What's New in September

Autumn Vines in Rioja

The Taste of Spain: Tempranillo

When most people think of grapes from Spain the first thing to come to mind is Tempranillo. One of the most commonly planted varietals in Spain, Tempranillo is the favorite grape of two of the country's most famous wine regions: Rioja and Ribera de Duero. Most of the wines from both of these regions are made with Tempranillo, either as the base of a blend or unblended. The flavor profile of Tempranillo, spice and leather with red berry overtones, has come to dominate the American notion of how Spain's red wines taste.

Tempranillo as a grape sings in high elevation, cold climate areas. In areas with less temperature fluctuations, the finer points of the grape are lost. The two best climates for Tempranillo are Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

In Rioja the diversity of climate creates multiple flavor profiles. The profiles follow this basic pattern for the different subzones:

Rioja Baja
This warmer and more Mediterranean climate creates wines of simple juicy berry flavors.

Rioja Navarra(Upper Rioja Baja)
High elevations give the wines an irony, chalky component with high toned aromas.

Rioja Alavesa
The climate is definitely cool although variations exist due to elevation differences. The vineyards closer to the river (El Ciego) tend towards the red fruit/red pepper aromas with smokey and roasted meats. The higher elevation vineyards near the Sierra Cantabria (Samaniego/Laguardia) show aromas and flavors of wet stone, spice box and roasted meats.

Rioja Alta
Here the vineyards always seem to have a certain bloody and irony quality with smoke overtones.

In Ribera del Duero the profiles are harder to delineate because few wineries source only from their own vineyards and micro climates abound. Three towns frame the triangle of Ribera del Duero.

Here lie mostly very high elevation vineyards. The aromas tend to be black fruits and mushroom/ fungus overtones. The wines are powerful.

This area is closer to the lower parts of the Duero River and wines tend to be lighter and more fruit driven with exceptions as obvious as Vega Sicilia which embodies long term ageing reds.

This outlying area is thought to contain quite a few pre-phylloxera sites. The wines are powerful with intense red fruit qualities.

As Tempranillo continues to be discovered and more family domains start producing wines from their own vineyards the greater appreciation for this grape, and its site specificity, will come to light. On a last note we have two spectacular vintages currently representing these areas: 2004 and 2005. These are wines that are showing beautifully and will continue to do so in the coming years.

Now Available

Viña Sastre CrianzaViña Sastre Crianza 2005: Ribera del Duero Burgos
Beautiful violet color, aromas of truffles, earth and crushed fruit. Very elegant on the palate with bright sweet fruit and sweet oak notes.

OstatuOstatu 2005: Rioja Alavesa
Beautiful garnet/crimson color. Aromas of cacao, spices and toast. The palate is very even and dense showing lush fruit framed by mineral undertones.

Luberri BigaLuberri Biga 2005: Rioja Alavesa
Classic smoke and woodsy aromas surrounded by forest fruits. Spices, red peppers and dark fruit flavors framed by soft persistent tannins.

Conde de HervíasConde de Hervías 2004: Rioja Alta
Lovely floral undertones mingling with spices from the oak. Flavors are of ripe black berries mingling with rose petals. The palate is surprisingly delicate and lengthy.

Arbanta 2007: Rioja Navarra
Spicy floral aromas with striking mineral notes. The palate delivers excellent structure and a solid core of fruit.

Also New...

Fresh Sherry: Lot Numbers and their Meaning

The most commonly overlooked aspect of Fino and Manzanilla sherries is always freshness. While Amontillados and Olorosos are known for their longevity – they initially became popular due to the fact that they would not spoil during a long sea voyage – Finos and Manzanillas are best consumed when they're freshly bottled and served cold. In an effort to ensure that you're drinking the best sherry possible we had our three producers print lot numbers on every bottle of Fino and Manzanilla.

But what do these lot number mean? How can you tell the sherry's freshness from a lot number? These lot numbers are not just random codes. Each number has a meaning and knowing the meaning behind the number will let you know how fresh these sherries are. Each winery has its own system of generating a lot number but you can always tell that it is a lot number because it will be prefaced by the letter "L". Using the current lot numbers as examples, here is a breakdown of the meaning of each winery's lot numbers so that you can tell exactly when that sherry was bottled.

La Cigarrera Manzanilla
Current Lot Number: L08120, released June 4, 2008.
La Cigarrera's lot number may be the most confusing of the three but it can be broken into two segments: year and day. The first two digits denote the bottling year, in this case "08." The last three digits represent the day within the year; in this case the "120" stands for day 120 or April 29th (2008 is a leap year). Lot number code L08120 means that this lot was bottled on the 120th day (April 29th) of 2008.

El Maestro Sierra Fino
Current Lot Number: L0208, released March 19, 2008.
El Maestro Sierra's lot number can be broken into two simple segments: month and year. The first two digits signify the month; for the current lot number that would be "02" or February. The second two digits denote the year, "08" for this lot. Lot number L0208 means that this lot was bottled in February of 2008.

Gutierrez Colosia, Fino Elcano
Current Lot Number: L010508, released July 7, 2008
Gutierrez Colosia's lot number is fairly straightforward: it is simply the date of the bottling. But remember, they're using the European standard format so the day is shown before the month. Lot number L010508 means the lot was bottled on the 1st of May, 2008.

Cava Cocktail Contest

Our Cava Avinyó Cocktail Contest returns this month with a brand new submission. We'll be taking recipes all year so keep 'em coming.

Cañón de Costa
by Chris R. of Vine in Atlanta, Georgia
2 oz Cardenal Mendoza Brandy
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
1/2 oz lemon juice
5 oz Cava Avinyó Brut Reserva
Combine Cardenal Mendoza Brandy, sugar and lemon juice in a chilled, ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into a Collins glass that is half-full of cracked ice and top off with Cava Avinyó Brut Reserva.