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12/31/2015

Experience Gerry Dawes's Spain: Customized, Specialized Food, Wine Cultural & Photographic Tours of Spain & Tour Advice


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Drinking Godello at Estado Puro in Madrid.
Photo by Harold Heckle, Associated Press, Madrid.

In October 2013, I led 28 people, including baseball great Keith Hernandez, on The  Commonwealth Club of California Taste of Spain Tour with Gerry Dawes 2013 to Madrid, Córdoba, Sevilla, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Ronda, Granada, Almagro, Toledo and Chinchón, highlighting gastronomy, culture and wine. 

In January 2014, I organized and led the Club Chefs of Connecticut and New York on a culinary educational tour through Barcelona, San Sadurni d'Anoia (Cava country), Valencia, Alicante and Madrid. 

The following week, I organized and led John Sconzo (Docsconz:  Musings on Food and Life http://docsconz.com/2014/02/a-master-cortador-makes-his-mark-in-avila/) and his son L. J. on a week-long trip through Segovia, Ávila, Segovia, Cáceres, Mérida, Jabugo, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the Sierra Morenas north of Córdoba, Chinchón and Toledo.  With more posts to come on his blog, John Sconzo wrote this in one of his first entries about the trip:

"Nights like this are ones that just need to be appreciated for the something special that they are. It is no exaggeration that Gerry Dawes, my friend, traveling companion and guide “knows and appreciates Spain more than all but a few Spaniards” let alone people from other countries. That statement came from our host for the evening, Benjamin Rodriguez Rodriguez, the proprietor of the humble appearing, but fully sensational El Rincon de Jabugo situated in the equally humble, but comfortable Gran Hostal San Segundo located just outside the historic walls of Avila near the  San Vicente gate."
 
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For customized trips, contact Gerry Dawes (based in New York) with desired dates, areas of interest in Spain (gastronomy, wine, art, history, culture, photography, etc.), specific sights you might like to see, number of possible travelers, and an estimated budget for your group. 


Phone: 914-414-6982 
Teléfono movíl (during stays in España): (011 34) 670 67 39 34



2/17/2015

Bodegas Aliaga Superb Tempranillo and Garnacha-Based Wines From Navarra, Including Aliaga Rosado de Lágrima de Garnacha (Garnacha Rosado made with free-run juice), one of Spain's Greatest Rosados

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Bodegas Aliaga, Corella (Navarra)

 The wines of Carlos Aliaga and his family.

 
Carlos Aliaga showing his Viña Aliaga vineyards to a visitor.
 Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

The Wines of Aliaga and Restaurante El Crucero
(Click on the El Crucero titles below to see photos of the restaurant and its dishes.)
 

Aliaga Lágrima de Garnacha Rosado 13.5%

Made from free-run juice from 100% old vines Garnacha from the Viña Aliaga vineyard located at Ombatillo near Corella in the heart of the Ribera Baja of Navarra.  The soil is calcareous and poor; vine density is 1,200 vines per acre.
 

This superb, lovely rosado is made by the free-run sangrado de lágrima method.  After brief contact with the red grape skins, the grape juice is separated by gravity without using any mechanical pressing, after which the must is fermented in temperature- controlled stainless steel tanks for 20 days at 14º C. (57º F.)

Fresh, clear and brilliant strawberry-cherry colour. The fragrant bouquet is reminiscent of fresh fruit.  On the palate the wines is clean, smooth and will balanced with a hints of flowers and cherries and a long, persistent mineral-laced finish.  This wine steadily evolves with time in bottle and is often superb 2-3 years from the vintage.
 

Food Pairings: Ideal for tapas, first courses, aperitifs, fish and seafood, chicken, port, Asian food, pasta, pizza and salads.  Not just a summer wine.  If you drink cold white wine in the cooler months, you will love this great rosado all year long.

"An almost dusty-dry Navarra sangrado ("bleeding," i.e. free-run juice) rosé — meaning that it's made from free-run juice — with a light, luminous pink color and an intense strawberry fruit both on the nose and on the palate." - - 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


In Tudela (Navarra) at the home of Carlos Aliaga and his wife Mari Curz with a tomatada (tomatoes, ham and snail stew from southern Navarra) made by Nabor Jimenez of Restaurante El Crucero, which was closed for vacation,  and a bottle of Aliaga Rosado de Lágrima de Garnacha (Garnacha Rosado made with free-run juice), October 8, 2014. A wine represented by The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube /  Pinterest.  Canon G15 / Canon f/1.8 – f/2.8 5X 24-140mm IS USM.

