One of Spain's Most Exciting Wines

Today’s Story: Envínate

I previously wrote about Envínate in Vitality from Spain when I reviewed the 2018 Albahra, so today’s post will be short and sweet for your Saturday afternoon reading. If you haven’t read my prior post linked above, I recommend you do to discover the background of this incredible winery who is producing arguably some of the most important wine coming from Spain. Envínate produces terroir-driven wines from coastal, island, and mainland appellations all in traditional styles to showcase place and the vibrant minerality present in these lands. Known as a sommelier’s darling for these reasons and more, Envínate creates small production wines that are shockingly rather easy on your wallet.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Migan

100% Listán Negro; 12% ABV

The 2017 Migan is very transparent pale ruby (almost red cherry) in color with rose petal variation near the rim. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of cherry, pomegranate, raspberry, pronounced barnyard, leather, forest floor, volcanic ash, crushed rock, pepper, and saline minerality. On the palate, I get notes of juicy black raspberry, strawberry rhubarb, tart wild blueberry, damp rocky earth, barnyard, ash, underbrush, ground herbs, black pepper, and mineral. This wine is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $50. Like all of the wines I’ve tried from Envínate, this is a fantastic value. They are producing some of the most profound, terroir-driven, high-quality wines coming from Spain and this bottling comes from the unique Canary Islands. Pair this with antipasti or simply charcuterie and cheese.

Utterly Complex Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Franc

Today’s Story: Jonata

I previously wrote about Jonata twice, first in Why Wait for Screaming Eagle? when I reviewed the 2005 El Corazón de Jonata and then in Santa Ynez Sangiovese when I reviewed the 2010 Tierra.

Long story short, if you haven’t read these prior posts, Jonata is owned by Stan Kroenke who also owns the LA Rams and Screaming Eagle. Kroenke bought 586 acres of property, though only 84 acres are planted under vine, and like many wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley Jonata found success planting Rhône varietals such as Syrah but also grows Sangiovese and Bordeaux varietals. For more I’d steer you to my prior posts, particularly “Why Wait for Screaming Eagle?”.

Today’s Wine: 2006 El Alma de Jonata

95% Cabernet Franc, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Merlot; 14.9% ABV

The 2006 El Alma de Jonata is opaque deep ruby in color. This needs some time in the decanter to fully blossom, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of blueberry, black raspberry, black cherry, cassis, black licorice, cedar, tobacco, graphite, chocolate, mild herbs, and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, this gorgeous wine offers notes of blackberry, blueberry, plum, violet and rose, cigar box, pencil shavings, wet rock, scorched earth, blood, and exotic spice. This wine is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. Utterly complex and constantly evolving in the glass, this Cabernet Franc is drinking beautifully now but has the structure to go another 7-10 years at least. 426 cases produced.

Price: $155 library release direct from winery. Jonata is producing arguably the best wines from the Santa Ynez Valley and for their complexity and rarity the price demonstrates that. Pair this with grilled steak, peppered chicken, or lamb.

Delicious Mourvèdre from Bandol

Today’s Story: Domaine de la Tour du Bon

Domaine de la Tour du Bon traces its history back to 1925 when a couple purchased a working farm that consisted of vast countryside and olive trees. During the 1930s, the property hosted pigs, sheep, bees, fig and olive trees, and vines that would ultimately take over more and more land from the olive trees. Though wine production began, it wasn’t until 1955 that the name Domaine de la Tour du Bon was registered and the first bottle label was established. As the domaine expanded wine production, they built a large farmhouse between 1960 and 1962 that houses a cellar and helped increase capacity for vineyards. In 1968, the Hocquard family took ownership of the domaine after working a crush and the birth of three children during the 1970s helped lay the foundation of the estate becoming a family operation. In 1990, Agnès Henry (Mr. and Mrs. Hocquard’s daughter) made the domaine her home and workplace and functioned as winemaker where she remains to this day.

