Monday, July 13, 2020

The Genesis of The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections

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 by Gerry Dawes, Founder & President
 The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group

Our Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group of artisan producers are a result of a long-time painstaking effort to find authentic and original wines that truly represent the unique places from which they come. Our producers are not making wines that "the market is asking for," nor wines that are made to please the palate of any critic in particular and certainly not the Parkerista-style overoaked, high alcohol palate. 

The wines of The Spanish Artisan Wine and Spirits Group – Gerry Dawes Selections are made by people trying to reflect the own terruño (the French call it terroir), a sense of place: the unique combination of native grape varieties, soil (minerals) and climate transmitted through the grapes and the prism of each winemaker's palate. Before wines began to be fabricated or fashioned to fit that supposed "what the market is asking for" profile, the wines of France and Italy, but also in some parts of Spain, were made primarily by artisan winemakers working with their own vines.  Obviously, in every region more commercial, negociant-style wines were made to hit a price point and fulfill a market need for cheaper Burgundy, Chianti, Rioja, Mosel, etc., but the reputation of the wines was made originally from the wines of quality artisan producers.

In the early days of the modern post-Prohibition wine importing era, Frank Schoonmaker set standards for selecting wines that would become the model for the next several decades.  
 Frank Schoomaker.

"It was obvious to Schoonmaker that prohibition would someday be repealed; the question was when.  First, he needed a network of suppliers. In France, by the late 1920s he had made a valuable ally in Raymond Baudoin, editor of La Revue du Vin de France in Paris.  Baudoin had shaped this scholarly publication into an influential review, which eventually played a major role in creating the appellation contrôlée laws of 1935-36. 

Schoonmaker traveled around France with Baudoin several times, and visited many winegrowers, particularly in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or. Baudoin introduced him to some of the best, and Schoonmaker soon followed Baudoin’s lead in selecting only certain lots, or casks, of a particular cru in a given vintage – writing everything down methodically in a little black notebook. 

In addition, Baudoin was emphatic in getting the growers to bottle their wine themselves and sell it under their own label, as opposed to the traditional method of selling it in cask to the shippers in Beaune for blending, under their label." -- Frank Schoonmaker, A Visionary Wine Man by Frank E. Johnson, Frank Johnson Selections.

Schoonmaker's style would prove to be the model followed by other French wine specialists such as Alexis Lichine (who began selling wine for Schoonmaker), Colonel Frederick Wildman, Robert Haas, Gerald Asher (an Englishman who began importing his wines into the U. S. and like Schoonmaker and Lichine became well-known as a wine writer) and Henry Cavalier (another transplanted Englishman, who was one of Asher's star disciples).  Asher's well-crafted and beautifully written Gourmet magazine articles were a benchmark for more than a decade for serious wine writers and for wine aficionados. 

Gerald Asher

"Inevitably I came to associate any wine I met with a specific place and a particular slant of history. I learned to perceive more than could be deduced from an analysis of the physical elements in the glass. For me, an important part of the pleasure of wine is its reflection of the total environment that produced it. If I find in a wine no hint of where it was grown, no mark of the summer when the fruit ripened, and no indication of the usages common among those who made it, I am frustrated and disappointed. Because that is what a good, honest wine should offer." - - Gerald Asher

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections was founded on the principles of the aforementioned pioneer wine importers.  I never knew Frank Schoonmaker, but I always admired the fact that he greatly appreciated the wines of Spain (he spent several years in Spain during WWII as an undercover O. S. S. officer; ironically decades later I would be assigned to Rota, Spain as a Russian linguist with a Top Secret security clearance [tracking the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean]).  

Schoonmaker died in January 1976 at his home at 14 E. 69th St. in New York City, shortly after I arrived in New York City after having lived in Spain for the previous eight years.  Another irony, a few months after Schoonmaker died, I went to work for another of the giants of wine importing in America, Frederick Wildman & Sons at 21 E. 69th St., just down the street from Schoonmaker’s home.  And at Wildman, I worked with Henry Cavalier, the exceptionally knowledgeable Gerald Asher disciple who soon became a friend and taught me a lot about fine wine. 

