January 2012 Wine Club Selections

Terra d’ Oro Winery

The January wine club selections come from a great California winery located in Amador County called Terra d’ Oro. With 400 acres of magnificent acres of estate vines—including several historic, old-vine vineyards—Terra d’Oro Winery now produces uncommonly delicious Zinfandel, Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Moscato, Rosé and Forte (our Super Tuscan blend).

They are blessed with the ability to farm three distinct vineyards:  SHR, Home and the historical Deaver Vineyard.  Each parcel has its own unique characteristics and yields such wonderfully different styles of Zinfandel.  They are also very fortunate that all our vineyards are in close proximity to our winery which helps during the harvest.  The name Terra d’Oro means “Land of Gold”…which pretty much sums it up.

Home Vineyard

Planted in 1977—3.68 Acres—100% Sustainable

Vineyard Notes:  The Vineyard, in its entirety, was grafted over to Zinfandel in 1994 on the susceptible rootstock AxR.  It is the only Zin vineyard owned that is bilateral cordon trained and used for red wine production.  The vineyard is surrounded by mature Valley Oaks with deep roots that monopolize the water supply, thus making it necessary to harvest the outer vines first and continue in a doughnut pattern.

Clonal Information:  The vineyard is planted in what is called the “Heritage” clone, which produces fruit with very unique characteristics.  Unlike traditional Zinfandel, these clusters are very loose with round berries, allowing the grapes to ripen in a much more uniform manner.  The Heritage clone also produces wines with exceptionally soft, lush structure that is more characteristic of a Sonoma Valley Zinfandel than an Amador County wine.

Soil Notes: Receiving a pronounced southwest sun exposure, the soil is unique for Amador County. It is much more alluvial in nature than our other vineyards. It lacks the signature red hue that is traditionally a result of large iron components, typical of Amador soil.

SHR Vineyard

Planted in 1996—-40 Acres—-100% Sustainable

Vineyard Notes:  These 40 acres are planted to 80% Zinfandel, 13% Petite Sirah and 7% Barbera. Paying homage to the ancient practice of field blending, all the grapes are co-fermented. The vineyard was laid out east to west with every seventh row being Petite Sirah, the thirteenth Barbera, fourteenth Petite Sirah and so forth. The tractor rows run north to south so the grapes picked into the gondola are brought to winery “blended.” This ancient technique is very clever, because it allows for interactions between the phenols (extracts from the skins & seeds) which create a complexity to the wine that cannot be recreated if these varietals were harvested separately.

Clonal Information:  The Zinfandel is a Deaver clone, planted on rootstock 110R. The Petite Sirah is from Ridge and the Barbera is commonly referred to as a “California Selection.”

Soil Notes: This vineyard lies next to our Home Vineyard and as a result has a bit of the alluvial soil near its border. The majority of the vineyard is classic Sierra Sandy Loam, a thin soil with lots of red clay and decomposing granite laced in. This extremely thin soil prohibits the vines from producing large crop and it dries out very quickly, causing the vines to ripen faster which leads to intense, rich and aggressive wines.

Deaver Vineyard

Planted in 1881—-Approximately 23 Acres

Vineyard Notes: The Deaver Vineyard has a horseshoe-shaped ridge that runs though the vineyard, with a swale in the middle of that horseshow. That swale produces a crop that is harvested separately due to the soil depth yielding different complexities in the fruit. The wines are al head trained which has been most effective with Zinfandel because it gives the fruit excellent sun exposure.

Clonal Information: This vineyard is one of the original plantings in Amador County and the vines have served as the parent cuttings for a majority of other vineyards in the region. The Deaver acreage is iconic when discussing Amador Zinfandel, as it continues to produce rich fruit with amazing concentration, character and Shenandoah spice.

Soil Notes:  The soil on the ridge of this field is very shallow and rocky, with lots of clay in it and a large iron component, which is a characteristic of many Shenandoah Valley vineyards.

