Transitioning to fall with Spanish Wines


More and more, wine drinkers are discovering Spain’s stylish mix of the traditional and modern wines of Ribera del Duero, an important wine-producing area in Castilla y Leon in northern Spain.

Ribera Del Duero is one of Spain’s truly legendary wine regions, known for produceing some of the world’s best and most exclusive red wines. Most of which are high-quality red Tempranillo-based wines. Tempranillo wines are delicious wines for transitioning into the fall and winter season.

Finca Feroes “Roble

100% Tempranillo | D.O Ribera Del Duero, Spain | ABV: 13.5%

If you’ve never tried Tempranillo, a good entry-level example is the Finca Feroes “Roble,” a  red wine that seamlessly melds fruit and oak-influenced flavors in a cuvée that delights the senses with its engaging aroma, complex flavor spectrum and elegant finish. The winemaker uses 100% sustainable old-world winemaking practices that are free of chemicals. The grapes are grown within a natural reserve in the Duero River Valley that has alluvial, pebbly soil and a continental climate perfect for traditional winemaking

The color is a deep cherry and the aromas and flavors combine elements of berry fruit, herbs, vanilla, coffee, licorice, oak and an earthy-leathery minerality.

The palate is delicate and well structured with rich red and black cherry notes followed by smoky spicy tobacco and hints of wood, vanilla and roasted coffee. Six months aging in American oak, imparts a savory oak flavor profile and the full-bodied tannins makes for a lingering finish.

This wine makes an excellent pairing with red meats, roast beef and smoky barbecue stews, lamb chops with rosemary and garlic or a grilled steak with green beans, buttered potatoes and sauce bearnaise.

Definitely serve  this wine in large glass at a serving temperature of 16° – 18°C / 50°- 64°F.

Finca Feroes Rueda
100% Verdejo | Rueda, Spain | ABV: 13%

When it comes to white wine, Verdejo is Spain’s signature white grape. The Rueda region, a atchwork of vineyards on the flat high plains south of Valladolid, produces some of the most amazing Verdejo wines.

Verdejo wines are refreshing and aromatic and sustainably-made Finca Feroes Rueda is a traditional medium-bodied style. Visually, this wine is a vivid wine, a shiny pale yellow with glints of green. The nose offers up fresh intense aromas of fresh citrus, green apple, peach and pineapple.

Expect deliciously fresh and bright acidity with racy, focused flavors of lemon rind, green apple, melon, pineapple, kiwi and pear. It also deliver notes of minerals and a hint of grass.

With its good length and a refreshing finish, this a beautiful white to enjoy with an aperitif or to accompany a seafood. This wine pairs really well with poached proteins, cured meats and pork dishes. With vegetarian dishes and salads, the acidity cuts through and compliments asparagus, tomatoes, olives, and greens with vinaigrette dressing.

The wine is light, dry, fresh and elegant  wine with tasty acidity and a delightful finish. It should be served chilled at  9ºC / 48°F. The wine isn’t known for longevity and should be consumed within 3-4 years of bottling.

These wines are truly inexpensive and affordable—please don’t let the price fool you into thinking that these wines aren’t special!

Late Summer Whites


The sun is shining, and the idea of summer entertaining and weekend get-togethers are still a hot topic for many a wine drinker. We all know nothing suits late summer like fresh produce: garden tomatoes, fresh sweet corn, and watermelon dripping down your chin on the back porch,

For the past few years, oaky Chardonnays have been taking a backseat to trendier, unoaked versions, which I personally happen to prefer. Some aficionados argue that this is happening because American tastes are changing, but, the argument could be made that the change could driven by cost—the production of oak barrels and subsequent aging in them is expensive, and this could be a method for wineries to cut costs.

Some winemakers have resorted to inserting oak staves or oak chips, while others have used a “dusting” of oak in the Chardonnay to impart the creamier textures and buttery nuances that oaky style Chardonnay lovers prefer. Whatever the case, it is sometimes better to avoid oaky Chardonnays under $10. Many a Baby Boomer still loves oaky Chardonnays, but the Millennials seem to prefer sleeker, racier Chardonnays with little or no butter or barrel flavors. This burgeoning popularity of unoaked white wines seems to be igniting a larger trend toward aromatic varieties.
So, when it comes to wine, nothing screams summer to me quite like a super aromatic white gem with high acidity like a Riesling, Muscadet, Verdejo or Falanghina. These wines pair well with a wide range of food and are usually affordable. With these off-the-beaten-track wines, you’ll be able to expose your guests to a wine they may never have tried, making it an occasion they will always remember.

