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Spring is on the brink of breaking through in NYC, as evidenced by ascending optimism, birdsong, and blossoming trees. At my house, we've been enjoying grilling dinners outside, but still dining inside. This transitional period can be enjoyable when paired with wines that warm the spirit on chilly nights, but with freshness and energy that prohibit hibernation. This year's Springtime Spanish Mixed Case contains twelve complex, textured, food-friendly and refreshing wines at an excellent price, featuring fantastic new vintages from longtime Chambers Street favorites Alvar de Dios in Toro and Arribes and Borja Pérez González in Tenerife.
It is notable to taste something totally new from a familiar category of wine, or to be awed by the elegance of a wine from an unknown region or grape(s). It is rare for both revelations to stem from one and the same producer, but the wines of Alvar de Dios achieve just that. A native of El Pego, a small village in the Toro DO, de Dios grew up helping his family make wine. Today he produces a subtle single vineyard expression of Tinta de Toro from his grandfather's vines, with a different kind of depth from the spicy, bodacious reds that typify Toro wine, as well as a joyful, refreshing, wild-spirited young Toro to be enjoyed casually with a chill. The wild west of Spain calls to de Dios, who farms a wide variety of terroirs outside of Toro, including a fascinating volcanic zone in the north of Arribes del Duero that yields one of his most surprising wines: Camino de los Arrieros. These vinous translations of Spain's most obscure and distinctive corners ignite the imagination as well as the taste buds.
Borja Pérez González is familiar to Chambers Street customers through his distinctive and very popular Ignios wines. A proud native of La Guancha in northwestern Tenerife, part of DO Ycoden-Daute-Isora, he runs a small but ambitious operation from the family winery where, as a young agronomy student, he got his start as a winemaker (and which he subsequently purchased from his father and uncle in order to launch Ignios Orígenes in 2011).
Whereas Ignios wines are single varieties from single vineyards, the Artifice lineup featured today allows Borja to blend multiple grape varieties from dozens of tiny parcels scattered around the north of Tenerife. His rigorous farming and passionate commitment to the job of seeking and sustaining unique and varied sites shine through in his beautiful and intricate Artifice wines.
Sensational new rosés from biodynamic wonder Joan Asens of Orto Vins (Montsant) and Josep Foraster (Conca de Barberà) are combined with the lustrous 2016 vintage of Juan Antonio Ponce's Reto white, along with certified organic white Priorat from Jordi Aixalà in Torroja, and more. Cheers to springtime! Ariana Rolich
Alvar de Dios is exploring regions and grapes of western Spain that we'd never tasted wine from before. This is very exciting! Camino de los Arrieros comes from the north end of Arribes del Duero, the savagely beautiful borderland that flanks the Duero River, where it cleaves Portugal from Spain. The 2016 vintage of Camino de los Arrieros is de Dios' first village wine from Villadepera, where he farms a vast mix of grape varieties on soils of red, white, and black volcanic schists. 60% Juan Garcia (otherwise known as Mouraton), with Garnacha Tintorera, Trincadeira, Rufete, Bastarda, Bruñal (and more) collide seamlessly in this bright and lifted red. Reminiscent of cool Galician reds, with taut, vibrant red and purple berry fruit, hints of pepper, and poignant minerality. Ariana Rolich
A burst of flamboyant flavors, Tío Uco is an exciting young wine from an exciting young winemaker! A native of southern Toro, Alvar de Dios honed his skills working with Fernando García at Bodegas Marañones (Sierra de Gredos) shuttling back and forth to Toro to farm family vineyards and acquire others. Tío Uco comes from 25 to 40 year-old, organically farmed vines of Tinta de Toro on a variety of terroirs (clay, limestone, sand, and gravel), destemmed and raised in neutral oak barrels. Aromas are exotic, floral and spicy, with bright and juicy flavors of wild rose, plum, stewed strawberry, hibiscus, cloves, sweet leather, and bitter earth. Substantial and spicy, but light on its feet, this is an offbeat and slightly wild foil to standard-issue Tempranillos. Ariana Rolich
Aciano is made from winemaker Alvar de Dios' grandfather's own-rooted vineyard of Tinta de Toro planted nearly 100 years ago on pure sandy soils at 700 meters altitude in El Pego, on the southern limit of the Toro DO. Brooding brambly aromas of black and red raspberry, blackberry, and cafe-au-lait, with a rich but focused palate of black plum, licorice, smoky spice, and mineral earth. Toro is well represented by the talented Alvar de Dios, particularly in this balanced and special wine. A fabulous introvert -- decant for best results. Ariana Rolich
Third-generation grape growers (and brothers-in-law) Miguel Hornillos and Javier Ballesteros farm a combined total of 40 hectares of Tinta del Pais (Tempranillo) at 770-890 meters altitude in the Ribera del Duero. They sell the vast majority of their organic and biodynamically farmed fruit to prestigious wineries in the region, preserving just a little bit for their own tiny-production MiBal label. The wines display the power of Ribera del Duero that make the wines famous and unique, with buoyant energy and intense minerality to balance the rich flavors of black and blue fruit, dried herbs, and savory earth. A serious value! Ariana Rolich
