Friday, November 3, 2017

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


* * * * *
Catalunya

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.


* * * * *
 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


* * * * *

“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.

* * * * *

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. 

* * * * *
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.

* * * * *

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.” 

* * * * * 
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.

* * * * *
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. 

Custom-designed Wine, Food, Cultural and Photographic Tours of Spain Organized and Led by Gerry Dawes and Spanish Itinerary Planning

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@spanishartisanwine.com

Monday, October 30, 2017

Adegas Triay Monterrei - Producers of Exceptional Godello Whites and Lovely Mencía Reds from Galicia


* * * * *


Text Box: Triay Godello, one of Gerry Dawes's relatively recent discoveries, is one of his favorite wines in the entire portfolio.  Its delicious white peach, stone fruit and mineral nuances put it on a par with many white Burgundies, at a far more accessible price. Triay is made by Antonio Triay, who with his wife Puri García, farms the excellent vineyards of his father-in-law Isaac García.  Their Godello is one of the best white wines in Spain and the Mencía is reminiscent of great Burgundy.

**Adegas Triay is located in the small village of Oimbra, right on the Portuguese border in southern- most Galicia, with the nearest small city being Verín, just to the east of Oimbra. This small family winery is now run by Antonio Triay and his wife Puri, whose family owned the parcels of vines that now form the backbone of the estate’s vineyard holdings. Antonio’s father-in-law, Isaac García is still quite active helping out in the vines and cellars, and as he likes to say, “I always took good care of the vineyards and was careful making the wines in the past, when no one really cared about the wines of Monterrei, but now, it has served my daughter and son-in-law quite well to have good vineyards to work with.” Antonio blends a small amount of Albariño and Treixadura into his Godello bottling (five percent each), and includes ten percent Tempranillo in his Mencía bottling. Production here is very small, but the wines are riveting, with great purity and complexity, and Adegas Triay is destined to be one of the stars of Galicia in the years to come. – John Gilman, View From The Cellar

The 2013 Godello from Adegas Triay is outstanding, as it delivers a superb bouquet of white peach, a touch of menthol, stony minerality, tart banana, a touch of green olive and a top-note of wild fennel. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and absolutely rock solid at the core, with great acids and mineral drive on the backend, fine focus and a very long and vibrant finish. Great juice. 2014-2020+. <span style=
Monterrei

Bodegas Triay (Oimbra, Ourense, Galicia) 



Triay Godello, one of Gerry Dawes's relatively recent discoveries, is one of his favorite wines in the entire portfolio.  Its delicious white peach, stone fruit and mineral nuances put it on a par with many white Burgundies, at a far more accessible price. Triay is made by Antonio Triay, who with his wife Puri García, farms the excellent vineyards of his father-in-law Isaac García.  Their Godello is one of the best white wines in Spain and the Mencía is reminiscent of great Burgundy.

**Adegas Triay is located in the small village of Oimbra, right on the Portuguese border in southern- most Galicia, with the nearest small city being Verín, just to the east of Oimbra. This small family winery is now run by Antonio Triay and his wife Puri, whose family owned the parcels of vines that now form the backbone of the estate’s vineyard holdings. Antonio’s father-in-law, Isaac García is still quite active helping out in the vines and cellars, and as he likes to say, “I always took good care of the vineyards and was careful making the wines in the past, when no one really cared about the wines of Monterrei, but now, it has served my daughter and son-in-law quite well to have good vineyards to work with.” Antonio blends a small amount of Albariño and Treixadura into his Godello bottling (five percent each), and includes ten percent Tempranillo in his Mencía bottling. Production here is very small, but the wines are riveting, with great purity and complexity, and Adegas Triay is destined to be one of the stars of Galicia in the years to come. – John Gilman, View From The Cellar


Adegas Triay Godello 2015* Monterrei 13%       $24.00
Note:  The 2014s from Triay were just as good, if not better, than the 2013s and the 2015 is a great vintage.  The Triay Godello 2014 was being poured by the glass at Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns for six months and at Bobby Flay’s Gato in Manhattan. On June 2, 2016, Triay Godello 2014 was rated one of the top ten Godellos by The New York Times.

