#Vinopanion #Wine Bits & Pieces: Holiday 2017 Edition

The winter sun, it burns!

The end of 2017 is nigh…that means really good reasons to drink #wine and, in particular, bubbles! And while the Lady and I are lovers and club members of our very local Domaine Chandon sparkling wines, we do have quite a tasty spot for Spanish Cava.  #Cava is the most renown sparkling wine from Spain and an actual DO (or appellation) in the Spanish Denominación de Origen system. Freixenet is one of the most common producers and always a solid daily buy, but we’ve tasted through a ton of good Cava over the years.

Vivino

Another sparkling wine region that has been smokin’ hot the last few years has been Prosecco from Italy.  It has both DOC and DOCG appellations for its finer wines and has been really making a splash in the US market for the last 3 years.  I’m a Featured User for Vivino, and they’ve even put together a list of the 20 most scanned Prosecco wines of 2017 on their app, from thousands of users:

  1. La Marca Prosecco – 3.8 Stars
  2. Casa Vinicola Zonin Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  3. Valdo Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Marca Oro – 3.6 Stars
  4. Carpenè Malvolti Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry – 3.7 Stars
  5. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  6. Ruffino Prosecco – – 3.7 Stars
  7. Mionetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  8. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Brut – 3.6 Stars
  9. Gancia Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  10. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Brut – 3.6 Stars
  11. Allini Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  12. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Extra Dry – 3.6 Stars
  13. Martini (Martini & Rossi) Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  14. Cavit Lunetta Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  15. Cantine Maschio Prosecco Treviso Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  16. Vini Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.7 Stars
  17. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Prosecco Treviso – 3.5 Stars
  18. Nino Franco Spumanti Rustico – 3.8 Stars
  19. Plaza Centro Prosecco Treviso – 3.4 Stars
  20. Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero – 3.8 Stars

2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra DryThe Lady and I enjoyed a Prosecco on Christmas with her family and the 2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry rather delighted the whole family with its mix of super tasty & zippy yellow apple and peach, alongside some nice yeasty and good floral notes. The wine is imported by Wine Trees USA and was a sample from Balzac Communications.

Hagafen CellarsAnother holiday favorite around the world are kosher wines, of course.  While Kosher wine has gotten a bad rap over the millennia, there are quite a few amazing wines produced in California, as well as around the world, that also happen to be kosher. As Jay Buchsbaum, Executive VP Marketing and Director of Wine Education at Royal Wine Corp states:

To be considered kosher, Sabbath observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including yeasts and fining agents*, must be kosher.

Local favorite wineries in our valley of Napa include Hagafen Cellars, just down the road from Yountville on Silverado Trail. I’ve biked past it while training for my triathlons dozens of times…it’s a beautiful estate and producer of many great, tasty wines!

Short Pours:

  • Hello Penny Bar!
    Photo courtesy of Hello Penny Bar.

    Live in SoCal and need a bar for your party? The very cute, Hello Penny Bar will do just that, complete in a mobile and restored, 1946 vintage trailer.  Sweet!

  • Wines ‘Til Sold Out completed an incredible charity drive for #NapaFire and #SonomaFire victims, raising a total of $17,500 from WTSO members, equally matched by the wine flash sale retailer.  Bravo!
  • USGS geophysicists have recently completed a LIDAR study of Napa Valley vineyards that “suggests that earthquake-related deformation just below the Earth’s surface can be quite different from how it is expressed at the surface,” following the 2014 Napa Valley earthquake.
  • PG&E‘s Wine Industry Efficiency Solutions (WIES) program, in conjunction with its partner wineries, has “saved its customers more than 3.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 150,000 therms of natural gas – enough energy to power 246 average homes for one year. The average annual energy cost savings totaled $559,000 per year.”
  • The 33rd annual Winesong 2017 charity event on the Mendocino coast on September 8th & 9th in Fort Bragg was again a huge success, raising more than $700,000 for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.

