#DrinkMontsant Day 3: In Soil There is Truth

Celler de Capçanes Soils & Garnatxa
Celler de Capçanes soils & Garnatxa

When we last left off from this #DrinkMontsant adventure in D.O. Montsant, we discussed why the people of this sparsely populated region work so hard to keep their vines, wines and village moving forward into the future. Virtually all of the DO (wine appellation) is contained within the Priorat county, yet the population of the county hovers only around 10,00 dedicated souls. In part 1 of this series we gave a short introduction to this amazing wine region.  It is now that I’d like to answer the other pressing question that I had before embarking on this delicious media trip: why did the winegrowers and winemakers of Montsant work so hard to create this DO In short: the true gift of this region is its soil.

Celler de Capçanes
Celler de Capçanes

We shall start this dirty lesson (see what I di..oh never mind!) actually on the morning of our last day: in the winery of Celler de Capçanes, located in the tiny village of the same name. Our host was winemaker Anna Rovira, who also works with their consulting rabbi team to make some incredible kosher wines, as well (see the Peraj Ha’Abib review below, nom!).  We had a fascinating lesson about the incredible efforts it takes to create a kosher wine, particularly if the actual winemaker is not a rabbi.  My vino colleague on the trip, Becca of The Academic Wino and The Alcohol Professor, wrote a killer breakdown of the kosher winemaking process. Anna then led us through one of the most informative and fascinating wine tastings I’ve ever had the luck to partake.  Like all winemakers in Montsant (and most wine regions in Europe, in fact) the quality and typicity of their wines all come down to the soils in the vineyards.

Fira del Vi FalsetNow, Montsant has a famous wine festival every year in April/May, Fira del Vi de Falset, indeed it just took place.  At that festival, Celler de Capçanes began making a special set of 4 wine lots that were 100% garnatxa (grenache), one for each of the distinct soils found in their vineyards.  These wines weren’t for sale, only the final vineyard blend (still 100% garnatxa).  These became the star of the festival however, and thus they were forced to begin marketing them locally in small quantities and now, across the world. They call these wines La Nit de Les Garnatxes, and package them with very unique cartoons, pictured above. It was this presentation of wines that really brought home the importance of *soil* to these wines of Montsant. The Sand wine from sandy soils brought with it very bright and juicy acidity, with a plushness to the red fruit. Clay brought out more plummy and round fruit, with a fuller body the wine, as a contrast to the medium-full Sand. Meanwhile and perhaps not surprisingly, the Limestone soils brought out a flinty minerality, that greatly complemented the more-structured, medium-body aspects, complete with cool and ripe cherry fruit. Lastly, the Slate soils expressed a much more tannic and plummy wine, with lower acidity and very ripe fruit…fascinating!  You can find the full reviews, below.

Jesus del Rio Matheu - Mas de l’AbundànciaAnother remarkable morning visit was had at the isolated vineyards of Mas de l’Abundància. Owner and maverick winemaker, Jesus del Rio Matheu hosted us in the midst of his vineyards, above his home and little river offshoot, and below the historical site of a longtime hermitage.  Indeed, in some ways, Jesus is a hermit himself, proudly stating that he finally was hooked up to the internet only two weeks prior.  Highly opinionated, yet also humble in many ways, Jesus ended up being one of the most interesting winemakers that we met on this trip. I had the good fortune to be seated near him during our crushingly good lunch at Celler del l’Aspic, where we were further regaled with many an unusual tale and plenty of hard-earned winemaking knowledge.  But, that’s a little ahead of ourselves! Jesus is very in tune with the sort of unknowables that go into his vines and resultant wines. He seems to work by gut, trusting “the energy” of his little place in the world and always try to work with that energy, not against.  The result is a set of truly remarkable wines, dripping down the sides of the glass with a sense of place (slate & sandy soils) and in the case of the first wine we tasted, the Montsant Calpino was the best white that I tasted on the entire trip. I could have spent the entire rest of the morning tasting through the wines again and again, while learning more at the seat of this interesting hermit of wine.