The 2013 Godello from Adegas Triay is outstanding, as it delivers a superb bouquet of white peach, a touch of menthol, stony minerality, tart banana, a touch of green olive and a top-note of wild fennel. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and absolutely rock solid at the core, with great acids and mineral drive on the backend, fine focus and a very long and vibrant finish. Great juice. 2014-2020+. 93. J. Gilman

Adegas Triay Mencía 2015*** Monterrei 12.5%  $23.00
The 2013 vintage was a bit riper than the norm in Monterrei, with Antonio Triay’s Mencía coming in at 13.5 percent alcohol in this year. The wine is young, but going to be absolutely lovely, as it offers up a nascently complex nose of pomegranate, dark berries, graphite, a touch of wood smoke and a top-note of espresso. On the palate the wine is fullish, long and beautifully balanced, with a fine core of fruit, a bit of tannin to resolve and a long, focused and classy finish. This is high class Mencía! 2014-2025. 90.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Adegas Eladio Santalla Hacienda Ucediños, A Rising Family Winery Star Producing World-Class Artisan Godello and Mencía in Valdeorras


* * * * *
Text & All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2017 
 

Gerry Dawes at Chef Paco Roncero's Estado Puro in Madrid with a glass of Godello. 
Photo by Harold Heckle©2009, Associated Press, Madrid.

The Santalla family bodega, run by brothers Eladio and Marco, produce top-notch Godello whites and Mencía from several family-owned or controlled vineyards, some of which are 50 years old or more. Their mother, Ana, cooks excellent Galician food at the family bar, El Dorado, in the city of the region's main town, O Barco de Valdeorras.  AT El Dorado, Ana’s prized pulpo a la gallega (braised octopus with goes especially well with the Hacienda Ucediños Godello and Mencía. The consulting enologist here is also the “guru of Godello,” the great José Luís Murcía. -- Gerry Dawes
 


Adegas Eladio Santalla Hacienda Ucediños (Valdeorras)
 

Godello grapes, Valdeorras.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


Hacienda Ucediños Godello 2014** 13.0% alcohol SRP $22.99  

Valdeorras is Godello country and Hacienda Ucediños makes a terrific example.  Their 2014 is a classic bottle, jumping from the glass in a blend of pear, apple, a touch of acacia blossom, white soil tones and a gently spicy top-note redolent of coriander seed. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and rock solid at the core, with fine focus and cut, zesty acids and a long, poised and vibrant finish. A superb example of this underrated grape. 2016-2020. 91+ -- John Gilman, View From The Cellar.


Consulting enologist at Hacienda Ucediños, D. Berna and a number of other wineries in Valdeorras is José Luís Murcía, who, somehow manages to capture the essence of their grapes and vineyard siteand transmit that in the bottle like few others. 
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

Hacienda Ucediños Mencía 2016***  13.0%  $20.99   

José Luís Murcía is equally adept at properly vinifying Mencía and extracting its true character as a reflector of a vineyard’s terruño (terroir).

The 2014 Mencía from Hacienda Ucediños is another very fine example of this great varietal, offering up a bright and youthfully complex nose of dark berries, cassis, graphite, sandy soil tones, tree bark and a smoky top-note. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, pure and impressively light on its feet, with a fine core, very fine focus and grip and a suave, modestly tannic and impeccably balanced finish. Fine, fine juice and another bargain! 2016-2025. 90. -- John Gilman, View From The Cellar.
 
Mencía grapes, Valdeorras, Galicia.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Among the oldest of many wine cliché’s is that Rosés don’t age well . . . " Josh Raynolds, Vinous Media, June 2017.


* * * * *

I have some incredible rosados, though, except for the wonderful Viña Catajarros Elite Cigales Rosado 2014 and Viña Aliaga Lágrima de Luna Rosado 2015, most of our rosados with bottle age have been sold to hip places such as Jockey Hollow Kitchen & Bar (Morristown, NJ), Barcelona Wine Bars in Connecticut and Ortzi (NYC). 