Colonel Frederick Wildman
Frederick Wildman & Sons

My employment at Frederick Wildman & Sons ended when I left to join the former President of that firm, Anthony J. Sargeant, and Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards in launching Havelock Gordon.  That company was short-lived, so I moved on to Mosswood, whose president was Gerald Asher, then I did a decade long stint as a restaurant wine specialist at the then fledgling company, Winebow, one of whose partners was Vineyard Brands owner Robert Haas, who was originally a Frank Schoonmaker disciple himself.   While I was at Winebow, Haas made me a Vineyard Brands Vice President, his representative inside that company.
Robert Haas and his son Jason, GM at Tablas Creek Winery, Paso Robles, CA

For more than 10 years, I also worked with Leonardo LoCascio, who founded Winebow with Peter Matt and became one of the best-known names for quality Italian wines.  I helped establish Winebow as a force in top New York restaurants.  I was Winebow's top restaurant sales consultant, selling $1,500,000 per year to sixty top restaurant accounts, at a time when wines sold for about 25% of their current prices. After Winebow, I spent a brief period with another New York distributor, then left that position to pursue my career as a writer on Spanish gastronomy, wine and travel.
Leonardo LoCascio, Co-Founder, Winebow, Inc.

During my time at Winebow, in 1989, I founded The Chefs From Hell Acrobatic Unicyclists & Winetasters Club, whose members included Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, Michael Lomonaco, Rick Moonen, David Burke, Bobby Flay, Martha Stewart, Andy Pforzheimer, Mario Batali, Tom Valenti and a number of other talented and now well-known chefs.

Chefs Quint Smith, Mario Batali and Bobby Flay at a Chefs From Hell Luncheon at Martha Stewart's home in Westport, CT.

Like Schoonmaker, Asher (and my friend Frank Johnson), I am a wine writer. Using my intimate knowledge of Spain, I specialized in writing about Spanish wines.  During the course of traveling for material for articles, also discovered more that a score of small wine producers who were not only not being imported into the U. S., they were not even known in MadridIn 2012, quite by chance, I found an interested party with an import license and I decided to bring some of these jewels to the United States.  I brought in two containers of selected wine to unprecedented critical acclaim.  Unfortunately, the partner proved unsuited to growing a fine wine company, so we parted ways after a year.
The style as defined by Frank Schoonmaker, Frederick Wildman, Robert Haas, Gerald Asher and Henry Cavalier (and subsequently by importers such as Kermit Lynch and Neal Rosenthal) over decades was to go to a wine producing region, seek out the best producers available from that region, many of which were small production jewels, bring them to market in the United States and tell their customers why each wine producer and wine was special.  

Except for a few wines that they imported for volume sales (very dignified wines such as Robert Haas Vineyard Brands La Vielle Ferme Rhône Valley wines from the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel fame and even then the interventionism was minimal), they did not encourage their producers to make the the hyper-commercial types of wines "that the market is asking for." 
Instead, they represented unique producers making the best wines that their grapes, their land, their wine cellars and their palates could produce and those discerning importers brought the producers' wines and their stories to market.  Those ideals are what The Spanish Artisan Wine and Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections hopes to carry forward with these exceptional artisan producer wines from Spain. 

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Spirits & Licores

And, given the interest in all things Spanish in the culinary world these days, we are using the same sourcing principles for our unique artisan spirits collection, we are planning to introduce in September 2016.  I have been steadily developing a stellar lineup of suppliers of unique Spanish spirits for more than two years now.  

This spirits and licores include a Vermouth from Burgos made from a 1912 recipe, a stellar gin made in Galicia and distilled from albariño grapes; from the same albariño grape distillations, some stellar aguardientes (grappa), a crema de café licor, chocolate with cherry licor and a superb cilantro-flavored liqueur; a cream licor from Catalunya that  could be the Spanish equivalent of Bailey’s Irish Cream; exceptional licor de naranja and a licor de limón, plus an orange cream licor from a producer in Valenciaa selection of high quality eau-de-vie type spirits from the top producer of cherries and other top quality fruit such as plums, raspberries, etc. in Extremadura; Patxarán (sloe-berry infused anís) de Navarra is one of the most famous and sought after spirits in Spain; aguardiente de manzana (apple grappa) and the Calvados-like Aguardiente Viejo de Sidra from Asturias; a Sherry Brandy de Jerez from Sanlúcar de Barrameda; and a line of artisan licores from one of the top chocolatiers and desserts chefs in Spain.