If you want a wine with high acidity, start with Riesling. Riesling is juicy, light to medium in body, refreshing and lower in alcohol. Its tangy acidity makes it a perfect accompaniment for all occasions— enjoy it before dinner, as an aperitif or with a meal. Today most German Rieslings are made in a dry style—bone dry—with bracing acidity. With German Rieslings, it is easy to identify which ones the driest, look for the German word: “trocken.” Other terms indicating drier versions of Riesling are halbtrocken (“half dry”) and the unofficial but widely used “feinherb”, meaning “fine dry.”

One bottle I always reach for when I’m looking for a fun label is Selbach Riesling Dry Fish Label 2012 from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. It has the classic aromas of orange blossoms, peaches and mangoes blended with a whiff of ripe strawberries. The bright and fresh flavors of tart green-apple, a bit of apricot and peach are met with steely acidity. The finish is dry and long, offering just the right balance between sweet and tart.

Another German region known for good Riesling is the Rheingau and Josef Leitz Rudesheimer Riesling Trocken 2012 is a well-rounded, fruity and fresh mouthful. This medium-to-almost-full-bodied wine offers good acidity, appealing lemony fruit, tart pear and a nice minerally balance from the pure slate soils. It has a solid fruity/minerally finish.

If you’d like something a little less aromatic, try Muscadet. I love Muscadet. Light-bodied, mineral-edged and made with the white Melon de Bourgogne grape, Muscadet is an amazing food-pairing wine. The Muscadet appellation, mostly south of the city of Nantes on France’s Atlantic coast, is one of the largest in the country; the proximity to the sea moderates the region’s summer temperatures, making the wines lighter and lower in alcohol than those produced inland. Where in the rest of the Loire the dominant white grape is Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet relies on the obscure Melon de Bourgogne.

Lean and acidic from France’s Loire Valley, it’s known for glorious pairings with oysters, but it often pairs just as gloriously with ribs, fried chicken and barbecue. Muscadet works well with spicy foods like those loaded with cayenne pepper because of its non-fruit characteristics: refreshing, citrusy acidity and lower alcohol level. Higher alcohol wines intensify spiciness. Plus, the wine’s flinty notes seemed to intensify smokiness of barbecue and the grill. Keep the bottle nicely chilled, and you’ll find many a match made in heaven.

Two to try are: Domaine de la Louvetrie Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2011 and Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet de Sevre-Et-Maine Sur Lie Selection Vieilles Vignes 2011.

Domaine de la Louvetrie Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2011. This small, family-owned estate located in the village of Muscadet has been organically farmed since 1999 and in 2002, was awarded official certification by ECOCERT. Scents of white blossoms and apple along with saline and herbal aromas are characteristic of Muscadet. The electric acidity makes it incredibly fresh and crisp with a lime and briny, mineral-laden flavor profile.

Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet de Sevre-Et-Maine Sur Lie Selection Vieilles Vignes 2011. From a large estate founded sometime in the 14th century, this light-bodied, lime-scented, wine is crisp and balanced. It also offers a creamier mouth feel than standard Muscadet as a result of extended lees contact. There are subtle apple and citrus aromas followed by a gentle hint of white pepper and a slight salinity. The flavors are a minerally blend of apple and lime that take this food friendly wine clear through the dry finish.

Probably one of the best values for a great white warm weather wine is one of Spain’s most often ignored wines: Verdejo. At its best Verdejo combines richness, freshness and lovely acidity while delivering almond-scented wines that offer a fine blend of near tropical orchard fruits with a fresh zesty edge. This is they type of crisp white I often crave, not only in summer but year-round, for its body and rich flavor. Verdejo makes a terrific food wine. Its citrusy notes and aroma—very similar to Sauvignon Blanc—pair particularly well with salads and grilled foods and it’s a must try for Sauvignon Blanc fans looking for something new.

One thing to note is that Verdejo can vary in style depending on designation. If it is simply labeled “Rueda” it must contain 50 percent Verdejo, and it is typically blended with Sauvignon Blanc or Macabeo, giving it a lighter-bodied and refreshing characteristic. It is fresh, smooth and floral, with a minimum alcohol content of 11 percent.