Please inquire at gerrydawes@spanishartisanwine.com.

Wine Legend Brooklyn
September 18 at 4:20pm ·

Article sent from Jeffrey Davis, Wine Legend Brooklyn GM, who is doing very well selling
Viña Catajarros Elite Cigales Rosado 2014.

 Photo by Raizel T. on Yelp.

Though these comments by Josh Raynolds of Vinous Media are from this past June; he comments are spot on!  The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections has some incredible Roses, including Viña Catajarros Elite Cigales Rosado 2014, which we are selling in the store and at the bar!

* * * * *



* * * * * 


BY JOSH RAYNOLDS Vinous Media | JUNE 27, 2017

"Among the oldest of many wine cliché’s is that Rosés don’t age well and, like seersucker suits, are out of style after the Labor Day following the vintage. While wearing summer suits out of season might not be in good taste, drinking the best pink wines year-round is highly recommended.

The types of food that call for a bottle, or more, of Rosé are hardly limited to hot weather dining. Grilling has become a year-round practice for an increasing number of people and strongly seasoned, spicy dishes are now the everyday rule rather than the exception on many wine and food lovers’ tables and such food practically begs for pink wine. Why should consumers limit their pink wine enjoyment to a three month window when the types of food that match perfectly with them are enjoyed regardless of season.

The northern hemisphere has just officially entered summer but Rosé sales and consumption began to take off a good three months ago and appear to just be hitting their stride. By all reports the pace is, once again, rapid and not slowing down. It’s good to bear in mind that the vast majority of Rosés in the market right now are from the 2016 vintage, so barely half a year old, and with rare exception the wines have only just had time to open up since bottling and shipping. Most overseas markets have seen hardly a trickle of 2016 European or American white wines so far but, interestingly, we’ve already had the chance to taste through and reviewed hundreds of currently available pink wines (see part one of the Rosé roundup as well as Ian d’Agata’s extensive coverage of Italy’s often intriguing rosatos), with even more to follow.

As I’ve mentioned before, top-notch pink wines not only reward some patience, many of them quite frankly demand it. For most of the Rosés reviewed here, a year (or usually more) of bottle age brings more aromatic complexity, texture and depth but rarely compromises the wines’ freshness and energy. While there’s absolutely no harm in drinking even the most serious recently released Rosés over the coming months, I strongly encourage those with open minds and available storage space to stash away some of the best wines covered here for at least a year, or even more."



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Docsconz on the Wines of The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections


* * * * *

"Robert Parker’s opinion has held sway in the wine world for a long time, first coming to prominence with his pronouncements on Bordeaux’s famed 1982 vintage. His palate is attuned to “big” wines. Full throttled oaky monsters and high octane “fruit bombs” have tended to rule his influential roost since that time. . .


Gerry Dawes


. . . One person who has been at the vanguard of those battling Parker’s extensive homogenizing influence has been the noted American food and wine writer, my friend, Gerry Dawes.  Gerry’s wine background is extensive, with plenty of experience visiting, drinking and writing about the wines of France and elsewhere. His main passion, however, dating back to the 1960’s has been the wine, food and people of Spain – a passion that he and I share, though his experience far outweighs my own."


"Who ever heard of tasting a bunch of reds before the main white wines? Well, thanks to Gerry Dawes, that is what we did and somehow, it worked out just fine."

Sunday, July 30, 2017

God and Men (Godello and Mencía) in Ribeira Sacra: Winemaking in Spain's Most Exciting Wine Region for Terroir-Driven Wines


* * * * *


José Manuel Rodríguez, Consejo Regulador de La Ribera Sacra President (and producer of his own Décima wines) and Chef Michael Chiarello at one of José Manuel's vineyards overlooking the Sil River.  Photo by Gerry Dawes ©2011. gerrydawes@aol.com.
* * * * *
Article by Gerry Dawes
(First published in The Wine News, Fall 2009)

