International Grenache Day 2014: Borsao Garnacha 2012

Borsao Garnacha 2012

Borsao Garnacha 2012

Sorry for getting this in so late folks, but it was a work day, and it was the good kind of busy! So no history lesson today but I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to plug a tasty varietal like Grenache/Garnacha! Today’s choice is a bold, rich example from Aragon, Spain and bearing the proud seal of the Campo de Borja D.O. region. This wine is a fairly young, tasty fruit bomb — yet teeming with the complexity I love from this grape. All sorts of great aromas pop from the nose of the dark, confectious wine in my glass. It does not need a single thing to compliment it, yet it compliments so much. Lush, concentrated black fruit melds with cherry, leather, and a spicy vanilla note. It is really seductive.

On the palate the cherry and blackberry continue to pop as does that nice spice note but this is super smooth. The tannin and acid you want in there with the fruit in a balanced wine are there, without being too much. It is about as smooth as can be. I am enjoying it with some rustic Kalamata olive crackers and fig spread, and will polish it off with some seared filet mignon and sauteed escarole with olive oil and garlic. My mouth was watering for the meal my wife told me she was preparing, but this wine got a head start and gave me way more than I was expecting right out of the gate. It’s going to be a great night.

At the local wine shop, this wine was priced at a ridiculous value – $9 a bottle, with a high recommendation on quality.  And was he ever right. It is delicious, go try one! Wish I had more than one but at least I know I can afford it! Wine-Searcher has it at many places even cheaper. Nice to know you can still find a knockout wine for a great value.

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Bodegas Carrau Tannat 2000, Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Ah, summer. Forgive me, I’ve been all about spending less time in front of digital boxes and more time embracing nature…and wine. Camping, going to the beach, grilling… the other day I purchased 15 bottles of Bordeaux 2009, and while I’m keeping 12 of them for my collection I did open one to enjoy with some filet mignon au poivre that I had just grilled. I even doused the filets with a tad of that nectar of the red-meat-pairing gods to great effect.

Anyway today I am here in front of the digital box and I want to tell you about another great experience I had at Barcelona in South Norwalk, CT and specifically, two amazing wines. Sunday nights are special nights at the restaurant, as they have their “sunday pig roast” and all bottles of wine are half price. The pig, and the seasonal vegetables and salad included were delicious, and we ordered a few tapas as well to pair with the wines. We had the chorizo with sweet & sour figs in a balsamic-sherry glaze, grilled asparagus with truffle vinaigrette (again, since we loved it so at the Fiesta dinner) and the albondingas (meatballs in tomato sauce.) But my favorite part of the experience was the wines we were able to enjoy at half the cost! And as the new resident wine nerd in the group, I was given the task of picking the wines. Normally a Priorat and the Tannat we had from Uruguay were each approaching one hundred dollars in price – though this is restaurant cost, and they would be less in store. The Priorat is about $65 online.

I know Priorat is hot stuff right now, and rightfully so. I tend, as with Italian reds, to prefer extremely concentrated wines more and more. Super Tuscans and Nero D’Avola, to name a few. So naturally something like a Priorat is right up my alley. As I usually can’t splurge on these wines, I have been enjoying old-vine Cariñena lately as a worthy substitute. Priorats are traditionally from my understanding the product of 100-year old Garnacha and Cariñena vines. This particular one was a blend of several varieties, adding Cabernet and Syrah to the Garnacha and Cariñena. The 2008 Font de la Figuera Priorat was deep ruby in color and on the nose had strong aromas of toast and smoke and red and black fruit, and some minerality to it. On the palate, it was full bodied and spicy, deeply concentrated and complex, each of the varietals making a contribution of deep black or red fruit. Some subtle smokey French oak aromas and flavors were present as well as it is aged in both new and older French barrels for 15 months. It was very well-balanced and had a nice finish of more toast and smoke. They are all hand-harvested and selected grapes in Priorat style.