If the wine is labeled “Rueda Verdejo” it must contain a minimum of 85 percent Verdejo, but it’s usually 100 percent Verdejo. These wines offer great aromatics and elegant fruity aromas with hints of anisette and fennel. The primary characteristics are fruitiness with a bitter touch. These are dry wines with a minimum alcohol content of 11.5 percent. Both styles have a soft waxy texture on the palate and are often fuller-bodied. What food you’re pairing it with will determine which style you choose for your menu.

Bodegas Protos Rueda 2009 is made ​​from 100% Verdejo. Fresh and appealing, the wine is fragrant with tart, lemony, green apples, touches of fennel and fresh cut grass aromas. There is a distinctly mineral quality on the tongue followed by a pleasant lemon-lime underlay that provide a slightly bitter almond aftertaste. Dry and lively acidity gives added freshness to this full-bodied and well-structured white. Serve with grilled shrimp, fried haddock, fried chicken.

Bodegas Y Vinedos Shaya Verdejo Shaya 2011. Named for Shaya deer that are native to the vineyards in Rueda, Spain, this value-priced Rueda has the typical tropical touches of pineapple and slightly green aromas we seek. Exotic aromas of mango, melon and gooseberry touched with a “grapefruit zest” are followed by the riper, aromas of baking spices, spring flowers, peach and minerals. The flavors tease the taste-buds first with grapefruit, a touch of peach, some tropical fruit followed by spice flavors with a bit of stony minerality. There is a creaminess to the texture, vibrant acidity, and intense flavors that lead to a lengthy, fruit-filled finish and slightly bitter finish.

You may be familiar with Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo from Campania, Italy, but there is a third white grape varietal from Campania: Falanghina. Although I enjoy both Fiano and Greco, this medium-bodied wine offers such a fresh, clean, dry taste, great acidity, and a long and floral finish. It’s almost like it was made for summer weather–the typical flavor profile is ripe fruit in the peach/lemon/pineapple realm with good acidity—more ripe and “tropical” than many wines from Friuli and Alto-Adige regions.

Cantine del Taburno Falanghina 2011 comes from the D.O.C. Taburno zone of Campania in Southern Italy. This refreshingly crisp wine sees no oak and shows citrus notes of lemon and lime, with green apple and almond tones adding complexity. Aromas of white blossoms, peach, melon and citrus are followed by more stone fruit on the palate, with apricots, almond flavors, tart apple, lemon rind, a touch of honey and a stony minerality. It is well-rounded and has great acidity and a long, clean finish. Serve well-chilled as an aperitif or with mussels, antipasto, fish, shellfish, roasted vegetables, lemon roasted chicken, pork and a variety of Italian dishes.

Capolino Perlingieri Sannio Falanghina Preta 2010. This easygoing wine is a lean, compact expression of Falanghina, opening with bright citrusy lemon, pear and kiwi aromas with the slightest a hint of banana. The flavors are full of sweet tropical fruit, peach, lemon and banana, but there is a lot of fresh focused acidity and it delivers a classy minerality on the surprisingly long finish.

There you have it, eight fun, whites to coolly sip through to the end of summer, and a perfect fit for lighter and transitional dishes this time of year. Just remember these food-pairing, aperitif wines skip desserts, sweetness is always a problem for these high-acid whites, as it makes them taste thin and aggressively sharp and not much fun at all.

Cheers.

Wine I Like it Blind Wine Tasting Panel


The latest Wine I Like it Blind Wine Tasting was held August 31 at Branches in West Long Branch. This month the wine tasting consisted of nine wines, which were sampled and rated by the 29 panel members.

Seven of the nine wines were from Spain, primarily tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero (although there was one Cabernet Sauvignon) and one white wine from Rueda. The remaining two wines to make up the set were a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from California.

The wines were presented “blind”—no information was provided about the wine prior to tasting, nor could the tasters see the bottles before the tasting. The guests were told to rate the wines on a scale of “0” – “5” with “5” being “I liked it a lot” and “0” being I didn’t like it at all. Only the top five results are published. Full tasting results and information is provided to the to participating vendors, suppliers and distributors who request it.

Distributors / Vendors / Winemakers are asked to supply 2-3 bottles of each wine(s) that they would like to promote and/or sample with the public. If the wines are currently available locally, information regarding the basic price points and local retailers is conveyed to the tasters. If the wines are new to the market/area, providing suggested retail price aids the taster panel members when they ask for the products at their favorite retail establishment.

Guests were encouraged to guess the region and appellation of the wines and to mark down how much they would be willing to pay for the wine in a wine shop, rather than guess the retail price of the wine.