Over the past few years, La Ribeira Sacra, a barely accessible, exquisitely rural wine region in northwestern Spain's mountainous Galicia (some 350 miles northwest of Madrid), has begun to show the most exciting potential I have encountered in more than 40 years of traveling the wine roads of Spain. Here God and men, using primarily godello for white wines and mencía for reds, are creating such irresistibly delicious, enticing, often profound wines that the Ribeira Sacra is rapidly becoming one of the most compelling wine regions on earth. In the bargain, Ribeira Sacra just may be the most strikingly beautiful wine region in the world with its terraced vineyards of dry farmed, old vines indigenous grapes that plunge precipitously hundreds of feet down the slopes of the majestic damned-up canyons of the Minho river, meandering from the north and defining the western zone, and the Sil, flowing from the east and marking the southern tier. Ribeira Sacra is one of only two areas in Spain--the other is Priorat--that practice "heroic viticulture," the laborious care and harvesting of vineyards from such steeply inclined terraces.

(Slide show on Ribera Sacra.)

Although lost in time until recently, Ribeira Sacra has been making wine since the Roman occupation (and possibly longer). In just the past five years, the region has awakened from its centuries-long backwater slumber and appears poised to make a major and possibly long term impact on the Spanish wine world--including becoming a major moderating force for a wine culture that has allowed itself to become obsessed with a predilection for overblown, overripe, overly alcoholic, inky monster style wines. At last a Spanish region has emerged whose terruño (terroir) can rival the ethereal, sublime qualities of the great French Atlantic-climate influenced, terroir-driven wines such as red and white Burgundies and the cabernet franc-laced reds of the Loire Valley.

Stephen Metzler, President of Classical Wines (Seattle, WA; www.classicalwines.com), who represents Ribeira Sacra's Adegas Cachín (Peza do Rei and Finca Millara) says, "My view of Ribeira Sacra is as a Northern European terroir whose wines have structure and acidity, so the pursuit of extract hereBbut not overripeness--is advisable. It is the opposite of most of Spain, where they need seek acidity to provide support for their fleshiness."

However, Roger Kugler, former wine director of New York's Sula and Boqueria and a Spanish wine specialist, does not agree about "the pursuit of extract." He says, "There is a tendency to over-extract some of these Ribeira Sacra reds at the moment, but I think that will pass as the winemakers catch up with the trend against such over-extracted wines which is now gaining ground all over the world."

More than any other place in Spain, the wines of Ribeira Sacra are being produced by people trying to get it right in the vineyards rather than manipulating the juice once it is in the cellars. Dominio do Bibei owner Javier Domínguez told me in March at his winery, "We began by working the vineyards, cutting yields and getting them into the right conditions to make good wine."

Ribeira Sacra winemaking indeed often seems to be a dramatic departure from the practices that have been characteristic for the past fifteen years of the rest of Spain, where winemakers have too often relied on overripe fruit, which produces fat, jammy wines with high alcohol content and low acidity. And winemaker-driven cellar techniques such as extended macerations, barrel fermentation, battonage (stirring of the lees), barrel toasting and extended aging of new oak have been used to achieve a formulaic flavor profile designed impress wine critics. In fact, Ribera Sacra red wines, when produced without cellar gimmicks may be the longed-for antidote to some of the more grotesque types of wines that have characterized Spanish winemaking for the past fifteen years. In August, while drinking his Lalama 2003 with me at New York's Boqueria Soho tapas restaurant, Javier Domínguez made a statement that many fine wine lovers and Spain aficionados fervently hope is true, "I think we are beginning to see a group of people in Ribera Sacra trying to make wines with a stamp of authenticity. I believe this is totally contrary to what has been going on in the rest of Spain for many years, over-ripeness, over-extraction, over-oaking, too much alcohol, etc."

The tiered slate and/or granite bancales, or terraces, some dating to the Roman occupation nearly 2,000 years ago, have a great deal to do with why Ribeira Sacra wines can be so profoundly terroir-driven, intriguing and delicious. The old vines, which are driven deeply into the fractured stone of the terraced hillsides, impart a marked minerality to the wines, depending upon the stone composition, which can range from mostly granite in Chantada and a granite-slate mix in Ribeiras do Minho in the west to Amandi, where the terrances are mostly slate, to some slate-and-granite in Ribeiras do Sil and slate- or schist-laced clay in Quiroga-Bibei.