Domaine de la Tour du Bon is located at an elevation of 150m above sea level in Le Brûlat du Castellet which lies in the northwestern corner of Bandol. The land here requires great determination to farm and planting the vineyards was no easy feat thanks to the soil mix of limestone, clay, gravel, and red subsoil (some of the rock pulled to plant the vines even went into building the farmhouse). Agnès practices organic farming methods (she began exploring biodynamic methods a few years ago) on her 14 hectares of land and all fruit is hand-harvested to produce six different bottlings. Agnès produces Bandol Blanc, Bandol Rouge, Bandol Rouge Saint Ferréol, and Bandol Rosé from 11 hectares of vines averaging 38 years old, as well as a Vin de France “D’Ici” from 0.5 hectares of vines planted in 1970 (Grenache) and the En Sol from 0.2 hectares of vines 45 years old (Mourvèdre).

Today’s Wine: 2017 En Sol

100% Mourvèdre; 14.5% ABV

The 2017 En Sol is an opaque deep purple color with some deep ruby variation near the rim. I let this decant for about an hour and the nose showcases aromas of blueberry, plum, cherry, smoked meat, tobacco, eucalyptus, nail polish remover, mint, and a hint of chocolate. Once in the mouth, this wine shows notes of juicy plum, blackberry compote, smoke, violet, anise, loamy earth, game, gravel, and green herbs. This is a full-bodied Mourvèdre with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. I was surprised how elegant and soft this is for a Mourvèdre, especially one this young.

Price: $80. This is an outstanding Mourvèdre that for its elegance and finesse makes me very excited to see where it will go with more bottle age. Pair this with game, beef, lamb, or pork.

Fun Carmenère for a Great Price

Today’s Story: Viña Tarapacá

Viña Tarapacá was founded in the Maipo Valley at the foothills of the Andes Mountains in 1874 by Don Francisco de Rojas y Salamanca, under the name Viñas de Rojas. A renowned winemaker, Don Francisco received his first wine accolade at Viñas de Rojas in 1875 (Silver Medal at the International Exhibition of Santiago) and followed it in 1876 with the Silver Medal at the Exhibition of Philadelphia. In 1892, the winery was acquired by Don Antonio Zavala and was renamed to Viña Zavala. By divorce, Don Antonio Zavala’s ex-wife Doña Mercedes Ulloa took control of the winery as part of alimony and renamed it to Viña Tarapacá Ex Zavala to express gratitude to her lawyer who was nicknamed “The Lion of Tarapacá.” 1992 marked another transition for the winery when it was acquired by La Compañía Chilena de Fósforos, a conglomerate hoping to market the wines to broader global markets. Today, Viña Tarapacá continues to produce quality Chilean wines under this umbrella.

The Viña Tarapacá estate consists of 2,600 hectares of land, though only 611 hectares are planted to vine. The land is surrounded by mountains and the Maipo River so, interestingly, the El Rosario Estate is nicknamed “Maipo Valley’s Natural Clos” after the French viticultural term “clos” used to describe terroir surrounded by stone walls to preserve the vineyards. In caring for the land, Viña Tarapacá practices sustainable farming methods to conserve the biodiversity of their vineyards and produce quality wines. In regards to their environmental efforts, the winery runs their own mini hydroelectric plant with water from the Maipo River to produce 60% of their required energy. Furthermore, the winery fixed solar panels to their roof to augment electricity savings more.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Carmenère Gran Reserva

100% Carmenère; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Carmenère Gran Reserva is opaque medium to deep ruby red in color with not a lot of variation near the rim. The nose is dominated by aromas of green bell pepper, peppercorn spice, dried herbs, asphalt, and red and blue florals with some blackberry, plum, and oak in the background. The palate basically mirrors the nose, showcasing notes of raspberry, tart cherry, plum, dried underbrush, green peppercorn, bell pepper, olive, coffee bean, and vanilla. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium length finish.

Price: $20. This is a great value Carmenère that showcases the variety’s unique tasting notes and expressions. However, this is not for the faint of heart in wine drinkers who prefer the fruit bombs and people pleasers without being used to overly spicy and bell-pepper-filled wines. Pair this with a broad range of foods, particularly smoked, grilled, or roasted meats like beef, lamb, pork, chicken, or veal.