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Gerry Dawes is President-Jefe & Chairman of the Board of The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections

Gerry Dawes at The James Beard Foundation Awards 2014, New York City

Gerry Dawes with owner-producer Eugenio Merino on a cold January morning in the old vines Cigales vineyards that produce one of Spain's finest rosados, Viña Catajarros Elite Rosado.  Photo by John Sconzo.

Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés. ". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 

Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Friday, November 3, 2017

AT Roca - (Clàssic Penedès) Exceptional Methode Champenoise Sparkling Wines

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AT Roca - (Clàssic Penedès

Agustí Torelló Sibill in his Conca de Foix Plana de l'Urpi vineyard (Foix basin, l'Urpi plain), near Sant Sadurni D'Anoia in Catalunya, southwest of Barcelona.  Photo by Gerry Dawes.

AT Roca, an artisan, family owned, viticulturally oriented winery, produces superb quality Clàssic Penedès Brut and Brut Reserve Rosat sparkling wines.  Agustí Torelló Sibill and his sister Lali were shut out of their father’s winery Agustí Torelló because of a family dispute.  Agustí, who was the face of the family’s wines, decided to begin anew.  Agustí, Lali and his son and winemaker Agustí Torelló Roca, set up shop on the outskirts of the Cava capital of Sant Sadurni D’Anoia, and named their wines AT Roca. 

The Torellós also found three prime ecologically farmed vineyards, owned by eight dedicated viticulturists with mature vines in three different areas of Penedès at three different altitude levels, from which they source their grapes:  Their Macabeu (Viura) grapes come from L'Ordal (coastal Massís del Garraf), Finca Canta Llops (Howling Wolf) vineyard, 420 meters (nearly 1400 feet above sea level); Xarel.lo from the slate-laced vineyards of Conca del Foix, Plana de l'Urpí, 220 meters (more than 700 feet); Parellada from La Llacuna, La Ginestera, 725 meters (2400 feet). 

 Agustí Torelló Roca shows the locations of three prime ecologically farmed vineyards, owned by eight dedicated viticulturists with mature vines in three different areas of Penedès at three different altitude levels, from which they source the grapes for their wines. 

AT Roca Vi de Terrer (Wine of Terroir) Brut Reserva 2014  $28.99    12%                      

“AT Roca is a new winery that was started by the brother and sister team of Agustí and Lali Torelló Sibill, as well as Agustí’s son, Agustí Torelló Roca, who handles all the viticulture and winemaking for the new sparkling wine house. These are the same family members who ran the famed Agustí Torelló Mata Cava house, who were one of the driving forces in the formation of the category in past generations and continue to make one of Spain’s greatest sparklers, which they call Kripta. An internecine family argument led to the ouster of Agustí and Lali Torelló and they promptly set up on their own, contracting with eight small farmers to purchase grapes from 97 cooler, high altitude vineyards farmed in the proper, Six Percent Club manner.

The 2013s are the first releases from AT Roca and not surprisingly, they are exceptional in quality. The 2013 Brut Reserva is a blend of the Big Three grapes of Xarel.lo, Macabeu and Parellada and offers up a superb bouquet of tart apple, bread dough, wild fennel, lovely minerality and a top-note of ocean breeze. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and rock solid at the core, with frothy mousse, lovely focus and complexity and a long, perfectly balanced finish. 2016-2025+. 92+.” – John Gilman, View From The Cellar

*AT Roca Vi de Terrer (Wine of Terroir) Brut Reserva Rosat 2014   $29.99    12%

The 2013 AT Roca Brut Rosat Reserva is comprised of a unique blend of sixty percent Macabeu and forty percent Monastrell. The wine is aged for fifteen months sur latte prior to disgorgement and is a lovely, pale salmon color. The bouquet is bright and classy, wafting from the glass in a mélange of blood orange, white cherries, salty soil tones, dried rose petals and a smoky top-note. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and complex, with outstanding mid-palate amplitude, elegant mousse and excellent cut and grip on the long and racy finish. This is terrific Rosat! 2016-2025. 92+. John Gilman, VFTC
*Comes in 6 bt. Packs.