The inclines of most Ribeira Sacra's vineyards are usually from 30 per cent to 80 per cent but, in some cases, Denominación de Origen (DO) Regulatory Council President José Manuel Rodríguez says is "even steeper at 100 per cent or more!" (Germany's famous Bernkasteler Doktor vineyard in the Mosel is on a 100 per cent incline.) The steepness of Ribeira Sacra's riverside slopes allows graduated harvesting because of the differences in altitude, which can vary as much as 500 to 600 feet from top to bottom in the same vineyard area, with the earliest ripening vines being in the lower, therefore warmest, rows nearest the river. The vendimia (harvest) continues for ten to fifteen days until the uppermost vines are picked. The climate varies from the more direct Atlantic weather influences in the western Minho, which receives some 35.5 inches of rain annually, while the more southern and eastern Sil areas only get 20 to 27.5 inches per year. The Minho's median temperature is 56 degrees Fahrenheit, while the Sil is one degree warmer, but can reach temperatures of 95 to 100 degrees at midday in summer.

The grapes in the old vineyards of Ribera Sacra are often field blends of mencía or godello mixed with little-known ancient Galician red varieties. The Ribeira Sacra Regulatory Council has decreed that the "preferred" varieties for red wines are mencía, brancellao and merenzao, but also authorized and tolerated are caiño tinto, mouratón (also called negrada), sousón and the inky garnacha tintorera (gradually being eliminated as an authorized variety) and the seldom-encountered tempranillo (so widely grown in the rest of Spain). The preferred white wine varieties are the predominant godello, plus albariño, dona blanca, loureira, torrontés and treixadura.

Many Ribeira Sacra wines already have a clear identity: Their persistent terruño (Spanish for terroir) minerality is more readily evident here than in any other region in Spain, including Catalunya's Priorat, whose wines' inherent minerality is often obscured by new oak. Many Ribeira Sacra red wines exhibit the haunting, slate-driven, graphite flavors that characterize the best Priorat wines (whose pre-dominant varieties are garnacha tinta and cariñena), but Ribeira Sacra's qualities are derived from distinctly different grapes, primarily mencía, often blended with small percentages of the other unique indigenous varieties. And, because Ribeira Sacra's grapes are grown in a cooler Atlantic-influenced climate rather than a hot Mediterranean one, the wines achieve lively fresh fruit flavors from grapes that almost never attain over-ripeness.

Some Ribiera Sacra wines still offer unique, rustic country flavors from a bygone era. But, each year Ribeira Sacra wines have become increasingly sophisticated, often without totally losing that charming rustic touch, which imparts a authentic sense of place that is considered a virtue, rather than a flaw, by many admirers of these wines. The reds are usually quite delicious with a depth of ripe, juicy red and black currant, red berry and/or pomegranate-like fruit, that haunting minerality and moderate 11.5 to 13 per cent alcohol levels, all integrated beautifully and balanced by a fine acidity. Plus, the wines are often un-oaked or so judiciously oaked that the wood doesn't become a pre-dominant or even noticeable factor. All of these factors contribute to making these wines eminently drinkable, exquisitely well balanced and seamless in the best examples, which gives them an exceptional affinity with a wide range of foods.

White wines, made predominantly from godello, comprise less than seven per cent of Ribeira Sacra's production, but some also show exceptional promise. There are also some delicious blends of godello with albariño, treixadura and other native Galician white varieties. One wine in particular, Pena das Donas Almalarga Godello from 80-to-100 year-old vines, stands out and shows the potential of Ribeira Sacra whites. Almalarga has all the complexity and minerality of a fine white Burgundy such as a Puligny-Montrachet, but with the marvelous godello grape and mixed granitic-slate mineral flavors, instead of chardonnay from calcareous soils. Thus far, Pena das Donas has not resorted to the current vogue in Spanish white winemaking--fermentation in new oak barrels and frequent battonage--both of which can obliterate the lovely fruit and haunting mineral tones that are so enticing in this wine.

