Sometimes when I go to a big wine tasting event like Spain’s Great Match, it’s all about cramming as many new wines into my maw as possible. (RESPONSIBLY.) But often the most memorable tastes are when I revisit an old vinous friend. I fondly recall selling the Luzón Verde, a Spanish red wine made from organic grapes. It was over a decade ago at QFC when I first encountered this wine, thanks to one of my sales reps. It has a great label and comes in a case box replicating said label. That means you can:
Stack it High and Watch it Fly
Which is my favorite retail rhyme next to “If it’s cold, it’s sold” for beer/soda/wine.
Let’s take a closer look.
Old vines at Bodegas Luzón. Pretty amazing, huh? And that rocky soil, damn. / Photo via winery FB page
Luzón Verde Organic 2017 (Jumilla) $12
Brought to you by Bodegas Luzón, this red is made from the Monastrell grape. You might be more familiar with it as Mourvèdre, which is what the French (and folks beyond) call it. Visiting Australia? (Lucky you, BTW.) Well it could be referred to as Mataro. You gotta love learning about wine!
It’s a rich, juicy red but with enough snap not be overwhelming. Very crowd-pleasing and pleasurable. Even this nerd who loves weedy see-through low ABV Loire Cab Franc (IT ME) digs the Luzón Verde. I mean, what more do you want from a dang 12 dollar wine? It’s tasty, has a bright, fun label, uses organic grapes, and is made from a non-ubiquitous grape variety.
If you see Monastrell from Spain, particularly hailing from Jumilla or Yecla, you’re going to find delicious bargains. Probably from old vines. When it doubt, go for it. I’d also say the same for Garnacha (Grenache) from Spain.
What’s your favorite inexpensive, surprising red wine? Let me know in the comments.
I’ve been a fan of a small region in Northwest Spain for quite a while: Bierzo. (I first wrote about the region, albeit quite briefly, in 2005!) The main grape you’ll find there, Mencía, makes great red wines. Now I’m delighted to get into some pink examples. Liquid Geography rosé is the most recent bottle I’ve had. It’s brought to the US by Olé Imports.
The vines that go into this 100% Mencía rosé were planted in 1963, some serious old-vine material. It’s got no oak and sports an easygoing 12.5% alcohol.
Beyond the wine inside, it’s what happens when you buy a bottle of Liquid Geography rosé that makes it special. 100% of the wine’s profits go to charity. The three beneficiaries:
“An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”
In this crazy day and age of texting and social media, not using an exclamation point can come across as sarcastic, cold, or detached. You type “Congratulations!!!” rather than “Congratulations.”
In The Guardian, Elena Ferrante, author of the excellent 4-book series Neapolitan Novels, takes on the exclamation point, saying:
“Of all the punctuation marks, it’s the one I like the least. It suggests a commander’s staff, a pretentious obelisk, a phallic display. An exclamation should be easily understood by reading; there’s no need to insist with that mark at the end as well.”
“But I still think that ‘I hate you’ has a power, an emotional honesty, that ‘I hate you!!!’ does not.”
I highly recommend reading the whole column because it makes serious points about language, meaning, and power.
Inspired by Ferrante, I would like to talk about a wine. This is much less serious matter, but here I go.
I like this wine. It’s really good.
Siete Red (No Exclamation Points)
First of all, I dig this label. So. Much. I am very tempted to finish a sentence about it with a punctuation mark that would convey an exuberant mood. Furthermore, I might repeat the use of this mark three to five times for maximum impact.
The Siete Red is from Rioja. It’s a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo. The grapes are organic, which is great. Due to no oak being involved, this Spanish wine is very welcoming and open. But the Siete is beyond pleasant, with a little bit of earthiness that leads to a spicy, fruity kick of a finish.
Who wouldn’t love to bring this wine to a party because it just looks so cool? Everyone would pour themselves a glass. Additionally, it’s not too pricey. I got it for 14 bucks at Dandelion Wine.
I had the good fortune last week to be invited to lunch with Bertrand Sourdais,the dynamic 5th generation winemaker and owner of Domaine de Pallus in Chinon, smack dab in the middle of the Loire Valley. He pulls double duty as a partner and winemaker of two wineries in Spain’s Ribero del Duero region.
“Thrilling, brilliant” are adjectives that have applied to the wines crafted by Bertrand Sourdais. Although his family estate is in Chinon in the Loire Valley, he made his international reputation with a Spanish wine, the 2002 Dominio de Atauta “Llanos del Almendro,” from Spain’s Ribera del Duero. In a celebrated blind tasting organized by two Europe’s most respected wine critics, Bertrand’s 2002 Atauta tied with the 1994 Vega Sicilia’s Unico, beating out the 2000 Château Latour; this was a shocking result as it was Bertrand’s first commercial vintage as winemaker.
Just after graduating from Enology school in Bordeaux, Bertrand apprenticed at Mouton-Rothschild, Santa Rita in Chile and Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. Bertrand took his first post as winemaker at Atauta in Ribero del Duero. After he left Atauta, Bertrand started Bodegas Antidoto and Dominio de ES, both in Ribera del Duero.