Aliaga Tempranillo 13.5% 

 

Dark cherry colour, with violet tones. The bouquet is clean, harmonic and intense. The taste is pleasant and reminiscent of ripe red fruits, the tannins are well-integrated and overall effect fresh, persistent and lasting.  This wine is ideal for red meat, game, roasts and well-cured cheeses.

Straight forward, good, un-blended, un-oaked Tempranillo, a relative rarity in Navarra, where there is a multitude of tempranillo wines, often blended with mediocre cabernet sauvignon.  Made from 100 % Tempranillo grapes grown in the calcareous soil of Viña Aliaga.  day. The wine is fermented for 6 days in stainless steel tanks at 28 º C. (82 º F.). 


Aliaga Garnacha Vieja Tinto 2010 13.9%


100% old vines Garnacha grown in the calcareous 1,200 vine per acre Viña Aliaga vineyard.  

The wine is fermented for 6 days in stainless steel tanks at 28 º C. (82 º F.) followed by maceration on the grape skins for 20 days with two stirrings every day.  Aged 6 months in American and French Allier oak cask, but the wines does not have heavy oak flavors.  Only 2,800 cases are produced. 

Deep dark cherry color. Ripe black cherry and spice nose. Round, rich black cherry fruit with hints of garrigue herbs with long, persistent finish. 

Food Pairing:  Ideal with red meat, game, roasts, cheeses.

Aliaga Colección Privada Tinto 2007 13.5%  

Made from 80% Tempranillo and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the calcareous soil of Viña Aliaga.  The wine is fermented for 6 days in stainless steel tanks at 27 º C. (80 º F.), followed by maceration on the grape skins with two stirrings every day. Aged 12 months in new American and French Allier oak.  Just over 1650 cases made.

Deep black cherry colour rimmed with brick-red.  The nose is intense, with “toasty” aroma from its ageing in cask, reminiscent of ripe black and red fruits. Smooth, full-bodied and round, with a long finish. A very special wine.

Good with red meat, game, roasts, grilled and fried fish, Spanish, Italian and Mediterranean dishes, cheese.



Carlos Aliaga at the edge of Aliaga's property. The vineyards are on a higher plateau. Here the vineyards end and the land drops off into an area that is covered with wild thyme and rosemary, traces of which turn up in some of the wines as what the French call garrigues.   Photo by Gerry Dawes©2013 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Pinterest.   Canon EOS 6D / Tokina Macro 100mm f/2

Aliaga Reserva de la Familia Tinto 2005 13.5% 

Brick-edged ruby.  Black and red fruits, complemented by toasty oak in the nose. Round, smooth and ripe with red and black berry compote, spices, garrigues-like herbal components and persistent finish. Good with red meat, game, roasts, grilled and fried fish, Spanish, Italian and Mediterranean dishes, cheese.

Made from 75% Tempranillo and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the calcareous soil of Viña Aliaga.  The wine is fermented for 6 days in stainless steel tanks at 27 º C. (80 º F.), followed by maceration on the grape skins with two stirrings every day. Aged 14 months in new American and French Allier oak.  Just under 2000 cases made.

Aliaga Moscatel Vendimia Tardia Dulce 2010 12.0% 500ML
 

100% late harvested Moscatel de Alejandria, from the calcareous soil of a single vineyard, Viña Lorena at Fugenique near Corella in Navarra’s La Ribera Baja.    Fermented for 35 days in stainless steel tanks at  12 º C. (53.6 º F.), after which by using only cooling techniques the fermentation is stopped without the addition of alcohol. Only 750 cases are produced.

Clean, clear, bright, gold-tinged color. Lovely honesuckle nose with hints of pear and peach.  Very fruity with luscious honeysuckle and peach flavors and a lingering, fresh, but not unctuous finish.    

Excellent with foie gras, ripe, soft cheeses and fruit-based desserts.

