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February's flurry of natural wine events gave us with the opportunity to meet a number of our Spanish winemaking heroes for the first time! Lorenzo Valenzuela of Barranco Oscuro has many devoted fans among our customers, who have explored the heights (1300+ meters) of southern Spain's Granada region through Valenzuela's elegant vinifications of native Andalucian grapes like Vigiriega, as well as widespread varieties like Tempranillo and Garnacha.
Across the Sierra Nevada range from Barranco Oscuro, Ramón Saavedra of Bodegas Cauzón funnels his north-facing Tempranillo vines into zero-added-sulphur wines of great purity and power. Tasting with Saavedra alongside Miguel Marquez of Marenas Viñedo y Bodega, who makes fresh, rugged Monastrell and supple, wild whites of Montepila and Pedro Ximenez in Montilla, one wakes up to the voice of Andalucia, announcing forcefully its potential for inventive and architectural natural wines.
Speaking of architects, everyone fell in love with Antonella Gerosa of Partida Creus and her fearless, multi-colored lineup of sparkling and still wines. Gerosa and her husband, Massimo Marchiori, are Italian architects who settled in the southern Penedès (Massís de Bonastre), and dedicated themselves to resuscitating abandoned vineyards of obsolete local varieties and channeling them into offbeat, original expressions of bygone Catalonia (most of which contain no added sulphur).
We've packed a lot of incredible wine into today's No- and Low- Sulphur Mixed Case! In addition to the producers mentioned above, it includes tremendous values from Corisca, our new certified organic Albarino, the 2014 Vina Almate Tempranillo from our friend Alfredo Maestro in the Ribera del Duero, new vintages of Kapi Amfora Garnacha from Daniel Ramos in the Sierra de Gredos, and Albahra Garnacha Tintorera from the brilliant foursome known as Envinate.
Last but not least, a pair of wines from RuBor Viticultores - Rubén Díaz and Orlando Lumbreras - in the Sierra de Gredos mountains west of Madrid round out this case. If you read our newsletters, it is no secret that I think the best Garnachas from the Gredos achieve the ideal form of Grenache-based wines. The cliche attribute "firing on all cylinders" is literally true of the wines from this massive granite mountain range, full of old-vine, head-trained vines mostly on sandy soils, punctuated with a slash of schist through the towns of Cebreros and El Tiemblo. Translated by masters like Díaz and Lumbreras of RuBor, as well as their neighbor Daniel Ramos of Zerberos*, Garnachas de Gredos embody explosiveness and elegance as one, gorgeous giants of perfect proportion.
Quantities on some of these items are limited. Wines that sell out will be replaced in the mixed case with bottles of comparable quality and price. Ariana Rolich
*Daniel Ramos will be joining us tonight - Wednesday, March 16th - from 5 till 7pm to pour his extradornidary Zerberos and Kapi Albillos and Garnachas from the Gredos, as well as a special bottling of 100% Rufete from his project in Salamanca. Tomorrow, please join us for WINE LAB with Jon Bonné: Beaujolais! RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for 5pm, 5:45, or 6:30 sessions.
The Spanish No- and Low- SO2 Mixed Case* contains 5 white wines, 1 rose, and 6 red wines at an excellent discount, produced with either no additional sulphur or minimal additional sulphur, from our favorite organic and biodynamic producers in Spain. Corisca 2014 Albarino, RuBor 2014 La Peguera Albillo, Partida Creus 2014 Xarello, Barranco Oscuro 2014 Traviesa, Daniel Ramos 2014 Kapi Garnacha Amphora and 2012 Kapi Rosado, Ruben Diaz 2011 Cuesta del Tejar, Alfredo Maestro 2014 Almate, Envinate 2014 Albahra, Bodegas Marenas 2014 Monastrell and Mediacapa, Bodegas Cauzon 2013 Iradei. *Items that sell out will be replaced with wines of comparable price and quality.