Taking my #wine kung fu to the next level: #WSET II & Napa Valley Wine Academy

406064_562298363799327_175257724_nI have been immersing myself in the study of #wine in a semi-systematic manner for much of the last 8 years.  Indeed, #Vinopanion‘s 8 year anniversary with @WineLog is approaching in the middle of this month. Yet I have slowly realized that something is lacking in my devotion to the knowledge of the vinous delights: focus, structure and external credibility. You’d think that a trained scientist would have recognized this long ago and I did notice these thoughts in the back of my mind a few years back.  But they were always battered back by “where’s the time?” and “I’m still receiving plenty of media travel & event invites,” along with “my wine consulting services continue to expand.” Then I reached last year and I started to recognize some clear patterns in my wine work. While I had plenty of media opportunities and my fellow wine colleagues were continuing to get work, I could see that the pace of my own trade offers beginning to slow down. It was then that I noticed that most of my colleagues began to sport letters after their names on their business cards: they were taking certified educational courses to formalize their wine training. I needed to set up my wine game. It was then that I contacted the good people at Napa Valley Wine Academy (FB, Tw): “help!”

Our-certification-menu-logoThe Napa Valley Wine Academy (NVWA) was founded in 2011 by longtime wine industry veterans, R. Christian Oggenfuss, D.W.S., F.W.S., I.W.P and Catherine Bugue, D.W.S., IWP. As residents of Northern California wine country, they both perceived a lack of true connection between the schools that offered wine and spirits training and the actual regions about which they taught…and thus a fine beverage academy in the Napa Valley was born!  Featuring industry educational luminaries including Master of Wines Peter Marks and Tim Hanni, as well as Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser; they are truly “one foot in the classroom and the other in the vineyards.” The NVWA has experienced tremendous industry support and strong early success, prompting them to expand to satellite locations around the US in Tampa, Florida and Santa Barbara, CA; as well as online. 

IMG_5975The NVWA instructors are spread across all of the major industry certifications, allowing the Academy to provide a full service range of official beverage certifications, including wine, spirits, saké, and beverage service, and region-specific courses. All courses and examinations are given by the academy itself, making it a one-stop educational experience, unlike many other piecemeal organizations. I have chosen to start my wine and beverage education in the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (FB, Tw, YT, NVWA) program, starting with the WSET II Award, courtesy of the NVWA.  More on those adventures later however, as I need to get studying for my first exam! ¡Salud!

#Navarra5 Day 3: The Old & the Pago

Dawn broke for our third day (9/21/11) in the Kingdom of Navarra (Twitter, Facebook) with brilliant signs pointing to even more glorious weather to accompany our travels around this Spanish wine kingdom.  From the window of my hotel room at the historic Palacio Guandelain in Pamplona, I could see and hear the rumblings of the (rare) early rising Navarrans in the plaza that stretched out from the hotel front.  I couldn’t wait to get started on our travels back to the Ribera Alta sub-region of the Navarra DO appellation.  I felt rather rested, since I had given my body the morning off from my usual run, following my great success at getting thoroughly lost, the prior morning.

We cruised down the carretera nacional to our first stop led by our trusty guide, Michael “Miguel” Mantilla (ARGOS Wine Consulting/Kraynick & Associates, Inc.). The village of San Martín de Unx is an ancient village, seemingly made primarily of the light brown and slightly reddish-tinged local stone, with a population of only 400+ inhabitants.  We pulled up at the local cooperative winery for our morning tasting.  Bodegas San Martín (WineLog) was started as a collective in 1914 with about 275 growers.  Like most modern wine regions in Spain, the number of members has decreased substantially since the Bodegas’ early beginnings, with about 175 members contributing to the 2011 harvest and comprised of about 480 acres of vineyard land.

We were greeted at the front of the modern wood and stone building by General Manager Eduardo León and Director of Winemaking & Enology, Gonzalo Celayeta Escudero.  Both men are young and part of the newest generation of wine talent in Navarra.  While very serious about their mission to craft ever higher quality wines while maintaining value, they are also quick with a smile and a laugh, brightening their dark and fine Spanish visages.  One of our first questions was the origin of the mysterious word “unx” in the name of the village.  Eduardo and Gonzalo said that the origin of that word has been lost to history, but that most locals attribute it to a more ancient form of the word for “rabbit” in the local dialect.

While this could become a run-on sentence for the entire #Navarra5 trip, the wines of Bodegas San Martín were pillars of high quality for the price.  Two wines garnered a QPRWK wine badge, with their mix of zesty and fruitiness nicely balanced by a roundness and light creaminess for added complexity…almost unheard for a ~$7 price tag.  The Ilagares Navarra Viura Blanco 2010 and Ilagares Navarra Rosado 2010 stole the early tasting show at San Martín for me for this reason.  A more Old World earthiness and herbal savoriness drew me towards the Señorio de Unx Navarra Reserva 2005 and Alma de Unx Navarra Garnacha 2007, proving that Garnacha is truly a wondrous grape.

