Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections Arrives in US With a Plethora of Low Octane Beauties - - John B. Gilman's The View From The Cellar

* * * * *

Vineyards overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Empordá.
One of the most beautiful vineyard areas in Spain.

  Long-time Spanish wine expert and journalist, Gerry Dawes has finally tossed his hat back in the ring of the wine trade here in the United States, creating a new Spanish wine import company that is focused on searching out old school Spanish wines of great character that have resisted (or studiously ignored) the modern trend towards high alcohol and over-oaked wines that have plagued many of the most well-known properties on the Iberian peninsula during the last couple of decades. Señor Dawes is probably the most vociferous opponent of excessive new oak to be found in the world of wine since the passing of Bartolo Mascarello, and he is no fan of the very heady and overripe style of winemaking that has been championed in many other journalistic circles behind the banner of Spain’s “Mediterranean Wine” fiction, which argues un-persuasively that Spain’s natural wine proclivity is to make overripe and alcoholic wines due to the limitations of its Mediterranean climate. 

  Spain’s important native wine critic, Victor de la Serna of the publication, El Mundo, has long argued for this fantasy in the face of an historical legacy to the contrary, which helped provide the propaganda program behind which so many Spanish wineries sought to maximize profitability by fashioning wines solely for the over the top tastes of Robert Parker’s associate, Jay Miller, who has just retired from covering Spain for the Parker empire. Gerry Dawes has long been a journalistic counterpoint to the “Mediterranean Wine” armada, and in the last several months has created an import company to search out Spanish wines of the old school that steer clear of the alcoholic hubris that has marred so many new and formerly great wine-producing estates in Spain in the last fifteen or twenty years.

I have now had a handful of opportunities to taste through the wines in Gerry’s new import portfolio, which he has dubbed The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections. Not surprisingly, given Gerry’s long history of visiting in Spain and knowing the wine regions of the country inside out, his roster of small and very serious winegrowers is as fine a group of classic Spanish wines as one is likely to find under one umbrella. 

   I had intended to feature these wines as part of a larger piece on traditionally-styled Spanish wines in a coming issue, but thought the breadth and depth of selections in the Dawes’ portfolio was sufficiently exciting to warrant a feature on their own- particularly since many of these wines are made in very, very small quantities, and if I sat on the notes for a few months and included them in the upcoming feature, it is quite likely that many of these superb wines would already be sold out of the market. So, I have decided to get these notes published as quickly as possible to ensure that readers who are so inclined might have the opportunity to track down some of these truly exceptional wines prior to their disappearing from the market.

    The heart and soul of the Spanish Artisan Wine Group’s lineup are superb bottlings of Mencía on the red side of the ledger, and a great set of producers making stunning Albariño on one hand, and another group working their magic with Godello on the white wine side of the ledger. This is not to say that there are not some equally superb wines to be found here amongst Señor Dawes’ selections that are not made from one of these three grapes (in fact, there is a simply stunning, old vine Garnacha from Camino del Villar Viña Aliaga that Gerry is not particularly fond of - given its riper style in comparison to most of the wines found in his portfolio - but which should absolutely not be missed!), so one would be foolish to focus exclusively on the small growers producing Mencía, Godello and Albariño in the roster of tiny estates represented here. 

   But, that said, there is no denying that the Spanish Artisan Wine Group’s lineup of producers of Mencía, Godello and Albariño are all absolutely exceptional and every bit as fine as anything I have ever tasted from these three grape varieties. In particular, his roster of Albariño producers are spectacular, with each estate emphatically showing just how great the wines from this grape can be when produced from low yields and old vines. Along with Albariño producers represented here in the US by José Pastor, such as Pedralonga, Raul Perez and Do Ferreiro, the likes of Spanish Artisan Wine Group producers such as Lagar de Broullón,  O Forollo, Avó Roxo, Cabaleiro do Val and Rozas are redefining just what Albariño can and should be and are amongst some of the most exciting new (at least to me) dry white wines that I have tasted in several years. In fact, Gerry’s roster ofAlbariño producers is so superb that he generally saves them for the end of tastings, starting with reds and rosado bottlings and letting the Albariño producers finish off the festivities at the two events I attended!

    I first tasted several of these wines at the start of March of this year, as the wines were just scheduling to depart from Spain (and I for a month-long swing through France and Germany), and then followed up with a second tasting in late May when the wines had fully arrived here in New York. Both tastings emphasized that Señor Dawes’ lineup is chock full of outstanding producers new to the export markets and who are fashioning absolutely stellar, old school wines that are long on terroir, purity of fruit, tangy acids and great personality that are derived from their traditional places of origin, rather than from a tony French tonnelier or trendy international winemaking consultant. 

   While I have not yet had the pleasure to visit and taste in the cellars with these producers, it is now at the top of my list for future tasting trips and it will not be long until I have the pleasure to meet these vignerons in person and get a better feel for their philosophies and vineyard landscapes. For, these are really superb wines and some of the most exciting new producers to cross my path in several years. For subscribers not located here in the states, I am sure that these small artisan producers would be delighted to be contacted directly about the availability of their wines, as there is little doubt that they are currently swimming upstream from the more “typical” Spanish wine market at home (still seemingly enamored of alcoholic clout and tons of new wood) and would be amenable to sharing a few of their great bottles with sympathetic private clients from around the continent.


    While I will be doing a full-fledged feature on Cava in the next issue, I wanted to include notes here on The Spanish Artisan Wine Group’s fine Catalan producer, Jaume Giró et Giró and their excellent label of Can Festis Cava. Like virtually all of the top producers I have tasted in recent months, Jaume Giró et Giró is part of the “Six Percent Club” who own their own vineyards and produce Cava solely from their own grapes. 

   As I will elaborate on in my article on Cava, in my experience, this is one of the fundamental building blocks for producing truly world class Cava, and if one were to simply limit one’s consumption of Cava to producers who grow their own grapes and make their own wines, one could steer clear of disappointingly bland examples and come to appreciate just how beautifully delicate and complex top flight Cava can be from members of this “Six Percent Club.” 

Can Festis Cava “Bronze Label” Brut Nature- Jaume Giró et Giró $15.99
Can Festis Cava “Silver Label” Brut Nature Reserva- Jaume Giró et Giró  $19.99
Can Festis Cava “Gold Label” Brut Nature Grand Reserva- Jaume Giró et Giró $22.99
(Notes to follow.)

