#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.

#DrinkMontsant Day 2: The wine engine of the village that could and does

Montsant & me!

One of the first questions that I wanted to explore during our #DrinkMontsant media trip to D.O. Montsant was about the people behind this great #wine region: what drives them to make their wine in this sparsely populated appellation? Well, I didn’t have to wait long, indeed, that question was answered during our first morning stop of our first full day. It goes beyond merely a passion for creating the wine that defines this DO, in fact it is an on-going effort by both young and old, to preserve their land, vines, villages and Catalunyan way of lifeThe wine is their saving grace and they are the creators of that beautiful grace.  It is a magnificent (and delicious) circle of life.

That first stop was the cooperative winery, Celler Masroig, in the tiny village of El Masroig. It’s an innovative take on the cooperative approach to winemaking, so popular in Europe.  All members of the coop are also partners in what is now a private business (normally they would just be guaranteed to be able to sell their wine to the coop, without partnership).  We were hosted by Eulàlia Roca, born and raised in Masroig, she came back to help run what she calls the “family business”.  She describes the winery as “the engine of the village” and you can see why; the celler is the only business in this ancient village of 500 inhabitants and virtually everyone in the village either is a partner, winegrower or works at the winery, itself.  It was that moment when I realized that they make the wine, but it is also the wine that makes them; that beautiful circle, come to life. Their wines reflect that all-consuming dedication to their craft and their way of life, showing the structure, freshness and great food-centric acidity of the carinyena (carginan), alongside the deeper and rounder fruit from the garnatxa (grenache) and garnatxa blanca.

Miquel Coca i Fito

From there we moved on to one of the vino highlights of the trip for me, Coca i Fitó.  Just a short, but gorgeous walk up the village’s hill from the previous celler, CiF is owned and run by two brothers, Toni and Miquel Coca i Fitó. Miquel hosted us and gave us a tour through the multistory, old building that now houses their winemaking efforts and cellar space.  Miquel has had quite an awesome life, having been a prominent chef for many years (including a stint at the legendary El Bulli), and he also told a familiar story we would hear for the rest of the trip: family and need to get back to his roots drove him to form the winery with his brother as the winemaker.  He led us through seven wines and each of them were good to fantastic.  Unfortunately, I can only feature a couple below, their delicious (though pricey) 2016 Rosa (rosé) of 100% syrah, and the 2011 Negre blend of syrah, carinyena and garnatxa.  The 2011 was still so fresh, I had to give it a #KeeperWK #WKbadge…I would love to try that wine once it has 3-4 more years of age. It was an additional pleasure to be seated across from Miquel during our lunch at Restaurant Quinoa, a few hours later.

Following the remarkable wines of Coca i Fitó, we headed off to further tastings and lunch.  Celler Cairats was next, where the absolute fastidiousness of owner Ramon Masip, along with the labor and support of wife and son brought us further proof of the detailed care of the vintners.  Cairats goal is to provide an anchor for their tiny village of Darmós and to fully incorporate the most sustainable, organic practices possible in their vineyards, winery and even their home. This dedication to fully sustainable, clean living and working, and determination to support their village was further reinforced by Jaume Giral, the somewhat maverick owner of Celler Ronadelles. His three properties in the village of Cornudella de Montsant are testament to his determination to stay local and produce local, rather than transport everything elsewhere to single larger building.

Serra de Montsant, behind Cellers Sant RafelOur last visit before a phenomenal dinner back at our hotel, Hostal Sport, was with Xavi Peñas, at his palatial estate for this region and outside of the villages, Cellers Sant Rafel. Tucked into its own little valley, against the mountains of this region, their a great example of the ancient stone-walled practice of vineyard terracing (marges) along the steep mountain slopes. It is also one of the closest estates to the sea within the DO.

It was here that we tasted through his selection of back vintages and current releases.  We went into his cellar with the sun still just above the mountain tops, and when we finishedwe were treated to a spectacular sunset splashing red, pink and orange across the naked stone Serra de Montsant cliff-face. It was a perfect template of colors and natural canvas to finish off our first full day tasting wines colored the same shades.