The historical portion of our day took us to two very fascinating and OLD sites among the Navarran landscape.  The Church of Saint Mary of Eunate is found along El Camino de Santiago and was founded around the 12th century.  It’s an extremely unusual church with its Romanesque, octagonal shape and sited relatively far from any other habitations around that time in history.  While Eunate’s exact origins may never be known, it is rumored to have been founded by the Knights Templar.  Regardless of its early beginnings, the beauty of the Church is almost indescribable and exudes a very old and humbling, enigmatic presence. We toured the Church following service (yes, it still has regular services throughout the week), thanks to our same wonderful guide from Pamplona.

Puente La Reina (literally: bridge of the Queen) is another historic site along the El Camino do Santiago.  It was, and still is, a crucial stop along the route as it lies between the larger cities of Pamplona and Estella and most importantly, has an stunning stone bridge which pilgrims can use to safely cross the Arga river.  It is an insanely beautiful stone village, still inhabited today by about 2,500 Navarrans and supports a number of glorious old churches.

Our last stop of the day was back up closer to Pamplona but due West, at the rather stunning Señorio de Otazu (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog), with General Manager, Javier Bañales Vañes. Otazu is situated in the small municipality of Etxauri, in the Tierra Estella sub-region.  Here the Pyrenees begin to exert an influence, cooling what would otherwise be a hot winegrowing region.  This cooling is so substantial, that Otazu actually has the most Northerly red wine and chardonnay vineyards in all of Navarra.

The estate has winemaking origins that date back all the way to the 15th century, but its modern era started in 1990 and combined two passions for a modern wine, as well as modern art.  The estate grounds and buildings are dotted with a mixture of historical winemaking antiques and modern sculpture and paintings; a theme that can be also be found in the architecture and even the wines of Otazu. The ultra-modern, new winemaking facility and barrel room is breathtaking, situated behind (and below) the original historic building that doubles as an art gallery and entryway into the subterranean private tasting room and entryway into the barrel room.

I took footage in the barrel room that you can find embedded below from Vinopanion’s YouTube channel. In it Javier discusses some of the winemaking philosophy at Otazu, where the wine history and terroir of Navarra are respected, but with a modern, approachable, and über-premium perspective. Otazu makes wine, above all, that is enjoyable for the consumer, “people are asking for wine to enjoy wine.” But don’t think that their discarding all of that beautiful acidity and tasty savory dried herbs that you can find in traditional Navarran wine, “the blood of wine is acidity. nevermind muscles and bone,” ie, no flabby, fat New World wines to be had at their Estate.

[winebadge id=”61167″]

The Spanish wine authorities agree with the quality of the wine at Otazu: they are one of the only estates in all of Spain that have been awarded the designation Vino de Pago, or Pago DO.  These estates are considered the “First Growths” of Spain, and this DO (or Denominación de Origen) spans across Spain, it is driven purely by quality and by the vineyard and resulting wine’s ability to properly represent the best of wine from Spain.  As of the end of 2011, was one of only 11 DO Pagos throughout Spain.

We tasted the small lineup of wines from Otazu in their tasting salon, just past their underground gallery and overlooking the curved lines of the tremendous cellar.  While I’d had some of Otazu’s lower-priced offerings in the past, their reserva Señorío de Otazu line was very impressive.  Bigger wines are featured here, but still retaining that litheness and nerve of acidity, alongside lurking leather and herbal savoriness that I love in the wines from Navarra.  The Señorío de Otazu Vinos de Pago de Otazu 2006 that you see to the right garnered an AwesomeWK, as did my favorite of the day (and perhaps the whole trip), the Señorío de Otazu Navarra Altar 2006, my highest WKBadge.  I can’t remember awarding this wine badge to more than one wine at a single tasting.

 

Following our tasting and the tour that can see above, we headed off for yet another fantastic three hour lunch…Navarrans know how to EAT. Javier took us to his favorite restaurant, which quickly became one of my own. Seriously.  This resto visit has to be in the top three meals that I’ve ever had in my life, both for the food (of course and paired with Otazu flagships), but also for the absolutely mindblowing setting.  We literally, LITERALLY, sat on the edge of the cliff, in the historic tiny center of Etxauri.  You can hear our expressions at the end of the video above, just after we arrive at Restaurante Sarbil Jatetxea and experience foodie shock and awe.  I’d say even more, but the best explanations of this meal, as well as our dinner following at the famed La Runa Sideria, have been penned by my good #Navarra5 cohort, Beau Carufel (Twitter, Facebook), on his blog Beau’s Barrel Room.