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Adegas Manuel Formigo Grand Cru Quality Treixadura-based White Wines from Ribeiro (Galicia)




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Adega Manuel Formigo
Cabo de Vila, 49
32431 Beade (Ourense), Galicia
 
info@fincateira.com
www.fincateira.com


by Gerry Dawes*, Founder
The Spanish Artisan Wine Group
*Spanish National Gastronomy Prize 2003

Agustín Formigo Raña, his wife María del Carmen de la Fuente de la Torre and their son, winemaker Manuel Formigo de la Fuente, the Formigo family of viticulturists and winemakers, has been closely connected with wines from the Ribeiro for many generations in the village of Beade.   Beade is in Ourense, one of the four provinces of emerald Galicia in northwestern Spain just north of the border with Portugal and  is just a few kilometers north of the ancient town of Ribadavia, which has one of the best preserved medieval Jewish quarters in Spain (see slide show below).


(Double-click on the images and go to Picasa, then click on "slide show" and F11 for a full-screen view.) 

Adegas Manuel Formigo makes primarily white wines of character and quality,  reflecting the greatness of his family’s  vineyards and the arduous and meticulous work that the Formigo family performs the whole year in their small winery and in their five vineyards scattered around Beade.   Formigo means ant in Gallego and some of their wines display an the silhouette of an ant on the labels, symbolic of the family name and their propensity for hard work.


Formigo means "ant" in Galician language.

I have photographed María del Carmen  as she moved with a group of other women (aunts moving like ants?) around the Formigo’s prized Miño Teira vineyard up and down the rows, sitting on a camp stool at each spot, thinning vine leaves so that more sun can reach the grapes.

 
Thinning leaves from vines at Adega Manuel Formigo's vineyards at Beade (Ourense), Galicia.  
In the slide show, Formigo's mother is one of the women thinning leaves.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


The Formigo family’s diligence in tending their vineyards, grown on stony soils containing granite and blessed with a perfect climate for growing their  unique native white wine grape varieties translates into superb unique, well balanced white wines that can satisfy the most exigent palates.

The main grape in the Formigo’s vineyards is the Ribeiro region’s benchmark treixadura.  Treixadura accounts for as much as 65-70 per cent of their White wines.  The remaining varieties used in varying percentages in Formigo’s wines are godello, which may be one of the five greatest white wine varieties in the world; albariño, Galicia’s most famous wine grape; another Ribeiro standby, loureira; and traces of alvilla and the once nearly disappeared torrontés.  The Formigo’s also grow a parcel of native red grape vines planted eight years ago to make vinos tintos, now mostly for local consumption, but with an eye to making a quality red wine in the future.




Treixadura grapes, the main grape of Ribeiro. 

Photo by Gerry Dawes ©2011. gerrydawes@aol.com.

The weather in Ribiero combines the freshness of the Atlantic-influenced rainy periods that alternate with Spain’s Continental-Mediterranean warmer influences (the región gets 1915 hours of sun per year and day-time temperaturas in July  and August can reach the high 90s, but like most of mountainous Spain, the temperatura drops at night giving the grapes a respite).  This combination of oscillating weather patterns creates a plethora of unique micro climates, making the Ribeiro an ideal place for producing white wines of elegance and balance like those found in France’s Burgundy and in the Loire Valley.

The Formigo family’s vineyards consist of a great deal of ancient granitic materials in the form of large stones and gravelly rocks that contribute greatly to the stability of the soil, provide good drainage in this Atlantic Ocean-driven climate and have a refectivity that helps hold the warmth of the sun in the vineyards during cool Galician nights. Even though these rock-strewn soils also include alluvial stones in some places, Manuel Formigo de la Fuente, the family’s 30-something winemaker, says it is primarily “granite-based viticulture,” which means loose, well drained and oxigenated soils that provide good acid to the wines and contribute to their aromatic qualities, freshness, elegance and  finesse on the palate and a persistent, compelling minerality in the finish. Manuel Formigo’s wines have a terroir-laced intensity, excellent fruit balanced by fine acidity and alcohol levels that seldom top 13%.   In other words, the wines are eminently drinkable and great companions to food!
 The Formigos have three distinctly different principal vineyards, each of which adds important elements to the complexity of the wines.

The Formigo’s consider their 2.2 hectare (5.5 acres) Miño Teira terraced, north-south oriented vineyard to be their best.  Two of the terraces in this vineyard have 35-year treixadura white wine grape vines that may be the oldest in the región.  In addition to old vines treixadura, there are also godello, torrontés, loureira, albariño, alvilla and a small parcel of native red grape vines.

The one hectare (2.5 acre) Portela vineyard, also with a north-south orientation overlooking the village of Beade is the Formigo family’s second  largest and is planted in 15-year old treixadura, albariño and loureira, all white wine varieties.
 