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

 

 

Featured wines from the #DrinkMontsant media trip Night 1 and Day 2, reviewed on my Vivino:

2012 Falset Marçà Montsant Lo Senyor del Castell ⭐⭐⭐½

Color: Darker garnet here, with lighter garnet edges.
Nose: Super meaty and leathery here, with earthier red fruit.
Palate: Cool mouth to start off and fruitier than expected, then mixed cherry flavors come in with great acidity. Coating, smooth tannin and fuller mouthfeel take into the good long finish.

2016 Celler Masroig Montsant Les Sorts Blanc ⭐⭐⭐⭐

C: Lighter canary yellow
N: Nice toasty pear and lighter Meyer lemon here
P: Medium full here with very bright acidity, but also nicely creamier feel from battonage, toasted lemon medley here, also with some nice spicy notes towards the end. Good.

2015 Celler Masroig Montsant Carinyena ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* C Darker violet and ruby core, with ruby edges
* N Deeper red cherry fruit here, delving into fresh pie, with air, more of that pie crust aroma, also some black fruit underneath, good and deep.
* P Bigger and round and smooth here, with deep black and Bing cherry fruit, medium smooth tannin, some of that toasted pie crust towards the dark and juicy finish, quite good and would be interesting in about 4yrs to see how it ages.

2016 Coca i Fitó Montsant Rosa ⭐⭐⭐⭐

C very light coral
N Light juicy raspberry here, blood orange aroma too
P Very juicy great acid here, light bodied and some slight smoothness, Very tart finish of blood orange as well, good and fresh.

2011 Coca i Fitó Montsant Negre ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* C very dark ruby here, ruby edges
* N Earthier notes here, but then deep depths of black fruit as well with black plum near rim.
* P Big dark and deep black and red fruit here, with very good acidity still quite young. Very long and savory/dark fruited finish with integrating oak and earth. Quite good. #KeeperWK

2014 Celler Cairats Montsant Selecció ⭐⭐⭐⭐

C Med to darker ruby in the core, med ruby edges
N A little earthier red fruit here, with darker red fruit, some spice here as well, along with darker toast. Deep cherry.
P More structured here, with medium to full weight, tannin is more coating here and the fruit takes a darker note. That great acidity is still here but more integrated and less bright than the 2015 above. Integrating toast into the long, more dark red fruited finish, light earthiness.

2013 Celler Ronadelles Montsant Cap de Ruc Cuvée Premium ⭐⭐⭐½

* C darker ruby core, ruby edges, from a magnum
* N Meaty flinty, earthy here, almost all savory, with deep black fruit underneath.
* P Full and structured here, with all of the good savory notes from the nose, but also good black fruit in the mid palate. Good acidity here to balance, with a long black fruit and leather finish. Good and unique flavor profile so far. Brett here and the nose, but is balanced and complementary.

2006 Cellers Sant Rafel Montsant Solpost Tinto ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* C Brick core medium intensity, light brick edges.
* N Fully integrated red fruited nose here, on the drier side, with wet earth and women bready notes
* P Very good and round here with black and red baked fruit, pie crust, great acidity to keep it fresh. Drier tannin but still comes off with good life and quite good right now.

2015 Cellers Sant Rafel Montsant Xavi Selecció ⭐⭐⭐

* C darker ruby with ruby edges
* N Deeper lack cherry here, with some light toasty notes and pie crust.
* P Good and round here, with complement of toast and mix of cherry fruit. Slight earth and blackberry notes as well, juicy acidity. Easy drinker. #QPRWK

2015 Cellers Sant Rafel Montsant Carinyena ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* C medium ruby, light ruby edges
* N fresh plum here, with some light French toast, the. With air some juicy cherry comes in.
* P Medium full, super round and very fresh. Light to Med tannin, very juicy cherry and plum fruit, some flinty toast and earth into the fresh finish. Good. #NewWorldWK

 

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!

Hall Wines Cabernet Cookoff tastes great, gives help

11855799_868280449915926_2336774847356483997_nWe’re a little late on our coverage of this fine event, but we did want to send out hearty Vinopanion props to Hall Wines (WL, FB, Tw, IG, YT) and their highly enjoyable 6th Annual Cabernet Cookoff charity #foodie and #wine event this past April. Fifteen Napa Valley and San Francisco based chef teams competed to see which one could most favorably pair their small bite with the 2012 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvigon and the 2012 Hall Napa County Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon red wines.  To whet the almost 700 attendees’ palates, the festivities were kicked off with a glass of the delicious 2012 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  On this particularly hot April day, the SB was quite a treat, with its juicy citrus acidity, rounded out with some tropical fruit and floral notes, and finishing with some zingy minerality.  Following the SB intro, the Lady and I headed into the array of tents to taste through the many culinary delights on prep.