AT Roca Brut Rosat.  Photo by Docsconz, John Sconzo.

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 Gerry Dawes at AT Roca, Sant Sadurni D’Anoia. 

Visit to AT Roca Sant Sadurni d'Anoia 
We arrived at the Hotel Domo in the wine capital of Vilafranca del Penedès Barcelona province), an hour southeast of Barcelona sometime after one a.m., but Hotel Domo was relatively quiet--no jackhammer machine like we experienced in Barcelona--and I could open my windows for fresh air, so I got a reasonably good night's sleep.

Agustì Torellò Roca, winemaker at AT Roca and son of Agustí Torellò Sibill, shows us one of AT Roca´s free-standing old vines vineyards from which their exceptional Clàssic Penedès methode champenoise sparkling wines are made.

Agustí Torelló Roca came by to pick us up at 9:00 the next morning to show us some of the AT Roca vineyards, their fine vinification facility at Can Bonastre, which is also a wine resort hotel and restaurant, and then on to their production and facility where the Torellós age and bottle their exquisite Champagne-quality methode champenoise sparking wines, including their native varieties Brut Rosat in a complex at the edge of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia. Sant Sadurni is the sparkling wine capital of Catalunya, Spain and, in volume, the World. The largest producers, Freixenet and Codorníu make enormous amounts of bubbly, more than any other single producer of methode champenoise wines in the world. 

Agustí Torelló Sibill at AT Roca's fine vinification facility at Can Bonastre, which is also a wine resort hotel and restaurant, 10 kilometers from Sant Sadurni D'Anoia in Catalunya, southwest of Barcelona.  Photo by Gerry Dawes.
Xarel.lo grapes, AT Roca, July 2015. Conca de Foix Plana de l'Urpi vineyard (Foix basin, l'Urpi plain), near Sant Sadurni D'Anoia in Catalunya, southwest of Barcelona. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes.

 Agustí Torelló Sibill explaining the topography of his vineyards in Penedès at his finishing winery in San Sadurni d'Anoia, July 2015.

Old vines from which AT Roca sparkling wines are made with Monserrart, the Holy Mountain of Catalunya, in the background.  (Photo courtesy of AT Roca.)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Albariños from la Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia: Avó Roxo, Cabaliero do Val, Lagar de Broullón, Lagar de Candes, O’Forollo & Rozas

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“When Gerry discusses his albariños his voices rises and his enthusiasm goes into high gear, as does the prose in his tasting sheet on albariños from members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas. . .

Back label in Spain for the
Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Autores do Viño

. . .The association, he relates, is “A group of small grower-producers who rebelled against commercial wine styles in Rías Baixas and produce their own unique wines using native yeasts.” He continues: “Each wine is distinctly different from the others.  There are 14 members of this association.  I have six of them, with probably four more to come. Why? These wines are among the greatest white wines of Spain, that’s why.”

I am not knowledgeable enough to say whether they are the greatest or not, but I loved the scintillating, complex Albariño from O’Forollo ($23.99); enjoyed the lush, flavorful  Avó Roxo ($24.99); and admired the lithe, fresh Cabaliero do Val ($24.99).
I wish I had drunk these wines with seafood, as Gerry did, in Rías Baixas, a marine paradise. They would have been accompanied by ostras (oysters), almejas (clams), cigalas (langoustines), nécoras (small hard-shell crabs), vieiras (sea scallops) and zamburiñas (bay scallops, sort of).” - - Howard G. Goldberg, writer for The New York Times, Decanter and others.