Acústic Celler

We had another vineyard tasting lined up, straight after Jesus of the River, to taste through the music-infused wines of Acústic Celler. Here the tasting was a little more challenging, unfortunately.  The cold, bracing wind that had started to pick up at the end of our time with Jesus had become a full gale, hitting +35 mph for the gusts…this made evaluating the nose of each wine pretty impossible, not to mention very cold.  That said, you could immediately tell *why* Albert Jane and his team wanted us to taste in their vineyard: the view was absolutely stunning.  You could truly see the highly varied elevations, soils and accompanying plant life that define this wine region from our little perch in the wind and sun. Since ur visit, the certified organic, minimally manipulated wines of Acústic have been well scored over al Wine Spectator this month, with the 2014 vintage of the Auditori making the cover as one of the tope grenaches in the world (we tasted the delicious 2009, a #NewWorldWK winner).

And then we were off to the last two wineries of the day, Cellers Unió and Portal de Montsant.  Both were quite a contrast with each other. Unió is another coop, working to create inexpensive, easy-drinking wines that could still be defined as Montsant. Portal was a part of a larger family portfolio of wineries, itself something of a spinoff of a massive Spanish wine family portfolio. Unió’s Perlat line of wines had some good value to them, particularly the #QPRWK badge winner, 2015 Cellers Unió Montsant Perlat Blend.  Portal, meanwhile hit great strides with their Brunus line, where the 2016 Rosé and 2015 Brunus red blend were two favorites.

Red clay soils of Acústic Celler.

Our last tasting of the day was in the little wine bar that was attached to the back of our lunchtime feast of a restaurant (Celler del l’Aspic), called 2 Origens.  Here we were greeted by Marta Carbonell, who would lead us through the wines of her employer, Josep Grau Viticultor. Here the 2016 Josep Grau Viticultor Montsant Figuerals Garnatxa stood out the most for me, but all of the wines were quite good, if definitely some of the priciest we’d tasted so far (the 2016 is pegged around $85 or so).

And so it was, that our best wine education of this #DrinkMontsant trip ended.  We finished the third day with a phenomenal meal alongside many of these same vintners at the rather awesome Hotel Lotus Priorat bar & restaurant. This meal, how shall we say it, was a bit more boisterous than the rest and it was so nice to have such a rollicking time with these winegrowers and winemakers in a much more casual atmosphere.  The food remained top notch however, and again lived up to the axiom that with good, terroir-driven wine comes highly localized, wonderfully paired cuisine. Thus, in their soil lies the truth of this DO, for their wines, their food and their community.


DO Montsant

This trip was a fully paid media trip, courtesy of DO Montsant.  Check out the first and second posts in this series for further background of this distinctive wine region. ¡Salud!

Featured wines from the #DrinkMontsant media trip Day 3 (and a teeny bit of Day 4), reviewed on my Vivino:

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant La Nit de Les Garnatxes Panal-Sand

* C Darker ruby here, ruby edges
* N Slight smoke in the toast here, with darker fruit of mainly black and some black cherry, some slight herbs too.
* P Very bright here, with much more plush and bright cherry fruit, Med tannin very round and Med to full weight, some raspberry here as well, great juicy and lightly toasted finish. Good.

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant La Nit de Les Garnatxes Argila-Clay

* C Med to dark ruby here, ruby edges
* N Brighter red fruit here, still toast, but no smoke, also some plum.
* P Deeper plum fruit here, also very round but more full here with fuller weight and more structured tannin. Acidity is still bright, it less crisp than sand. Very good.

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant La Nit de Les Garnatxes Calissa-Limestone

* C Med ruby, ruby edges
* N Flinty black fruit, with toast and some clean minerality near the rim. Nice.
* P Very good here, tighter and more structure than previous. Cool ripe cherry fruit, lighter tannin, medium body and more linear than previous. Good.

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant La Nit de Les Garnatxes Llicorella-Slate

* C Darker ruby, ruby edges
* N More oxidized plum here, with toast and marzipan.
* P Round and plummy here almost jammy, much more tannic than previous. Fruit is more ripe, but the wine is definitely more structured and with lower acidity. Not my favorite from this set, but still good.