Assorted Vino Blanco

    The 2010 Finca Teira Blanco from Bodegas Manuel Formigo is a blend of seventy percent Treixadura, twenty percent Godello and ten percent Alvilla. It weighs in at a cool 12.5 percent alcohol and is a lovely middleweight, offering up a complex nose of lemon, grapefruit, salty soil tones, citrus peel and a touch of beeswax in the upper register. On the palate the wine is medium-full, bright and very well-balanced, with perfectly respectable depth in the mid-palate, good focus and fine length and grip on the finish. This is not exactly snappy today, but it remains fresh and vibrant for near-term drinking. I look forward to tasting the 2011 version of this wine, as it is clearly meant to be drunk in its youth. 2012-2014.  89.  $19.99

    Young Manuel Formigo de la Fuente is the winegrower now in charge of his family’s vineyards in Ribeiro, tucked in a corner of Galicia just above the Portuguese border in northwestern Spain. The estate’s “Teira X” bottling hails from some of their oldest vines in their top vineyard site, Finca Miño Teira, and is a blend of sixty percent Treixadura, fifteen percent each Albariño and Alvilla and ten percent Loureira. Only a few hundred cases are produced each vintage. This is a more structured and slightly riper (thirteen versus 12.5 percent) wine than the estate’s Finca Teira Blanco, with more mid-palate depth and a superior backbone of acidity. The 2010 is an absolutely superb wine, jumping from the glass in a vibrant mélange of lemon, fresh bay leaf, stony white soil tones, orange peel and a dollop of petrol. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and beautifully soil-driven, with sound acids, lovely focus and simply exceptional length and grip on the finish. A superb bottle. 2012-2018. 92.  $26.99

    Terra Remota is owned by the husband and wife team of Marc and Emma Bournazeau, who are residents of Perpignan, France (just over the border), as Marc’s family was forced to emigrate from Spain to Perpignan during the Civil War. This very pretty and stylish white wine is a blend of forty-five percent Garnaxta Blanca, thirty-five percent Chenin Blanc and twenty percent Chardonnay. The nose is deep and complex, offering up a very classy blend of lemon, pear, white soil tones, a hint of green olive and a topnote of spring flowers. On the palate the wine is fullish, crisp and nicely transparent, with sound framing acids and good length and grip on the focused finish. This is not the most complex white in the portfolio, but it is a very satisfying bottle that offers up good depth and breadth of flavor, which, I suspect, will grow exponentially in complexity as the vines get older here. Very elegant juice. 2012-2016+. 88.  $28.99
Pierre, Brigitte, Emma, Marc, Veronica, Diego & Voyou (the dog).
The winemaking and vineyard team at Terra Remota in Empordá.
Owners Marc and Emma Bournazeau in center.


    The 2010 Sabatelius Blanco is a blend of sixty percent Godello and forty percent Treixadura and is a terrific bottle. The stylish and complex nose wafts from the glass in a blend of pink grapefruit, beeswax, tart melon, lemon peel, salty soil tones, a touch of green olive and a topnote of resinous herbs. On the palate the wine is vibrant, medium-full and complex, with a fine core of fruit, bright acids, excellent focus and grip and a long, pure and transparent finish. Fine juice. 2012-2018.  92.  $21.99

    Don Bernardino is the wine label for restaurateur, Emilio Rodríguez Diaz, whose O Grelo restaurant is located in the town of Monforte de Lemos - effectively the capital of the Ribeira Sacra region. His 2010 Godello is excellent, weighing in at a ripe and pure thirteen percent and offering up a beautiful nose of peach, lime peel, a lovely base of soil, just a whisper of honeycomb and a gently smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, pure and very classy, with excellent mid-palate depth, fine focus, crisp acids and outstanding balance and grip on the snappy and soil-driven finish. Just a superb bottle of Godello. 2012-2020.  92. 

    Adegas D. Berna is owned by the young husband and wife team of Berna Guitián and Elena Blanco, who together with their talented consulting enologist, José Luis Murcia, produce an absolutely lovely bottle of Godello. The deep, complex and very pretty nose wafts from the glass in a mix of lime, tart orange, salty soil tones, a hint of white peach, olives, white flowers and a bit of citrus peel in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, medium-full and vibrant, with lovely intensity of flavor, a fine core, crisp acids and lovely length and grip on the beautifully focused finish. This is a really lovely bottle. 2012-2018. 91+.  $24.99

    Adegas O Barreiro is owned by Pepe Rodríguez, who retired from his first career to tend vines and make wine in this isolated corner of Valdeorras which looks down upon the Sil River valley. Señor Rodriguez’s 2010 Godello is flat out stunning, offering up a deep and classy bouquet of tart peach, orange peel, beeswax, white soil tones, a touch of green olive and a lovely, delicate topnote of fresh rosemary. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very pure on the attack, with impressive complexity and mid-palate depth, laser-like focus, sound acids and outstanding length and grip on the bouncy and very refined finish. This is a superb example of Godello and one taste of this wine makes it very easy to see why so many Spanish wine aficionados argue that Godello is the country’s greatest indigenous white wine grape. 2012-2020.  93.  $19.99

    While Ribeira Sacra is obviously best-known for its outstanding red wines based on Mencía, this lovely Godello shows that the steep slate vineyards here are also a fine location for Godello and other white wine varieties. The 2010 Godello from Viña de Neira is a lovely middleweight, offering up an impressively complex and vibrant bouquet of lemon, bread fruit, beeswax, salty soil tones, lemon peel and dried flowers in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, crisp and complex, with a lovely base of soil, fine focus and good, but not great length on the bouncy finish. If this were a bit longer on the backend it would rate outstanding, but there is an awful lot to like in this classy and complex wine. 2012-2016.  88.  $18.99

    Albariño has long been considered one of Spain’s finest white wine grapes, but much of its history has been marked by unfulfilled potential, as the low prices that most of these wines sold for on the international market simply dictated that the grape had to be cropped high in order for winegrowers to survive economically and make a living sufficient to keep their families fed and sheltered. Happily, one is beginning to see more examples of Albariño these days that are clearly focused on maximizing the potential quality of the varietal by keeping yields much lower and searching out blocks of old vines, with the resulting wines showing a dramatically different profile of complexity and depth of flavor than was the case when the only way for a winegrower to survive with this variety was to over-crop and try to get by on volume. 

Much the same phenomenon can be seen in a French appellation such as Sancerre, where there continues to be oceans of rather dilute, simple and easy-drinking wine produced from very high crop yields, but where the greatest producers of the region- people such as Edmond and Anne Vatan, the Cotat cousins, Gérard Boulay and others have shown just how profound a wine can be produced from sauvignon blanc in the best terroirs of Sancerre when yields are kept down and the wines are crafted to maximize quality and complexity, rather than simply aiming to make a profit through volume. 

A similar push upwards in quality can be seen in the region of Rias Biaxas with Albariño, and the last couple of years have seen some absolutely brilliant examples cross my path from some of the top producers in the region. Prior to tasting these wines, I never imagined that Albariño could produce such profoundly complex, intensely flavored and ageworthy wines, and this new trend may well be one of the most exciting today in all of Spain. Two decades ago a group of fourteen growers who specialize in Rias Biaxas Albariño decided to form a quality-oriented growers’ association, which they dubbed the “Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas,” and six of these estates are now part of Señor Dawes’ portfolio. 

One of the chief tenets of the producers in this association, besides low yields and old vines is the use solely of indigenous yeasts for the fermentation of their wines. These top estates also differ from much of the more commercially-oriented Albariño out there in choosing to bottle their wines significantly later than is customary in the more quantity-oriented houses, allowing the wines to nurture on their fine lees typically until mid-summer of the following year after the harvest. The growers reported on below from The Spanish Artisan Wine Group are certainly amongst the very finest of this new genre of “quality over quantity” Albariño producers, and there are very few other vignerons working with this grape with whom I have experience that can match the stunning quality of these wines. 

