It’s Hot And We’re Tasting Wines

Spring is trade fair season when many, many new wines are combed through and discovered. Entering summer, the sifting begins. Samples are catalogued and orders are placed to ready for the long road into fall when the majority of retail wine sales happen.

We have to find a way to pass the time in this heat. Last night we sat outside at midnight in 95°F weather trying to hold our heads up over the straw that was our lifeline to the cool tinto de verano we were sipping.

Heat Wave, Valladolid, Spain June 30, 2015

We started with some samples of solera wines this morning. We discovered Pérez Barquero at FENAVIN, the Spanish National Wine Fair in early May. They’ve been written up by Eric Asimov in the Times and have loads of Parker and other points, but are little known outside of Spain, probably because they are not within the boundaries of sherry production. Their appellation, D.O. Montilla-Moriles, is much further inland than the manzanilla-dominated coastal sherry triangle that includes Sanlúcar de Barrameda, El Puerto de Santa María and Jerez de la Frontera.  Here in Montilla, just south of Córdoba, the pedro ximénez grape thrives on super chalky soils. It passes through neutral barrels at various levels of criadera on its way to making Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado, and Dulce versions of itself.

We also embraced a house-style vermouth casero full of clove and cardamon. We embraced it right into a home-brewed Moroccan spearmint iced tea I made with honey. The combination was divine on a day where highs will reach into the low 100s F.

Here we can see that PX can be enjoyed with canned peaches and aged Zamoran sheep's cheese. I would like to stress can. Although I think Miguel was on to something.

Here we can see that PX can be enjoyed with canned peaches and aged Zamoran sheep’s cheese. I would like to stress can be. Although I think Miguel was on to something.

We are also drinking–

Vivaz Prieto Picudo

Vivaz Prieto Picudo 2014. Have two glasses and then say that three times fast. The indigenous grape varietal from the D.O. Tierra de León, I can only ever get various versions of strawberry(macerated, baked with cream, fresh-picked, dried, candied, etc.) in the bouquet. The zippy acidity and freshness makes it an obvious summer drinking wine that I’ve enjoyed, but profile is a bit limited. It won’t get me to switch from my Cigales tempranillo rosados.

Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne 2014Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne 2014

Harmonie de Gascogne 2014. It was raining cats and dogs on our way into Villandraut on the D-824 so we stopped in Mont-de-Marsan and ducked into a pizzeria close to midnight. The guy was cranking out homemade pizzas and listening to great electro. He had the above wine by the glass. It was a deep purple color with thick tears and plum and blackberry on the nose. The tannins were nice and present but soft and had a long finish –not bad wonderful for a local IGP wine by the glass. It went nicely with the veggie pizza. I’ll be ordering from them. It seems they are best known for their Armagnac. €11, 12.5% abv

Baloiro godello, doña blanca, jerez

Baloiro Blanco 2014. If you needed more of a reason to drink godello, it is godello with a splash of the more obvious doña blanca, and much more obvious jerez, or palomino. You might think muscat but here in this part of Spain, there are 17% plantings of jerez and 2,4% of the doña. Muscat is not permitted in the D.O. Bierzo. White blossoms and stone fruit dominate and the godello contributes to traces of minerality and the medium finish. Very nice, easy drinking wine from Bodega Luzdivina Amigo. €13

Sete Bois Albariño 2013

Sete Bois 2013 Albariño. Stone fruit, med+ acidity. Classic summer quaffer. €7.70, 12.5% abv

Los Pedregales Godello 2014, D.O. Bierzo


Los Pedregales 2014. Nice structured godello from D.O. Bierzo. Hand-picked vines at 550 meter above sea level. Top yield is around 1,500 kg/hectare (very, very low). €10


Genio Y Figura Albariño 2013


Genio y Figura 2014 Albariño. An excellent example of a slightly more serious albariño. A lot of stone fruit, melon even. €14


Woodinville, The Evergreen State’s Answer to Napa

Washington State wines are killing it right now. If you want to talk about a single geographical area that can offer such disparate wines as a powerhouse cabernet sauvignon and a delicate chardonnay, this is it.

A few weeks ago I went to Taste Washington, the biggest gathering of Washington wineries and winemakers anywhere in the world. And this past Saturday I escaped up to Woodinville, just a 30-minute drive from downtown Seattle. Most of the state’s grapes are grown on the other side of the Cascade Mountains and some are trucked back west for winemaking.