The great white grape of the Gredos Mountains, Albillo Real, is most often likened to white Rhone varieties for its moderate acidity and exotic profiles. More structured and complex than Viognier and generally more aromatic than Marsanne and Roussanne, Albillo is early-ripening, big-boned and versatile across styles (traditionally vinified dry, sweet, and even in Jerez-style soleras), grounded in savory, earthen and mineral character, but lifted by ethereal floral aromas and sunny stone fruits that seem to blend soil and air in one sip. La Peguera is a single vineyard of Albillo planted in granitic sandy soil at 750m altitude in the town of Cebreros, the heart of the Gredos. Orlando Lumbreras and Ruben Diaz make a range of Albillo wines that highlight gradations of the grape's temperament; La Peguera was picked in late July and spent 10 days on skins, foot-trodden daily, and aged for 6 months in used French barrels. A brothy, golden hue, with demure aromas of tangy tangerine, floral lychee, toasted grains, and floral beeswax; savory, earthy, and enticingly mineral on the palate of tangy apricot with, white pepper, birch bark, banana leaf, and salty stones. A delicate introduction to a wild and wonderful family of wines! Ariana Rolich
Although quite weighty in texture, La Traviesa Blanco is a charming, lighthearted, exuberant offering from the pioneering winemakers at Barranco Oscuro. Made from 100% Vigiriega, the historically overlooked indigenous varietal championed by the bodega’s founder Manuel Valenzuela, the grapes are grown in poor schist soil at a dizzying altitude of 1280 meters, fermented in stainless steel and the wine aged for six months in large wooden barrels. Slightly saline, slightly honeyed, distinctly toasty with hints of tropical fruit, La Traviesa Blanco is a perfect choice for Chardonnay lovers looking for a detour, or anyone interested in exploring the unique and expressive wines of Granada. No sulphur added. Sydney Snyder
In the category of life’s simple pleasures, it’s hard to top the vernal scent of freshly washed grape skins followed by the sensation of a tiny, cool globe rolling across the palate on a hot summer’s day. While strikingly powerful and intense in texture, exhibiting the nutty, earthiness of a dry sherry, owing to marine influences and the moisture retaining soil of Cordoba, this unfortified, unsulphured expression of Pedro Ximenez is alive with the pure, unmasked perfume of crisp green grapes, sea air, herbs and minerals. Enjoy this extraordinary wine with your next hearty seafood dinner or simply open it up to experience something utterly unique. Sydney Snyder
Xarello is a fascinating variety, which provides structure and complexity in our favorite Cavas and Spanish sparklers, or vinified into dry, still, minerally whites. Partida Creus' Xarello is fermented and aged in stainless steel with about 6 months on the lees before bottling, for a supple, musky take on the grape, with aromas of golden grapefruit, salty cheeserind, lemon seed, wet wool, salty earth and wild flowers; lemon balm, white pepper, woodsy herbs, and grapefruit mingle on the palate with bright, crunchy pineapple and juicy lychee fruits, alongside the tannin and mineral elements that act as a stimulant iin Xarello. No added SO2, with a "natural" wildness and texture, yet clean start to finish. Ariana Rolich
Vinified as a white wine with no added sulphur, this glamorous, wild creature is made from the all but forgotten local varietal Cartoixa Vermell (aka Red Xarello) from an abandoned plot revitalized and nurtured by the winemakers at Partida Creus. Somewhere between gold and pale mauve in color, the texture becomes increasingly lithe and diaphanous as the wine comes up to temperature with flickering, elusive notes of citrus peel, wild strawberry, cinnamon and iodine. Utterly magical. Sydney Snyder
This bold and exciting 100% Garnacha rose from the talented Daniel Ramos in the Gredos (Avila) makes us misty for López de Heredia's layered, luscious, deliberately oxidative rosado. Ramos revives the traditional method of making rosado in the region, aging it in American oak barrels for great aging and pairing potential. Warm and spicy aromas of hibiscus, clove, and black cherry compote; the palate shows great depth of flavor, with musky ripe raspberry, red apple skins, cinnamon sticks, with salty floral notes. Incredibly delicious with jamon, chorizo, seafood stews, grilled steaks on the rare side, and soft, earthy cheese. Ariana Rolich