Bunny Foo Foo welcomes the culinary charity masses. (By Lawrence Argent, Hall Wines).
Bunny Foo Foo welcomes the culinary charity masses. (By Lawrence Argent, Hall Wines).

Hall Wines has been producing ultra high end reds and whites in the Napa Valley at their two properties since 2002.  Owners Craig and Kathryn Walt Hall are renowned art collectors and thoughtful curators of their land and ecology with 5 Certified Organic estate vineyards and a Leed Gold Certified new winery at this, their St. Helena location.  We had the lovely opportunity to attend their grand opening of the gorgeous new St. Helena facility earlier in the year, but this was our first opportunity to see it in the daytime. And it was quite an experience! While it was a bit difficult on the hot sunny day to grasp the pairings with the smoky and oaky young Napa Cab, the brighter acidity and less oaked Coeur paired brilliantly with many of the dishes, including our favorite of the day: The Farmers Market Pantry’s Ancho Chili Roasted Mushroom & Squash Blossom Quesadilla. They were sponsoring the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center and their alternating savory and lightly spiced quesadilla rocked it with both the sauv blanc and the Coeur cabernet.

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11060935_868285769915394_6407453637873669927_nThe event was a resounding success, raising over $59,000 for the local community and satisfying the thirst and stomach of hundreds of charity-minded patrons that day.  The people’s choice and judge’s choice winners are listed below, along with a link to the fantastic drone video courtesy of Darren Chestnut.

A big thank you to Hall Wines for our attendance that day.  Cheers!

Judges’ Choice 1st Pl: Chef Zack Mutrux, PRESS & Charity, If Given a Chance

Dish: Braised lamb neck with beef fat potatoes and bacon sherry vinaigrette

People’s Choice 1st Pl: Chef Chris Jorosz, Andrea Reiter, Capital Dime & Charity, Food Literacy Center

Dish: Savory wild rice Belgian waffles, crispy duck and fig balsamic wildflower syrup

Drone video of the festivities, courtesy of Darren Chestnut.

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#OleWinos Final Day: Tilenus/Estefanía & the little #wine valley that could

IMG_5408The final day of our brilliant #OleWinos trip was spent in a little appellation in the northern part of Spain, tucked in between still snowy mountains (if only we had that snow and rain in California!): DO Bierzo (WL, FB, Tw). Our group was finishing up our stay across Spain, hosted by high end #wine group MGWines Group (WL, FB, Tw), in the small, but lovely & ancient, Roman-era town of Ponferrada.  It was here that we would visit the previously known property of Bodegas Estafanía (WL, FB), now known better by its main label, Tilenus. Named for the Celtic god, later appropriated by the Romans for their own Mars god of war, their label features a Roman coin that was once found in their very old vine vineyards. It is those very vineyards that sparked an image of ancientness themselves in my mind, with their Dantesque vine-hands reaching towards the sky, during our soggy visit to their longtime home.

More details after the leap!

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MGWines Group’s very old vine vineyard in DO Bierzo, part of their Bodegas Estefanía Tilenus estate. #OleWinos

The Bierzo DO is made up of a lot of ancient, family-owned vineyard properties that have a similar Napoleonic inheritance process as Burgundy: each property is split into equal portions following the inheritance of the next generation.  This results in a lot of small vineyards that still sit right next to each other.  As such, MGWines sources fruit from both their own properties, as well as very select, old vine neighboring properties that share some of the same characteristics as their own estate vineyards, such as soil and vine age. Depending on how close you are to the mountains in the Bierzo valley, you will find sandy soil sitting on top of clay or slate.  This has contributed to the lengthy life of these vines, as they have avoided the phylloxera plight of most of European vines, being protected by the mountains and in some cases, sandier soil.  It is quite common to come across a head-trained, gnarly row of dry-farmed vines that were planted 60-110 years ago.  These elderly vines produce a small amount of fruit, but it grows into tight, small berries with plenty of flavor concentration, savory characteristics and deep minerality.  And the vines of Bierzo are almost entirely of one grape: mencía.