At lunch, Bertrand revealed that he was fired by the new owners of Atauta back in 2008. Even though he did not elaborate, the firing must have been a dramatic turning point in his life and, thirteen years on, you can still see it in his eyes. It still hurts. Yet I believe that the firing ignited a passionate determination to work only for himself with a fierce drive to succeed.
So he founded a new winery, with partner David Hernando, an agronomist, called Antidoto. Antidoto means antidote and it was just the perfect cure for Bertrand’s Atauta blues. It was no coincidence that they located Antidoto in the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, just a stone’s throw from Atauta!
At the same time, Bertrand’s father wanted to retire and to turn the estate in Chinon over to Bertrand. Bertrand was eager to take the reins of his family estate in addition to his commitment in Ribera del Duero. Bertrand told me he drives 8 hours each way from Pallus to Antidoto and back. That determined dedication is impressive and I think it is fueled by his traumatic firing from Atauta nearly ten years ago. Those wounds are still raw to this day.
Chinon is a prestigious appellation, mostly for Cabernet Franc, located in the center of the Loire Valley. It produces some of France’s meatiest Cabernet Francs which are sometimes compared to Bordeaux. As this is Bertrand’s home, his family estate, Domaine de Pallus, takes pride of place over his Spanish estates.
Bertrand farms his vineyards organically, using biodynamic treatments. Yields are kept low, sometimes too low (under 1 ton/acre!).
Below are the wines we tasted with Bertrand.
Pallus 2014 Les Pensées de Pallus: Les Pensées boasts a dark ruby color with aromas of dried herbs, anise and rosemary. On the palate, there is medium-to-full bodied fruit of tart black plum, black currant, black tea and bright acidity leading to a vibrant mineral finish. In stock at Esquin.
We also tasted, for the first time:
Pallus 2016 Les Messanges: Bertrand’s entry level Chinon, the. This is delightful fruity wine of elegance and balance. Available soon.
Antidoto 2015 Ribera del Duero: this is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) produced from grapes from the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, the cooler part of Ribera del Duero. Just released, this is a serious wine that can age. Available soon.
Pallus 2017 Messanges Chinon Rosé: A dry, crisp Cabernet Franc rosé perfect for Spring and Summer drinking. Fire up the outdoor grill! Available soon.
Antidoto 2017 Roselito Ribera del Duero: This complex Rosé is produced from 80% Tinto Fino and 20% Albillo Mayor, a little known local white grape indigenous to Ribera del Duero. Available soon.
The cuisine of the Philippines’ represents some of the most delicious and fascinating food around. The style of cooking has evolved over the centuries from the Austronesian roots to a mélange of Chinese, Spanish, Indian and more recently American influences. Local ingredients mixed with diverse cooking techniques have created a cuisine that is once familiar and distinctive.
The Chinese brought Soy sauce, fish sauce, techniques like stir frying and noodle making. Trade opened up even more ingredients and techniques from close neighbors like Mallacca and Java to as far away as India and Arabia that all made their mark on cuisine. Spanish colonizers brought with them the produce of their empire, the Americas. Chile Peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes along with techniques like cooking with garlic and onions. Spanish and Mexican dishes both make their way into the cuisine.
There are many classic dishes: from Lumpia to Adobo. A particular favorite is Afritada. This is a dish that applies Spanish technique, American ingredients and touch Asian influence and Filipino flair.
There are many ways to pair a dish like this. It’s not too spicy and just a little sweet and savory. You are going to want a wine that is has some intensity, good acidity and little fruit. For white, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is an almost ideal match. For red a Spanish Garnacha or Tempranillo would work nicely but a Mencia from Bierzo is just about perfect.
CROWDED HOUSE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 $11.99 btl / save $4
This wine blew our socks off! A quintessentially Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with bright aromas of guava, citrus fruits, and sweet crushed herbs. The palate is elegantly proportioned with lovely soft acid carrying the fruit flavors to a long, pure finish. This wine keeps you coming back for more; and at price you can afford to.
VINA HERMINIA CRIANZA 2013 $11.99 btl / save $4
“Talk about a stunning value!” – Arnie Milan. “An elegant and intense nose comprising black fruit, blackberry and herbs, with a real medicinal edge is followed deliciously by a well-structured palate of licorice, plums, tobacco and black fruit notes, which also has round meaty tannins, a lovely texture and a beautiful long finish.” 95 points Decanter
Or if you want something really cool try a Mencia from Bierzo.
JOSE PALACIOS ‘PETALOS’ BIERZO 2015 $19.99 btl / save $5
A fine representation of what is possible in both the Bierzo region as well as with the grape Mencia. Delicious tart red strawberry, Bing cherries, anise and impressive earthy aromas. Crisp red fruit on the palate, savory, smooth and caressing without sacrificing structure. All from vines ranging between 40 and 90 years of age on slopes (half of the grapes around the village of Corullón and the remainder in the rest of Bierzo). It’s a showy, approachable, aromatic and open version of Pétalos. 92 pts Wine Advocate
This Pineapple Chicken Afritada features chicken and tons of vegetables simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce. Vibrant, colorful, super delicious!