  Back label in the U.S. for Avó Roxo, member of the  
Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Autores do Viño

Among these artisan Albariños are some unique and stunning examples of how great Spanish white wines can be.  The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections  imports six Albariños from the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas, which has 14 small grower-producer members, most of which produces 1,000 cases or less and use indigenous yeasts to ferment their wines.  Though each producer's wine is distinctly different from the others, each is a jewel in its right and several of them are amongst the greatest Albariños I have ever drunk.  There are at least four more producers that The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections may bring in.

Gerry Dawes with some of the Bodegueros Artesanos 
at Lagar de Broullón, owned by José Pintos Pintos (third from left).

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections imports six Albariños from same municipio, Dena-Meaño, in the Val do Salnés, all from a group of independent grower producers who are members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas (the Association of Artesan Wineries). 

Each member farms his own-clone grapes and makes unique, individual terruño-laced, spoofulation-free Albariños of character, style, grace, balance, charm and breed in his (or her) own adega (bodega) using wild native yeasts to ferment the wines.  These producers do not believe, as many commercial wineries do, that they should bottle early in the year after the previous vintage.  Most bottle their wines in early July, in time for the group’s Festa do Albariño held each year in Meaño at the end of July.

Albariño, Val do Salnés Rías Baixas (Galicia). 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2012.

With the Bodegueros Artesanos, the taste of their unique wines is driven by what tastes best to each of them, not what "the market is asking for."  They make some of the most intriguing and best white wines of Spain.
The Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas stages their Festa del Encontro do Viño de Autor the fourth weekend in July in La Praza de Feria en the center of Meaño each year.   All the bodegas in the group pour their wines for several days and there is great Galician food–fabulous bread (including pan de milla, corn bread), steamed octopus, Galicia stews, percebes (goose barnacles), chorizo, grilled food, filloas (crêpes), etc.–which can be purchased.  The Viño de Autor wine fair is always the weekend closest to the Día de Santiago July 25.

Gerry Dawes with Francisco (“Paco”) Dovalo López, owner of Cabaleiro do Val, is the founder and president of the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia. The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections and Sober, Llc. imports six different artisan albariños from the Bodegas Artesanas.

Adega Cabaleiro Do Val, Meaño (Pontevedra)
Bodeguero Artesano Francisco Dovalo
President, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas

Cabaleiro do Val Albariño 2013 13.5% 12/750ML $25.99

Cabaleiro do Val was officially incorporated as a bodega in 1989, although Paco Dovalo López has been producing his viño de autor signature wine all his life in an old granite stone farmhouse that he inherited from his ancestors and dates from 1834.  A section of the house is the old bodega, where the Dovalo family has been making wine for more than 100 years.  In the garden of the house is a huge old grapevine, estimated to be at least 150 years old, that measures more than three feet in circumference and has branches 30 feet long (vines are trained on the trellised parral system here).

Chefs Michael Chiarello (Bottega, Napa Valley and Coqueta, San Francisco) and Ryan Mcilwaith (Bellota and Barcino, San Francisco) with the 200-year old vine at Cabaliero do Val in the garden of Paco Dovalo's home.  All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.


In the early 70's, there were many little known grape varieties such as Espadeiro, Tinta Hembra, Catalán, Hoja Redonda and even some unknown grapes growing in his vineyards and though he kept a some of these varieties to study their characteristics, he decided to use only Albariño in his wines.  At the time, there were also strains of Albariño estimated to be more than 150 years old.  Dovalo took cuttings these old vines for re-planting sections of his vineyards–he calls them the mothers of all his Albariño vines. 

Paco Dovalo says the grapes obtained from the original Albariño vines made wine that is the model for what he tries to achieve in what he calls “my indigenous artisan wine,” Cabaliero do Val.  Dovalo, wine our ancestors. Dovalo has kept some of these old vines, which he says are unique among Albariño vineyards in Rías Baixas. 

Dovalo says that his wine very much reflects his personal taste, which is rooted in tradition and in his memory of wines from a by-gone era.  Though, he and his fellow artisan grower-producers respect that tradition and still work their own vineyards, some of which have been in the family for generations, they have evolved by incorporating modern vineyard management and winemaking equipment.  But, though they have “modernized” to a certain degree, many of the winery maintain rustic touches and they continue to produce exceptionally high quality artisan wines that their ancestors would have been proud of.