The most exciting Garnachas in the world are being produced in the Sierra de Gredos, just 90 minutes west of Madrid by car. Extremely old vines and extremely poor soils on difficult-to-work slopes make for higher price tags on the single vineyard cuvées from this region, but winemaker Daniel Ramos' Kapi lineup is priced for everyday enjoyment. From the north-facing granite and schist vineyards around the town of El Tiemblo, Kapi Garnacha is made in the traditional manner of the region: de-stemmed, then fermented and aged in clay amphorae. Aromas are spicy and mineral, with bold, wild florals surrounding the fresh, full palate of wild raspberry, chewy purple plums, black cherries, and star anise. Ample acidity and taut young tannins make this a natural match for anything coming off of the grill. Ariana Rolich
Cuesta del Tejar is 100% Garnacha from southeast-facing schistous pizarra slopes at 950m altitude in the town of Cebreros. Diaz included 100% stems in this cuvee, which was aged 15 months in used oak barrels and, with nearly 4 years in bottle, has many years ahead but is wildy delicious in its youth, pulsating with the primal energy of the Gredos' wild earth, sun, and air. Aromas of deep blue florals, rich black fruit and raspberry liqueur, and pungent lavender and rosemary garrigue; firm tannins and a blazing core of acidity anchor the palate of jewel-toned purple and black berries, with chewy purple plum skins, bitter orange, rich honeyed florals, and the impression of pulverized dark mineral earth that effects a rich, creamy consistency. A special bottle to cellar; also phenomenal paired with lamb loin chops and olives, and herbs. Ariana Rolich
Alfredo Maestro keeps us on our toes with his inventive, ever-evolving family of wines from his homeland of Ribera del Duero, as well as the Sierra de Gredos and Vinos de Madrid. Almate is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) from many tiny vineyards in and outside of the Ribera del Duero (Maestro works outside of appellation, so all of his wines are labeled ambiguously as "Castilla y Leon"), farmed organically and raised in stainless steel with no additions or modifications. Supple Tempranillo aromas of black cherry, rose hips, sweet baking chocolate, black pepper, and warm earth meld with supremely juicy fruit and a silty, pleasingly unfiltered texture on the tongue: round yet direct, with rich plum and sour cherries, soft earth, oregano, cafe-au-lait, and a long, direct, mineral-tinged finish, courtesy of the regions' alluvial, clay, and limestone soils. We are perennially amazed by the personality and depth of this complex young wine relative to its price. Ariana Rolich
Envínate is a collaboration between four friends who met at enology school in Alicante and have gone on to make memorable and terroir-expressive wines from special parcels of vines all over Spain: the Ribeira Sacra, Canary Islands, and this one from the Almansa DO (just inland and south of Valencia). 100% Garnacha Tintorera, a deeply pigmented and vibrantly acidic grape also known as Alicante Bousquet, from 30-year-old organically farmed vines at 800 meters altitude on chalky, clay-calcareous soils. Wild yeast fermented, with 50% whole clusters, raised for 8 months in large cement vats. The 2014 vintage is exuberant and mouth-watering, with rich aromas of musky floral berries, purple fruit peels, peppercorns and cloves, with flavors of juicy ripe raspberry and tart currant fruit, hints of tea leaves and savory resinous thyme, framed by assertive tannins and lots of fresh acidity. Ariana Rolich
A beguiling introduction to the blossoming natural wine culture of Andalucia, this raw expression of Monastrell is dominated by concentrated, earthy overtones of petrol, smoke and fois gras complimenting a core of dark plum and strawberry fruit. Unfiltered, with zero added sulphur and vinified entirely in stainless steel, the wine pulses with a bold, mineral intensity derived from the moisture retaining chalky albariza soil which is critical to growing healthy grapes in the exceptionally hot, dry climate of Cordoba. Sydney Snyder
Made of 100% Garnacha from 30-35 year old vines rooted in the poor, stony, schist soil of Granada (which, in ancient times was called Garnata), the very name of this wine from high in the mountains of Andalucia is an intriguing, poetic riddle. Concentrated notes of dark plum, game, earth and spice are offset by structure-lending tannins from aging in old French barrels in this wine of exceptional beauty and substance. Sydney Snyder
This is the darker of Ramon Saavedra's reds, from ungrafted vines of Tempranillo, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. Dense, with some earth and subtle tannins. As with all of Ramon's wines, the Iradei has great balance and length, with very pure fruit, and a backbone of minerality. Eben Lillie