That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)

Joan Ignasi Domènech, talking sh*t in Vinyes Domènech

If you visit Montsant’s Vinyes Domènech, located in the southern portion of the winemaking district that nearly encircles Spain’s famous Priorat area like a talon, be forewarned that owner Joan Ignasi Domènech is likely to talk sh*t.

As in, literally speak about sh*t. Like, fertilizer. Along with solar energy, water collection, and all things botanical. Long enough to really, really, really make you want to move away from the intensely pungent nearby piles of the stuff…

Domènech, who heads up this family-owned and operated vineyard area surrounded by the natural park beauty of the Llaberia and Montalt mountains at roughly 400 meters elevation, is a stickler for all-things natural, biodynamic, and conservatory.

That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)

Since 2002, this former tech-guy has overseen some of the oldest vines in Capçanes, in a spot that previously had no real supporting infrastructure of any kind. That Domènech didn’t have any previous experience in wine (aside from drinking it, and living near Priorat in Falset) or in reconstituting rugged landscapes didn’t deter his enthusiasm for transforming a previously nearly-inaccessible 15 hectares of land into what is now the handsome hamlet of Vinyes Domènech.

Domènech was, as he tells it, wooed by the natural beauty of the area after visiting it with his family on holidays, and luckily for us wine geeks, he happens to have access to Garnaxta perluga vines that are well into their elderly stage (60-80 years and counting)…

That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)

That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)2016 Vinyes Domènech ‘Bancal del Bosc’ Garnatxa Blanca (Montsant, $NA)

Priorat-area fans are justifiably ga-ga over old Garnacha vine fruit, but its blanca equivalent can be equally as compelling in its later years, as evidenced by Vinyes Domènech’s wares. Their Bancal is creamy, generous, harmonious, textured, and lovely. It’s also complex, with varying degrees of blossom, honey, peach, citrus, pear, lemon, herbs, and toast. Overall, it’s a beguiling white, provided that you’re grown-up and daring enough to venture into the more exotic territory to which it’s inviting you.

That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)

That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)2016 Vinyes Domènech ‘Rita’ (Montsant, $NA)

There’s Lovely Rita, and there’s this, which is more like Sexy Rita. 60+ year-old vines provide the fruit for this Garnaxta Blanca, and only about one thousand bottles were made of the `16. Some of the vinification takes place in barrel, resulting in a silky, tropical, rich, and floral presentation with emphasis on the lemon cream action. Having said that, it’s not without its charm, by way of little tinges of herbs, minerals, and saline.

That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)

That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)2015 Vinyes Domènech Vinyes Velles de Samsó (Montsant, $NA)

100% Carignan, with maybe 500 bottles produced in the vintage, from 80+ year-old vines. Domènech remarked, I think in equal parts joke, exacerbation, and pride, that it takes “five vines per bottle” to craft this smooth, elegant, spicy, and vibrant red. The plummy fruitiness is quite deep, the structure (this is still a baby-child) and power are ample, and the purity is enviable.

That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)

That Is One Big Pile Of… Enthusiasm (Vinyes Domènech Recent Releases)2014 Vinyes Domènech ‘Teixar’ Garnaxta Vella (Montsant, $NA)

Old vines from select plots supply the fruit for this spicy, savory, silky, sinewy, loud and long red. Red and black plums and cherries, violets, dried herbs, along with almost-but-not-really-overripe flavors make for a big, bold, steak-ready sipper. The long finish is a bonus, and might help to clear your retro-nasal passages of any lingering smells from all of that natural fertilizer, should you be lucky enough to visit…

Cheers!

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An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)

Albert Jané knows how to work a wine media crowd.

An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)

Acústic’s Albert Jané, who is *not* actually pretending to play bongos on an old barrel

If you want to quickly win over such a group of wine geeks and influencers, you would have had access to a minor clinic in such powers of persuasion had you tagged along during my recent media tour visit to Jané’s Acústic Cellar, in the Montsant town of Marçà.

The script went something like this:

Take them to your gorgeous vineyard, replete with panoramic views of the mountainous Catalan countryside; show off your small two hectare lot of 40- to 80-year-old bush-trained Garnatxa and Samsó (a.k.a. Carignan) vines; say things like “the best barrel is the one you don’t taste,” and “the best winemakers here are the vineyards;” and gleefully pour your vinous wares, which happen to be excellent. Oh, and also serve delicious Spanish cheese.

Anyway…

Jané describes his wines as “unplugged” (hence the yeah-yeah-I-get-it cleverness of his company moniker), and it’s a fitting term for a winemaking style that seeks to showcase the concentrated, small clusters/berries of the organic fruit that Acústic’s old vines produce. Jané’s approach is relatively old school, favoring hand-harvesting and minimal oak treatment; which seems fitting, considering that his grandfather was a winemaker, his cellar is an old textile factory, and much of the exclusively indigenous vines in his vineyard were planted in the 1930s. Here’s a look at the latest quartet playing the Acústic Cellars tune…

An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)

An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)2016 Acústic Celler Blanc (Montsant, $18)

Mostly Garnatxa Blanca, with Macabeo and a few others thrown in there in small amounts, this white is floral, rich, tropical, and heady, with a substantial and silky palate. What really blew my away was how textural the palate was for such a hefty wine, and how well the mineral tones showed through. Lest you be concerned with how well it ages, we tasted back to the `11 and it showed some lovely, honeyed goodness. And for a sub-$20 white, it’s overachieving in a big way if it can give you that much pleasurable drinking after even a couple of years or repose in the bottle.

