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By The Glass
Kevin Toyama

Wrongo is the right way
to consider the wines of Spain

I was pleased to read, in the British wine publication Decanter Magazine, a quote from wine merchant Steven Spurrier: "I believe that Spain is the most interesting wine country in the world at the moment."

It was Spurrier who in 1976 conducted a now-famous blind tasting in Paris. He dared to put wines from up-and-coming California against the great wines of France. Two California wines -- Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and Chateau Montelena Chardonnay -- took first-place honors.

The results were precedent-setting for their time, and Spurrier continues to shake up the wine world. I wholeheartedly agree with his ideas on Spain. With that in mind, here are a few glasses to ponder:

Wrongo Dongo is the catchy name of the new Spanish wine sensation -- and also a common saying in Deadham, Mass., home of Spanish importer Jorge Ordonez. What does it mean? Have you ever been in a situation where you have tried to politely explain to someone that they are wrong -- not just incorrect, but DEAD WRONG? That's "wrongo dongo," Jorge's nice way of putting it -- kinda funny, too.

Rated as a Best Value (86 points) by Wine Spectator magazine, Bodegas Juan Gil, Wrongo Dongo 2003 ($7.89) is a vibrantly structured red from the Jumilla region of Spain. Made from the mourvedre grape, its deep violet color and rich aromas of chewy cherry, blueberry, anise and spice are inviting.

This wine has enough stuffing to hold up to hearty roasts, steaks and even barbecue, but is rich, rustic and lingering on the finish. Whoever said you can't make a full-flavored, juicy glass of wine at a reasonable price is wrongo dongo.

From the south-central region of La Mancha Spain, Bodegas Campos Reales Tempranillo 2003 ($7.99) is another outstanding value. With a softer fruit profile, it is the anytime thirst-quencher.

Medium-dry with a hint of sweetness and minerality on the finish, this modern-styled tempranillo has aromas of cherry, cranberry, grape (yes, grape) and a hint of watermelon. Given its mild spice notes, I find it ideal with Asian-inspired cuisine, as well as poultry or heartier fowl.

On a parting note, mark your calendars for Hawaii Public Radio's annual benefit wine tasting and auction, Hawaii Uncorked, May 1 at the Koolau Golf Club in Kaneohe.

This years' theme, "California Dreamin'," celebrates the extraordinary climactic conditions that blessed the outstanding 2001 and 2002 vintages. The Grand Tasting will feature more than 150 wines, and a pair of focused tastings will be conducted in breakout sessions.

Tickets are $100; $85 for HPR members. Call 955-8821.

It's sure to be a winner!

Kevin Toyama is manager of the R. Field Wine Co. Beretania 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 features@starbulletin.com

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