Paco Dovalo, grower-producer of Cabaliero Do Val.

Paco Dovalo says, "In my group of small artisan grower-producers, we make a very personalized style of wine, whose individual roots reside in the tradition and memory. Although we have incorporated some of the lessons learned from modern winemaking, we still continue the artisanal work that we learned from our fathers.”

“For those who continue our style of artisan winemaking,” Dovalo says, “we hope that our new generations will maintain this tradition and endure, but for them to do that we also know that we have to build a following and an appreciation of these pure and noble limited production wines.”

It was because of Paco Dovalo’s wine that I discovered this incredible group of artisan producers.  One day a decade ago, I was on my way from Rías Baixas to Ribeira Sacra.  I was driving through an area known more for cheeses than wine when I reached the small town of Melide.  It was nearly four o’clock and I still had not had lunch, so when I saw a hotel-restaurant, Hotel Carlos, on the Camino de Santiago, I stopped. 

At first taciturn, as Gallegos sometimes are, the son of the chef-owner (a damned good cook trained in France) opened up as lunch service was wearing down and made some recommendations to this American stranger.  First, he offered a couple of excellent Galician cows’ milk cheeses–slices of Arzua-Ulloa and of the breast-shaped classic Tetilla–and he suggested that I might like to try a glass of Cabaleiro do Val Albariño to accompany the cheeses.       

The wine was stunning.  He told me that it was from the jefe who had organized a group of artisan producers, who were rebelling against making Albariños like most of the larger wineries were producing.  I wrote down the name of the winery and vowed to check out these producers, but it was nearly three years later when I finally tracked them down and it would be another five years before I founded The Spanish Artisan Wine Company and began to import Cabaliero do Val and five more of these splendid artisan wines.  

Dovalo may see his dreams for the artisan wines of his group come true.  Although the wines have hardly seen the light of day in Spain outside of Galicia, the wines of the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas have been on the wine lists of such great American restaurants and wine bars as Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Blue Hill (New York City), Crabtree’s Kittle House, Picholine, Petrossian, Terroir Tribeca, Tertulia, Barcelona Wine Bars (Connecticut) and Solera.

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Adegas Avó Roxo, Adegas Avó Roxo, Meaño (Pontevedra)

Bodeguero Artesano Antonio Gondar Moldes
Avó Roxo Albariño 2013 15.0% 12/750ML $25.99


Video at Adegas Avó Roxo, who joined the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas in 2010 and is one of the group’s newest members.  

(With Paco Dovalo singing.)  

Avó Roxo is a traditional family winery and all their wine production comes from their own 1.5 hectares of vineyards are located in the heart of O Salnes, a privileged environment for the growing and harvesting of the Albariño grape.

The winery began producing wines in the 1930’s under the management of Serafín Gondar. In 1975 Serafin passed the vineyards and winery to his son Antonio Gondar, who continued the wine’s development.  Avó Roxo won several awards in the 70’s, including 1st place at the XXII Albariño Wine Festival in Cambados in 1974.

Antonio Gondar Moldes, Avo Roxo, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas. 
All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

The winery was named after the founder Serafín, whose nickname was Avó Roxo, Red Grandfather (because of his hair color apparently) in Gallego.    

In 2007 his grandson Antonio Gondar Moldes took over ownership and management.  He renovated and re-energized the bodega and winemaking.   In 2007, the year he took over, Avó Roxo produced only 7,000 bottles, under 600 cases.

Gondar, whose day job is doing electrical installations, says, "My dream is to live only from the winery and expand production to 12,000 bottles, doing all the vineyard work my grandfather used to do because our grapes give exceptional aromas and taste to our wines.”

Practically all the wines of Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas are only sold locally to individuals and a few restaurants.  Few of these marvelously original, high quality wines have ever been sold in Madrid or anywhere else in Spain, but now wines like Avó Roxo are on the lists of such American restaurants as the great New York (State) restaurants as James Beard Outstanding Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns and at Crabtree’s Kittle House, which has one of the best wine cellars in the United States. 