2soy bean oil tablespoon
2 lbs chicken thighs, deboned and cut in serving pieces
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pound Linguiça or Longganisa sliced
4 cloves garlic coarsely
1 small onion, julienne
1 red pepper Julienne
1 yellow pepper Julienne
3 bay leaves
1 can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz can Pineapple chunks
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 potato, peeled quartered
1 carrot cut into chunks
1/4 cup green peas
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoon Fish sauce
1. Trim chicken thighs of any excess fat and season with salt, pepper and paprika
2. In a large skillet heat oil and brown chicken pieces on each side move to platter.
3. Add Linguiça onions and peppers stir to soften. Add garlic and bay leaves.
4. Add tomatoes, pineapple, stock and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer add potatoes, carrots and peas.
5. Return chicken to pot, cover and simmer 15 minutes.
6. Add cider vinegar, sugar and fish sauce
7. If the sauce is to thin remove chicken and simmer to reduce.
8. Serve with rice.
Four years ago I went to Spain on a trip with a Cava producer and the most surprising wine I drank (during a day away from sparkling) was a Grenache Blanc (Garnacha Blanca) from Priorat. The later is a region in Spain a couple hours west of Barcelona but it feels like a world away. Steep slopes, super gnarly vines, and soil that’s a jagged razor’s edge of slate.
You can see some evocative photos (that I did not take) here.
It was great. The white wine had wonderful richness without being too heavy. It walked the tightrope! (It’s also worth seeking out Grenache Blanc from Washington, California, and in blends from southern France.)
On a recent episode of the Wine Enthusiast Podcast, hosted by yours truly, I was excited to hear that, in Priorat, Grenache Blanc wasn’t a fluke. Though the vast majority of wines in the region are rich, concentrated reds, our Spanish wine reviewer, Michael Schachner, has some eye-opening comments about the tiny trickle of white wines. Plus a history lesson on Priorat.
Then I chat with with Patrick Mata, co-founder of Olé Imports. We touch on how to start a wine import company when you aren’t old enough to drink. And I learn the surprising history of white wine in Rioja. Plus a few regions to watch out for, notable white wines, and some talk about how the world of rosé wine (rosado) in Spain has grown since everyone is thinking (and drinking) pink.
When someone says Spanish Cuisine the first dish that comes to nearly everyone’s mind is Paella. And yes, you can find Paella in virtually every city, village and taberna. Historically, Spain was divided into small kingdoms; each one with its own language, culture and cuisine. Today, Spain is divided into 17 Autonomous Communities, each one with its own unique cuisine.
Valencia, in Eastern Spain, is the undisputed home of paella. It is one of the largest natural ports in the Mediterranean and has been one of the most important rice-producing areas in Spain since rice was introduced by the Moors over 1200 years ago. Paella has ancient roots, but its modern form originated in the mid-19th century near the Albufera lagoon on the east coast of Spain adjacent to the city of Valencia. Although many people regard Paella as the national dish of Spain, Valencian’s regard paella as more than just a dish – it is also one of their most identifying symbols.
There are as many different Paella recipes as there are Spanish Mothers and Chefs. Paella de Marisco (seafood), Paella de Verduras (Vegetarian), Paella Mixta (freestyle) and Paella Valencia are the most common dishes. Paella Valencia traditional will be served with short grain rice, green beans, snails, chicken or rabbit, chorizo and of course Saffron and Pimenton de la Vera. Below is my Paella Recipe, and like I said, every Paella recipe is different. Mine is unusual in that I cook the delicate fish separately from the rice, because I want the fish to be as fresh and light as possible.
Pairing with Paella is easy – a lighter white like Albarino or Verdejo or a softer red like Rioja or many of the great Garnacha (Grenache) Spain has to offer. Today, I am pleased to show a new one we just discovered – a beautiful and affordable red made from 120 year old vine Garnacha from Navarra.
2009 Rafael Reverte Cistum Garnacha Navarro $14.99
“The 2009 Cistum was sourced from 120-year-old ungrafted pre-phylloxera vines aged for 6 months in new French oak. Cedar, pencil lead, Asian spices, incense, and black cherry liqueur aromas are some of the elements leading to a voluminous, focused, layered wine with enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years. This remarkable example of old-vine Garnacha will be at its best from 2014 to 2024.”
92 Points – The Wine Advocate
In the twelfth century, the Cistercian monks of the Monastery of Fitero planted their first vines of Grenache and began the preparation of a unique and exceptional wine. Rafael Reverte has recovered Pie Franco vineyard planted in 1899, before the step of Phylloxera, to produce a wine of legend within reach of very few: “Cistum”.
Taste this wine Saturday from 2 pm to 5 pm
Taste Lenny’s Paella Wednesday April 5th 6 pm with Special Guest Victor Palencia of Palencia Winery!