Burgundian Elegance in Oregon

Today’s Story: Beaux Frères

The groundwork for Beaux Frères occurred in the late 1980s when Michael Etzel discovered an 88 acre pig farm for sale on Ribbon Ridge in the Northern Willamette Valley, Oregon. Though he and his family lived in Colorado at the time, Michael decided to purchase the farm with brother-in-law Robert Parker (yes the wine critic) and set about transitioning some of the farm to vineyards. In 1988, Michael planted his first five acres of vineyards with Pinot Noir and harvested his first fruit in 1990. While Michael waited for his vines to bear fruit, he worked four harvests at Ponzi Winery and with his first harvest in 1990 sold fruit to Ken Wright and Dick Ponzi while only saving enough for one barrel of wine for himself. In 1991, Michael renovated one of the barns on the property to create his own winery and his efforts jump-started the transition to estate bottled wines.

Today, the Beaux Frères property consists of 50 acres of forest (Douglas fir trees), 8 acres of buildings including a home, barns, and winery, and 24 of the remaining 30 acres are planted to vine. The Beaux Frères Vineyard sits at an elevation of 400 feet and is planted with both own-rooted Pommard and Wädenswil clones, as well as younger Dijon clones on phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. Beaux Frères also farms the Upper Terrace Vineyard which sits slightly north of the Beaux Frères Vineyard and was first planted in 2000 with Dijon clones of Pinot Noir on 9 of the 40 total acres. Michael and his team practice many biodynamic farming methods in caring for their vineyards, a practice they picked up several years ago. The team avoids commercial sprays, composts on-site, grafts their own cuttings, and monitors the vines regularly.

Throughout the winemaking process, Michael and his son Mike (head winemaker) believe in minimal intervention and handling. To this end, they allow their wines to ferment spontaneously using only indigenous yeasts and utilize traditional punch downs and pump overs by hand. After pressing, they move the contents into French oak barrels ranging in 30-50% new (depending on vintage) and secondary fermentation occurs naturally at a slower rate in the barrel cellar. The only racking these wines see occurs after 10-12 months of barrel aging (to limit exposure to oxygen) which also helps limit the SO2 required to preserve the wine (if any is added at all) thanks to a natural buildup of CO2 during and after malolactic fermentation. The resulting wines are rather traditional in both production and expression, similar to classical red Burgundies.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.1% ABV

The 2016 Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color with rose variation near the edge of the glass and almost entirely opaque. The nose showcases aromas of ripe cherry, black raspberry, red licorice, purple florals, black tea, mineral, baking spice, and a hint of milk chocolate. Once in the mouth, this wine offers notes of blueberry, raspberry, black cherry, rose, a hint of damp earth, rocky minerality, clove, and oak. This is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $60. This is a high-quality, elegant, and luxuriously-textured Pinot Noir that I believe to be appropriately priced. It makes me think of an Oregon version of Kosta Browne or Williams Selyem. Pair this with salmon, chicken, pork, or duck.

Value Cotes du Rhône

Today’s Story: Domaine de Coste Chaude

Though the estate stretches further in history, Domaine de Coste Chaude as it exists today was remodeled during the 1960s and André Guichon, a wine merchant from Chambéry, bought it in 1969. The estate again changed hands in 1994 when it was purchased by the Fues family and they further developed the property by planting new varieties, altering storage methods, and processing grapes differently. In my opinion, however, the greatest contribution of the Fues family is their transition to organic farming in 2014 (Ecocert certified). Vincent Tramier took over the estate in 2018, with his major goals being improved wine quality and the introduction of new cuvées to widen the offering portfolio.

Domaine de Coste Chaude consists of 37 hectares of which there is 14 hectares of forest and 23 hectares planted to vine. The domaine is located on a hill at an elevation of 360m behind the Eastside of the village of Visan, creating hillside vineyards with Southern exposure. Thanks to the domaine’s location, the vineyards face a nearly constant breeze that helps fight against fungal diseases and spring frosts, while also experiencing slightly colder temperatures than the lowlands which creates fresh wines. Soil in the vineyards consists of limestone gravels and pebbles mixed into ocher, yellow, and brown clays deposited during the Miocene period. For some pictures of their property, check out the Domaine de Coste Chaude website here.