Our travels across Navarra were tagged in realtime on Twitter using the hashtag #Navarra5.  The intro post in this series can be found earlier on Vinopanion, with Day 1 and Day 2 covered earlier in this series. You can find all of the photos & videos from this fabulous trip to Navarra, Spain (Twitter, Facebook) (and a little to Basque Country) on my Flickr in their own set and tagged with “Navarra5“.  All of my runs that I took (including getting lost!) are on my MapMyFitness, titled “Wines of Navarra“.  Lastly and most importantly, all of the awesome wines that we had from our first day are listed below and all are tagged with “Navarra5” so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  Cheers!

Wines from Bodegas San Martín (WineLog):

 

 Ilagares Navarra Viura Blanco 2010

Color: Very light yellow/green

Nose: Muted nose, but clean lemon and lime here.

Palate: Very zesty lime and some Meyer lemon into a bit of roundness and cream as the base. Great zesty and juicy lime and brief white florals in finish, very refreshing: QPRWK.

 Ilagares Navarra Rosado 2010

Color: Light cherry and strawberry pink, lightest pink edges.

Nose: Very juicy raspberry and rhubarb and some bigger strawberry as well.

Palate: Very juicy strawberry and a bit of watermelon, sweet fruit but a dry wine, balanced bright acidity. Very juicy and persistent raspberry finish. Tasty: QPRWK.

Ilagares Navarra Flor de Unx 2010

Alma de Unx Garnacha Baja Montaña Cepas Viejas 2010

Ilagares Navarra Tinto 2010

Señorio de Unx Navarra Crianza 2007

 Señorio de Unx Navarra Reserva 2005

Color: Ruby core, ruby edges.

Nose: Great earth and integrated savory oak and black fruit nose, leather, dried garden herbs.

Palate: Initial blackest sweeter fruit intro, immediately into leather and garden fennel, savory flint and great acid. Leather and finer coating tannin finish. Very good: OldWorldWK.

 Alma de Unx Navarra Garnacha 2007

Color: Deeper ruby core, ruby edges.

Nose: Totally aromatic, very savory and tasty herb and spiced nose earthy oak and blackest fruit.

Palate: Big fruit intro, then the great acidity kicks in and that same earthy and savory herb combo from the nose. Finishing with some sweeter toast and the finest tannin structure, all ripe black fruit all the way: OldWorldWK.

Wines from Señorio de Otazu (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog):

 

Otazu Navarra Chardonnay 2009

Otazu Navarra Rosado 2010

 Señorío de Otazu Vinos de Pago de Otazu 2006

Color: Garnet edges, med garnet edges.

Nose: Very smooth, savory and earthy and deep black fruit, with pencil lead.

Palate: extremely smooth and sensual mouthfeel, anise, new leather, deep black and red fruit, fine tannins and a coolness to the finish. Extremely good: AwesomeWK.

 Señorío de Otazu Navarra Altar 2006

Color: Dark ruby, med ruby edges.

Nose: Great stony and flinty leather and earth, black fruit just barely poking through. Great.

Palate: Big wine here yet also smooth and cool. Black fruit all the way, good acidity, amazing savory components here with oak integrating and just loads complexity: AwesomeWK.

Señorío de Otazu Navarra Vitral 2005

Mumm Napa Wine Blogger Brunch

Bubbly is a beautiful thing.  Sparkling wine has always been considered a wine of celebration; its intriguing bubbles rising up to toss forth a froth of scented effervescence, enlivening spirits at any accompanying event.  For me however, bubbly, bubbly, and more bubbly is the way that I prefer to shimmy through life.  My lady Elizabeth Fontaine, the beguiling star behind the brightness of my life, would only agree, with a most sensible of nods.  Bubbles are her vinous companion, and at times, her artistic muse.  We go through stretches where there is a bottle of bubbly to accompany each day…the other nice thing about sparkling wine is its low percent alcohol. 😉

And so it was with great fervor that we responded with a resounding YES to an invitation to attend a wine blogger luncheon last December at the renowned Mumm Napa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) estate in the Napa Valley, courtesy of Brand Action Team and Thea Dwelle of Luscious Lushes (Twitter, Facebook). As an interesting aside, Spoontonic Lounge (Twitter, Facebook) in Walnut Creek, one of our favorite haunts, has carried the Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Prestige for a little over a year.  As a number of us adopted the bubbly as our signature drink, the tasty value non-vintage cuvée spread like wildfire and proprietor Jeffrey Sun has proceeded to clear through a good amount each month.