2008 Terra d’ Oro Amador County Zinfandel $ 16.99

At Terra d’Oro, Zinfandel is what we do best. Shallow topsoils, granite hardpan, hot summer days, and cool summer nights make a fabulous home for our favorite varietal. Hand selected every year from our prestigious Amador vineyards, Terra d’Oro Amador County Zinfandel is the flagship of our Zinfandel program. We head train and spur prune the Terra d’Oro vineyards for optimum sunlight and controlled crop.

Winemaking Information

At Terra d’Oro, our Zinfandel vineyards are carefully handpicked and brought to the winery for processing. After being put into a hopper, about fifteen gallons of juice per ton of grapes is removed. The grapes are then destemmed and crushed and the must is sent to tanks where it is left to cold soak for up to three days. This allows a primary extraction where water acts as a solvent and breaks down the cell walls of the grape solids, extracting flavors, color, and aromas. The fermentors are drained and returned three times, resulting in more extraction than merely pumping over the tanks. After gentle tank pressing, the wine was aged in a combination of Hungarian, French and American oak for 16 months.

Tasting Notes

“The 2008 Terra d’Oro Amador County Zinfandel demonstrates the classic Sierra Foothills characteristics that are unique to this region. The nose is rich and super spicy with dark fruit and berries. The palate is smooth and showscases flavors of nicely ripened blackberries and plums. Spice lingers on the finish, making it a great wine to accompany a multitude of dishes. Try pairing with a lamb burger topped with goat cheese. Enjoy!”
— Chris Leamy, Winemaker

 

Terra d’ Oro Pinot Grigio 2010 $ 13.99

Vineyard & Varietal Information

Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Gris, is a mutation of Pinot Noir and for generations it grew in Burgundian vineyards alongside its red relation. When field blended with Pinot Noir it adds softness and acidity. In the last decade Pinot Grigio has gained international popularity. The varietal can turn out white wine of substantial structure and character with the verve to pair well with nearly any cuisine. Sunny, seaside, beautiful Santa Barbara County is a great match for Pinot Grigio. At our Los Alamos vineyard, located just east of Highway 101 in the middle of Santa Barbara County, the combination of well drained, extremely sandy soils and steep hillside plantings stress the vines just enough to bring intense varietal character to the fruit. This site also has the significant benefit of marine influence, critical for Pinot Grigio. Being a cousin of Pinot Noir, a long cool growing season is essential for the grapes to properly ripen, developing more concentration of flavors, while preserving acid balance.

Winemaking Information

The grapes are gently hand harvested in the first hours of morning to ensure cooler temperatures during their long truck ride to Amador County. Upon arrival at the winery, the fruit is handled with the utmost of care. It is immediately sent to press for gentle processing, minimizing the potential extraction of unwanted astringency and color from the skin and seeds. The clean juice, bursting with Pinot Grigio essence goes immediately to stainless steel fermenters. The fermentation is kept at very low temperatures for over a month, to develop bright, clean fruit character.

Tasting Notes

Terra d’Oro 2010 Pinot Grigio entices with a nose of ripe, bright pear and clover blossom. Rich and dense, the mouth oozes with juicy pear and stone fruit flavors, finishing with an elegant touch of toasted French oak. Try pairing this delightful wine with a mild cheese and fruit plate.

Connoiseur Club Selections

Gundlach Bundschu Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2009  $ 24.99

The 2009 growing season lent itself well to producing some of our finest wines to date. Springtime was pleasantly warm and mild as flowering progressed, with only calm winds coming through the Petaluma gap. The heat of the spring and early summer was comfortably average as the vines developed a strong canopy. We progressed through summer and early fall with moderate weather that was both a winegrower and winemaker’s dream.

Winemaker Tasting Notes

Bursting with aromas and flavors of fresh meyer lemon, key lime, asian pear and granny smith apples. Round and lush with good weight, yet refreshing acidity and minerality. Long, mouthwatering finish of citrus with a touch of toffee and cream. An ideal pairing for fish prepared with citrus butter, oysters and all shellfish.