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant Flor de Primavera Peraj Ha’Abib

* C Garnet core with almost some brick on the edge
* N Leather and cool black fruit in the nose, some toast as well and a zing of slate.
* P Much more plush red and black fruit here than anticipated. Good roundness, Med tannin, medium weight, the. Leather and toast into the good finish.

2016 Mas de l’Abundància Montsant Calpino

* C Very light hay
* N Beautiful, extremely aromatic nose of lemon, lemon blossom, pitted white fruit and light minerality.
* P Very bright, well balanced round light mouth, with that great pitted fruit from nose. Lemon and florals come in at the long, bright finish. Outstanding. #AwesomeWK

2013 Mas de l’Abundància Montsant

* C Med ruby with plenty of sediment.
* N Beautiful deep cherry berry nose, some light flint.
* P Med to full, very smooth feel here, tons of plush red fruit, balanced bright acidity, then flinty minerality and fresh tobacco leaf into the very long finish. Quite good.

2015 Acústic Celler Montsant Braó Vineyes Velles de 60 Ans

* C Ruby bright
* N Earthier toast here, deep and ripe plush red fruit of black cherry.
* P Very juicy but nicely deep and dark toasted black cherry, medium full and round with balanced acid, Med tannin, fine and good finish.

2009 Acústic Celler Montsant Auditori

* C Dark garnet core, Med garnet edges.
* N Big toast here, with some unsweetened chocolate, earth and black fruit.
* P Big boy pants here, round and full, black chocolate and fruit here, balanced acid, flinty oak into finish. Good, diff from all rest. #NewWorldWK

2015 Cellers Unió Montsant Perlat Blend

* C Lighter ruby
* N Smokey toasty black fruit
* P Savory red and black fruit here, with some meatier toasty under and balanced acid chalky feel. Solid. #QPRWK

2016 Portal del Montsant Monsant Brunus Rosé

* C Medium deep watermelon colors here, darker than many
* N Celery and herbs a bit at first, cherry citrus fruit
* P Medium roundness and weight, maybe lighter. Zingy tart cherry and strawberry here with a long juicy finish.

2015 Portal del Montsant Monsant Brunus Blend

* C Darker ruby here, with ruby edges
* N Deeper chocolate toast here with black fruit that shows some brightness near the rim.
* P Med to full, dry nice cool fruited mouth, great acid, coating tannin, for the cherry fruited mid, blackberry underneath. Long finish and chalky feel into that finish. Good.

2016 Josep Grau Viticultor Montsant Figuerals Garnatxa

* C Med to dark ruby with ruby edges
* N Deep and ripe plush red fruit here, raspberry and black cherry, with some nice dustiness in it.
* P Rounder and with more fresh earth here, this has more structure as welll. Still quite bright with the acidity, with layers of bright and dark red fruit. A bit of that earth lurking into tannic but nicely bright finish. Pricey, but very good.

D.O. Montsant: Decade 2 of a Spanish #wine region & #DrinkMontsant!

DO MontsantFirst off, welcome to the new Vinopanion.  A massive thank you to HoustonWino (Another Wine Blog) for the clean facelift and major troubleshooting.

The second bit of big news is that I am headed back to Spain, woot! The good folks at D.O. Montsant, a somewhat younger wine appellation centered around the town of Falset, southwest of Barcelona, is bringing a big contingent of wine writers, bloggers and trade for a tour of the DO. The free media trip is compliments of DO Montsant, so our time will be intensively focused on this small, but exciting DO. You can follow along with #DrinkMontsant

Wine DO of Spain
Created by Emilio Gómez Fernández

I have been quite blessed to attend multiple wine media junkets to the incomparable lands of Spain, visiting DO Navarra, then another to the highly DO contained within Murcia (Bullas, Jumilla, Yecla), and most recently, those containing properties owned by MG Wines (Alicante, Bierzo, Bullas). Joining me on this tour of Montsant will be #Vinopanion‘s old and new (and some previous Spanish wine companions): 1WineDude, James the Wine Guy, Just the Bottle, Grape Experiences, Snooth, Another Wine Blog, The Academic Wino, Drink What YOU Like, and Drinkable Grape.  In addition, representatives and MW/MS/WSET wine students from the Wine Scholar Guild and the venerable (and local) Napa Valley Wine Academy.