The Formigo’s .7 hectare (1.75 acre), 8-year old Pousos vineyard is planted in native Galician red varieties—caiño tinto, tintilla, ferrol, sousón and brancellao—from which the family hopes to make high quality red wines in the future.

In and around the village of Beade, they also work with grapes from five smaller plots: Pereiro, Barbaña, Badengua, Barcas y Rebodego.

The Adegas Manuel Formigo winery (adega is Gallego for the Spanish bodega, or winery) is situated beneath their more than 200-year old ancestral family home, which was built with double-thick stone walls.  Those old walls allow the Formigos to store  their  bottled wines under naturally cool conditions until they are ready for shipment.   Even though the Formigo family respects tradition, their techniques have evolved  from  once using large wooden  vats to ferment and store their wines to employing temperatura-controlled stainless steel tanks.
At The Spanish Artisan Wine Group, we consider the quality of the Formigo vineyards to add up to the French equivalent of Grand Cru* and Premier Cru**.  That’s how good the wines produced from those vineyards with a mínimum of intervention are.

The Wines of Adega Manuel Formigo:


Finca Teira Blanco 2010** (D.O. Ribeiro), 12.7%  alcohol, $27.95 per bottle SRP.
Production:  1100 cases, 100 available for the United States, just 50 cases on the first order.




Grape Varieties:  Treixadura (65%) , Godello (20%), Torrontés (15%).  Exclusively from free-run must from selected grapes from the Miñoteira y Portela vineyards.

Brilliant, profound green-gold.  Impressive, expressive nose of honeysuckle and peach.  After ten minutes, the wine opens up to show a beautiful, spicy sweet fruit reminiscent of honeysuckle and white peach, bracing acidity and a long mineral-laced finish.  90+ points.

Teira X Blanco 2010* (D.O. Ribeiro), 13% alcohol;  $39 per bottle,  $468 per case retail (very limited).

Production:  335 cases of which 35 cases are available for the U.S. market.  We are getting 10 cases on the first shipment. 

 
Manuel Formigo with his Teira X white wine.
Grape Varieties:  Treixadura (60%),  Alvilla (15%),  Albariño (15%), Loureira (10%); a grand cru-level wine from a grand cru level vineyard. 

Made from grapes from selected 30–year old Treixadura vines, along with alvilla, albariño and loureira grapes, all from the Formigo’s top vineyard, Finca Miño Teira.
Flashes of deep green-gold.  This wine had only been in bottle for two months and was still somewhat closed, but showed whiffs of stone fruits and minerality.   Tiera X has excellent structure and acidity with hints of tropical fruit, honeysuckle and coconut that expand in the glass with aeration and are underpinned with that haunting granite minerality.   93 points.


--Tasting notes by Gerry Dawes.



Valdeorras: Spain's Great White Hope in The Valley of Golden Ore


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"Adegas D. Berna Godello. If I were a producer of white burgundy, a wine like this, from Valdeorras in Galicia, would make me nervous. It's big, authoritative, lush, and full of fruit (peaches come to mind), but beautifully structured, with plenty of acidity and a trace of flint — just delicious."  - - 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

Glass of Godello at sunset at Adegas D. Berna, Valdeorras.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com
(None of the photos here were a part of The New York Times article.)


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.”

Godello grapes, Valdeorras.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

The consulting enologist for both D. Berna and O Barreiro is José Luís Murcía, who has more than 20 years experience making Godello in Valdeorras and consults to eight other wineries, including the stellar Casal Novo, and somehow manages to capture the essence of their grapes and vineyard sites and transmits that in the bottle like few others. 


 Gerry Dawes at Chef Paco Roncero's Estado Puro in Madrid with a glass of Godello. 
Photo by Harold Heckle©2009, Associated Press, Madrid.

Adegas D.Berna, Córgomo, Villamartín de Valdeorras (Ourense) 
D. Berna Godello 2010 Valdeorras 13.0% 12/750ML

"Adegas D. Berna Godello 2010 ($25). If I were a producer of white burgundy, a wine like this, from Valdeorras in Galicia, would make me nervous. It's big, authoritative, lush, and full of fruit (peaches come to mind), but beautifully structured, with plenty of acidity and a trace of flint — just delicious."  - - 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
 
“The 2010 godello, a white from the small-production Bodegas D. Berna, in Valdeorras, was splendid.  Pointillistic, lithe, long, delivering visceral and cerebral pleasures, it was reminiscent of white peaches.  The property, Dawes wrote, is advised by “a great local, enologist, José Luís Murcía, who may know more about godello than anyone in Galicia.”  Murcía, he went on, “advises nine wineries” but “does not mark the wines with a one-fits-all winemaking stamp.” - - Howard G. Goldberg, who writes for The New York Times, Decanter and other publications.