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections Albariños 
from the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia.

    Adega Avó Roxo is currently run by Antonio Gondar Moldés, who took over the management of the family estate only in 2007.  His grandfather, Serafin Gondar began production here in the 1930s and this was at one time one of the most famous wineries in the region, winning several awards as late as the 1970s. The family vineyard is one and a half hectares in size and planted entirely to Albariño and Antonio Gondar Moldes is dedicated to taking the quality here to the highest level, and Avó Roxo is one of the most recent inductees into the growers’ association in the region. His 2010 Albariño is a stunning wine, soaring from the glass in a blaze of tart orange, lime, stony, salty minerality, a touch of green olive, ocean breeze and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very transparent, with a great core of fruit, crisp acids, outstanding focus and balance and superb grip on the very, very long finish. This is a stunning example of Albariño! 2012-2020.   95.  $24.99

    The Adega of Cabaleiro do Val is owned by Francisco “Paco” Dovalo López, who founded and is the current president of the Growers’ Association here. While the winery was only officially incorporated in 1989, the family winegrowing traditions here go back centuries and Señor Dovalo López has some extremely old vines in his vineyard. He has taken selection massale cuttings from some of his one hundred and fifty year-old vines to use for replanting purposes, thus retaining the unique character of his outstanding Albariños. The 2010 offering from Cabaleiro do Val is absolutely outstanding, jumping from the glass in a deep, complex and gently leesy mélange of grapefruit, orange peel, stony minerality, lemongrass and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and rock solid at the core, with snappy acids, laser-like focus and simply exquisite length and grip on the perfectly balanced and soil-driven finish. This is a brilliant Albariño! 2012-2020+.   94+.  $24.99

Paco Dovalo and Gerry Dawes drinking Cabaliero do Val, Doval's great Albariño at the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas Encontro de Vinos de Autor in Dena-Meaño, Val de Salnés, Rías Baixas, Galicia.

    Lagar de Broullón is owned by José Pintos, who farms this two and a half hectare vineyard in the village of Meaño, which is one of the very finest for Albariño in the Val de Salnés section of Rías Biaxas. The vineyard is situated with a south by southwest exposition, allowing the grapes to reach fine ripeness each year and still maintain a great base of minerality. The 2010 from Señor Pintos is a beautiful wine, offering up a deep and vibrant nose of fresh lime, green apple, salty oceanic tones, citrus peel, a bit of lemongrass and a great base of stony minerality. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and classy, with a superb core of fruit, crisp acids and lovely length and grip on the perfectly focused finish. High class juice! 2012-2020.  93.  $23.99

    Eulogio Gondar is the owner and winegrower at Lagar de Candes, and he represents the fourth generation of his family to head this small estate, which is also located in the village of Meaño, in the Val de Salnés section of Rias Biaxas. The soils here are granitic in nature, producing beautifully mineral expressions of Albariño. The 2010 from Lagar de Candes is a lovely wine, wafting from the glass in a complex mix of tangerine, elegant leesy tones, pulverized stone, lime zest and a saline topnote of the ocean. On the palate the wine is pure, medium-full and zesty, with lovely complexity, very good mid-palate depth, sound framing acids and lovely length and grip on the focused and classy finish. This does not quite possess quite the same “electricity” on the backend as the very best Albariños in this lineup, but it is a superb bottle of wine. 2012-2016.   90+.  $23.99

    Bodega Meis Otero is owned and operated by the Fernando Meis Otero, who is one of the very youngest members of theAsociación de Bodegas Artesanas. He took over the reins of the family bodega in 2001. Like many of his fellow members of the growers’ association, his vineyards are located in the Val de Salnés. The family’s one and a half hectares of vines used to be planted to a mix of regional grapes, but Fernand Meis Otero’s father took the step to plant exclusively Albariño here in the early 1980s. Thus, the vineyards are just now coming into their prime as they close in on thirty years of age. The 2010 O’Forrollo Albariño is an outstanding wine, delivering a deep and very complex nose of sweet grapefruit, pulverized stone, orange peel, briny oceanic overtones, lemongrass and a touch of acacia blossom in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, complex and very classy, with a superb core of fruit, laser-like focus, outstanding intensity of flavor and superb length and grip on the beautifully-balanced finish that closes with a distinct note of orange peel. Lovely juice. 2012-2020.   93.  $23.99

    Adega Rozas is located in the village of Meaño in the Val de Salnés and is run by winegrower Manolo Dovalo. This family estate goes back several generations, and its 6.3 hectares of vineyards are loaded with old vines - many dating back more than two generations! Señor Dovalo insists that it is the very high percentage of old vines in this very favored section of the Val de Salnés that allows him to make such outstanding Albariños. The 2010 Rozas is simply stunning, soaring from the glass in a complex blaze of lime zest, tart orange, kaleidoscopic minerality, lemongrass, gentle leesy tones and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very racy, with a rock solid core of fruit, brisk acids, laser-like focus and simply stunning length and grip on the very minerally and magically complex finish. This is as magical a glass of Albariño as I have ever had the pleasure to taste! 2012-2020+.  96+.  $25.99


    The 2011 Rosado from Viña Aliaga is a beautiful bottle of dry Rosé that is drinking superbly out of the blocks, but shows every indication of improving with a year or two of bottle age. Made from one hundred percent Garnacha, with its color arrived at by a bit of skin contact, the 2011 offers up a deep and stunning nose of blood orange, cherries, rose petals, lovely, chalky soil tones and a bit of orange peel in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and beautifully balanced, with a lovey core of fruit, bright acids and excellent focus and grip on the long and classy finish. Just a beautiful bottle of rosado, with great purity and no “candied” aspects on either the nose or palate. 2012-2016.   92.  $13.99

    The Viña Catajarros Rosado from Bodegas Hermanos Merino is made up of a blend of eighty percent tempranillo, five percent Garnacha, and fifteen percent of two white wine grapes, Verdejo (ten percent) and alvillo (five percent). This winery is run by two brothers, Eugenio and his brother Merino, and the estate is a Rosado specialist, with the vast majority of their production comprised of dry rosé (augmented by a bit of red wine). The 2011 Viña Catajarros Rosado offers up a superb and vibrant nose of cherries, orange peel, salty soil tones and a topnote of dried roses. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and tangy, with a superb base of soil, excellent focus and bounce and a very long, complex and classy finish. I would give this superb wine another year of bottle age to really let it blossom, as the 2010 shows that there is more yet to come as this wine develops with a bit of cellaring. High class rosado here! 2013-2018.   93.  $13.99

    The 2010 Viña Catajarros Rosado from Bodegas Hermanos Merino is made up the same blend as the 2011, and the additional year of bottle age has really let this wine come into its own. The 2010 version is a superb bottle of rosé, jumping from the glass in a complex and classy nose of cherries, melon, pomegranate, a touch of spiced meats, orange peel, complex, soil tones and a nice touch of smokiness in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and beautifully balanced, with a  lovely core of fruit, with gentle framing acids, superb soil signature and excellent length and grip on the complex finish. High class and serious rosado that shows every indication of continuing to drink well for several more years. 2012-2016+?  93+.  $13.99