Beth and I arrived early at the Estate, up on Silverado Trail in the Rutherford AVA.  While we’d had some poor weather earlier in the week, the sun had burst out that winter morning and was almost painfully exhilarating, sparkling through the moisture on the sleeping vines.  We greeted Thea whom arrived a few minutes after ourselves and marveled at the number of people that were lining up to visit the popular winery, prior to its 10am opening.

We entered the winery once the large wooden doors were opened, revealing the courtyard in the center of the property.  There we were greeted by Assistant Winemaker, Tamra Lotz and Mitch Davis. Mitch with his tall, clean looks and high energy, probably immediately brightened the mornings of many of the ladies in attendance.  Tamra Lotz, a fellow Vintage High alumnus and classmate, is the easy-going, highly engaging sort that you’d want to lead you on a tasty tour of her winemaking facilities.

We were also greeted with my favorite sparkling wine of the day, the fantastic 2006 Mumm Napa Napa Valley Devaux Ranch Brut. Made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and their signature inclusion of Pinot Gris, this sparkler forced me to give it a QPRWK and AwesomeWK wine badges, yet it only clocks in at $36.  That is a phenomenal price for a wine that features this much complexity.  The fruit was sourced from their Devaux Ranch vineyard in Carneros, named for their founding winemaker, Guy Devaux.  I’d summarize my tasting notes on this wine, but I think that it deserves the full breakdown of its deliciousness:

Color: A mix of yellow gold and brighter canary highlights, a very fine bead and frothy mousse.
Nose: Fantastic, with a complex fruit mixture of drier citrus, more rounder tropical fruit and yellow apple. Cream and light brioche is here as well, along with a zing of minerality.
Palate: Also awesome, this shows that same complex mixture of fruit from the nose, along with a beautiful round and yet very vibrant and creamy palate, with that same fine bead. Dustier toast comes in as well, finishing alternating clean citrus and creamier brioche. Extremely good and actually underpriced: AwesomeWK, QPRWK.

With the Devaux Ranch in our hands, we headed off into the winery for a tour of their facilities.  Mumm Napa was founded in 1983, by M. Devaux for the G.H. Mumm Champagne house, based in Reims, France.  The winery is a well-deserved and huge destination in the Napa Valley, with its regular tours, flight tastings, permanent Ansel Adams photography collection, and rotating  photography exhibitions.  While we were there, Media Ant and Mutineer Magazine‘s own Ashley Teplin was showing many of her photos of local food and wine artisans.  It’s no wonder that they host over 130,000 visitors each year!

Tamra took us through the entire winemaking facilities that bright morning, starting with the tank room, where much of the current 2011 vintage wines were undergoing cold storage.  This process allows (harmless) tartrate crystals to precipitate out, naturally leftover in the finished wine from the brightly acidic grapes that go into sparkling and most white wines.  Most of the tanks were caked with frost, their glycol jackets at slightly freezing temperatures in order to get the wine cold enough for full stabilization.  Following the crushpad tour, we had a short blending demonstration, which clearly showed the how each of the varietal wines mentioned earlier can contribute to the wine.  Chardonnay for mouthfeel and pitted fruits, Pinot Noir for cherry fruits and further depth, Pinot Meunier for more darker fruit notes and earthiness and finally, Pinot Gris for more tropical fruits and floral notes.

Walking down the hall back to the tasting room, we encountered…BOB: their large and incredibly efficient robot that handles the bottling and handling of the wines, before they are transferred to the riddling room.  Making sparkling wine is much more manually intensive than other wines.  First you must make the still wine, filter it, and then it is time for the second dose of sugar and yeast that goes in to provide the bubbles.  It is literally a second fermentation in the bottle, for the high end Traditional Method, or “méthode traditionnelle,” as it is called around the world in the French language.  Following that, there is months to years of riddling, or the process by which the eventually spent yeast and their debris is shaken down into the neck of the bottle 1-2x per day, until it is ready to be removed for final bottling, called disgorgement.  The final act is to top off the now sparkling bottle with a syrupy mixture of still wine and sugar, called the dosage, that tops up the wine and creates the proper house balance between acidity and sweetness for that particular label.

