that, the Tondoñia vineyard was planted in 1913.

    * While the aged wines listed below are, no doubt, expensive, I implore you to consider the 2010 Rioja Crianza at $28 per bottle to see the magic of this historic Rioja estate from one of the most heralded vintages over the last many decades.

    Viña Bosconia comes from the clay and limestone "El Bosque" vineyard located under a mile from the winery. The name "Bosconia" ia a bit of an ode to a style of wine made generations ago here called, “Rioja Cepa Borgoña” which contained a high portion of Pinot Noir (hence the rare Burgundy shaped bottle). Today, this cuvée is comprised of about 75% Tempranillo, 7% Garnacha, with the rest divided by Mazuelo and Graciano.

    Viña Tondonia is also on clay and limestone, but planted with slightly more Garnacha. It is the most famed vineyard of Haro with its iconic position on the banks of the Ebro river. Tondonia is the more structured of the two wines, although both cuvées have proved they can age gracefully for many, many decades.

    Traditional winemaking here relies on American oak, of course. But, the influence of new wood is minimal, if at all. Both the 2005 Bosconia Reserva and Tondonia Reserva are current releases from Lopez de Heredia's California importer. The Bosconia sees 5 years in wood prior to additional aging in bottle, and the Tondonia is aged 6 years in wood.

    Where does Lopez de Heredia diverge from the other great traditional Rioja estates? I have always found an elegance and subtlely to both wines that stands out from the pack. Although not light in color, they both see less extraction than many of their neighbors. In short, they are the best case made in the world today for Tempranillo's ability to transmit terroir in the most delicate framework possible. 

    The inherent value in this estate-aging is really without peer in the world of wine. Not only are both vineyards regarded as Grand Crus of Spain, but they also offer a massive window of continued aging and development should you choose to cellar. And, at the same time, both wines are released to be enjoyed tonight without the need for significant decanting. Do not miss the two wines that personify Spain's traditional foundation like no other.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Heaven Sent:  Nanclares Rias Baixas Albarinño

    Heaven Sent: Nanclares Rias Baixas Albarinño

    After weeks on the road covering nearly every corner of Spain I walked away with a lot of epiphany moments. But, none surpassed the thrill I had during my introduction to Alberto Nanclares. His traditional pergola-trained Albariños from Cambados, the seaside village with vines just meters from the Atlantic, marked a massive shift in my understanding on what descriptors like crystalline and acid-driven can truly mean in the context of a Spanish white wine.

    Today, I'm happy to offer Alberto Nanclares 2017 "Nanclares" and "Soverribas" Rias Baixas Albariño for $37 and $44, respectively.

    Drinking these two cuvées multiple times abroad, I'd be remiss if I didn't share two familiar wines that share a common thread to help give some context. "Nanclares" is to Roulot's village Meursault, as "Soverribas" is to Dauvissat's Chablis Premier Cru La Forest. If you, like me, put those two iconic wines at the top of your wish list, you will be pleasantly surprised in what you'll find from this master of natural winemaking in the most historic and traditional village of Rias Baixas.

    Like Roulot's Meursault, "Nanclares" wows the senses with that unmistakable mineral spring-like purity and acid-driven frame that just levitates on the palate. This parcel of granite bedrock with sandy topsoil captures the very most ocean-influenced personality of Albariño, with white peach and white flowers melding with faint almond notes on the finish. Aging in a combination of older French tina barrels and stainless steel. 

    As in the case of Dauvissat's La Forest, there's an element of clay in the soil here (mixed with decomposed granite) that gives "Soverribas" more texture and breadth on the palate. This single parcel, 
    Paraje Manzaniña, is a powerful and saturating style of Albariño, however, its profile is still very much founded upon a fresh streak and salty, long finish. The peach profile is a touch more forward and that almond note carries more of a marzipan quality on the mid-palate. *Decanting is recommended to allow its layers of complexity to unravel. Aged for an extended period on its fine lees in 10-yr-old, 2,200-liter tina. The owl on the label is an ode to the Mochuelot (pictured below) that is commonly found in and around this vineyard.