Assorted Vino Tinto

    Carlos Aliaga’s tempranillo never sees any oak and is raised entirely in stainless steel tanks. It hails from the family’s limestone-based vineyards located in the center of Navarra and is a superb value. The 2010 tips the scales at a very civilized 13.5 percent alcohol and delivers a lot of aromatic and flavor complexity for its very modest price tag. The bouquet is a blend of black cherries, new leather, a touch of chocolate, lovely spice tones, a bit of meatiness and a topnote of violets. On the palate the wine is medium-full, complex and has a bit of ripe tannins on the backend, with a sappy core of fruit, good focus and fine length and grip. This will be even better with a year’s bottle age, but it is already an awful lot of wine for a bargain price! 2012-2020.  87+.  $13.99

    The 2009 Camino Vi Negre from Terro Remota is a lovely red wine from Empordá, with its alcohol nicely scaled at fourteen percent and the beautiful terroir found here front and center in the wine. The blend on the 2009 is comprised of forty percent Garnaxta, thirty percent Syrah, twenty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and ten percent Tempranillo. The outstanding nose offers up a deep, pure and very refined blend of cherries, blood orange, a touch of cocoa, lovely spice tones, fresh nutmeg and a violet topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, medium-full, bright and tangy, with lovely intensity of flavor, melting tannins and a long, complex and beautifully focused finish. This is a beautiful bottle that shows off just how special this region can be when new oak is not the focal point of the equation. 2012-2020.  92+.   $29.99

    This lovely red is a blend of Samsó and Garnaxta. The wine offers up a deep and classy bouquet of red and black cherries, new leather, nutskins, garrigue, a lovely base of soil and a nice touch of fresh herbs in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very suave on the attack, with a lovely core of fruit, soft tannins and a long, complex and very classy finish. Lovely juice. 2012-2020+.   92.  $22.99

    Montsant is the mountainous region that surrounds Priorat and shares many of the same grapes with its better known neighbor. There is very good potential here, but it is a hot region and there is, of course, still more incentive these days to fashion wines of power that might capture the attention of Priorat fanciers looking for a bit better value in this neighboring region, rather than try to harness the ripeness here and look for a Montsant version of elegance. This 2008 from Herestat Navas is one of the more restrained examples I have tasted from Montsant- which admittedly is a very small sampling. The 2008 Montsant Tinto from Herestat Navas is comprised of a blend of forty percent Garnacha, twenty percent Cariñena (Carignan), twenty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and twenty percent Syrah. It is a deep, ripe and classy wine on the nose, offering up scents of cassis, garrigue-like spice tones, baked black cherries, a bit of tariness and a nice base of new oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and rock solid at the core, with good focus and a bit of uncovered wood tannin currently poking out on the complex backend. There is enough stuffing here to eventually carry its new wood and the wine is not particularly out of balance, but this is a wine that would have been dramatically better with a bit less oak. But, not bad. 2012-2020. 87+.

    The Aliaga family’s old vine Garnacha bottling, which hails from forty to fifty year-old vines is outstanding. Not particularly ripe by contemporary grenache standards, the 2007 weighs in at 13.9 percent alcohol and is raised in a blend of French and American oak- a small percentage of which is new- for six months. Gerry Dawes is quite funny in commenting that he really does not like this wine, but his customers keep asking for it! It is really an exceptional bottle of Garnacha, offering up a deep, impressively complex and sappy nose of crushed raspberries, a touch of meatiness, gentle notes of chocolate, garrigue, bonfires and a lovely base of chalky soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and complex, with melting tannins, a fine core of fruit, superb focus and balance and lovely length and grip. This is a high class bottle of grenache that never strays over the line into jammy obsequiousness and is another dynamite value from this superb producer. 2012-2020+.   92.  $19.99

    The 2007 Colección Privada Tinto from Camino del Villar Viña Aliaga is a blend of eighty percent tempranillo and twenty percent cabernet sauvignon and is aged again in a blend of French and American oak, this time for twelve months duration, and with the percentage of new wood slightly higher than for the Garnacha Vieja. The nose on the 2007 is deep and complex, with a nice, old school feel to its mélange of black cherries, grilled meats, coffee grounds, cigar some and a lovely base of dark soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and “nobly rustic”, with a superb core of fruit, modest tannins and excellent length and grip on the backend. This is not quite as complex as the Garnacha 2007, but it too is a very good bottle of wine. 2012-2020.   89.  $18.99

Ribeira Sacra (and other Mencía-based Reds)

   As noted above, Don Bernardino is the wine of restaurateur, Emilio Rodríguez Diaz, whose O Grelo restaurant is in the town of Monforte de Lemos. The steep vineyards for his red wine lie in the village of Amandi, overlooking the Sil River. I tasted two vintage of this terrific Mencía, with the 2011 being the slightly riper of the two vintages at thirteen percent (in comparison to the 12.5 percent of the 2010), but with both wines proving to be absolutely outstanding. The 2011 Don Bernardino offers up a vibrant nose of pomegranate, black cherries, a beautiful base of slate, a touch of lead pencil and a gentle topnote of woodsmoke. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very classy, with excellent intensity of flavor, bright acids and excellent length and grip on the focused and bouncy finish. Just a classic example of Mencía. 2012-2020.   92+.  $16.99

    José Manuel Rodríguez is the head of the growers’ association and regulatory agency of Ribeira Sacra, and makes one of the finest examples of Mencía I have ever had the pleasure to taste. Like the Don Bernardino Mencía, these two lovely vintages of Décima hail from very steep vineyards overlooking the Sil River in the village of Amandi. The 2011 Décima weighs in at a very classic octane of 12.5 percent and roars from the glass in a sophisticated and utterly classic nose of pomegranate, lead pencil, slate, a nice touch of gamebird, coffee bean and a gentle medicinal topnote that is vaguely reminiscent of Hermitage. On the palate the wine is fullish, complex and very intensely flavored, with laser-like focus, fine mid-palate depth, tangy acids and great length and grip on the very softly tannic finish. Utterly classic Mencía! 2012-2020+.  94.  $21.99

    Roberto Regal’s production is miniscule, as he owns only about one hectare of Mencía vines here in a very steep vineyard overlooking the Miño River. There are just a handful of older indigenous varieties also in the vineyard here, so Señor Regal makes a field blend of these with his Mencía to produce this superb wine. The 2011 Toalde is outstanding, offering up a deep and complex bouquet of black cherries, pomegranate, a touch of nutskin, a lovely base of slate and granitic minerality, smoke and a gentle topnote of fresh herbs. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, long and very sappy in the mid-palate, with fine focus and balance and a long, suave and bouncy finish. This is a lovely wine. 2012-2018.  91+.  $24.99

