By The Glass
Secret collaboration outstanding in its flavor
THREE YEARS ago, while tasting the offerings of Bodegas Borsao in Campo de Borgia, Spain, I heard a murmur of activity and the quiet clinking of glasses at a far end of the hall. A small group of tasters resembled bees that had found nectar and were doing that dance thing that bees do.
I ventured over to see what the buzz was all about. Importer Jorge Jordonez poured me a taste from a nondescript bottle, imparted a brief explanation and was gone in a flash. He reappeared moments later to ask my thoughts on the wine.
It was a deep, inky, ruby/purple with a rich, oily appearance. The flavors were of black cherry, raspberry, toasty oak, white pepper and tarragon. The taste was plush yet crisp, with bright fruits and a chalky mineral-like quality that matched the rich finish. It was outstanding!
Unbeknownst to me, that tasting was a preview of a very hush-hush collaboration among Ordonez, Dan Phillips (owner of Grateful Palate, importer of fine Australian wines) and Australian winemaking sensation Chris Ringland. Ringland is the phenomenal talent behind Three Rivers (better known now as Chris Ringland Shiraz). That shiraz is much like the seemingly mythical Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon of California origins ... a wine so rare that few people have actually seen a bottle.
That outstanding wine I tasted? 2003 Bodegas Alto Moncayo "Veraton." Rated 89 points by Robert Parker Jr. in the Wine Advocate's annual report on Spain, Veraton is an exceptional value made from grenache grapes grown outside the classic vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-pape in France. Buzzworthy, indeed!
This savvy partnership also produced the 2003 Bodegas El Nido "Clio" -- 30 percent cabernet sauvignon and 70 percent mourvedre. For Clio, Ringland got busy down in my favorite region of Spain, Jumilla.
Sitting at the foothills of the Sierra Del Molar mountains, Jumilla is special -- one of a handful of wine regions in the world that resisted infestation by the devastating root louse Phylloxera in the 1870s. This southeasterly region is arid with scant rainfall, characterized by very rocky soils and influenced by the cool maritime winds from the Mediterranean. I find wines from this region to be very soulful ... intense, with flavors of blackberries, cassis, licorice, plums, coffee, sweet oak, graphite, mocha and spices with a rich long finish well worth the 96 points Parker bestowed on this beauty.
There are several outstanding winemaking talents in Spain -- sans international partnerships -- to be discovered: from the region of Ribeira del Duero, the elegant 2001 Bodegas Emilio Moro; from the chalky soils of Rioja-Alavesa, the Bordeaux-like 2001 Ramirez de Ganuza Rioja; and from the high-altitude old-vine vineyards of the Toro region, the 2004 Numanthia-Termes, and the powerful 2002 and 2003 Numanthia-Numanthia. (The '03 garnered a 96-point rating from Parker.)
As people realize the quality and value of these Spanish old-world gems, don't be surprised if you start seeing them appearing on the wine lists of your favorite eateries. ... Salute!
Kevin Toyama is a sommelier at the Halekulani and an advanced certificate holder from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org