Gundlach Bundschu Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007  $ 32.99

Winemaker Tasting Notes

Intense aromas of black currant and blueberry, laced with vanilla. The lush entry fills the mouth with rich flavors of dark berry, cassis and ultra dark chocolate. Big, smooth tannins give weight and roundness to the mouthfeel. Concentrated berry and anise flavors linger through the exceptionally long finish. Delicious upon release; optimal cellaring time 4 to 15 years from vintage.

December Wine Club Wines

December 2011

Oconee Wine Club Selections

Langtry Estate & Vineyards

For well over one hundred years, intrepid travelers have trekked over Howell Mountain to reach the Guenoc Valley winery.

Langtry Estate & Vineyards property is vast, encompassing some thirty-five square miles of epic terrain, where untamed flora and fauna still abound.

The picturesque estate consists of 23,000 acres and straddles both Lake and Napa Counties where cougar, bear and wild boar still roam the remote hills. Despite the vastness, Langtry’s vineyards are limited to 400 prime acres, ensuring the highest quality.

Langtry Estate & Vineyards currently produces approximately 120,000 cases of wine annually with distribution throughout the United States. From cane to canopy, to rootstock and clone, Langtry Estate believes that the signature of the wine remains in the soil and climate and in varietals chosen for their synergy with the land.

With the establishment of the Guenoc Valley AVA on December 21, 1981, Langtry Estate & Vineyards became the first producer in the nation with its own appellation.

This is a fitting arrangement for the winery as the serpentine soils throughout the region contribute to a terroir that works exceptionally well with Petite Sirah, Langtry’s signature red varietal.

Far from a lonely existence, Langtry’s exclusive status sets it apart from other wineries and holds the secret to the success Langtry has enjoyed with its wines. With hundreds of acres of vineyards, Langtry Estates has a wealth of resources for distinctive, world-class wines.

The namesake, Lillie Langtry, flamboyant British Theatre star, purchased the property sight unseen in 1888.

On her first visit, she arrived in St. Helena in her lavish private railroad car, then embarked with a small fleet of stagecoaches carrying her entourage and paramour, Freddie Gebhard.

Raised as a tomboy, she apparently was quite a horsewoman. She also made wine, which she proclaimed the “greatest claret in the country.”

With the help of her winemaker Henri Descelles, she had 51 tons crushed her first vintage and bottled wine in unique vessels portraying her likeness on the glass.

By 1900 Lake County wines were winning awards in international competition, and the region was earning a reputation for producing some of the world’s greatest wines.

Lillie Langtry sold the property in 1906 and the years of prohibition and vineyard destruction soon followed.

2009 Guenoc Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon $14.99

Our 2009 Guenoc Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon has a fruit forward nose of black cherry, raspberry jam, and herbs de provence.

The wine is elegant and soft on the palate and the acidity is very well balanced.

Winemaker Notes

Tannins are soft and melting while still providing enough structure to contend with hearty dishes, making it a wonderful accompaniment with food or enjoyed alone.

Wine Facts:

Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon 98%, Petit Verdot 2%


2010 Guenoc Lake County Chardonnay $14.99

Produced from grapes from our estate vineyards, our 2010 Lake County Chardonnay is partially barrel fermented with the majority produced in stainless steel tanks.

Winemaker Notes:

The wine has aromas of stone fruit like peaches and apricot, mingling with pineapple and almond paste.

The flavors are intense and echo the nose while displaying balance and elegance.

The finish is long and offers a succulent creaminess.


Appellation: Lake County

December 2011

Connoisseurs Club Selections

Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Chardonnay 2009  $ 29.99

The Appellations

Sonoma Coast Chardonnay  The vineyards along the Sonoma Coast feature marine influences that define this sweeping appellation, an area that stretches from the beautiful San Pablo Bay all the way to the Mendocino County line.

The Sonoma Coast American Viticulture Area (AVA) covers over 480,000 acres, with roughly 7,000 acres planted with vines.  Temperatures are moderate, with evenings dipping to 40s as a result of the fog off Bodega Bay and day time highs typically in the low 70s.

Growing grapes in the dramatically cool western reaches of Sonoma County is complex and demanding, with the end result truly worth the risk. The resulting fruit produces wines that are elegant and intensely structured.

Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast

Produced using hand-harvested fruit from carefully selected vineyards within the Sonoma Coast appellation, CrossBarn Chardonnay offers structure and weight in balance with pure concentrated fruit.

Winemaking
Whole-cluster, direct to press
60% barrel fermented, 40% in tank
Native and selected yeasts
Aged five months in French oak
Unfined

Notes
Opalescent pale yellow in color, with refreshing aromas of crisp gala apple and lime zest, this chardonnay is mouth-filling and lively from start to finish.

A burst of bright stone fruit opens to silky layers of apple, pear and citrus that glide over the palate; yeasty overtones and mineral notes add elegance over a long finish.

91 Rating by Robert Parker!

A stunning bargain is the 2009 Chardonnay CrossBarn, which was aged in 75% stainless steel, was put through 100% malolactic, and 15% was barrel fermented in order to provide a subtle hint of spice.

Made in a steely, Chablis-like style, it offers up full-bodied tropical fruit notes intermixed with hints of honeysuckle and crushed rocks. Drink this 4,000-case beauty over the next several years.


Riglos Gran Malbec 2006  $ 26.99

Owners: Dario Werthein and Fabian Suffern

Dario and Fabian have been friends since childhood, but only recently found out that their grandparents had grown up in the same small town of Riglos, Argentina.

With the establishment of the Riglos brand, the pioneering spirit of two immigrant families, from Germany and Ireland respectively, is strengthened in partnership and commemorated in name.

Sourced exclusively from their estate vineyard in the Valle de Uco region of Mendoza, the portfolio is comprised of three wines: a malbec, a cabernet sauvignon and a red blend, all styled to strike a balance between vivid varietal expression and elegant structure.

This highly colored, velvet purple wine is a classic expression of Malbec, showing plum, currant and wild cherry aromas wrapped in nuances of chocolate and background notes of oak. On the palate, red berry and dark stone fruit impressions dominate, set in a texture of silky, supple tannins and sweet, luscious fruit lifted by a fine, measured acidity. The finish is long and succulent, ending on a ripe, plush note that invites another glass.

91 Rating Robert Parker!

The 2006 Gran Malbec is more substantial. A saturated purple color, it has a superb aromatic display of wood smoke, spice box, violets, mineral, and black cherry. Layered, bordering on opulent on the palate, it has gobs of spicy black cherry flavors with notes of chocolate and espresso also emerging. The wine has enough stuffing to improve for another 2-3 years and will be at its best from 2010 to 2018.Paul Hobbs, with 20 years of experience working in Argentina, is the winemaking consultant at Riglos.

New Savings with your reward Card!

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Now is a great time to sign up for a Cellar Rewards Card and/or the Wine Club and stock up! The savings are fantastic. Just take a look at this week’s specials:

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    • Bailey’s 750ml –  Everyone needs to have a little Baileys for the Holiday’s.  Save $2.00   $19.99
    • Canadian Club 1.75 – One of those brands that continues to grow year after year.  Great Value at $19.99
    • Grey Goose Vodka 1.0 liter– Still one of the best, smoothest Vodka’s around.  Save $2.00 $ 39.99
    • Skinny Girl Cosm– An addition to the margarita, now you can have a Cosmo for very little calories.  Only $12.99
    • Hob Nob Pinot Noir– This French Pinot has become extremely popular and is a great value.  Perfect with Turkey!  Only $9.99
    • Popppy Pinot Noir–  From Monterey’s, California this smooth Pinot continues to be consitant from year to year.  Packs a punch for only $14.99
    • Orin Swift Abstract – A new red blend from Orin Swift, if you like his other selections then you must give this one a try.  A blend of Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah.  Only $29.99, Save $2.00
    • Wente Chardonnay– This wine shows hints of Rombauer for a fraction of the price.  Great deal at only $11.99 per bottle.
    • Cavit Pinot Grigio– The #1 selling Italian Pinot Grigio, perfect for large parties.  Only $11.99 for the 1.5 liter bottle!

We will be serving free Starbucks coffee every Saturday through the end of the year.  Stop by and have a cup while you shop!