    The Viña Barroca Mencía bottling from Bodegas Adriá hails from thirty to sixty year-old vines grown on hillside vineyards that range from 450 to a 1000 meters above sea level. The soils here in Bierzo are not the pure slate one finds in Ribeira Sacra, but rather a mix of quartz, clay and slate. The 2010 Viña Barroca Mencía was aged entirely in stainless steel and given four months additional bottle age prior to release and weighs in at a ripe 13.5 percent alcohol. The nose is deep and classy, offering up a youthful mélange of dark berries, medicinal black cherries, a touch of tree bark, graphite, garrigue and a fine base of soil that seems to show a slightly ferrous complexity. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and intensely flavored, with lovely transparency, a solid core, fine focus and excellent length and grip on the complex and classy finish. I should note that I tasted this wine twice, with the wine once popped and poured and on the other occasion given one hour in decanter prior to serving. The additional aeration made a world of difference in allowing this young wine to blossom fully and decanting is very much recommended for this fine wine. This is a stunning value! 2012-2020. 92.  $14.99

    Adegas D. Berna is a specialist in Godello, but their 2010 Mencía d’Berna is also a splendid wine and not to be overlooked with all the white wine fireworks being crafted in the cellars and vineyards here by the estate’s (regionally) well-known and very talented consultant, José Luis Murcia. This is an absolutely classic example of Mencía, offering up a superb aromatic mélange of dark berries, pomegranate, a touch of tree bark, spice tones redolent of cumin, a bit of bitter chocolate  and a lovely base of complex, stony soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very intensely flavored, with a sappy core of fruit, tangy acids, excellent focus and grip and a very long, complex finish that stays light on its feet all the way to the conclusion. There is just a faint touch of volatile acidity to this beauty when it is first opened, so a short stint in decanter is quite beneficial. Fine, fine juice. 2012-2017.   92+.  $19.99

    I am not sure if it is the extra year of bottle age or the slightly lower octane level, but the 2010 Don Bernardino Mencía is even a small step up from the excellent 2011 version. The stunning nose soars from the glass in a blaze of black cherries, dark berries, a touch of tree bark, dark chocolate, smoky overtones and a gloriously complex base of slate soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and superbly complex, with outstanding focus and balance, tangy acids and truly exceptional length and grip on the scintillating finish. This is a beautiful bottle of Ribeira Sacra! 2012-2025.   94.  $16.99

    2010 DécimaMencía from José Manuel Rodríguez is another absolute classic in the making. The deep and utterly refined nose soars from the glass in a mélange of black cherries, pomegranate, a touch of road tar, bonfires, fresh herb tones, cracked pepper and a gloriously pure and complex base of slate. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very intensely flavored, with a sappy core, tangy acids, exquisite balance and a very, very long, focused and refined finish. The 2010 DécimaMencía is a beautifully crafted, complex and refined wine that is very pure and precise on both the nose and palate. It is still a young wine that will continue to blossom with further bottle age, but there is nothing structurally forbidding about the wine today and it will be a very difficult task keeping this wine in the cellar and not drinking it right away. Great juice. 2012-2025.   94.  $21.99

    Primitivo Lareu is a superb winemaker on the far western end of Ribeira Sacra, located in the sub-region of Chantada, which happens to be the coolest vineyard area in all of Ribeira Sacra. In addition to his winegrowing responsibilities, Señor Lareu is also a sculptor and painter, but first and foremost these days, he is a serious viticulturist bent on extracting as much terroir from his vineyards and producing as transparent a glass of wine as possible. His 2010 Mencía is outstanding, offering up a stunning and sappy nose of pomegranate, black cherries, woodsmoke, beautifully complex herbal tones, espresso and a superb base of stony, slate soil. On the palate the wine is deep, medium-full and dancing on the palate, with superb lightness of step coupled to excellent intensity. The wine is impressively complex and focused, with bright acids, little tannin and outstanding length and grip on the bouncy finish. Superb juice. 2012-2020+.   93+.  $21.99

    The 2010 Toalde from Roberto Regal is excellent, wafting from the glass in a smoky mélange of dark berries, black cherries, espresso, tree bark, stony soil tones, fresh herbs and woodsmoke. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and intensely flavored, with lovely transparency, very good mid-palate depth and superb length and grip on the focused and complex finish. This wine is very light on its feet and yet packs plenty of intensity. I suspect it will prove to be a touch longer-lived than the equally fine 2011 Toalde bottling. Classic Ribeira Sacra. 2012-2020+.  92.  $24.99

    Viña Cazoga has a long history of fine wine production in the Ribeira Sacra and was once one of the largest and most important estates in the area, but during the nadir of the region’s fortunes- which really started at the dawn of the twentieth century, when so many of these steep vineyard sites were abandoned and young people emigrated en masse in search of more profitable work- Jorge Carnero’s family’s vineyard holdings in the village of Amandi dwindled down to almost nothing. Jorge’s grandfather, Raimundo Vidal, was instrumental in starting to resurrect the Ribeira Sacra region in the 1970s and today the family owns a single, 3.9 hectare parcel of vines right above the Sil River that was long recognized as the finest vineyard in Ribeira Sacra. Almost the entire vineyard is planted with vines in excess of one hundred years of age, with ninety-five percent planted to Mencía and the balance made up of a mix of Tempranillo and Merenzao. The 2010 Viña Cazoga Mencía is a beautiful wine, offering up a deep,  very intense and complex nose of black cherries, pomegranate, black pepper, a touch of spiced meats, slate soil tones, espresso and a topnote of cigar smoke. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very sappy at the core, with great focus and grip, excellent balance, bright acids, virtually no tannins and outstanding length and grip on the dancing and palate-staining finish. Great Ribeira Sacra! 2012-2020.   94. $26.99

    The Don Diego bottling from Jorge Carnero spends six to twelve months of its elevage in four year-old, five hundred liter French oak barrels prior to bottling and is released after further bottle age. Even using four year-old barrels, the Mencía grape still shows a fair bit of wood influence in this wine, which does make for a markedly different impression than the stainless steel-aged regular bottling. The 2008 offers up a very deep and classy nose of black cherries, bitter chocolate, woodsmoke, lovely soil tones and a nice, generous touch of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and quite suave on the attack, with a bit less overtly terroir-derived soil tones in evidence. The finish is very long and moderately tannic, and though the wine is focused nicely, there is not quite the same purity and blazing transparency here as is found in the 2010 regular bottling. This is still a very well-made wine, but it seems that the oak takes away a bit more than it adds to the final blend. 2012-2025.  90. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

José Andrés on The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections

"You have worked on Spain like no one else.  You have done it a step at a time, little by little, but I think it is great that you are finding success (with The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections) and that after so many years of trips to Spain and of knowing and loving Spain, that your efforts are finally going to pay off.  You deserve to make it with your new venture and I am very happy for you." 

- - José Andrés, James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Chef 2011 and Chef-Partner of ThinkFoodGroup in Washington, D.C. and Operator of such restaurants as Jaleo (four locations in metro D.C. area and one in Las Vegas; minibar, Zaytinya, Oyamel, America Eats in D.C.; The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, California; and China Poblano by José Andrés in Las Vegas.

José Andrés & Albert Adrià at Tickets, Barcelona.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / /

Friday, June 20, 2014

What They Are Saying & Writing About The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections (Click on titles.)

