Beautiful Expression of Priorat

Today’s Story: Terroir al Límit

Terroir al Límit was established in 2001 by Dominik Huber and Eben Sadie when the duo purchased fruit from the Perez family of the Mas Martinet winery and vinified their first Dits del Terra. In 2003, they acquired their own wine cellar in the village of Torroja del Priorat and quickly set about purchasing more fruit and releasing new wines. Since the beginning, Dominik’s goal is to produce terroir-driven wines utilizing ancient Burgundian winemaking traditions and he took this a step further by practicing organic and biodynamic viticulture, minimal intervention, whole cluster fermentation, and concrete or amphora aging. The painstaking manual process in the vineyards (save for assistance from a mule named Frida) coupled with Dominik’s winemaking philosophy yields wines of beautiful elegance meant for “enjoying in the company of family and friends.” To explore this incredible winery further, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Dits del Terra

100% Carignan (85-year-old vines at 400m elevation); 13.5% ABV

The 2011 Dits del Terra is mostly opaque and medium ruby in color. This requires an hour in the decanter which allows the nose to blossom with aromas of dried cranberry, raspberry, black cherry, rose, cured meat, tobacco, earthy mushroom, forest floor, and crushed rock. Once this hits the palate, it displays notes of cranberry, strawberry, raspberry, licorice, dried tobacco leaf, dried loamy earth, baking spice, ground green herbs, and slate. The 2011 Dits del Terra is beautifully balanced and medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. 4,458 bottles produced.

Price: $80. Terroir al Límit produces my favorite wines that I’ve had from Priorat and, while not inexpensive, provide the quality and elegance to justify it. Pair this with turkey and cranberry sauce, venison, or herb-roasted lamb.

Remarkable Quality (and Value) From Lebanon

Today’s Story: Chateau Musar

Chateau Musar was established in 1930 in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon by Gaston Hochar when he was 20 years old. Inspired by his travels throughout Bordeaux and the 6,000-year-old winemaking history of Lebanon, Gaston set about producing wines with a non-interventionist philosophy and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault for his reds in high-altitude gravel and limestone soils. During WWII, Major Ronald Barton of Château Langoa-Barton and Leoville-Barton was stationed in Lebanon and became friends with Gaston which strengthened the tie to Bordeaux and exists to this day. In 1959, Gaston’s eldest son Serge took over winemaking after studying at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux and started making wines “his own way.” Shortly thereafter, in 1961, Gaston’s second son Ronald joined the family business to handle the financial and marketing aspects. Serge was named Decanter Magazine’s first ‘Man of the Year’ in 1984 thanks to his steadfast production of quality wines during Lebanon’s Civil War (1975-1990) and the brand continued to build upon international fame for its elegance and quality. In 1994, Serge’s son Gaston joined the winery and was accompanied later in 2010 by his brother Marc. The two manage the estate together today with Gaston running the winery operations and Marc running the commercial aspects.

Chateau Musar became Lebanon’s first certified organic winery in 2006 and their wines spend a remarkable 7 years at the winery before release. The red wines are fermented in separate cement vats, racked 6 months after harvest, aged for 12 months in French Nevers oak barriques, and bottled without filtration at the end of the third year after harvest before the blend is aged an additional 3-4 years before release. The white wines also ferment in Nevers oak barrels for 6-9 months but are bottled after their first year and spend 6 years in the cellars before release.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Chateau Musar Rouge

Roughly equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault; 13.5% ABV

The 2011 Musar is opaque deep ruby in color. I decanted this for about an hour and drank it over the following hour. The nose showcases aromas of blackberry, plum, black cherry, anise, cigar box, forest floor, slight barnyard, exotic spice, and faint smoke. Once in the mouth, this displays notes of redcurrant, juicy plum, dusty cherry, black raspberry, worn leather, tobacco, dried earth, crushed rock minerality, baking spice, and black pepper. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, tight-knit and dusty medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $50. Chateau Musar is always one of my favorite wines to buy in the $50 price-point because they offer incredible value and the opportunity to explore a wine region I wager most people haven’t experienced. These wines are also incredibly cellar-worthy. Pair this with peppercorn-seasoned steak, venison, or mature cheeses.

Sweet Berry Wine!!

Supposed to spit it out…..but no way Jose am I spittin’ this stuff out, it tastes like fruit!

Dr. Steve Brule

Today’s Story: Las Jaras Wines

Las Jaras Wines was founded in 2014 by winemaker Joel Burt and Hollywood comedian/director Eric Wareheim. Joel Burt, a winemaker at Domaine Chandon, was growing tired of making wines in a cookie-cutter, corporate, and mass-produced manner when he met Eric and the two realized they shared a passion for fine wine. The duo started planning their own wine label where they could produce wines in homage of “the old days” (think 1970s Napa) and Las Jaras was born. Joel describes their Cabernet “like a Dunn from the 80s, but way more approachable” and each wine in the portfolio is made largely using similar traditional techniques.

To achieve this style of wine, Joel remains very hands-off throughout the winemaking process. Las Jaras sources their fruit from various old vine vineyards, though most comes from Mendocino County. All fruit is hand-harvested and each variety goes through separate winemaking processes, all being hand-sorted at the crusher. Though each variety is vinified differently to best express that variety’s unique character, the long story short here is that Joel doesn’t add sulfur, the wines ferment with only natural yeasts, and bottling is accomplished with no fining or filtration. Today will be my first bottle from Las Jaras (and hopefully not my last) as I can appreciate wines made in traditional fashion with lower SO2 and alcohol content to better express the terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Sweet Berry Wine

54% Carignan, 28% Zinfandel, 12% Charbono, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Valdiguie; 13% ABV

The 2018 Sweet Berry Wine is a beautiful medium purple in color and moderately opaque. This takes a little bit of time to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of blueberry, raspberry, strawberry jam, licorice, sweet tobacco, cured meat, cinnamon, and violet. In the mouth, this Carignan-dominated blend shows notes of tart cherry, cranberry sauce, plum, wild underripe raspberry, baking spice, sweet tobacco, and green herbs. Overall both the nose and palate come off quite sweet, actually reminding me somewhat of the Martha Stoumen Zinfandel I reviewed not too long ago. The wine is medium-bodied with high acidity, low tannins (surprisingly), and a long finish.

Price: $35. All gimmicks aside, I think this is a great value particularly for those not familiar with a more “natural” way of making wine. I put “natural” in quotes because Joel Burt takes the word with a grain of salt when it comes up to describe his style, but it does fit. Pair this with honestly any type of food you want, but steer toward chicken, duck, pork, or beef brisket – and you can add barbecue to all of that minus the duck.

For a little comedy behind this wine, check out the video here. For a more serious note on the winemaking process for this bottling (they go into a lot of great detail) check out the fact sheet here.