 Berna Guitián and Elena Blanco, Adegas D. Berna, Valdeorras.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

This is the first vintage of this wine by the young couple, Berna Guitián and Elena Blanco, to reach the U.S. market.  The consulting enologist is the great José Luís Murcia, who probably knows more about Godello than anyone in Valdeorras.  

Brilliant white gold.  Intriguing nose of white peach and racy minerals. A gorgeous mouthful of silky sweet white peach fruit with a long mineral finish laced with attractive hints of peach pit and almond.  No oak.  Excellent value.


Consulting enologist at Casal Novo, D. Berna, O Barreiro and a number of other wineries in Valdeorras 
is José Luís Murcía, who, somehow manages to capture the essence of their grapes and vineyard site 
and transmit that in the bottle like few others. Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

Adegas D.Berna Mencía Tinto 2011 13.0% 12/750ML $19.99

A lovely easy-drinking Mencía with smooth pomegranate fruit-laced with minerals.  

Reminiscent in style of a village Burgundy, but somewhat more akin in taste to a good Loire valley Bourgueil. 

Adegas O Barreiro, Seadur (Ourense)

Electric power line builder 'Pepe' Rodríguez retired from his own company and now, with hired help from the 140-person village of Seadur, farms his vineyards in this isolated village of Seadur, which looks down on some spectacular views from its perch some 1700 feet above sea level and 700 feet above the Valdeorras wine town of A Rúa and the Sil River valley. Seadur is reachable only by a pair of serious cork-screw secondary roads.
  

Gerry Dawes with Pepe Rodríguez, owner of O Barreiro, Seadur, Valdeorras, Galicia.

Photo: Basilio Izquierdo©2012 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

Pepe Rodríguez  farms .5 Hectares  (1.25 acres) of 30 year old Godello vines and  .25 hectares  (.6 acres) of 15-year old Mencía.   Depending upon the year, Pepe produces  500-700 6bt. cases of Godello and  just 330-500 6 bt. cases of Mencía.


Pepe Rodríguez, owner of O Barreiro, Seadur, Valdeorras, Galicia, in his vineyards. 
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2012 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

O Barreiro 'A Silveira' Godello 2010 12.5% 6/750ML  $19.99

Pretty, brilliant green-gold.  Whiffs of white peach.   Fine, racy, acidity with restrained white peach, stone fruit and bitter almond flavors.  Its tartness is balanced by lovely fruit and moderate alcohol, which makes it an exceptional food wine.  In the third glass, it's raciness is somewhat reminiscent of great Savennières and the quality, flavor and finish is as good as many white Burgundies.

"O Barreiro "A Silveira" Godello 2010 ($20). Another splendid godello from Valdeorras, a little lighter than the D.Berna, but also a touch more elegant, again with an abundance of fruit but enough acidity to balance out the opulence."  - - 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

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___________________________________________________  

About Gerry Dawes  

Gerry Dawes is the Founder, President & Chairman of the Board of The Spanish Artisan Wine &
Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

 ". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
video
  A reality television series pilot on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

2/15/2015

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


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Tourist boat on the Sil River in the Amandi subzone of la Ribeira Sacra. 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2010. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com.

Ribeira Sacra: A Renewed Obsession 
by Chris Barnes, Chambers Street Wines, New York City

“The Mencia grape is to Ribeira Sacra as Gamay is to Morgon or Syrah is to Cote Rôtie – a grape perfectly matched to its terroir. One doesn’t have to be a viticultural historian to know that it takes inspired people in addition to great grapes and great terroir to spell success. Today we’re celebrating a superb vintage in Ribeira Sacra, the burgeoning career of a new importer, and one young winemaker’s outstanding work with a special three-pack selected to renew your obsession with Ribeira Sacra. 

Gerry Dawes has been travelling in Spain for over 30 years. He has been to Ribeira Sacra many times and considers himself a true Galicia-phile.