    Legendary Spanish importer, José Pastor has been the gateway to so many new Spanish discoveries (Envínate, Luis Rodriguez, to name a couple). Nanclares reflects the philosophy in the vines and the cellar that Pastor has used as his foundation in building such a critical and impressive portfolio of ultra-attentive, thoughtful growers-producers

    In 1992, Alberto Nanclares and his wife chose to leave their native Basque country and settle in this extreme Atlantic Ocean setting in the beautifully green and lush northwest Galicia region. Organic viticulture is no easy task in Rias Baixas, as the high humidity and constant rainfall have meant conventional farming with chemicals and extremely high yields is the overwhelming norm. There was a gradual shift over the years for Nanclares to get his parcels farmed the right way, through painstaking labor. 

    It's wines like these that serve as great reminders that when focus is placed squarely on quality and the most natural viticulture/winemaking the results can ultimately be game-changers for regions steeped in such history like Rias Baixas. Among all the wines I drank through the summer in Spain, there is none that I personally have reached for with more regularity since returning as those from Alberto Nanclares.

    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Rias Baixas Golden Feat:  Rodrigo Mendez & Raul Perez Goliardo A Telleira

    Rias Baixas Golden Feat: Rodrigo Mendez & Raul Perez Goliardo A Telleira

    This summer's wine route through Spain and Portugal was all about increasing my familiarity with producers I've been enamored with for a long time. Of course, traversing three weeks through land steeped in such rich history is going to also provide some revelations. In all, there was no single introduction to a wine that made things stand still like they did one night at the must-visit Mesón A Curva restaurant in Galicia when their owner blind-poured a glass. The reveal: a joint project between Rodrigo Mendez & a guy you may have heard of named Raul Perez, their Goliardo a Telleira Rias Baixas Albariño.

    Today, I'm very happy to offer the 2017 Forjas del Salnes Goliardo a Telleira Rias Baixas Albariño for $78 per bottle. 

    Only 1,000 bottles were produced of the 2017 Goliardo a Telleira. Like production numbers may lead you to believe, this is as unique and singular a wine as I've ever had from Galicia. 
    Val do Salnes, the birthplace of Albariño, is the coolest of the five subzones of Rias Baixas. With average temperatures here of 60 degrees between April and October, one would expect these Albariños on pure granite to showcase the most heightened sense of tension and salinity. But, the most profound trait in Goliardo is centered around multi-layered textures and that ultimate elusive chase to find density without weight.

    Rodrigo and Raul approached this micro-production cuvée with an eye on deep experimentation. This particular parcel of 1973-planted Albariño vines come from an incredibly sandy section over granite. Grapes see partial skin-contact fermentation, with malolactic blocked to preserve the verve that's so indicative of these sandy soils that mirror a beach setting. A single foudre is used for fermentation and wine is moved into stainless steel for several months prior to bottling.

    The orchard fruit tones of Albariño veers heavily into the under-ripe white pear register, with meyer lemon and orange peel building a greater presence on the mid-palate. The real magic of Goliardo comes in the beautifully incisive finish that simultaneously embodies a more rounded frame of acidity that's, at once, mouth-watering in its freshness, but with driving waves of layered complexity that continue to change and linger long after swallowing.

    Galician winemakers are more focused than ever before on wines that compel with their levity instead of power. Goliardo strikes me as the one project that's found a way to instill both of these virtues with a balance that inhibits any one descriptor from standing front-and-center. If Grand Cru white Burgundy perhaps exemplifies this balancing act the very best, I'd highly suggest you get acquainted with north-west Spain's boldest feat.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Bierzo Fever Pitch:  Raul Perez Red & White Allocation

    Bierzo Fever Pitch: Raul Perez Red & White Allocation

    Touring with the team at Bodegas Raul Perez was the ultimate masterclass on Bierzo terroir. I had never before witnessed such a diverse range of soils and grape varieties under one person's hands. Finishing the day at both of Raul's cellars and tasting each of the parcels we visited was an unbelievable experience. Walking away I was left in total awe of his execution from a vision he had many years ago to work with only the oldest vineyards and immediately shift to the most fastidious organic viticulture.

    The arrival of the Raul Perez wines into the US have garnered a lot of attention. Although offers in the past past have been wildly popular, things have changed a bit for the new release of both his whites and reds from Bierzo.

    The California allocation sold out in less than a few hours, and today I'm happy to provide the full range that has now arrived to us directly from Perez's U.S. importer's New York warehouse. Wines are all ready to ship now. With the Wine Advocate's Luis Gutiérrez fanning the flame on the first release of these new wines, the quantities are again very limited.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the game-changing wines of Bierzo's Raul Perez, covering old vine Mencia, Bastardo, Alicante Bouchet, Godello, and Albarińo. 