An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)

An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)2015 Acústic Celler Tinto (Montsant, $20)

Mostly Carignan, with 30% Garnacha, all from vines that are between 25 and 60 years of age. There’s a bit of French oak spice on the nose here, though the barrels are clearly not new, and the wine is powerful, fruity, plummy, deep, juicy, and big. I’d go so far as to say that it’s flashing a come-hither look at you, so keep this one in mind for date night dining. There’s future promise here, too, by the way; tasting back to the 2007, the plummy profile remains, but that older offering still seems fresh and young (though it did take on more floral components).

An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)

An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)2015 Acústic Celler “Auditori” Vinyes Velles Magiques de Garnatxa (Montsant, $55)

All Garnacha, from some of the oldest vines on the Acústic estate, this is so dense and plummy that it’s almost jammy; it’s also floral, spicy, savory, and sporting serious licorice tones. While undoubtedly powerful, Auditori is also fresh, delicious, and fruity enough to leave you with a lasting, impressive, well,  impression.

An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)

An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)2015 Acústic Celler “Braó” (Montsant, $33)

Guess what? Old vines, again, these averaging about 40 years (with some in the 60 to 95 year old range), with the emphasis (80%) on Carignan, and the remainder filled out with Garnacha. The yields are, understandably, quite low with bush vines in this age range. The result is warm, buxom, dense, ripe, and delicious. It’s also complex: violets, licorice, baking spices, plums, and even some graphite. Probably my fave out of this quartet, especially considering how the 2007 turned out (inky/extracted/dense, of course, but also savory, floral, and still sexy). The moniker is supposed to evoke strength and courage in Catalan, and, well, yeah, that.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)

Jesús del Rio Mateu, proprietor of the Masroig-area Mas de l’Abundància – doesn’t just have an enviable name; he’s also got an enviably amazing vineyard view, enviably old vines, and sits enviably close to one of Spain’s critical-darling DOs, Priorat.

He also has an enviably-close relationship to a good importer, Folio Wine Partners, owned by the Michael Mondavi clan, who, Jesús is quick to point out, love to visit his hilly, llicorella-heavy eight hectares of aging vines.

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)

Jesús del Rio Mateu

“‘Can you fell the energy?’ That’s what they said when they were here,” he told me during a media tour visit to his Montsant DO estate. And while Jesús’ “house of plenty” certainly has its own energetic charm, my guess is that the tingling vibes felt by the Mondavis on their visit had more to do with the overhead high-tension power lines. Either that, or it was the pent-up tension in their shoulder-blades being released after taking in the glory of the scenery.

Anyway… the dramatic views of Priorat and the encapsulating Montsant mountain ranges from Jesús’ vines seem to have imbued him with senses of both literal and figurative perspective about the place; after all, this region of Spain has belonged to monks, aristocrats, Romans, and Arabs. Jesús puts it this way: “this doesn’t belong to me; I belong to it.”

The “it” in this case, coupled with ample sunlight, elevation, slope, and a continental climate, have combined to produce Montsant wines that are nearly as compelling, dramatic energetic, and “deep” as Mas de l’Abundància’s location…

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)2016 Mas de l’Abundància “De Calpino” (Montsant, $52)

In my experience, it can be tough to find a 100% Grenache Blanc that feels whole and complete on its own. This is not one of those cases; here we have a GB that’s total from start to finish. The vineyard is slate-heavy, and was planted in 1892, so we are talking legitimately old vines here. Heady, floral, mineral, tropical, rich with stone fruits, creamy, silky, big, and yet totally lovely, this is one of te best whites I encountered over all of the Montsant DO.

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)2016 Mas de l’Abundància “He Ma” (Montsant, $NA)

Sure, the title evokes He-Man, but this Cabernet Sauvignon / Grenache / Carignan blend is far from burly; in fact, it’s focused, bright, floral, and fruity (think blue and red berries), with excellent vibrancy. It’s an easy-drinking red that manages to still be intelligent.

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)2016 Mas de l’Abundància “Flvminis” (Montsant, $25)

With similar blending components to the “He Ma” (10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 60% Grenache, and 30% Carignan), this bigger brother is decidedly more serious, more plummy, more polished, and more powerful. It’s savory, too, full of violets and ripe, sweet berry fruits. What I admired most about this red, however, was how well it exuded a sense of purity and transparency despite its ample palate weight.

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)2013 Mas de l’Abundància “Abundància” (Montsant, $NA)

The biggest bro of the lineup is a 60/40 Grenache/Carignan blend, with fewer than one thousand bottles made from organically-farmed vines that are in excess of eighty years young. Rich, plummy, spicy, floral, and complex, with licorice and stewed fruit notes, this red starts with silk, moves to tart, spicy plums, and finishes with toast and mineral. It’s alluring, sexy AF, and simply a gorgeous sipper. Dramatic stuff from a dramatic place; and you’ll feel the energy, even if you’re not within spitting distance of an overhead power line…

Cheers!

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