* * * * *
* * * * *

Spanish Artisan Wine Group Stars from Ribeira Sacra: The most awesomely beautiful wine region on earth. "Tasted the new Holy Grail of Ribeira Sacra producers yesterday - Don Bernardino, Decima, Sabatelius, Toalde, Cazoga - just insanely good, low octane fireworks." - - John B. Gilman, Publisher of View From The Cellar

* * * * *

Excerpt: ". . .Some people have already made up their minds about godello.  Gerry Dawes, who has been writing about Spanish wines for decades and who recently went into the importing business, has called godello “Spain’s emerging hope as an equivalent to the great white Burgundies.” 

* * * * *
Waiting for Godello: The New Wines of Spain by Rozanne Gold, Huffington Post

"There's a "new kid" on the wine trail. After hawking other importers' wines for 30 years, Gerry Dawes is now selling his own discoveries. And discoveries they are!"

 * * * * *
The Vinos of Gerry Dawes: To Some Americans, Mr. Spain by Howard G. Goldberg

"Gerry’s knowledge of Spanish culture is so encyclopedic that Don Quixote paid him a travel consultant’s per diem.  Zurbarán painted his portrait (as a saint, which mystified his  friends). Ferdinand and Isabella allowed him to run sherry, stored in the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, to the New World; all that sherry so impressed Dawes’s first customer, a Jewish merchant named Lehmann, whom the Inquisition had expelled, that he took the whole line and named his store Jerez-Lehmann."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Arthur Lubow on The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections Wines

"The wines that Gerry Dawes is importing from Spain are appealing because they are affordable and yet have individual character. They haven't been smoothed out to be merely drinkable or, even worse, just to make a big first impression.

They go brilliantly with food, which is the right place for wine. And they speak of of the land and the winemakers that gave birth to them.

I was delighted by the multi-layered Hermanos Merino Catajarros Rosado 2010 Cigales, which is a rosé that conjures up a perfect summer afternoon.

Among the reds, I particularly enjoyed the peppery Viña Cazoga Tinto 2010 Amandi, the lighter, nicely balanced Décima Mencía Tinto 2010 Amandi, and the complex Toalde Tinto 2010 Ribeiras do Minho.

The whites that stood out for me were the crisp, stony Manuel Formigo Finca Teira 2010 and the peach-and-almond redolent Adegas D. Berna Godello 2010 Valdeorras." - - Arthur Lubow

 Author Arthur Lubow (The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, and Chef Ferran Adrià.  
All photographs by Gerry Dawes©2010
Contact: gerrydawes / www.spanis

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia: Avó Roxo, Cabaliero do Val, Lagar de Broullón, Lagar de Candes, O’Forollo & Rozas

Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia

“When Gerry discusses his albariños his voices rises and his enthusiasm goes into high gear, as does the prose in his tasting sheet on albariños from members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas.

 Back label in Spain for the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Autores do Viño.

The association, he relates, is “A group of small grower-producers who rebelled against commercial wine styles in Rías Baixas and produce their own unique wines using native yeasts.” He continues: “Each wine is distinctly different from the others.  There are 14 members of this association.  I have six of them, with probably four more to come. Why? These wines are among the greatest white wines of Spain, that’s why.”

I am not knowledgeable enough to say whether they are the greatest or not, but I loved the scintillating, complex 2010 Albariño from O’Forollo ($23.99); enjoyed the lush, flavorful 2010 Avó Roxo ($24.99); and admired the lithe, fresh 2010 Cabaliero do Val ($24.99).

I wish I had drunk these wines with seafood, as Gerry did, in Rías Baixas, a marine paradise. They would have been accompanied by ostras (oysters), almejas (clams), cigalas (langoustines), nécoras (small hard-shell crabs), vieiras (sea scallops) and zamburiñas (bay scallops, sort of).” - - Howard G. Goldberg, writer for The New York Times, Decanter and others.

  Back label in the U.S. for Avó Roxo, member of the  
Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Autores do Viño.

Among these artisan Albariños are some unique and stunning examples of how great Spanish white wines can be.  The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections  imports six Albariños from the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas, which has 14 small grower-producer members, most of which produces 1,000 cases or less and use indigenous yeasts to ferment their wines.  Though each producer's wine is distinctly different from the others, each is a jewel in its right and several of them are amongst the greatest Albariños I have ever drunk.  There are at least four more producers that The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections may bring in.

Gerry Dawes with some of the Bodegueros Artesanos 
at Lagar de Broullón, owned by José Pintos Pintos (third from left).

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections imports six Albariños from same municipio, Dena-Meano, in the Val do Salnes, all from a group of independent grower producers who are members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas (the Association of Artesan Wineries). 

Each member farms his own-clone grapes and makes unique, individual terruño-laced, spoofulation-free Albariños of character, style, grace, balance, charm and breed in his (or her) own adega (bodega) using wild native yeasts to ferment the wines.  These producers do not believe, as many commercial wineries do, that they should bottle early in the year after the previous vintage.  Most bottle their wines in early July, in time for the group’s Festa do Albariño held each year in Meaño at the end of July.

Albariño, Val do Salnés Rías Baixas (Galicia). 

Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2012.

With the Bodegueros Artesanos, the taste of their unique wines is driven by what tastes best to each of them, not what "the market is asking for."  They make some of the most intriguing and best white wines of Spain.

The Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas stages their Festa del Encontro do Viño de Autor the third weekend in July in La Praza de Feria en the center of Meaño each year.   All the bodegas in the group pour their wines for several days and there is great Galician food–fabulous bread (including pan de milla, corn bread), steamed octopus, Galicia stews, percebes (goose barnacles), chorizo, grilled food, filloas (crêpes), etc.–which can be purchased.  This year, 2012, the Vino de Autor wine fair is July 20-25.

Gerry Dawes with Francisco (“Paco”) Dovalo López, owner of Cabaleiro do Val, is the founder and president of the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia. The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections and Sober, Llc. imports six different artisan albariños from the Bodegas Artesanas.

Adega Cabaliero Do Val, Meaño (Pontevedra)
Bodeguero Artesano Francisco Dovalo
Cabaleiro do Val Albariño 2010 13.5% 12/750ML $24.99


Cabaliero do Val, Paco Dovalo's great Albariño, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas.

Cabaleiro do Val was officially incorporated as a bodega in 1989, although Paco Dovalo López has been producing his vino de autor signature wine all his life in an old granite stone farmhouse that he inherited from his ancestors and dates from 1834.  A section of the house is the old bodega, where the Dovalo family has been making wine for more than 100 years.  In the garden of the house is a huge old grapevine, estimated to be at least 150 years old, that measures more than three feet in circumference and has branches 30 feet long (vines are trained on the trellised parral system here).

Chefs Michael Chiarello and Ryan Mcilwaith (Bottega, Napa Valley) with the 200-year old vine 
at Cabaliero do Val in the garden of Paco Dovalo's home.
All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

In the early 70's, there were numerous little known grape varieties such as Espadeiro, Tinta Hembra, Catalán, Hoja Redonda and even some unknown grapes growing in his vineyards and though he kept a some of these varieties to study their characteristics, he decided to use only Albariño in his wines.  At the time, there were also strains of Albariño estimated to be more than 150 years old.  Dovalo took cuttings these old vines for re-planting sections of his vineyards–he calls them the mothers of all his Albariño vines. 

