[Author note: this series of blog posts is about my recent trip to Spain, with the importer Jorge Ordonez. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to see the country, taste the wine and eat the food. Follow these posts for a wine and culinary trip through Spain. Most wines mentioned are available at DEPs Fine Wine and Spirits]
Upon arrival in the Madrid airport(the most beautiful airport I’ve ever seen, you must do a google image search) we were herded immediately onto a bus, I got a brief look at Jorge in his hat and then we were off, out of Madrid straight away and into the country. Our 3 hour drive was filled mostly with sleep, but I did view the scenery out my window that seemed filled with every kind of hill and mountain possible. Broad rolling hills, then desert-like rocky cliffs, then snow-capped mountains in the distance. It was clear this county had some serious tectonic history. Red, orange, white and green were the predominant colors that flew by, the green being mostly in the form of olive trees.
We pulled in Zaragoza, a sprawling city that seems modern enough, full of mid-rise buildings built on top of each other. It was Sunday, so perhaps that accounted for the vacant feeling, but so far I had the illusion that Spain was deserted, I had only seen a handful of people. Our reprive in the hotel was not long, just a chance to drop your bags and get back on the bus. I did have my first chance to say hello to Jorge here, he seemed mostly concerned with keeping the show running along quickly and getting everyone checked in.
Another hour bus ride to Aragon, home of the ever-popular Garnacha de Fuego and the soon to be released Breca. The drive through Calatayud was beautiful, with fruit orchards and cherry trees as far as the eye could see, literally. The bus pulled to a stop on a country road flanked with tan-soiled vineyards of garnacha. For anyone who has never seen garnacha (or Grenache, as the French call it), when planted correctly it is quite a sight! Imagine gnarled, grandfather-like hands coming up out of the earth. They are never trellised, just left wild, with their shoots coming out like arthritis-bent knuckles and fingers. So cool. Jorge was already standing in the vineyard waiting for us, with his drivers and a few other men, and we got the sense that Jorge was the ringleader of this Spanish Mafia. Jorge then spoke his first words to the group, which were ‘welcome to Spain’ and he introduced his business partners in the brand new Bodegas Breca. I kicked around some sand colored dirt and took a few pictures, with the rows of garnacha and the blue sky meeting somewhere in the distance. Next we visited a much higher elevation vineyard, the site for some very old vines. The climb up to this vineyard gave us some amazing views, like a rainbow of soils in the color palette of white, tan, orange and red. The vineyard was situated on a steep hill, and the terroir was completely red and sparkly. I picked up a textured piece of slate that I still have, which is red and orange and shimmers ‘gilver’ (my favorite color, gold and silver) in the light. Some of these vines are 80-120 years old!
Tasting notes on Garnacha de Fuego and Breca:
Garnacha de Fuego, 2008:
The vines are planted on principally decomposed slate and gravely clay soils. Even though there is very little rainfall in the region, the clay is at a depth that allows for the vines to obtain moisture and be dry grown. The grapes are carefully hand selected, and additional selection made in the winery.
89 Points Robert Parker, “The grapes for this new project were sourced from 60 to 80 year-old vines whose already low yields were reduced an additional 70% by the weather conditions of the vintage. A glass-coating purple, remarkably deep for a wine of this price made from Garnacha, the wine offers a nose of brooding black cherry and blueberry. Concentrated, ripe and balanced on the palate, this flavorful, lengthy effort will drink well over the next four years. It is an outstanding value.”
Breca 2010 has not yet been released, but I was thrilled to get to taste a barrel sample. Extremely dark purple with a fuschia rim, it was very extracted, with dark fruit. It is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
After our tasting we had lunch in the tiny old town of Munebrega (what Breca is named for). We ate spring lamb and fish stew with garbanzos, and drank plenty of Breca. After this we had time for a siesta, and then dinner at Boliche in Zaragosa.
Dinner at Boliche is an experience. A small and cozy but modern restaurant, you walk in knowing 2 things: you are going to like it and you are going to be there a long time. So sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself. We had representatives from Marques de Gelida in Penedes (a cava producer) and Zerran there with us, and we would be tasting their wines through dinner.
We were poured a unique wine first, Marques de Gelida Xarel-lo (89 Points Stephen Tanzer). This grape, which is common in Penedes, is rarely bottled on its own. It was deliciously aromatic, I compared it to a blanc from the Rhone with a little more minerality and backbone. Then, course after course of food began arriving. Atlantic clam with monk fish, goose-neck barnacles in cream sauce, savory ice cream with nut candy, local cheeses. These are some of the dishes I remember.
More wines we tried during dinner:
Kila Cava 2010
35% Macabeo, 30% Xarel-lo, 20% PArellada, 15% Chardonnay.
88 Points Robert Parker, “The 2009 Kila Cava displays a bit more grip and focus. Both vintages are excellent values for drinking over the next 12-18 months.”
Marques de Gelida Brut Exclusive
Approximately 472 acres of vineyards are owned, there are 5 different vineyards in Superior Penedes, the highest region in Penedes. It is predominately calcareous soil. 60% of the vineyards are pruned as a bilateral cordon. The rest are spur-pruned and head-trained.
Zerran 2010, Montsant
Garnacha, Mazuelo (Carignan), Syrah
The D.O. Montsant is a horse shoe shaped appellation that surrounds the DO Priorat on three sides. It should have been included in the Priorat appellation but was excluded when it was designated for economic reasons. The winery is located near the town of Capcanes next to a nature reserve park. Despite the proximity to the Mediterranean this high elevation location is buffered by a series of mountains. The soils are similar to Priorat with Montsant being a bit more complex with a mixture of slate, sandy clay and chalk. This wine will be released this summer.
After dinner I checked out a local bar, Guiness House, which was more Ibiza and less Ireland (imagine drinking a guiness while listening to dub step) and finally went to bed.