Whew!  After all of that info, we were a bit thirsty.  We moved on into a more private area of the main tasting lounge, where Winemaker Ludovic Dervin greeted us with the warmest of smiles coming from his strong, but kindly-featured face and barrel-strength body.  Starting with a brief bio, he then began to walk us through the wines and touching upon the 2011 vintage, one which he described as “really a growers year, [with] a lot of work in the vineyard.”

Starting with the aforementioned Brut Prestige, we then traveled through almost their entire line, in the order listed below.  All of the value wines, up through the Cuvée M, all featured very bright fruit flavors and a ton of crispness in style, with a hint of cream underlying everything.  As we got into their higher end wines, I found two more that entered into my favorites.  The Mumm Napa Napa Valley DVX 2003 featured a ton of complexity, with its brioche and more Old World complexity, still brightened by great acidity and the finest of bubbles.  Additionally, the Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Reserve Rosé NV showed off super-crisp red and citrus fruit, alongside a great zing of cherry and minerality.  In all, both Beth and I felt that their line included sparkling wines for any palate.  Ludovic’s engaging personality and delight to answer any question made the tasting all the more entertaining and educational.

Beth’s and my own thanks go out to Brand Action Team, Thea, Tamra, Ludovic, and everyone else at Mumm Napa for the wonderful day tasting their wines and learning about their sparkling winemaking process.

You can find all of the wines listed below from that bright day at Mumm Napa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) in December.  They are all tagged with “MummN2011Brunch“, so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  All of the photos can be found on my Flickr in their own set and also on the Vinopanion Facebook page, in their own set. Cheers!

Mumm Napa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog):

 Mumm Napa Napa Valley Devaux Ranch Brut 2006

Color: A mix of yellow gold and brighter canary highlights, a very fine bead and frothy mousse.

Nose: Fantastic, with a complex fruit mixture of drier citrus, more rounder tropical fruit and yellow apple.  Cream and light brioche is here as well, along with a zing of minerality.

Palate: Also awesome, this shows that same complex mixture of fruit from the nose, along with a beautiful round and yet very vibrant and creamy palate, with that same fine bead.  Dustier toast comes in as well, finishing alternating clean citrus and creamier brioche.  Extremely good and actually underpriced: AwesomeWK, QPRWK.

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Sparkling Pinot Meunier 2008

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Prestige NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Rosé NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Cuvée M NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Blanc de Blancs 2007

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Reserve NV

 Mumm Napa Napa Valley DVX 2003

Color: Medium to finer bead, deeper canary yellow.

Nose: Brioche, bread, earth, dried lemon and yellow apple, all with good intensity.

Palate: Weightier, very yeasty and savory, drier apricot, peach and very dry lemon bar.  Good acid, savory and even showing some slight tannin: OldWorldWK.

 Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Reserve Rosé NV

Color: Beautiful strawberry pink, very fine and very robust bead.

Nose: Crisp red fruit underlaid with a nice earthiness and line of minerality.

Palate: Very vibrant feel and zesty acidity, then some weight and rounder fruit comes in, finishing with a citrus and mineral finish: OldWorldWK.

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Santana Brut NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Prestige Extended Tirage Selection NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Sparkling Pinot Noir NV

 

All wines on WineLog.net from Mumm Napa:

[winelist query=”Mumm%2BNapa” num=”100″]

#Navarra5 Day 2: Lost in Iruña, Malón de Echaide, & Bodegas Finca Albret

Our second full day in Kingdom of Navarra (Twitter, Facebook) (day 3 if you’re counting our travel day) started off a bit scary, due to the usual amount of stupidity that I tend to afford myself.  As you’ve probably noticed from my previous post about Day 1 in Navarra, I love to go on a run in the cities that I visit around the world. I feel that it is one of the best ways to get to know a new foreign land and its people. Like an idiot always, I only carried my hotel keycard and a bit of cash in case I got into trouble and needed a taxi.  I then headed out way before dawn at about 5:50am to streets unknown.  Oh, and did I neglect to mention that I have absolutely no sense of direction?…I’m a total Marcus Brody. An hour later, my 20 minute jog has clearly turned into the definition of a lost tourist, replete with Spanglish as my only tool to communicate…no phone to call for a taxi, nor to even let my #Navarra5-mates know why I wouldn’t be in the lobby at 7:45am!