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November Wine Club Selections

 

November Oconee Wine Club Selections

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WINERY

Behind the name of Albino Armani there is a dynamic reality, which has always grown and evolved. The name represents a widespread family estate, which now includes three large wineries in the excellent wine-growing regions of Veneto, Trentino and Friuli Venezia Giulia. The wine cellars preside over umptuous
extensions of wine-growing cultivation.

THE HEART
Since 1962 the heart of this project has been in Dolcè, in the Adige Valley of Verona, which is the birthplace of the product line called Albino Armani. The
central winery headquarters, at Dolcè, is very spacious, and has a barricaia, grape-drying area, tasting room and laboratory, which manifests the company’s
commitment to research and innovation.

FURTHER NORTH
Further north, in the region of Trentino, where 400 years ago the Armani family were winegrowers, we find the area producing the grapes for the Io Domenico Armani product line. Now, let us move to Magredi friulani, where we discover the vineyards for the Claps product line, and a beautiful wine cellar made of copper in 1998. And, back to Veneto, in the hills of the Valpolicella, we discover the birthplace of Egle, Albino Armani’s most recent product line.

IO Pinot Nero 2010  $ 14.99

This red is extremely difficult to produce, requiring great professional attention, as well as the winegrowers strong will to discover how to bring out its roundness and balance. Sensory profile: Garnet red in color, this Pinot Nero offers a complexity of sensations. It’s warm and silky texture offers aromas of
strawberry, blueberry and black cherry fruits. It evolves into a complex masterpiece with vegetal tones of truffles and liquorice. Elegant and well balanced in the mouth.
Food pairings: Red and white roasted meat.

Production zone: Vallagarina, in Trentino South Tyrol

Grape varieties: 100% Pinot Noir, with the best Italian and French clones.

Soil composition: Autochthonous, very complex, mainly composed of marly and calcareous stones.

Vinification: Maceration in stainless steel tanks, in contact with the skins for 7-10 days. Reassembly and “delestage”- the complete remixing through the emptying and refilling of the tanks – are only done during the first few days of fermentation, without damaging skins and seeds. The maturation occurs in stainless steel and large wooden barrels.

IO Pinot Grigio 2010   $ 13.99

 

 

At Chizzola, in the part of Val d’Adige towards Trento, we cultivate this grape variety.  However, its origin derives from a mutation of Pinot Nero. The direction that the hill faces and the constant wind make this area ideal for growing Pinot Grigio.

 

Sensory profile: Straw yellow in color with light ash-grey flecks typical of Pinot Grigio. The scent has traces of white flowers and mature pear. In the mouth it has great structure and balance, and is long and complex.

Food pairings: Goes well with hearty soups, risotto, light white meats and fried or baked fish. It is also a pleasant aperitif.

Production zone: Valle dell’Adige in Trentino – Chizzola

Grape varieties: 100% Pinot Grigio – Vineyard age from 15 to 40 years.

Soil composition: Morainic soil, light and warm.

Vinification: Whole grape pressing at low pressure with a long fermentation at 20°C in stainless steel tanks. Maturation in contact with its own yeasts and partial malolactic fermentation is allowed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November Connoisseurs Club Selections

 

Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Premier Cru Chablis 2009  “Vaillons”     $ 32.99

The Droin family has been in Chablis since at least 1547, when the first records indicate that one Jehan Droin owned one parcel of vines in the Clos.

 

 

Since then, the family has always owned property in the village and is among the oldest land owners in the area. Since the year of 1620, fourteen generations of vignerons have transmitted their “savoir-faire” down from father to son. Jean-Paul Droin took over the property in 1983 and helped to establish the property as among the best of the AOC. In 1999, his son Benoit joined the property and is now the principal winemaker at the estate.

 

Chablis is a village of 2,600 inhabitants situated 160 kms southeast of Paris and 150 kms northwest of Dijon. The village gave its name to the surrounding vineyards which stretch west for about 15 kms on both banks of the river Serein. The area under vines is about 4.300 ha and encompasses about twenty villages.