Borja Pérez, the winemaker behind the Ignios Origenes label from Tenerife, is a proponent of traditional winemaking with a strong focus on the superb volcanic terroir of his island. The Tinto, a beautiful vibrant wine from a 100% Listán Negro, is made from grapes from multiple parcels in Ycoden Daute Isora. Fermented separately in stainless steel, the wine is then aged together in old French oak barrels and large foudres, with minimal addition of sulfur at bottling. Full of energy, the wine displays earth, spice, white pepper, dark berries and purple floral notes. On the palate, the acidity and minerality are in full display showing off a structure that is so unique to Tenerife. A fantastic wine to pair with charcuterie, pork chops, roasted chicken, or grilled vegetables. Caroline Coursant
This electric wine from Borja Pérez is a 100% Listán Blanco from multiple parcels in Ycoden Daute Isora (northern Tenerife). Fermented separately, the wine is then aged for 8 months - a portion of the wine in concrete tanks on the lees and the other in 500 liter barrels - before being blended and bottled with minimal addition of sulfur. The resulting wine is a complex aromatic wine with saline and yeasty undertones. With a superb ashy minerality, great texture and bright acidity, the wine displays earthy citrus, tart stone fruit and dried chamomile herbal tones. A great wine to drink with seafood, ceviche, and any fresh salads you may fancy for this spring/summer time. Caroline Coursant
Borja Pérez, known for his love of his native land, Tenerife, and his superb winemaking, has produced a fantastic wine under his Artifice label, to the joy of all aficionados of Atlantic, minerally-driven and complex white wines. Artifice Vidueño 2016 is a blend of local white grapes Marmajuelo, Listán Blanco, Albillo, Gual, and Foraster, from multiple parcels. Vinified in 500 liter French oak barrels and then racked in large foudre, the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and is aged for about 11 months. The result is a precious and graceful wine. With a gorgeous bouquet of white flowers, clementine, pear yogurt, saline, earth, herbal tea, and savory notes; the wine is deliciously complex. On the palate, the wine displays a beautiful density and creaminess, with ashy volcanic minerality and lively acidity. Pair this wine with Asian-inspired fare, mustard pork roast, and creamy pasta dishes. A delectable wine indeed! Caroline Coursant
This beautiful organic and biodynamic wine, from Juan Antonio Ponce, is the perfect white wine for spring and summer. Coming from different parcels in Manchuela (near Valencia) of Albilla vines, averaging around 50-year-old, planted on chalky and calcareous soil, the grapes are hand-harvested and kept at low temperatures before being pressed. The grapes are then fermented using native yeast in old oak, and aged on lees for 8 months in old oak barrels, with no fining or filtering, and minimal addition of sulfur before bottling. The wine reflects Juan Antonio Ponce's natural approach to winemaking, with vibrant expressions of minerality, bright acidity and a beautiful creamy texture. With notes of white flowers, salty pineapple core, lemon cream pie, saline and savory, the wine shows off a complex bouquet that will linger deliciously on the palate. Pair it with grilled fish dishes or fresh seafood. Caroline Coursant
After tasting their red wine in a Priorat restaurant, I tracked down Jordi Aixalà and Sussi Alcait at their tiny garage winery in Torroja, a gorgeous mountain-top village in the heart of the Priorat. As is often the case, the people behind the wines are just as lovely as the wines themselves, and we are very proud to be able to offer their wines. Endevinalla is 100% Garnacha Blanca from certified organic vineyards in Torroja, picked early and vinified in stainless steel tanks to retain freshness. Flavors are bright and Mediterranean, without the intense alcohol associated with Priorat whites: musky apricot, citrus rind, bitter almond, heady herbs and a hint of salt. Textured and minerally, this wine shines with herbed fish and poultry. Ariana Rolich
We have admired Ricard Foraster's sparkling and red wines for some time, so were thrilled to taste this delightful still rosé from his organically farmed Trepat grapes. Grown on clay and calcareous soils in Conca de Barberà and vinified in stainless steel, Julieta (named for his mother and his daughter) is crisp, cheerful, and minerally, with tart orange, cranberry, and creamy berry fruit. On a recent visit, Ricard reported that his vineyards are certified organic as of 2018. This is great news, well worth celebrating with a glass of delicious rose! Ariana Rolich
Orto Rosat has arrived at last! Two years ago, during a winery visit with Joan Asens of Orto Vins, a group of New York wine buyers fell head-over-heels in love with this sensuous, invigorating rose. Quantities were limited, orders were placed, but due to a series of tedious distribution quirks, the wine never arrived. Hearts were broken until our friend Kerin Auth of La Luz Selections, Spanish wine sage extraordinaire, came to the rescue. Orto Vins have now returned to New York and we are reunited with this 100% Garnacha rose. It is simultaneously chiseled and silky, with fresh aromas of strawberry, cherry blossom, and rose that extend to the palate of tart raspberry, crisp cranberry, supple citrus oils, salty, grippy wisp of tannin, and gorgeous saline and mineral length. A rose to fall in love with! Ariana Rolich
Keeping up with demand for Espelt rosé is a full-time job! Certified organic from a family winery in Emporda, Catalonia, this bone-dry, bouyant, and refreshing rosé of 100% Garnacha continues to wow us with its value and deliciousness. Notes of crushed stone and wild flowers on the nose lead to a tangy palate of citrus zest, blood orange, crushed berries, and sea spray. A delicious accompaniment for squid and tuna. Ariana Rolich