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Lagar de Broullón, Meaño (Pontevedra)

Bodeguero Artesano José Pintos Pintos
Lagar de Broullon Albariño 2013 12.5% 12/750ML $25.99

Lagar de Broullón from Gerry Dawes on Vimeo.

An albariño to banish all memory of those banal examples of the wine that now flood U.S. wine shop shelves — bright and well-rounded, with juicy fruit and a long, complex finish."
- - Colman Andrews, The Daily Meal.  Read more:Spanish Wines — A Seductive New Crop: Godello, mencia, and other less-than-famous Iberian grapes shine in a new selection from Spanish wine expert Gerry Dawes
Lagar de Broullón is made by Xosé Pintos Pinto. Beautifully balanced, Pintos's wine is full-flavored and quite complex with lychee and green apple flavors braced by a long, clean, mineral-laced finish, but has just 12.5% alcohol, which helps make it very easy to drink.   It is ideal with many different dishes, but especially with grilled fish, shellfish (for which Galicia is famous), octopus, rice dishes and cheeses. 

Located in the heart of the Val de Salnés, in an area known as the home of Albariño grape, Lagar de Broullón bodega is surrounded by its 2.5 acre south-southwest facing vineyard that produces its signature wine.  Akin to wineries in Burgundy, the bodega is a 19th Century house, where several generations of the Pintos family have made wine with intelligence and care and have developed a family tradition for authentic artisan wines on a small scale.  
Only about 600 cases of fine Albariño are made each year and only 100 of those will reach the U.S. market.  Lagar de Broullón’s dedication to quality focuses on the vineyard and the grapes, which José Pintos believes is the most important element in wine.  Although the winery has modern a vinification system, Pintos tries to make his wines with as little intervention as possible.  He believes that his signature wine is steeped in tradition and through meticulous vineyard work, he tries to achieve the highest quality in his wine.

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Bodega Meis Otero, O’ Forrollo, Dena-Meaño (Pontevedra)
Bodeguero Artesano Fernando Meis Otero

 O’ Forrollo Albariño Rías Baixas 13% 12/750ML $23.99 

Grand Cru quality O'Forrollo, one of the six Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas de Rías Baixas Albariños  brought in by The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections.

Color & appearance: Deep green-gold, correct for Albariño.

 Nose: Pears, lime, apricots, spices, minerals.

Palate: Lots of delicious fruit, including hints of pear, apricot, lime and spices, with a bracing acidity that balances the fruit.  The wine finishes long, compelling sense of minerality. - - GD

Bodeguero artesano Fernando Meis Otero is one of the younger members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, a group of 14 independent artisan wineries from the same area of Val do Salnés, the top subregion for Albariños from Rías Baixas.  Fernando Meis farms his own vineyards of 100% Albariño grapes and ferments his must using native yeasts.  

Fernando Meis Otero, O'Forrollo.
All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

At the beginning of the 1980s, Fernando Meis Álvarez, the current Fernando’s father, a vineyard owner in Dena (Meaño) decided to begin changing the mixed varieties of indigenous grapes growing in his vineyards for Albariño vines, a tough task, but with a single objective: to create the vineyard to provide grapes for his own estate-bottled Albariño.

Fernando Meis Álvarez thus took his first steps into the world of making Albariño and in 1990 he registered his bodega and his wine O Forrollo with the D.O. Rías Baixas.  His first harvest as an officially registered Rías Baixas bodega produced just over 250 cases of O Forrollo Albariño.

His son, Fernando Meis Otero, took over the direction of the winery in 2001.  During the past decade, Meis has adapted new technology, in viticulture as well as in the production in the winery, but never forgetting his roots and with one objective: to produce a Rías Baixas Albariño of excellent quality.

O Forrollo’s 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) of vineyards are in the heart of the Val del Salnés (Dena –Meaño), an area which produces some of the best wines of the D.O. Rias Baixas.  85% of O Forrollo’s vines are in a single vineyard divided into four sub-parcels, the remaining 15% is in smaller plots.   