Not surprisingly, Navarrans don’t really like to get up early, like much of the Romantic cultures of Europe.  I was more apt to find people going to BED, rather than going to work.  The few people I did find were indeed, heading home after a long night of work or fun and knew absolutely no English, nor could I understand enough of their directions in their native Spanish.  Yet despite this, they all tried happily and desperately to help me to find my way back to the hotel.  Almost two hours later, I did find my way back with the help of multiple sleepy-eyed, kind residents of Pamplona.  My final savior was a saintly man that convinced me to walk to “mi casa, esta near La Iglesia,” or near the church that I knew was a landmark in the city and near our hotel.  As I recognized familiar storefronts and plazas, I begged off his very generous offer to cook me breakfast in his home and tiredly jogged over to the hotel.  The beautiful kindness of the people of Navarra was burned into my mind after this experience and I feel that it will never leave my heart.

Despite my long morning adventures, I did manage to stumble down to the lobby at precisely 7:45am to meet the rest of our group for our long day out in the Navarran wine country.  Our first stop of the morning was down in the southern end of Navarra, in its Ribera Baja sub-appellation.  There we encountered a smaller rural town called Cascante that includes a large bodega known as Malón de Echaide (Facebook, WineLog).  A co-op since 1951, it was founded with 1000 different grapegrowers, but with the extensive pullback in the grape growing industry in Spain over the last 15 years, their membership has been pared down to its current collective count of ~200.  The winery was in full swing when we arrived with the harvest hitting all across Navarra.  We then made the embarrassing mistake of clambering right over and onto the scale where winegrowers would weigh their grapes, in order to take some photo.   I’m sure the farmer wasn’t too pleased with Cuvée Corner‘s Bill Eyer (Twitter, Facebook), Wine Harlots Nannette Eaton (Twitter, Facebook), and myself adding to his initial tare (no scales were harmed in the making of this post).  Following our gaffe, we headed inside for a tasting of their value wines and tour of the very active winery, including their in-house bottling line, all courtesy of Patricia Ansorena Sanchez.

The wines of Malón de Echaide are a perfect example of the high level of quality for the price that you can get with the wines from Navarra.  The wines we tasted were ridiculously cheap, with the majority of them hitting your wallet for only $5 (~¢1.30)…that is, if they were available in the US.  Get on it, importers!  The most expensive of the lot we tasted, from their Viña Parot Reserva line, still would only top out at around $16 in the US.  The most fascinating wines for me were the value line, including one that garnered a WKBadge.  The 2007 Malón de Echaide Navarra Crianza, a wine that by Spanish law has been aged at the bodega for a minimum of 2 years with one of those in oak, showed incredible QPR. Featuring flint, cherry fruit and toast in the nose and all of that plus black currant and dusty tannins on the palate, this wine still is only in that (future) $5 range.

A later tour of the winery was where we discovered the active bottling plant (see the video below), along with a massive underground barrel cellar, and possibly one of the largest fermentation tanks that I’ve ever seen, at well over 100,000 gallons.

 

Our next stop was quite some ways away and to the north from Echaide and we had to cross the river Ebro to get to it.  The Ebro river runs through a number of famous wine regions in Spain, including both Navarra and Rioja.  We crossed it over a rather dramatic hanging white steel bridge, but I was unable to get a good shot of it from the back of our speeding minivan.  Our destination was Bodegas Finca Albret (Facebook, WineLog). It is found in the Ribera Alta sub-appellation and it is the first property developed by its parent, Bodegas Príncipe de Viana (Facebook), an older bodega and where we would later have a stunning, primarily vegetarian lunch.  Here we were greeted by Communications Manager Marifé Blanco along with Albret’s viticulturalist for a vineyard tour.

The soil of Albret is rocky alluvial, somewhat similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhone Valley of France.  The vines surrounding the bodega and seen in the photo to the right were Graciano, a variety and resulting varietal wine that I found to be one of my favorites from Navarra.  Marifé said that Graciano is a very challenging grape to grow, much like Pinot Noir.  In the neighboring region of Rioja, she said that they say: “Graciano?  Gracias No!” Including the Graciano, the bodega has a total of 400 acres of vineyards, both surrounding the winery and in the nearby rivers and hills.  The 2011 vintage had been good to them so far, with warm, even weather that had very little rain during harvest by that point.