Chateau Ste. Michelle

Chateau Ste. Michelle

These operations coupled with the satellite tasting rooms of wineries in the eastern or southern part of the state make Woodinville a top destination for bridal shower debauchery. You’ll see more plaid, facial hair and dark wood than in a Portland coffee house. It is not exactly the day clubbing and chauffeured town car experience like in Napa where you feel like you’ve stumbled onto the set of a Town & Country shoot.  There it can be intimidating to ask questions. In Washington, the winemakers are more accesible, often stopping by the tasting rooms at midday to pour wine and answer questions. It must be the surrounding evergreen forests attracting people who like clean air and avoid pretense.

But don’t mistake that the wines aren’t serious -they are. The Columbia Gorge, Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla Valley and parts of the Cascade Valley fall right on the 46° north latitude, which also crosses over Bordeaux. The winemakers in these areas feel a certain sense of responsibility for this shared parallel. It is not by accident that their best known creations are Bordeaux blends. Some wineries even specialize in Right Bank (merlot dominated) or Left Bank (cabernet sauvignon dominated).

But The fire and ice geological makeup leaves a distinctively Washington mark on the blends. Tasting room associates are well versed in the Missoula Floods phenomenon. In this catastrophic event, glacier barriers burst and water came barreling through the Washington plains leaving layers of glacial silt. Silt is the ideal particle size to regulate water supply at the rootstock level. The regulation tends to work in tandem with the hot, dry Washington summers that taper off quickly starting in September.

Mark Ryan Winery, Woodinville

Mark Ryan Winery, Woodinville

Chateau Ste. Michelle was the first to set up shop in 1976 when Woodinville was still just a logging and farming community. The Chateau is today the biggest producer of riesling and their wine shop includes a whole section devoted strictly to this varietal.

Just east of the Chateau, down NE 145th St., you’ll find the Hollywood Winery District. Between this and theWarehouse Winery District, there is a higher concentration of tasting rooms than nearly any other place in the country. The Hollywood area is made up of upscale outdoor cottage-style outlets with over 40 tasting rooms and eateries. The Warehouse District is more industrial, but you can try several wineries from different AVAs in one go. There are over 100 tasting experiences in the area.

And, all around there are spots to stop, pull over and pick lavender, try great food, see goats, pick up fresh produce or take a shot of whiskey. There are several spirits distilleries in the neighborhood.

Wines Tasted:

  • Woodward Cannon Washington State Chardonnay (Walla Walla AVA) – Lemon curd, spice, toasted hazelnut, restrained oak, though still quite present
  • Mark Ryan Winery Long Haul – Whoa! What! Plush blackberry and blue fruit. Toasty nuts and oak; silky and vibrant. Rising star Washington winemaker. Also look for The Dissident (64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot), Lonely Heart (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot), Wild Eyed (100% Syrah), Viognier (100% Viognier), and Crazy Mary (79% Mourvedre, 21% Syrah). Consistently scores in the mid 90s and had two Triumph motorbikes inside the tasting room. Need I say more?
  • Fidélitas 2012 Red Mountain Merlot– Slate, ripe tannin, white pepper, chewy cherry candy, medium acidity, earth
  • Fidélitas 2011 Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills Merlot- colder vintage so more acidity than previous, great structure, rich cassis, less earth than above, very fragrant, medium acidity, no slate, cherry color with bright ruby rim

Divina Proporción Winery To Join With Harris Wine Merchant

I am excited to announce that the Toro winery will join me in sending tasting samples to Oregon this spring in the hopes of selling many bottles to eager Spanish oenophiles. I have added their wine and viticulture information to the Harris Wine site that is, hopefully, just days away from launching.

Máximo and his brother Juan take care of the vines and at harvest employ 15-kilo crates for hand picking. The grapes are hand-selected when they arrive at the winery. All their wines spend some in oak but Máximo does not want to emphasize oak in his wines. The oak, and some malolactic aging in oak, is meant to clean and stabilize; it marks the confluence of fruit, structure and acidity with the most minimal exposure to oxygen through pores in the staves. Ripe forest fruits, caramel and lactic notes dominate each wine to varying degrees. You’ll experience long finishes and brilliant purple shades.

Thank you Máximo and Yovana for your hospitality and the fine wine. You can get to know them and their winery here.

Divina Proporcion vines

Estate vines just after winter pruning.

Yovona and Maximo

Yovana and Máximo trying to keep warm at the entrance to their winery.

Maximo and Vanessa

Me and Máximo barrel tasting the 2014 vintage.

Divina Proporcion bottles

Gorgeous labels by local artist. Just know that what’s inside is as beautiful as what’s outside. The wine and the labels are a labor of love.