Albariño grapes, Meaño, Val do Salnés Rías Baixas (Galicia). 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2012.
The vines are trained on the typical Galician “parral” trellising system, supported on wires attached to granite posts that keep the vines and grapes horizontally suspended several feet above the ground, which allows circulation of air and helps prevent mildew and other related vine and grape diseases in this sometimes rainy climate.  The soil in the vineyards is sandy, shallow and low in acidity.

Albariño grapes growing on trellises, Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas (Galicia). 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

The region enjoys an Atlantic climate, which gets abundant rainfall, but enjoys many hours of sun as well.  Because of the proximity of the vineyards to the Atlantic Ocean, the mean temperature is temperature, though in summer temperatures often reach 86-90 degrees.

The vines are 100% Albariño, a sweet, small berry, native Galician grape.  All of O’ Forrollo’s grapes come from their own vineyards, so the harvests are limited and can vary, depending on the year, from 7000 liters (9000 bottles, 750 cases) to 10000 liters (14,000 bottles; 1166 cases). 

Meis says, “The harvesting of our grapes depends upon several factors that we consider indispensible for producing a wine of excellent quality:  The climate, taking into account all the environmental factors that can affect the maturation of the grapes; the degree of ripeness, taking very much into account the acid balance, which will dictate when we pick the grapes and is a vital element in the quality of the future wine.” 

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Bodegas Rozas, Meaño (Pontevedra)
Bodeguero Artesano Manolo Dovalo

Rozas Albariño 13.5% 12/750ML $25.99

@JohnBGilman of View From the Cellar on Twitter: "Rozas Albariño.  Maybe the greatest Albariño I have ever tasted - - kaleidoscopic minerality, blazing purity."

“Gerry’s Albariños, from Rías Baixas, were notable, especially Manolo Doval’s Rozas: a great floral aroma, feather-light, grace, a swirl of subtleties.” - - Howard G. Goldberg

"Rozas Albariño ($26).  If I'd tasted this blind, I might have thought it was a particularly lean and stylish viognier. It has a wonderful, intense aroma and real complexity of flavor, with plenty of acidity and a beguiling finish that is part mineral, part floral. I don't think I've had a better albariño."  - - Colman Andrews, The Daily Meal.Read more: Spanish Wines — A Seductive New Crop: Godello, mencia, and other less-than-famous Iberian grapes shine in a new selection from Spanish wine expert Gerry Dawes

Manolo Dovalo farms just over 6.3 acres of well-drained vineyards that get ample sunlight enabling him to produce one of the greatest Albariños of Rías Baixas.  Dovalo says the secret of the quality of his wines is that the majority of the vines are very old.  Some of these vines have been producing grapes for generations. 
The bodega was founded by Dovalo’s ancestors, who made wine for the family’s own consumption.  Over the years, the winemaking gradually evolved into the modern era, where Dovalo says that his family has succeeded in integrating tradition with modern elements such as stainless steel and including the latest techniques for thermic stablization. 
The winery has limited production, which allows Dovalo to carefully monitor his vineyards during the growing season.   The albariño grapes are picked at what Dovalo assesses as the optimum point of ripeness–never overripe–for making a great white wine.  
“The first time I tasted the Rozas I was stunned.  This is serious Albariño - chocked full of minerals, not too fruity, dense but not in a spoofy way.  Just pure with insane length.  This shows similar old vine intensity to a top Do Ferreiro or Pazo de Señorans Albariño.  Highly recommended!” - - Chris Barnes, formerly at Chambers Street Wines, New York City.

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Lagar de Candes, Bodegas y Viñedos Eulogio Gondar Galiñanes, Meaño (Pontevedra)
Bodeguero Artesano Eulogio Gondar Galiñanes 

Lagar de Candes Albariño 12.0% 12/750ML $23.99 

All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Eulogio uses modern winemaking coupled with artisanal techniques to make excellent wines.   Dedicated to making his grapes and his wines as natural as possible, Gondar had dedicated a portion of the family’s vineyards to NATURA, which designated an ecologically protected space that falls within the NATUR AGRO project dedicated to protecting the agricultural environment. 


About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

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