A Drink From The Porron

A Drink From The Porron

2019: A Letter From André

We are thrilled to begin this year by announcing several new projects which have been many years in the making. Our focus this year is on Spain and its limitless potential.

Galicia is the first region where we are launching an incredibly exciting new project in 2019. Last year we wrote a three-part series on Northwest Spain, an in-depth exploration of the diversity offered by this complex region. With its remote location and rugged, natural beauty, Northwest Spain is just beginning to be understood by the pioneers who work there daily. The results for us are thrilling, complex, world-class wines. In the eastern part of this region, there is a pioneer who has been quietly working, rebuilding centuries-old terraces and replanting indigenous varietals near a secluded ancient village known as Santa Cruz. Most people have never seen these back roads. In fact, we only discovered them by accident four years ago when a misguided GPS led us through what appeared to be impassable roads, cutting through a medieval village which seemed to have been made for goats and not cars!

Las Ermitas is a spectacular ancient sanctuary near the village of Santa Cruz with a church built into the hillside in the early seventeen hundreds. Many years ago, the monks from Las Ermitas planted the very terraces which were eventually abandoned for a century and are now being painstakingly recovered today by Ladeiras do Xil.

Vineyards at Ladeiras do Xil

Ladeiras do Xil takes its name from the hillsides of the Sil River which is the lifeblood of the Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra wine regions. Started by Telmo Rodriguez and Pablo Eguzkiza in 2002, this pioneering winemaking team recognized the potential to make world-class wines from this incredible landscape, which the Sil and its tributary, the Bibei River, flows through. In this valley in O Bolo county, the two denominations of origin Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras merge. We had also been drawn to this land by old texts which sometimes called the area Falcoeira, for the falcons which inhabit the valleys, but it was Telmo and Pablo who were the first to plant their flag in this incredibly important valley and begin a project which would take decades to come to fruition. We are now just seeing the unfolding of the grandeur of their vision. Telmo, Pablo, and their vineyard manager Jorge Saa have quietly been doing heroic work in the face of incredible obstacles:

It’s been an emotional experience reliving how our ancestors worked the land, moving tons of earth and stone, shaping the landscape and carving out plots and terraces that now lie practically abandoned but which could become some of the best vineyards in the world. We have learned how they used endless combinations of different varieties to adapt to the diversity of the land and climate.

This is how the team describe the work they have been doing. We are excited to be releasing several different wines from the introductory line called Gaba do Xil, as well as a collection of incredible single-vineyard reds and whites made from a variety of ancient grapes. These wines reflect the purity and transcendence of one of the greatest terroirs in Europe. It is hard to overstate the importance of this valley’s terroir and the Ladeiras do Xil project to understanding the greatness of Galicia.

Pegaso's vineyards

In the Sierra de Gredos region in the mountains outside Madrid we again found our partners in Telmo and Pablo, who were among the first to come to this area, and specifically, to the village of Cebreros in 1999 with Pegaso. Captivated by the unique slate soils of the site known as Arrebatacapas and the quality of the old viñas viejas garnacha vines, they began by recovering old high-altitude hillsides, finding vines in between boulders. Working for twenty years they painstakingly recovered slate vineyards, as well as vineyards on granitic soils, rebuilding terraces and always training vines with the ancient bush vine system. At 1,100 meters elevation, one begins to understand the incredible amount of energy necessary for a project of this scope. With the refurbishment of an old hunting lodge called Finca La Piñonera, they established the simple winery in the heart of the vineyards. Today, Marc Isaart has joined the team to help with the mission. As one of the pioneering winemakers in the region, Marc has led the way to discovery and recovery of Sierra de Gredos and Vinos de Madrid with years of work in the vineyard. We are releasing two new wines for 2019 from Pegaso: Zeta is the introductory wine from mostly granitic soils, and later in the year we will release the single vineyard Barrancos de Pizarra, from one of the few slate sites in the Vinos de Madrid area. We believe this wine shows the true potential of the region, with its focus on garnacha or garnacho as they like to call it.

The red galet soil

Prieto Picudo is a grape that we have been obsessed with since we drank carafes of the stuff in the town of León twenty years ago. It is a grape which was almost extinct, as many León vineyards were pulled up when the E.U. gave incentives to plant wheat or corn instead of grapes. Jose Antonio Garcia, our partner in Bierzo, has been farming two small plots of land of old Prieto Picudo vines in the province of León. His site of five hectares of organic old-vines in the town of Villacalbiel is planted on red galet soil which looks like it could have been brought back from a future Mars expedition. Two cuvées will be launched this year, beginning with an entry-level wine that will capture the vivacity of this native variety.

Another exciting new addition in 2019 is called Mugaro and is the work of one of our good Basque friends, Ignacio Ameztoi. When Ignacio called me telling me he was excited to recover an existing winery in Navarra with old garnacha vineyards, I knew we had something special to look forward to. Navarra was once a very famous viticultural area prior to the epidemic of phylloxera. After the disease decimated the region, the vineyards were never fully recovered and Navarra lost much of its former glory. Ignacio plans a very slow rebuilding here, beginning with a very limited release of a rosé made from a block of old-vine garnacha. True to Ignacio’s aesthetics, this rosé will be effusive, light on its feet and incredibly versatile at the table.

In addition, this year brings many more exciting things to announce including the expansion of the De Maison Selections spirits program. The philosophy of our spirits program follows our vision in the vineyard and is based on fruit and herbal based distillates from artisanal family producers in Spain and France. Our love of spirits is firmly rooted in the beverages we like to drink both before and after a meal.

Trabanco Alma

To begin, we are pleased to launch a new natural cider-based quinquina made by Trabanco in collaboration with Acha, called Alma. This project was many years in the making and highlights Trabanco’s path as an industry innovator. The Alma quinquina is the first vermouth based on natural cider from Asturias, making it one of the most beguiling and unique aromatized wines we have ever tasted. We can’t wait to share this original Asturian apéritif with you.

Philippe Vançon, who is famous for producing the finest Marc and Fine de Bourgogne under Jacoulot’s l’Authentique brand (Burgundy’s answer to Armagnac and Cognac), will release two new brandies in 2019. Utilizing only the best grape spirits and aged for a shorter time in the old barrels at the estate, Jacoulot will offer these value-driven spirits from France for application in cocktail programs and to compliment their impressive line of crèmes.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we will unveil two secret, highly anticipated spirits projects in April of this year. This release will bring to the U.S. ingredients which have become indispensable to bar programs across the Iberian peninsula that are central to the Mediterranean cocktail experience and the red-hot Barcelona cocktail scene. Our mission this year is to bring the most authentic ingredients possible from Spain to trailblazing cocktail programs in the U.S.

Sanlucar de Barrameda

All of this and more will be featured during our portfolio show in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain in April 2019, #dmsanlucar2019. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s journey to circumnavigate the world. In September 1519, Ferdinand Magellan set sail in a fleet of five ships from Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The voyage was completed three years later by Juan Sebastian Elcano, a Basque sailor from Getaria, following the death of Magellan. Coincidentally, Elcano is the portrait featured on the label of Ameztoi Txakolina, as they both hail from the seaside town of Getaria.

In the spirit of adventure and discovery, we intend to make 2019 a very special year with this educational and celebratory event in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. We are pleased to have all of you along for the ride!

- André Tamers