 

93 Points Robert Parker!

 

The 2009 Chablis Vaillons is wonderfully alive in the glass. A gorgeous, well-articulated bouquet resonates on the palate, where layers of crystalline fruit emerge with notable pedigree. The Vaillons shows terrific energy and focus all the way through to the finish. Hints of lemon peel, grapefruit and jasmine linger on the pointed finish. This is a gorgeous wine from Droin. The Vaillons was aged 20% in wood.

 

Seven Hills Columbia Valley Cabernet 2007  $ 26.99

Established in 1988, Seven Hills Winery is one of Walla Walla Valley’s oldest and most respected wineries. Guided by founder, winemaker and fourth generation farmer, Casey McClellan, Seven Hills Winery crafts an
acclaimed portfolio of vineyard-designate and appellation-inspired wines.  Focusing on benchmark Cabernet Sauvignons and Bordeaux-varietal reds, the wines at Seven Hills have played an important role in establishing the region’s reputation for world-class wine-making, and are recognized as some of the finest wines in the Northwest.

 

They work with grapes from a diverse, complimentary set of sites within the Columbia Valley. This is a finely balanced, medium-bodied Cabernet of strong red-purple color. The nose shows ripe plum and raspberry, with sweet oak spice and vanillin.   The palate opens with ripe fruit and berry over balanced tannins. Lengthy ripe fruit, with hints of dried herb and pepper completes the finish. Pair beautifully with medium-bodied meat dishes.   This wine should age well for 3-5 years from release if properly cellared.

90 rating Wine Spectator!

Bright and lively, focusing its pomegranate and cherry flavors in a beam of flavor, hinting at
cedar and bay leaf as the finish lingers harmoniously. Tannins slide in easily.  Drink now through 2014. 2,100 cases made. –HS

 

 

Wine Tasting tonight at Filet Steak & Seafood!

There are still spots open for tonight’s wine tasting at Filet Steak & Seafood.  The cost is only $10 per person and you will enjoy some great wines, most rated over 90!  Actually one was rated as high as 93 by Robert Parker!  You will taste 2 whites and 4 reds and sample some gourmet cheeses.  It starts at 6:00 tonight.  If you plan on attending please call 706-453-0420 or email us at oconeecellar@bellsouth.net .

Wine Tasting at Spotlight Theater Sunday

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition visits Madison, Georgia
Sunday October 9th
6:00 -7:30

Wine Tasting provided by The Oconee Cellar and Wynn Pennington, brother of Tye Pennington, host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Taste 10 different wines from Wynn’s portfolio from Hand Picked Selections then see the show on the big screen at 8:00 pm.

$ 2 per person to watch the show
$ 15 per person for the wine tasting

Portions of the proceeds will go to the Fran Faxon Scholarship Fund for the Rucker Family.

On Sunday October 9th, Spotlight Theatre will show the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition filmed in Madison Georgia. The show is building a new home for Anaiah Rucker and her family. Anaiah was seriously injured earlier this year saving her younger sister, Camry, by pushing her out of the way of an oncoming truck.

While Camry avoided the truck, Anaiah was struck. The fourth-grader had massive, life-threatening injuries. Doctors had to amputate her left leg. Bus driver Loretta Berryman is credited with saving Anaiah’s life. Berryman performed CPR on her following the accident.

Come by and support the family and all the volunteers that worked very hard to make this a resounding success! Try some great wine from Ty’s brother’s portfolio and watch the show on the big screen!

Great Deal for Wine Lovers

Matt Garofalo, Owner of the Oconee Cellar gives his review of two great Wines at fantastic prices with the Cellar Rewards Card. This week’s specials – Beuhler Napa Cabernet, and Borsao Garnacha Granache. If you don’t have a Cellar Rewards Card yet, come by, sign up, and start saving!

Value and Quality – Spanish Wine

[imageeffect type=”shadowreflect” align=”alignleft” width=”424″ height=”283″ shadow=”shadow-medium” alt=”Vineyard in Catalonia, Spain” url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/vineyard_catalonia_spain.jpg” titleoverlay=”yes”]Did you know that Spain is the most widely planted wine producing country in the world with over 2.9 million acres of planted grape vines? Only Italy and France produce more wine due to the fact that Spanish vines produce less juice because of their dry, infertile soil.