To help them remember the wines and tell their friends about the wines they liked, each taster had a two-piece rating sheet. The top sheet was returned  with their scores and what they would be willing to pay for each wine.  The bottom sheet listed the wines they tasted in the order of tasting, and since it is a carbonless transfer, they also retain their scores and comments. Additionally, each panel member was given (at the end of the evening) information regarding the wines, varietals and region to take with them.

If you would be interested in participating in the wineilikeit.com wine tasting panel program, it would be greatly appreciated. for more details on the particulars, check out the website or please contact: Art Foss at oceanwineguy@aol.com or Barbara Hay at hayseeds@mac.com or winepro@wineilikeit.com

The top five wines were:
1. Tinto Roa Reserva 2005
2. 24th Annual Belmar Seafood Festival Chardonnay from Domenico Winery
3. Tinto Roa Crianza 2007
4. Tinto Roa Roble 2008
5. Tinto Roa Musai de Tinto Roa 2006

The number one performer was the sixth wine that was tasted: Tinto Roa Reserva 2005, a tempranillo. Comments were very generous: “very bold fruit-forward wine, yet balanced”; “nice oak”; “it makes your mouth explode!”; “very full, big and spicy”; and “nicely balanced, great nose, smooth finish, jammy fruit-forward and big. Great for pasta” The prices people were willing to pay for this ranged from a low of $7 to a high of $25+ with the average coming to $15.

The number two-rated wine was the second wine tasted, it had been referred to as number eight. This was the 24th Annual Belmar Seafood Festival Chardonnay from Domenico Winery in California. Comments included: “excellent length, hints of flowers, and nice buttery finish”; “dry and oaky rounded flavors”; and “would be nice with food” The average price the tasters said were willing to pay for this wine was $10. One taster did say she would pay $4 while another remarked they would pay as much as $15

Finishing in third place was the fifth wine tasted: Tinto Roa Crianza 2007, another tempranillo. Overall the tasters seemed to agree that it had “good flavors, smooth mouth feel, and not too tannic”. One taster noted that it seemed “smoky, like pinot noir”. Many commented that it had a nice amount of oak and a “great finish” Another taster wrote “big and oaky, nice body with a good dry finish, nicely dry with a bit of spice—soft and smooth, good depth. In a word, yummy!” This wine was given a low price point of $7 and a high price point of $20 with the average dollar amount coming to around $13

Following the Crianza in fourth place, was the the fourth wine sampled, the wine was referred to as number 3 during the tasting: Tinto Roa Roble 2008. This wine had less aging than the previous two tempranillo offerings, and the tasting notes reflected the lighter body. Comments included: “reasonably dry”; “opens up to a nice fullness and depth”; “earthy, smooth, and dry”; “easily pairs with a lot of food”; “smooth, fresh flavors, light-medium-body, fills the mouth with berry”. The amounts the tasters said they would pay ranged from a low of $6 to a high of $20 with the average price point around $12.

The last wine of the top five was the number seven wine: Tinto Roa Musai de Tinto Roa 2006. It was apparent the tasters either “Loved it” or were indifferent toward it as it received more “5” point ratings than any other , but it also received more “1” and “2” point ratings than the other wines in the top five. The tasters comments included: “good structure, very impressive wine”; “nice, deep color and bold complex flavor—love it!” “The best of all with a big spicy finish”;, “wow! where”s the pasta?” “nice body and substance, sticks to my tongue” This tempranillo also garnered the highest amount that the tasters were willing to pay $27+,  but the tasters who were not enamoured of it seemed to prefer an $8 price tag, bringing this wine’s average price the panel was willing to pay to $15.

If you noticed, most of the wines on this list all contain a grape you may or may not have heard about before: Tempranillo. It is often referred to as Spain’s “noble grape”. Tempranillo grapes thrive in a short growing season and this early ripening tendency is the source of the name Tempranillo, which translates to “little early one”. Tempranillo also has many different regional identities worldwide, including aragon, cencibel, extremadura, valdepeñas and many derivatives of each.

Tempranillo wines can be consumed young, but the most expensive ones are aged for several years in oak barrels. It is frequently used as the base variety in blends, mostly with grenache, (aka garnacha in Spain), carignan (aka mazuelo in Spain’s Rioja region), syrah, and, more recently, cabernet sauvignon. Tempranillo aromas and flavors often combine elements of berryish fruit, plums, herbaceousness, vanilla, tobacco, an earthy-leathery character, and good minerality.

As our wine panel discovered these wines provide value for the money and are definitely worth a taste.