Paco Dovalo says the grapes obtained from the original Albariño vines made wine that is the model for what he tries to achieve in what he calls “my indigenous artisan wine,” Cabaliero do Val.  Dovalo, wine our ancestors. Dovalo has kept some of these old vines, which he says are unique among Albariño vineyards in Rías Baixas. 

Dovalo says that his wine very much reflects his personal taste, which is rooted in tradition and in his memory of wines from a by-gone era.  Though, he and his fellow artisan grower-producers respect that tradition and still work their own vineyards, some of which have been in the family for generations, they have evolved by incorporating modern vineyard management and winemaking equipment.  But, though they have “modernized” to a certain degree, many of the winery maintain rustic touches and they continue to produce exceptionally high quality artisan wines that their ancestors would have been proud of.

Paco Dovalo, grower-producer of Cabaliero Do Val.

Paco Dovalo says, "In my group of small artisan grower-producers, we make a very personalized style of wine, whose individual roots reside in the tradition and memory. 

Although we have incorporated some of the lessons learned from modern winemaking, we still continue the artisanal work that we learned from our fathers.”

“For those who continue our style of artisan winemaking,” Dovalo says, “we hope that our new generations will maintain this tradition and endure, but for them to do that we also know that we have to build a following and an appreciation of these pure and noble limited production wines.”

It was because of Paco Dovalo’s wine that I discovered this incredible group of artisan producers.  One day a decade ago, I was on my way from Rías Baixas to Ribeira Sacra.  I was driving through an area known more for cheeses than wine when I reached the small town of Melide.  It was nearly four o’clock and I still had not had lunch, so when I saw a hotel-restaurant, I stopped. 

At first taciturn, as Gallegos sometimes are, the son of the chef-owner (a damned good cook trained in France) opened up as lunch service was wearing down and made some recommendations to this American stranger.  First, he offered a couple of excellent Galician cows’ milk cheeses–slices of Arzua-Ulloa and of the breast-shaped classic Tetilla–and he suggested that I might like to try a glass of Cabaleiro do Val Albariño to accompany the cheeses.       

The wine was stunning.  He told me that it was from the jefe who had organized a group of artisan producers, who were rebelling against making Albariños like most of the larger wineries were producing.  I wrote down the name of the winery and vowed to check out these producers, but it was nearly three years later when I finally tracked them down and it would be another five years before I founded The Spanish Artisan Wine Company and began to import Cabaliero do Val and five more of these splendid artisan wines. 

Dovalo may see his dreams for the artisan wines of his group come true.  Although the wines have hardly seen the light of day in Spain outside of Galicia, the wines of the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas are now on the lists of such great American restaurants and wine bars as Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Blue Hill (New York City), Crabtree’s Kittle House, Picholine, Petrossian, Terroir Tribeca, Tertulia, Barcelona Wine Bars (Connecticut) and Solera.

* * * * *

Adegas Avó Roxo, Meaño (Pontevedra)
Bodeguero Artesano Antonio Gondar Moldes
Avó Roxo Albariño 2010 13.0% 12/750ML $24.99

Avó Roxo joined the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas in 2010 and is one of the group’s newest members. 

Avó Roxo is a traditional family winery and all their wine production comes from their own 1.5 hectares of vineyards are located in the heart of O Salnes, a privileged environment for the growing and harvesting of the Albariño grape.

The winery began producing wines in the 1930’s under the management of Serafín Gondar.  In 1975 Serafin passed the vineyards and winery to his son Antonio Gondar, who continued the wine’s development.  Avó Roxo won several awards in the 70’s, including 1st place at the XXII Albariño Wine Festival in Cambados in 1974. 

Antonio Gondar Moldes, Avo Roxo, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas. 
All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

The winery was named after the founder Serafín, whose nickname was Avó Roxo, Grandfather Purple (don’t ask) in Gallego.    

In 2007 his grandson Antonio Gondar Moldes took over ownership and management.  He renovated and re-energized the bodega and winemaking.   In 2007, the year he took over, Avó Roxo produced only 7,000 bottles, under 600 cases.

Gondar, whose day job is doing electrical installations, says, "My dream is to live only from the winery and expand production to 12,000 bottles, doing all the vineyard work my grandfather used to do because our grapes give exceptional aromas and taste to our wines.”

Practically all the wines of Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas are only sold locally to individuals and a few restaurants.  Few of these marvelously original, high quality wines have ever been sold in Madrid or anywhere else in Spain, but now wines like Avó Roxo are on the lists of such American restaurants as the great New York (State) restaurants as James Beard Outstanding Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns and at Crabtree’s Kittle House, which has one of the best wine cellars in the United States. 

* * * * *

Lagar de Broullón,  Meaño (Pontevedra)
Bodeguero Artesano José Pintos Pintos
Lagar de Broullon Albariño 2010 12.5% 12/750ML $23.99

"Lagar de Broullon Albariño 2010 ($24). An albariño to banish all memory of those banal examples of the wine that now flood U.S. wine shop shelves — bright and well-rounded, with juicy fruit and a long, complex finish." - - Colman Andrews, The Daily Meal.  Read more: Spanish Wines — A Seductive New Crop: Godello, mencia, and other less-than-famous Iberian grapes shine in a new selection from Spanish wine expert Gerry Dawes
Lagar de Broullón 2010 is made by José Pintos. Beautifully balanced, Pintos's wine is full-flavored and quite complex with lychee and green apple flavors braced by a long, clean, mineral-laced finish, but has just 12.5% alcohol, which helps make it very easy to drink.   It is ideal with many different dishes, but especially with grilled fish, shellfish (for which Galicia is famous), octopus, rice dishes and cheeses. 

José Pintos, artesan grower-winemaker of Lagar de Broullón, sings during a lunch break at the Festa del Encontro do Viño de Autor at Meaño (Pontevedra).

Located in the heart of the Val de Salnés, in an area known as the home of Albariño grape, Lagar de Broullón bodega is surrounded by its 2.5 acre south-southwest facing vineyard that produces its signature wine.  Akin to wineries in Burgundy, the bodega is a 19th Century house, where several generations of the Pintos family have made wine with intelligence and car and have developed a family tradition for authentic artisan wines on a small scale. 

Only about 600 cases of fine Albariño are made each year and only 100 of those will reach the U.S. market.  Lagar de Broullón’s dedication to quality focuses on the vineyard and the grapes, which José Pintos believes is the most important element in wine.  Although the winery has modern a vinification system, Pintos tries to make his wines with as little intervention as possible.  He believes that his signature wine is steeped in tradition and through meticulous vineyard work, he tries to achieve the highest quality in his wine.

We believe that Pintos has achieved his goal.  His Lagar de Broullón is one of the finest wines in our portfolio.

* * * * *

Bodega Meis Otero, O’ Forrollo, Dena-Meaño (Pontevedra)
Bodeguero Artesano Fernando Meis Otero
O’ Forrollo Albariño 2010 Rías Baixas 13% 12/750ML $23.99 

O'Forrollo, one of the six Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas de Rías Baixas Albariños 
 brought in by The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections.