There are over 600 varietals planted with only 80 percent of the country’s wine production coming from 20 different grapes including such varietals as Tempranillo, Albarino, Garnacha, and Monastrell to name a few. Spain is also known for its sherry production in the Jerez region along with many different Cava’s (Sparkling wine) made in the Catalonia region.

Spain’s wine-making history can be traced back sometime between 4000 and 3000 BC. Under Roman rule, Spanish wine was exported and traded throughout the Roman Empire. As the colonization of the New World began, Spanish wines where then exported to South America. The major turning point occurred in the mid 19th century when the phylloxera (sap sucking insect that feeds on the roots and leaves of grapevines) epidemic ravaged European vineyards, most notably the vineyards in France.

This sudden shortage of wine made countries turn to Spain as an alternative. Many wine makers took their expertise and winemaking methods over to Rioja, Navarre, and Catalonia. Although phylloxera did eventually make its way to Spain, the remedy of grafting American rootstock to European vines had already been discovered and utilized.

Today, due to the influx of commissioned wine makers and the release of restrictions on irrigation, Spain has become a major player in the production of high quality wines.

Spanish wine laws follow the European systems of classification. Their wines are classified under a five tier system:

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  • Vino de Mesa – This is the equivalent of most country’s table wine. This gives winemakers flexibility to blend the grapes the way they want.
  • Vinos de la Tierra – This level is similar to the vin de pays system in France and normally designates the larger regions with broader geographical locations.
  • Vinos de Calidad Producido en Region Determindada – These wines are considered on step closer to the DO status.
  • Denominacion de Origen – This designation is for the mainstream quality-wine regions and consists of nearly two thirds of the total vineyards in Spain.
  • Denominacion de Origen Calficada – Designated for regions with proven track records for high quality wines and is a step above the DO status. Regions such as Rioja, Priorat, and Ribera del Duero will belong in this classification.

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Although it is reported that Spain produces over 600 different varietals, Tempranillo is the most widely planted red grape followed by Garnacha. It is predominately grown in Rioja and Ribera del Duero, while Garnacha is the main grape grown in the Priorat region. White varietals such as Albarino and Verdejo are popular in the Rias Baixas and Ruedo regions respectively. As the Spanish wine industry continues to grow, more notable varietals such as Cabernet, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc have emerged as major players.

Spanish wines are known for being extremely good values in today’s heavily competitive wine market. Consumers can easily find wines with high 80 to low 90 Ratings for under $15 a bottle. Wine Enthusiast Magazine published its “Top 100 Best Buy Wines for 2010” and guess what is #1? That’s right, a great Spanish wine called Borsao 2008 which is blend of 75% Garnacha and 25% Tempranillo and sells for under $10 a bottle!

So what are you waiting for, get out of your comfort zone of buying some boring Merlot or Chardonnay and try some of the great wines that Spain has to offer!

Spanish Wine Suggestions all under $20:
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  • Burgans Albarino 2008 – One of many great food wines made in Rias Baixas, this white wine is clean and crisp with bright acidity and pairs well with shellfish.
  • Tarima Monastrell 2009 – You can’t miss this one on the shelf, the label displays a beautiful picture of a passion flower. This value player comes from Jumilla and displays flavors of Licorice, chocolate and hints of dark violets.
  • Las Rocas Garnacha 2007- This 90 Rated Robert Parker beauty is made in Calatayud and will blow you away at the quality. If you have never tried a 100% Garnacha before, start here and I promise you will want to give others a try!
  • Marques de Riscal Reserve Rioja 2005 – Another 90 Rated Robert Parker wine that is a perfect introduction to classic Rioja, this 100% Tempranillo can be cellared for over 20 years! Try to find that in a California wine for under $20. Classic flavors of cedar and dense black cherry dominate on the palate. Give it a try with a nice Rib Eye Steak!

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