2000 Bodegas Carrau Tannat, Amat

2000 Bodegas Carrau Tannat, Amat

Next up we tried a 2000 Tannat from Bodegas Carrau, Amat. I learned about Tannat being a succes story in Uruguay after being brought from southern France so I was eager to try it. I recall as well  the winemaking process developed with this variety known as micro-oxygenation, which softens the harsh tannins by exposing the must to small amounts of oxygen during fermentation. It was a ruby-garnet color, likely due to age, and another reason why this one especially reminded me of a mature Italian red like Barolo or Barbaresco, dusty and earthy in all its glory. It is also a bit astringent and hence best enjoyed with food. Tannat is usually used to add some kick to flabbier wines due to its high tannin content from its thick skins – and hence the name. Though here they are made in a slightly softer style, as the French ones can be overwhelmingly tannic at times. The acidity was pretty well-balanced and the tannins were not too intense on this one. Perhaps its age also contributed to it being softer and more balanced. I picked up some chocolate on the palate especially, and plum and raspberry. It had a spicy long finish. A worthy first bottle for me.

Fiesta de San Fermin – Barcelona Wine Bar

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant

Wednesday night, my wife and I attended a special dinner at an amazing local wine bar and tapas restaurant, Barcelona. There are several locations, mostly in CT. And luckily I work just down the street from one of them. I have had company parties, romantic dinners with my wife, and casual get-togethers with co-workers there, and all were really enjoyable experiences. They often have live music with Spanish and South American origins, and other special occasions such as this one.  I unfortunately missed one of their many Rioja classes last month, but I will make it to one soon. They also have classes on cooking Gazpacho, cocktail mixology and more. So I was thrilled when I saw they were having a dinner party for the “Fiesta de San Fermin.” It is a week-long celebration in Navarra —  in Pamplona specifically —  that is famous for the ‘running of the bulls.’  Barcelona’s head wine buyer and director, Gretchen Thomas (who has quite an amazing resumé I must say,) put the event together and managed the wine tasting, while executive chef Gavin Blair manned the gigantic Paella Grande pan.  All in all there were about 35 guests, and we had fun mingling among fellow wine lovers and getting newly acquainted. They even had a mascot, “Antonio the Bull” making the rounds in costume. He is the bull (beso) on the label of the Beso de Vino – though the cajones were a little more understated on the label than this costume!  It was pretty amusing and I will stop there on that subject.

Paella Grande

Paella Grande

In addition to the Beso de Vino, we had a Cava from Penedès to start, followed by a nice Viura/Verdejo from Rueda, then a Catalunyan Garnacha Rosé, a Cabernet/Tempranillo/Syrah/Merlot blend from Costers del Segre, and a much-touted ‘Pasion de Bobal.’ Bobal is a local variety, often used for Valencian bulk wines, and fermented with spicy American oak to add complexity. But these Bobal are hand-harvested from up to 60 year-old vines, grown in vineyards at upwards of 300ft altitude and then macerated and fermented at low temperature in French oak. The result is a concentrated, overripe red fruit and spicy mix with grippy tannins. This and the afforementioned and excellent Beso de Vino old-vine Garnacha from Cariñena were my favorite. Old-vine Cariñena is one of my favorite Spanish wines already, and happily this one didn’t disappoint.  I’d say the Garnacha Rosé was also in my top picks, and I love the French counterparts from Provence as much. But they were all good. The staff here really know their wine, and the selections were all tops.  To be fair, the Cava was very nice too, though I don’t drink a lot of sparkling wine, as it goes right to my head. Usually a glass is all I need before moving on, no matter how good and expensive it may be. I did an amazing sparkling wine tasting tour on the North Fork I will of course write about, and by the end of it I felt like Charlie after too many fizzy lifting drinks at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Besides, do you ever spit out sparkling wine? I never have.

Beso de Vino

Beso de Vino

Delicious tapas was passed around during the tasting portion prior to the seated paella dinner, including hanger steak, pickled peach salad, artichokes a la plancha (with garlic, lemon, and parsley) and ceviche and monkfish – though I don’t eat much seafood or any shellfish. They were very accomodating in that respect and made me a paella free of these ingredients. Blasphemy some purists may say, but hey, that’s my picky palate for you. On Sunday they are holding a pig roast, and we are brininging my in-laws for their first visit to Barcelona. Olé!