As part of the domaine’s organic farming practices, Coste Chaude uses green or organic fertilizers depending on soil variety and maintains natural ground cover when possible to protect against erosion while fostering biodiversity in the vineyards. Further, they use less stressful pruning methods on their vines (especially on their old vines 40+ years old) to oversee fruit quantity in an effort to foster concentrated and healthy grapes. When it comes to winemaking at the domaine, Vincent mixes traditional methods with modern technology to produce wines that reflect the terroir. The winery is located in the middle of the vineyards so harvested fruit can arrive as quickly as possible for sorting and minimal intervention is the name of the game from harvest to bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Cotes du Rhône Visan Cuvée L’Argentière

80% Syrah, 20% Grenache; 13.5% ABV

The 2014 L’Argentière is medium ruby/garnet throughout and slightly transparent. The nose showcases aromas of blackcurrant, plum, cherry, smoke, forest floor, barnyard, green herbs, green peppery spice, and black olive. Once in the mouth, I get notes of blackberry, black raspberry, wet rock, smokey cedar, tobacco, leather, stone minerality, and green vegetation. This is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $18. This is a great value Cotes du Rhône I picked up after an in-store tasting at one of my local shops. If you like terroir-driven wine at a great price, this is for you. Pair this with steak au poivre, roasted lamb, or a charcuterie with some hard goat’s cheese.

Gotta Get That Money (Road)

Today’s Story: Gargiulo Vineyards

Gargiulo is a small, family-owned winery in Oakville, Napa Valley that produces about 3,400 cases of wine each year from two vineyards. Owners Jeff and Valerie Gargiulo bought their first vineyard, Money Road Ranch, in 1992 to fulfill their winemaking dream, adding to the property in 1997 by purchasing the 575 OVX property. Founded as a Cabernet Sauvignon estate, Gargiulo produces three different Cabs and a Sangiovese, though they also have Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Merlot planted for blending in their G Major 7 Cab. Gargiulo produces small amounts of Chardonnay from Frank Wood Ranch and a rosé of Sangiovese as well.

The Gargiulo family and their winemaker, Kristof Anderson, follow a more hands-off approach to winemaking, who in their words say is “gentle and patient.” When it comes time to harvest the grapes, they do so by hand at dawn, hand sort the grapes three times, and use gravity flow methods for winemaking. This arguably preserves the natural fragrances and flavors of the wines by removing pumps and machinery, and is a reason I believe Gargiulo wines are consistently elegant yet structured to go the distance.

I previously wrote about Gargiulo in Italy’s Favorite Grape…from California? back on October 20, 2019 and have recreated the background above from my previous post. If you’d like to see pictures from my visit to Gargiulo last September, some can be found at the link above.

Today’s Wine: 2009 Money Road Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.8% ABV

The 2009 Money Road Ranch Cab is medium to deep ruby in color and slightly transparent. I let this open up in the glass, and after about 30 minutes the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum, baked red berries, licorice, volcanic earth, cedar, mushroom, baking spice, and oak. There is still a bit of heat as well. On the palate, I get notes of blackberry compote, black cherry, redcurrant, jammy wild strawberry, cigar box, sweet tobacco, damp loamy soil, green herbs, syrupy cola, and a hint of vanilla. This is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, fully integrated medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Though this is not my favorite vintage of this wine I’ve had (it’s a bit jammy/syrupy compared to others), this is not showing any signs of slowing down and easily has another 5 years left. 883 cases produced.

Price: $80 direct from winery upon release. In regards to price, this is fairly priced but I would argue to spend a bit more to try their G Major 7 or 575 OVX bottlings, otherwise explore the incredible options around the $80 from other producers. Pair this with steak, roasted lamb, a good burger, or beef short ribs.