Over the past decade, I had seen glimpses of excellent potential in Antonio Lombardia's Pena Das Donas, José Manuel Rodríguez's Décima, Javier Seoane's Pradio, Primitivo Lareu's Sabatelivs, Dr. José María Prieto's Regoa and even such rustic wines as Viña Cazoga, Cividade and Os Cipreses. And, in restaurants elsewhere in Galicia, I have often ordered wines from some of the region's larger wineries--Vía Romana (Chantada), Abadia da Cova (Ribeiras do Minho), Rectoral de Amandi (Amandi), Ponte de Boga (Ribeiras do Sil) and Val de Quiroga (Quiroga-Bibei)--which produce very drinkable, inexpensive wines, primarily for Galician consumption. In March at the Chantada wine fair, I encountered several little-known, but very promising wines: Diego de Lemos, Pincelo, Quinta de Albarada, and Terras Bendaña. And, at lunch at Chantada professor's small "hobby" bodega in the middle of vineyards overlooking the Minho, we drank an unlabeled red wine that was gorgeously rich with only 12 per cent alcohol! At the Castro Caldelas wine fair in July, I tasted Adegas Costoya (Alodio and Thémera), Peza do Rei and Chao do Couso (Alcouce and Soutollo), all available in the U. S., and several more such as Sollio, Adega Vella, Bellaleira, Viña Pederneira and Solaina worthy of consideration.

In the past few years, several winemakers from outside the region--Bierzo's Raúl Pérez (several wineries; see below) and Gregory Pérez (Regina Viarum), Priorat's husband-and-wife team René Barbier, Jr. and Sara Pérez (Dominio do Bibei), Rías Baixas maestro Gerardo Méndez (D. Ventura) and Dominique Roujou de Boubee (Ponte da Boga), a French consulting enologist living near Barcelona, have all appeared to help refine Ribeira Sacra wines. And, just this year, significant articles about Ribeira Sacra's wines and winemakers have appeared in The New York Times, Gentleman's Quarterly and The Wine Advocate, which is having an explosive effect. Even in today's market, in which elmundovino.com, one of Spain's leading wine websites, reported this summer that Spanish wine exports were down by a staggering $55,000,000 and Catalunyas INCAVI (Cava Institute) is reporting the equivalent of nearly 19,000,000 bottles of unsold wine, Riberia Sacra wines sales are up 35 per cent in the past year, according to Regulatory Council President José Manuel Rodríguez.

Recently, some very promising, even exceptional wines (see Tasting Bar)--some made by these carpet bagging winemakers, have appeared in the American market. Gerardo Méndez, the owner-winemaker of top-rated Rías Baixas Do Ferreiro Albariños, advises Ramón Losada on his D. Ventura Viña do Burato, Pena do Lobo and Viña Caniero, three truly superb, very reasonably-priced red wines from an organically farmed vineyard in Ribeiras do Minho and two more in Amandi. The wines, from organically farmed grapes fermented with native yeasts, are among the most fruity, balanced, terroir-driven and gloriously delicious wines in Spain, yet none rises above 13 per cent alcohol, and they are un-oaked. Also in Ribeiras do Minho, from sharply inclined vineyards overlooking the Sil River (the Minho, Sil and Bibei meet nearby), Antonio Lombardia and his partners at the Pena Das Donas produce Almalarga Godello, one of the greatest white wines I have tasted in Spain, along with a first-rate Mencía, Verdes Matas.