Relief of the Roman coin of Bodegas Estefanía & Tilenus. #OleWinos MGWines Group
Relief of the Roman coin of Bodegas Estefanía & Tilenus. #OleWinos MGWines Group

Bodegas Estefanía is yet another beautiful jewel in the stable of MGWines Group.  Originally founded by the local Frias family in 1999 in a former creamery, MGWines Group purchased the property last year and kept on our host, Pablo Frias as General Manager.  Pablo is a stylish and tall Spaniard, dressed comfortably in a semi-hipster fashion, yet still functional for the winery work environment in which he’s developed his career.  He is very well-versed in the property and its wines, and a wonderful, soft-spoken, well-humored ambassador for the brand.

The winery has received extensive restoration and remodeling since its old days as a creamery.  Clean, stylistic wood and concrete modern Spanish design still maintains the painstaking utility to produce minimally-handled fine wines, as seen at all MGWines’ properties.  Gravity flow is enforced here as well, where they also hold onto their wines for 3-4 years before release in their “sleeping room” racked cellar. Once told by the then Bierzo Coop head winemaker that mencía would never make a fine, single varietal wine, Pablo’s father and uncle are now respected leaders of the mencía monovarietal movement that has been taking Bierzo and Scandinavia by storm, not to mention the US if you can find their wines. Twenty wineries in the DO ten years ago have now expanded to 72 wineries, as of March 2015, all focused mainly on mencía and the lone white in the Group, godello.

The #OleWinos Tilenus #wine lineup! MGWines Group
The #OleWinos Tilenus #wine lineup! MGWines Group

Mencía, despite appearances after 4+ years of aging, is an extremely ageable grape variety. Many of the wines that I enjoyed below, as evidenced by the many WKBadges given out, showed color aging as early as the 2011’s.  In some ways they reminded me of garnacha, including it’s medium weight and acidity.  Yet, these wines feature a lot more savory complexity than many garnacha, along with their shared floral notes, and mixed mainly red fruits that complement their good acidity.  Mencía does have a slightly smoother mouthfeel and fuller tannin, however.  Based on our historical tasting of wines from the property, even the Tilenus Bierzo Godello can age well, not just their well-priced mencía varietal wines, at all price categories.  Seek these Tilenus wines, and all Bierzo DO vino, near you, they are worth the affordable price!

IMG_5239 - Version 2A giant thank you goes out to our hosts, MGWines Group and Kraynick Consulting.  You can find all of our #OleWinos content on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The photos are posted at the #Vinopanion Facebook page and the wines reviews at WineLog. You can read the MGWines Group blog post about our trip at their site, as well.

Wines tasted during our #OleWinos visit to Bodegas Estafanía Tilenus (WL, FB):

Tilenus Bierzo Godello 2013

Tilenus Bierzo Vendimia Roble Mencia 2014

QPRWK - WKBadgesTilenus Bierzo Crianza Mencia 2011

Color: Dark garnet in the core, with garnet on the edges as well, slight brick.

Nose: Good earthy & meaty nose here, with all dark black fruit and flinty toasted notes.

Palate: Very nice smooth and full mouthfeel here, then cherry liqueur comes in, deep and ripe. Flinty, floral oak comes in towards the good and long finish that is more savory and with finer tannin and great acidity: QPRWK.

Tilenus Bierzo Crianza Mencia 2010

Tilenus Bierzo Crianza Mencia 2008

Tilenus Bierzo La Florida Mencia 2008

KeeperWK - WKBadgesTilenus Bierzo Pagos de Posada Mencia 2006

Color: Darker garnet in the core, garnet edges.

Nose: Big ripe black and red plum, graham cracker, light toast and flinty earth.

Palate: Big mouth here, more coating tannin, then all of that ripe plummy fruit arrives, with more toasted graham into the full, toasted, powerful finish, with more tannin: KeeperWK.

KeeperWK - WKBadgesTilenus Bierzo Pieros Mencia 2006

Color: Very dark rust colored sediment core, rust edges.

Nose: Huge black plum here, with some raisin and mocha aromas.

Palate: Big juicy plum here as well, distinct pencil lead and flinty earth, with cocoa and big tannin structure. Cocoa into finish with some sweeter toast as well. Continues to open with air, and gain forest floor: KeeperWK.

 

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