    Perez's natural focus endow his wines with an authenticity that's impossible to miss. As much as he follows the historic path of his ancestors (no herbicides, pesticides, or additives of any kind in the cellar), he's made waves with his 100% whole cluster fermentations and extra long macerations on skins. Raul completely redefines what Mencia is capable of in Bierzo. And, for his whites, he now owns the mineral-driven category within Spain, showing depth and the nuance I've come to expect from elite Chablis and Côte de Beaune Chardonnay.

    Tempering the impact of the heat and sun has always been the area of largest concern in the more continental Spanish zones. Working with high elevation vineyards and old vines is not enough to ensure grace, subtlety, and lift are the overriding characteristics when the wine is finally poured. It's the attentive, thoughtful approach to viticulture and minimal intervention in the cellar that Perez has come to trust as the root of success. In doing so, he's become recognized only recently as a master of his craft.

    In 2014 Raul Perez was named best winemaker in the world from the German publication, Der Feinschmecke. And in 2015 the same honor was bestowed by France's Bettane & Desseauve. And just last week Decanter magazine asked, "is this the world's best winemaker?" 

    Ultreia Saint Jacques is sourced from 5 hectares Mencia vines planted between 1900-1940 on clay soils. Supplemented by small portions of Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet). Macerations go as far as 2-5 months. Aged in older wood ranging in sizes: 225L, 500L, foudre, and cement. 

    Ultreia Tinto is sourced from 3 hectares of mainly Mencia planted in two villages, one on clay and the other on slate. Supplemented by small portions of Bastardo (Trousseau), Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet). Doña Blanco, and Palomino. Aging in neutral 228-liter barrels.

    Ultreia Godello is sourced from vines throughout Raul's village of Valtuille de Abajo, planted on clay and alluvial stones. Fermented and aged in neutral foudre.

    Ultreia La Claudrina comes from a 0.3 hecatre parcel of Godello planted on sandy soils in Valtuille de Abajo. Fermented in one 1,500L foudre and aged for 1-2 years under flor, which develops starting in the spring after harvest.

     comes from two parcels of own-rooted, pre-phylloxera Albariño vines in the Cambados area of the Salnés valley, located in the southern portion on the northwest tip of Spain. Blocked malo and aged in large neutral foudre. 

    Encinas is an exciting joint venture between Raul Perez and Crozes-Hermitage's Antoine Graillot. Because Mencia amd Syrah share similar qualities, the plan here was to incorporate Antoine's cement fermentation protocol working with the Bierzo terroir. Interestingly, Mencia was a little more reductive than Syrah on first go around, and so in this 2nd vintage the decision was made to move the wine to large neutral wood after initial fermentation and aging in cement.

    La Vitoriana comes from a 1.8 hectare vineyard of the same name, planted with Mencia in 1890 on a mix of sand (upper slope) and clay (bottom slope). Supplemented by small portions of Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet) and Doña Blanca and Palomino. Whole cluster fermented in large oak vats, followed by a 60-90 day maceration, then one year of aging in neutral 225 and 500L barrels.

    El Rapolao comes from a 1.5ha plot of Mencia with small amounts of Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet) planted on clay at 550m elevation. Whole cluster fermented and aged for one year in neutral 500l barrels. 

    La del Vivo comes from 1.5 hectares - a mix Godello and Doña Blanca from two vineyards, La Poulosa (1940, clay) and Las Villegas (1925, sand). 80% of grapes are pressed and fermented in 500 and 700-L neutral barrels. The remaining 20% of grapes ferment on their skins in clay amphorae and remains untouched for one year. The two parts are then blended together and bottled. 

    Ultreia de Valtuille is sourced from 1.7 hectares of vines planted in the late 1800's. Sitting at nearly 600 meters above sea level on sandy soils these old vines produce what comes across as Raul's most delicate and deeply layered wine. Incredible concentration is met with finesse and a cool-fruit quality that sandy soils are often associated with.Maceration can go as long as 90 days on skins, and aging also is in neutral French barrels. Here the blend is almost identical to the above, but tiny amounts of Godello has replaced Palomino. 
    Posted by Alexander Rosen