Tired of passing his discoveries off to other importers, Gerry has taken the plunge and started importing his favorite Spanish wines to the States, with a focus on the northwest of Spain.  This has been a breath of fresh air; the wines are delicious, and show the best of what Ribeira Sacra has to offer: vibrancy of aroma and flavor, layers of red fruits, juicy acidity, minerals, and flowers with a lingering saveur, “red wines with the soul of white wines”, to use a colleague’s words. 

Esteemed critic John Gilman, upon tasting Gerry’s group of wines, proclaimed on his Twitter-feed that he had tasted “the new Holy Grail of Ribeira Sacra producers”, calling them, “low-octane fireworks.”


John Gilman at a tasting lunch for The Spanish Artisan Wine Group -Gerry Dawes Selections 
at Barcelona Wine Bar, Greenwich, CT.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2012 / gerrydawes@aol.com


(John Gilman, the great wine palate who publishes the best wine newsletter in the United States, View From the Cellar, loved the wines of The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections: @JohnBGilman on Twitter ,  "Tasted the new Holy Grail of Ribeira Sacra producers yesterday - Don Bernardino, Decima, Sabatelius, Toalde,  Cazoga - just  insanely good, low octane fireworks."- - GD)

As Gerry’s first customer here in NYC, I concur;  Sabatelius, Decima, and Cazoga are delicious and authentic to their respective places.  I am especially fond of the Sabatelius from the Chantada sub-zone on the western side of the Minho.  This is a project led by sculptor/painter turned vigneron, Primitivo Lareu.  Chantada is the coolest and most Atlantic influenced Ribera Sacra sub-zone and Lareu produces wines with beautiful freshness.  Thanks to Gerry for bringing these wines our way!”

We brought not just the three afore-mentioned wineries from La Ribeira Sacra, but FIVE* (and possibly 7 or 8) bodegas! We love La Ribeira Sacra and its small artisan producers.  We believe it is somewhat like Burgundy's mix of small estate producers and reminiscent of the Loire Valley as well, but the grapes are not Pinot Noir or Chardonnay as in the case of Burgundy, but the native red Mencía grape is very reminiscent of the Loire's Cabernet Franc and the white grape Godello can be on a par with Chardonnay.   Look for pomegranate-cranberry fruit and graphite (lead pencil) minerality in these great value wines."


Décima, José Manuel Rodríguez, Vilacha (Lugo)


José Manuel Rodríguez, President of the D.O. Ribeira Sacra and producer of  Décima, showing 
California chef Michael Chiarello around his precipitously steep Ribeira Sacra vineyards on the Sil River.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2012 / gerrydawes@aol.com

Décima Amandi Mencia Tinto 2011 Ribeira Sacra 12.5% 12/750ML $21.99   

“My favorite tinto (red wine) was the sophisticated 2010 Décima made from the mencía grape in the Ribeira Sacra region.  Beautifully structured,  quietly scintillating, almost poetic, it requires a patient, careful reading.” - - Howard G. Goldberg

Thomas Carter, Wine Director of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, pours Décima Ribeira Sacra Mencia 2011,
Manuel Formigo Finca Teira Ribeiro 2011 and Viña Catajarros Cigales Rosado 2011 by the glass. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012 / gerrydawes@aol.com

The unique, rich, pomegranate-like fruit-driven Décima Mencia (with 10% garnacha tintorera) from Amandi is underpinned by a graphite-like slate minerality that comes from the preciptiously steep pizarra terraces on which Décima’s vineyards grow. The vineyards are owned and farmed by José Manuel Rodríguez, who in addition to farming his own vines, is also the President of the Consello Regulador de La Ribeira Sacra.  This wine is a masterpiece, reminiscent in style and quality, if not in Pinot Noir flavors, of a wine from Burgundy’s northern Cótes de Nuits. 



I have been visiting vineyards and bodegas with José Manuel for nearly a decade and count him among my best friends.  He has not only introduced me to the bodegueros and wineries we are bringing in, he has lead me to nearly three dozen other bodegas and tasting of hundreds of wines, which helped me immeasurably in the research for my articles on the region, but also in finding this particular set of unique wines.

 
Sabatelivs, Primitivo Lareu, Chantada (Lugo)


Primitivo Lareu, owner of Sabatelivs, Chantada, Ribeira Sacra.
 Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012 / gerrydawes@aol.com

Sabatelius from Primitivo Lareu, both a Godello-and-Treixadura white and a Mencía-based red, are both truly special wines from the westernmost Chantada subregion. Primitivo, who is a painter-sculptor, is one of the most dedicated viticulturists we know and his attention to his vineyards shows in his superb terroir-driven wines.