Color & appearance: Deep green-gold, correct for Albariño.

Nose: Pears, lime, apricots, spices, minerals.

Palate: Lots of delicious fruit, including hints of pear, apricot, lime and spices, with a bracing acidity that balances the fruit.  The wine finishes long, compelling sense of minerality.

Bodeguero artesano Fernando Meis Otero is one of the younger members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, a group of 14 independent artisan wineries from the same area of Val do Salnés, the top subregion for Albariños from Rías Baixas.  Fernando Meis farms his own vineyards of 100% Albariño grapes and ferments his must using native yeasts.  

Fernando Meis Otero, O'Forrollo.
All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

At the beginning of the 1980s, Fernando Meis Álvarez, the current Fernando’s father, a vineyard owner in Dena (Meaño) decided to begin changing the mixed varieties of indigenous grapes growing in his vineyards for Albariño vines, a tough task, but with a single objective: to create the vineyard to provide grapes for his own estate-bottled Albariño.

Fernando Meis Álvarez thus took his first steps into the world of making Albariño and in 1990 he registered his bodega and his wine O Forrollo with the D.O. Rías Baixas.  His first harvest as an officially registered Rías Baixas bodega produced just over 250 cases of O Forrollo Albariño.

His son, Fernando Meis Otero, took over the direction of the winery in 2001.  During the past decade, Meis has adapted new technology, in viticulture as well as in the production in the winery, but never forgetting his roots and with one objective: to produce a Rías Baixas Albariño of excellent quality.

O Forrollo’s 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) of vineyards are in the heart of the Val del Salnés (Dena –Meaño), an area which produces some of the best wines of the D.O. Rias Baixas.  85% of O Forrollo’s vines are in a single vineyard divided into four sub-parcels, the remaining 15% is in smaller plots.   

Albariño grapes, Meaño, Val do Salnés Rías Baixas (Galicia). 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2012.

The vines are trained on the typical Galician “parral” trellising system, supported on wires attached to granite posts that keep the vines and grapes horizontally suspended several feet above the ground, which allows circulation of air and helps prevent mildew and other related vine and grape diseases in this sometimes rainy climate.  The soil in the vineyards is sandy, shallow and low in acidity.

Albariño grapes growing on trellises, Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas (Galicia). 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

The region enjoys an Atlantic climate, which gets abundant rainfall, but enjoys many hours of sun as well.  Because of the proximity of the vineyards to the Atlantic Ocean, the mean temperature is temperature, though in summer temperatures often reach 86-90 degrees.

The vines are 100% Albariño, a sweet, small berry, native Galician grape.  All of O’ Forrolo’s grapes come from their own vineyards, so the harvests are limited and can vary, depending on the year, from 7000 liters (9000 bottles, 750 cases) to 10000 liters (14,000 bottles; 1166 cases). 

Meis says, “The harvesting of our grapes depends upon several factors that we consider indispensible for producing a wine of excellent quality:  The climate, taking into account all the environmental factors that can affect the maturation of the grapes; the degree of ripeness, taking very much into account the acid balance, which will dictate when we pick the grapes and is a vital element in the quality of the future wine.” 

* * * * *

Bodegas Rozas, Meaño (Pontevedra)

Bodeguero Artesano Manolo Dovalo

 Rozas Albariño 2010 13.5% 12/750ML $25.99

@JohnBGilman of View From the Cellar on Twitter: "2010 Rozas Albariño.  Maybe the greatest Albariño I have ever tasted - - kaleidoscopic minerality, blazing purity."

“Gerry’s 2010 albariños, from Rías Baixas, were notable, especially Manolo Doval’s Rozas: a great floral aroma, feather-light, grace, a swirl of subtleties.” - - Howard G. Goldberg

"Rozas Albariño 2010 ($26).  If I'd tasted this blind, I might have thought it was a particularly lean and stylish viognier. It has a wonderful, intense aroma and real complexity of flavor, with plenty of acidity and a beguiling finish that is part mineral, part floral. I don't think I've had a better albariño."  - - Colman Andrews, The Daily Meal.  Read more: Spanish Wines — A Seductive New Crop: Godello, mencia, and other less-than-famous Iberian grapes shine in a new selection from Spanish wine expert Gerry Dawes

Manolo Doval, Producer of Rozas, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas.
 All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Manolo Dovalo farms just over 6.3 acres of well-drained vineyards that get ample sunlight enabling him to produce one of the greatest Albariños of Rías Baixas.  Dovalo says the secret of the quality of his wines is that the majority of the vines are very old.  Some of these vines have been producing grapes for generations. 

The bodega was founded by Dovalo’s ancestors, who made wine for the family’s own consumption.  Over the years, the winemaking gradually evolved into the modern era, where Dovalo says that his family has succeeded in integrating tradition with modern elements such as stainless steel and including the latest techniques for thermic stablization. 

The winery has limited production, which allows Dovalo to carefully monitor his vineyards during the growing season.   The albariño grapes are picked at what Dovalo assesses as the optimum point of ripeness–never overripe–for making a great white wine.  

“The first time I tasted the Rozas I was stunned.  This is serious Albariño - chocked full of minerals, not too fruity, dense but not in a spoofy way.  Just pure with insane length.  This shows similar old vine intensity to a top Do Ferreiro or Pazo de Señorans Albariño.  Highly recommended!” - - Chris Barnes, Chambers Street Wines, New York City.

* * * * *

Lagar de Candes, Bodegas y Viñedos Eulogio Gondar Galiñanes, Meaño (Pontevedra)
Bodeguero Artesano Eulogio Gondar Galiñanes 

Hazards of being an artisan grower-producer. Eulogio Gondar, Lagar de Candes, wearing a eye patch after being injured when a grapevine he was pruning poked him in the eye.

Lagar de Candes Albariño 2010 12.0% 12/750ML $23.99 

In the glass this Albariño is a light golden color. The nose offers aromatic complexity with floral notes of orange blossoms, green pears and lime, supported by racy Alsatian Reisling-like acidity and a traces of minerality in the finish.

Lagar de Candes winery and vineyards are located in the village of Meaño in the heart of the Rías Baixas Val de Salnés, which has excellent growing conditions for the Albariño grape.  In and around the town of Meaño some of the greatest Albariños of Galicia are made.   

Eulogio Gondar represents the fourth generation making wine here.  Eulogio took over the winery just over a decade ago and, following the footsteps of his ancestors who believed that the best Albariños were made from the best grapes married to the soil and climate of the Val do Salnés, an area long known for its small family vineyards.  The Meaño area has its own microclimate suitable for the cultivation of the vine and its own unique granitic-laced soil, resulting in grapes with excellent balance of acids and sugars, with an optimum ripeness that over the years has given albariño from this area a special identity.

Eulogio Gondar, Lagar de Candes. 
All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Eulogio uses modern winemaking coupled with artisanal techniques to make excellent wines.   Dedicated to making his grapes and his wines as natural as possible, Gondar had dedicated a portion of the family’s vineyards to NATURA, which designated an ecologically protected space that falls within the NATUR AGRO project dedicated to protecting the agricultural environment.