DO Montsant Map
Image courtesy of DO Montsant.

So, what can we expect from DO Montsant? Well, this little moon-shaped wine region is found facing east towards the Mediterranean, which is about 15-20 miles away. It is contained within autonomous community of Catalunya, noted for its great city of Barcelona to the NW. The DO was founded in 2001 and is comprised of 65 wineries and 16 villages.  The Ebro River flows through DO and exerts its influence on the roughly ~4700 acres of vineyards, much of which are planted along hillsides with varying inclinations and elevations up to 2500 feet. The climate tends to be warm to hot Mediterranean, but the river, the sea and the mountains all combine to also cool the vineyards down in the later afternoons and at night, maintaining good acidity.  Six white grapes are allowed in the DO, with garnacha blanca and macabeu dominating those blends.  Meanwhile, the reds can be any from 10 varieties, and garnacha tinta and cariñena are the predominate varieties. We will be staying in the largest village in the region with a whopping 2,900 population (similar to my hometown of Yountville :-), Falset.

That’s all fine and dandy and can be gleaned from any international wine tome, however.  I want to find out why this region worked so hard to ratify their own DO…do they still feel connected to the winemaking history of the region that dates back to the Romans? What goes into their bush-trained old vines and how do they tackle sincere craftsmanship in their wines, while still trying to export to international markets? Who are the men and women that are behind these wines, who are the families that have made their mark in this region?  What drives them, day to day, to continue to improve their wines, while still maintaining their traditional, Montsant identity?  These are the questions I want to answer during this incredible trip. Follow along by searching #DrinkMontsant! ¡Salud a todos!

This trip is a fully paid media trip, courtesy of DO Montsant.

#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!

Inaugural TasteLive! Café 140 Broadcast: Winemaker Patrick Krutz

Regular followers of the Vinopanion wine madness know that I regularly partake in the fun online Twitter tastings, brought to us by TasteLive! (Twitter, WineLog).  Many a post has been written and a wine has been reviewed about their solid tastings.  Now the innovative wine minds behind #tl_wine are kicking it up a notch, launching Café 140 as their latest online, and now physical, wine & lifestyle event series.

  Café 140 is a joint venture, physically based at the Heritage Public House at Santa Rosa Vintners’ Square, in partnership with Smiling Tiger Video.  It’s intended to be a monthly series, featuring guests from across the fine beverage, food, and arts lifestyle sphere.  Have no fear, however, they will still be broadcasting live on their great interactive website, per their other projects.  First up on the docket is Patrick Krutz, winemaker for his eponymous Krutz Family Cellars (Facebook, WineLog) as well as the new House Band Wines (Facebook, WineLog), intended to bring wine to the outdoor, music-loving masses.

[winebadge id=”61655″]

Krutz Family Cellars has been kicking out seriously good, fully family-produced fermented grape juice for the last 9 years. Based out of Monterey, I’m a big fan of their Pinot, but they have made a number of solid wines from across the great state of California.  Meanwhile, House Band Wines is a more value-driven brand that utilizes portable packaging so that thirsty wine lovers can have some solid wine everywhere they go, including music events that they will support in the future.

Further adding some excitement to this tasting, at least at Vin0panion HQ, is the knowledge that The Lady will be cooking up a fantastic suite of food to pair with the wines that we’ll be tasting, listed below.  Beth Fontaine is been rocking the food & art blogging on her site, Rollerskating With Scissors, and this TasteLive! Café 140 event will be not be one to miss!  The full details for the event are below and we look forward to seeing you all online.  Cheers!

Café 140 Live with Winemaker Patrick Krutz

Location: Heritage Public House, 1305-A Cleveland Avenue in Santa Rosa, CA

Time: 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM PST

Twitter: #tl_wine

Wines for Cafe1402012Krutz from House Band Wines (Facebook, WineLog) & Krutz Family Cellars (Facebook, WineLog):

[winelist query=”Cafe1402012Krutz” num=”4″]

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