Javier Domínguez, a native Galician, is the owner (with his wife, Maria) and artistic inspiration behind the striking Domino do Bibei hidden in the tortuous mountains of the Quiroga-Bibei area. Domínguez hired Priorat husband wife team, Sara Pérez (Clos Martinet) and René Barbier Jr. (Clos Mogador), to consult on his critically acclaimed wines, the godello-based Lapena and three reds, Lapola, Lacima and Lalama. Domínguez also employs local in-house talent--Suso Prieto Pérez and Laura Lorenzo Domínguez--who diligently manage the vineyards and monitor the development of the wines. Moving steadily away from overly long macerations and avoiding a surfeit of new oak, they are using upright, epoxy-lined cement ovals and larger wooden tanks for their wines.
When I visited Domino do Bibei in 2009, Domínguez told me, "Even if I don't make any money for ten years, what concerns me more is making the greatest wine possible from these grapes and this land." One of his wines, approved as "experimental" by the DO, is Lalama, a blend of mouratón and garnacha tintorera (an inky grape reminiscent of Alicante bouschet), with no mencía. Domínguez is also very enthusiastic about the propects for his brancellao, a grape which he says "produces pretty light-colored, elegant red wines that remind me of Burgundy."

Raúl Pérez, a diminutive 38-year old, is the quintessential flying winemaker, who "flies" around northwestern Spain in a Mini-Cooper, making or consulting on more than a dozen wines. Pérez began making wines--now critically acclaimed--from his family's vineyards in his native Bierzo. He also makes several wines in neighboring Galicia's Monterrei, Rías Baixas and Ribeira Sacra, including Fernando González's Algueira, Chao Do Couso (Alcouce, Soutollo), Guímaro and El Pecado, which in Spain was first sold as Guímaro Barrica (barrel aged). El Pecado, which recently received an astronomical score from a famous American wine newsletter, is described as 100 per cent mencía, but is actually 85 per cent mencía with 10 per cent caiño tinto and 5 per cent brancellao, with the two latter grapes imparting a rustic, exotic touch.

Pérez told me, "soy enólogo de viña" ( I am a vineyard enologist), but it could easily be said that he is also enologist de prensa (meaning either a wine press or a printing press).  Recently, Pérez has received some serious press attention from major European and American publications and his fame has skyrocketed. Pérez does believe that great wine begins in the vineyards and he prefers barrels to be four-to-five years old with no discernible toasting, since believes charring adversely affects the taste of the wines. Pérez's wines can be quite good and his rise to fame has helped spotlight the region, but his individualistic winemaking approach seems more about making denomination of origen "Raúlista" wines rather than exemplary representatives of any one region.

The Ribeira Sacra is divided into five subzonas which, because of climate, soil differences and vineyard orientation can produce wines that are markedly different in character, so much so that DO President Rodríguez says, "There might as well be 20 different DOs." From northwest to southeast, the subzones are Chantada, whose magical vineyards line the Minho in northwestern Ribeira Sacra; Ribeiras do Minho, with awesomely beautiful vineyard sites south of Chantada; Amandi, with strikingly steep vineyards in the center of the region whose southern boundary is the Sil River; Ribeiras do Sil, running south of the Sil from Minho in the west along the deep Sil canyons to Castro Caldelas; and Quiroga-Bibei, in whose eastern zone around Quiroga there are some non-terraced vineyards, but along the Sil and Bibei rivers in the southeastern reaches are some more majestic, steep, terraced vineyards.

Dominio do Bibei's Javier Dominguez, told me, "One thing I like about the Ribeira Sacra is the differences between the subzonas. For instance, the wines of Chantada are much more fruity. The wines of Bibei, where I have my vines and bodega, have much more minerality and the fruit is not as exuberant. I am not fond of wines with pronounced fruit, what I prefer are the mineral components."

Roger Kugler, also a fan of wines with mineral terruño, says "many Ribeira Sacra red wines are showstoppers. Because the steep vineyards and slate soils of Ribeira Sacra produce mencía with a deeper minerality and richness than can be found in Bierzo, for instance, and the region has been called the next Priorat, for good reason."

It is important to understand that Ribeira Sacra wines are unique originals that should be judged on their singularly distinctive merits. Even though the wines naturally may exhibit certain characteristics reminiscent of Burgundy, the Loire or Priorat and a few producers seem to be trying to imitate some of those styles, Ribeira Sacra wines are usually quite unique. Because of the region's historic isolation, indigenous grape varieties and climate, the style and provenance of these wines may take some getting used to because they are indeed a river of wine unto themselves, a wine river well worth exploring in depth.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

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. 


Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television series
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.