Sabatelivs Godello/Treixadura 2010 Ribeira Sacra 12.5% $21.996/750ML $21.99

 
Exotic, white peach and stone fruit flavors, with a mineral-laced finish.  A superb white wine that is 60% Godello, 40% Treixadura.


Chantada, Ribeira Sacra, Primitivo Lareu makes Sabatelivs Godello/Treixadura, 
 Sabatelivs Mencía Tinto Joven & Sabatelivs Mencía Carballo, which is aged in oak.
  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012 / gerrydawes@aol.com

Sabatelivs Mencía Tinto Joven 2011 12.5% 6/750ML $21.99

Medium deep pomegranate color.  Pomegranate and graphite nose.  An intriguing, compelling wine reminiscent of a great Cabernet Franc-based wine from the Loire Valley, but distintive because of the difference in soils (the Loire is calcareous, here it is granite and slate.  Excellent, clean, sharp fruit flavors reminiscent of pomegranate, laced with cranberry and lead pencil, with an intriguing, complex finish from the stony vineyards on which these grapes grow.  This young Mencía-based tinto will benefit from decanting to allow the aromas and flavors to fully develop.  


Primitivo Lareu, owner of Sabatelivs, Chantada, Ribeira Sacra.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012 / gerrydawes@aol.com


“From old vines on the Sil River, this is "back-country" wine as described to me by the importer Gerry Dawes.  I am not sure if he is referring to the rustic qualities of the wine or the people that make it.  Either way, "the ram's head" is all rustic beauty - cherry, raspberry, smoky, spicy, meaty with lifted aromas of lavender and rosemary. Cazoga is serious business.  Although drinking now, I would hold onto this; there is enough density, concentration and balance to age at least for a few years.” - - Chris Barnes, Chambers Street Wines    


Toalde, Roberto Regal, Ribeiras do Miño (Lugo)

 

Roberto Regal, artisan producer of Toalde Mencía, in Ribeira Sacra vineyards 
overlooking a bridge over the Miño River in Belesar near Chantada.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012 / gerrydawes@aol.com 


 

Toalde Mencía Tinto 2010 Ribeira Sacra 13.0% 6/750ML $24.99
    


From Ribeiras do Miño, one of the five sub-regions of La Ribeira Sacra, the mineral-driven, but soft and voluptous Toalde Mencía is made by the talented young enologist, Roberto Regal from stunningly beautiful, bucolic vineyards overlooking the Minho River. A silky, pomegranate & mineral-driven jewel. One of the best wine in our portfolio.

Mencía grapes, with traces of other old vines indigenous varieties, grow here on steep rock (the majority granitic, some slate) terraces with a 66% incline.  The soil is poor and shallow, which drives the vines deep in search of nutrients.  The orientation of the vineyards is from northeast to southeast.  The altitude of the vineyards is 820 to 1150 feet above sea level, which allows a progressive harvesting the grapes, beginning with the grapes from the warmer lower vineyards, which ripen first, and finishing with the higher vineyards, which ripen last.

The Atlantic climate helps provides aroma and freshness to the wines and the Iberian sun provides the necessary heat in the summer and moderate temperatures in autumn and the Minho river, over which the vineyards perch, provides a moderating influence.  Average rainfall is 750mm in Winter; 250 mm in summer.


Viña Cazoga, Jorge Carnero, Amandi (Lugo)

Even the most expensive wine in Dawes's porfolio, "Viña Cazoga Don Diego Crianza from Ribera Sacra, an exotic, chocolate- and tobacco-flavored wine with some of the "wild" character the French call animal, retails for only $50." - - Colman Andrews, The Daily Meal.




Jorge Carnero, Viña Cazoga, La Ribeira Sacra (Lugo province), Galicia.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

Viña Cazoga Tinto 2010 Ribeira Sacra 13.5% 12/750ML $26.99

Viña Cazoga Tinto 2010 ($27). Another Ribeira Sacra mencia, surprisingly soft, with a generous bouquet, a blackberry-and-black-pepper tang on the palate, and a long, satisfying 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
 
Viña Cazoga Don Diego Tinto 2008 Ribeira Sacra 13.5% $49.99

"Oh, and he doesn't have much patience with excessive pricing, either, and all but one of the 30-plus selections in his portfolio (he is adding more) have a suggested retail price of less than $30 a bottle, and some are less than $20. (Even the exception, Viña Cazoga Don Diego Crianza from Ribera Sacra, an exotic, chocolate- and tobacco-flavored wine with some of the "wild" character the French call animal, retails for only $50.)"- - 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

One of the stars of this group is a unique wine from a rustic bodega in the back country. It is owned by a young winemaker, Jorge Carnero, who took over his late father’s vineyards and decided to make his own very personal wine, Viña Cazoga. We import both Jorge’s Viña Cazoga Tinto 2010 and Viña Cazoga Don Diego 2008, a wine that spends some several months time in 4-year old, 500L re-conditioned Allier oak.