Our tasting was led by the Enologist/Winemaker, Isabel Lopez de Murillas Manrique.  These wines were definitely at a higher price point than Echaide, but were still mainly in the $24 – $32 range.  My favorites were the Reservas, natch. 😉  The Albret Navarra Reserva 2006 featured a closed nose, indicating that it needed some aging, but the palate showed off some very nice ripe, juicy red and black cherry, powerful, fine tannins, and an earthier cherry tobacco finish.  Meanwhile their flagship wine, the Albret Navarra La Viña de Mi Madre Reserva 2006 also needs plenty of aging, but includes many of the flavors of the standard Reserva, plus chalkier tannin and more of a dried black fruit on the palate, along with cigar box.  Both wines garnered KeeperWK badges.

After the previously mentioned astounding lunch, we drove back up north to Pamplona and most of us took a long-awaited snooze on that longer drive back to our hotel, the Palacio Guandelain. After another brief respite, we congregated again for a guided tour of Pamplona, led by a wonderful tour guide.  Pamplona is a city of 200,000 residents year-round and can swell to over three times that many for the Festival of San Fermín, or the “Running of the Bulls,” made so famous by Ernest Hemingway.  Indeed, they have many famous landmarks within the city, devoted to Hemingway. We even were able to drink one of his favorite digestif following dinner that night, the local speciality called Pacharán. It is made from sloe berries and anisette and served over ice.  I immediately became hooked on this, being a fan of many herbal aperetis and digestifs, and was rather delighted to be drinking it at Hemingway’s old hangout, Café Iruña.  With that, we called it a night and collapsed into bed, resting up for Day 3!

Our travels across Navarra were tagged in realtime on Twitter using the hashtag #Navarra5.  The intro post in this series can be found earlier on Vinopanion, with Day 1 being my previous post in this series. You can find all of the photos & videos from this fabulous trip to Navarra, Spain (Twitter, Facebook) (and a little to Basque Country) on my Flickr in their own set and tagged with “Navarra5“.  All of my runs that I took (including getting lost!) are on my MapMyFitness, titled “Wines of Navarra“.  Lastly and most importantly, all of the awesome wines that we had from our first day are listed below and all are tagged with “Navarra5” so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  Cheers!

Wines from Malón de Echaide (Facebook, WineLog):

 Malón de Echaide Navarra Crianza 2007

Color: Med ruby, light ruby edges

Nose: Ripe black cherry with light flint and touch of toast and anise.

Palate: Medium to full bodied, with bright and deep black and red fruit, light, drier coating tannins and a black currant finish. Very good for this price, if it were available in the US: QPRWK.

Malón de Echaide Navarra Rosado Garnacha 2010

Malón de Echaide Navarra Tinto Roble Garnacha 2008

 Viña Parot Navarra Reserva 2003

Color: Medium garnet, light garnet edges.

Nose: Earthy here, with still good drier black fruit, cool anise and charred earth.

Palate: Cool and bright mouthfeel with dried black fruit and tobacco with cigar box out into the lighter tannin finish and dried earth. Good: OldWorldWK.

Wines from Bodegas Finca Albret (Facebook, WineLog):

Albret Navarra Chardonnay 2010

Albret Navarra Rosado Garnacha 2010

Albret Navarra French Oak Crianza 2007

 Albret Navarra Reserva 2006

Color: Darkest garnet, darker garnet edges.

Nose: Flinty and hot, rocky earth. Fruit is closed but does have some black poking thru.

Palate: Very red cherry licorice, with lots of that savory tobacco and hot stone here as well, good acidity and powerful but fine tannins. Finish is cherry tobacco and long and earthy: KeeperWK.

 Albret Navarra La Viña de Mi Madre Reserva 2006

Color: darkest ruby, ruby edges

Nose: Cool red fruit, big fresh anise and dark cocoa as well, earth here as well. Some kind of violet florals add complexity.

Palate: Bigger acidity, supporting chalkier tannins, big anise here as well. Chocolate & tobacco, dry bigger tannin structure. Good and very young. Ends with black fruit and some of that cocoa, a bit of juiciness as well. Good but young: KeeperWK.

All of the wines from our trip to the Kingdom of Navarra (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog):

[winelist query=”Navarra5″ num=”150″]

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