We don’t expect either of these wines to be for everyone because they are so unique and unlike other red wines you may have tasted before.  For this reason, on my fourth visit to the winery when I took a guest l I decided not to say anything and just let him make up his own mind about the wine without any pre-suggestion from me. Cazoga wines were the ones the guest liked the best of all from our 2,500 km., 20-winery trip.


Viña Cazoga Don Diego 2008, a wine that spends some several months in 4-year old, 500L re-conditioned Allier oak, is one of the top wines in The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections.
 Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

Cazoga wines show themselves best with food. By the time you get to the last glass in the bottle, you realize you have been drinking something unique and special.  And you don't like that old-fashioned label with the Cazoga (ram) head you say.  Carnero, or ram,  is the owner’s name.  Get over it and concentrate on the wine in the bottle.  We wouldn't change a thing about this place.  Besides, there is not enough wine to fill even the modest demand we think those who really like this wine will create.  The Spanish Artisan Wine Group’s wild child; if you don't like it, I will drink it.

Viña Cazoga consists of 3.9-acres in a single plot bordering on a slope just above the water line of the Sil River.  The site wine was traditionally recognized as the best for growing wine grapes in the parish of Amandi.  The grapes are 95% Mencia, the rest Merenzao and Tempranillo.

The history of the winery is very old.  Jorge Carnero’s grandfather Raimundo Vidal owned the largest winery  in Amandi, which he inherited from his father. Carnero’s grandmother remembered from her childhood bringing down to the fair in Monforte 37 carts each with a cask of new wine.

But at the beginning of the 20th century the cultivation of those steep river banks was not profitable, so there was much emigration and many descendants inheriting their portion of a vineyard )under the Galician mini-fundia iherititance rules, so the old family vineyard was divided into dozens of plots among the cousins, some of whom kept making wine for themselves for home consumption, but other vineyards were abandoned. 
It was not until the late 70's when Jorge Carnero’s father, Diego Carnero Vidal, set out to re-unite the former vineyards of the Vidal family, re-open the old winery and recuperate the denominaciónde origin claim for Amandi, for which he always acted as ambassador, when, at a time, it was considered insane to try to cultivate those precipitous river banks.

While the Carneros were in the process of reconstructing the old winery, they  used a cuba (a large horizontal wine vat, a huge barrel) from the epoque of Jorge’s great grandfather to sleep in.  They cut a door in one end of the barrrel and put a bed, lights and a television inside, making a bedroom out of the ancient barrel.  They called my father “el tolo de Cazoga,” the crazy Cazoga, slept in a barrel and was going to bury los cuartos, the money from the vines.  The barrel now has a taxidermist-prepared head of a ram mounted on the front of the barrel, the image of which is on Cazoga’s wine labels.

 
Jorge Carnero (Carnero is “ram,” in Spanish, thus the ram’s head,  the symbol of the winery), tasting his wines with a visitor.  Jorge Carnero is inside a large barrel formerly used to make wine, now with door installed and a bed and television inside. Carnero sometimes spends the night in the barrel during the long hours of the grape harvest.  Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2011.

Cazoga was the first important winery in what would later become the Ribeira Sacra D.O.  Cazoga is a pago, a single vineyard equivalent to a gran cru, in the most rocky location with the best orientation.  Among those who know the Amandi subregion, the wine was always considered the best.  The production is very low and most of  the vines are a century old. 

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_____________________________________________________________

About Gerry Dawes
  
Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

 In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

 ". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
video
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

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


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"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 & Spirits 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 / http://www.spanishartisanwinegroup.com / gerrydawes@aol.com

 
In December, 2009, Gerry Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

______________________________________________________________________________  

About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 


". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
video
A professional of Gerry Dawes leading New York Chef Terrance Brennan on a culinary
adventure through the Valencia and Alicante regions of Spain.
 
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