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Department 66: Taking Old Vine Grenache To The Extreme

15 Oct

Ten years after buying vineyards in Maury, France (the Roussillon appellation), winemaker Dave Phinney’s release of his latest venture, called Department 66 , has finally hit the USA. These are wines that don’t taste like Phinney’s previous winemaking undertakings; to his admission they are small cluster, tiny yield (only one-half ton per acre!!) and most of the vines are from 60-100 years of age- which delivers a concentrated mouthful of flavor! 

I can hear you thinking: ok JvB, let’s get to the wines! And away we go…

Department 66’s “Fragile” 2017 Rosé of Grenache, with small amounts of Syrah and Carignan. Maury, France. 15% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

Color is pale pink with just a hint of orange. The nose is of fresh spring strawberries. The palate is a pleasing shot of young, tart strawberry up front, showing bright acidity with a hint of bitterness on the back palate. Heat sings across the top palate from the high ABV, which I only noticed because I was looking for it- others won’t mind, as the tongue is too busy enjoying the dancing red berries and tangerine rind on the front palate. I poured this for several neighbors who, like myself, were simply enchanted by the wine on their very first sip. Best served cold due to the high ABV.

This is the rosé you didn’t think you were going to love until it hits your mouth. It is so “not Provence” that I want to call it an Anti-Rosé. If you like grenache (aka garnacha) and GSM blends, your mouth just might thank you. It is a delicious, decidedly different approach to a different peak, with an entirely different view of what it means to be a rosé. 

 

 

 

 

Department 66’s “Others” 2015 Grenache (with Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre) Catalan Red Wine Blend; Maury, France. 15.2% ABV, SRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a dark, opaque magenta. The nose offers juicy red plum and chrysanthemum. On the palate, a mixture of dark fruit: cassis, black plum, blueberry with blackberry jam with a touch of forest floor. On the extended finish there are notes of floral herbs, oak, saddle leather, granite, and schist. A monster mouthful of juice that wants to run down your mouth like berries so plum they explode on contact.  

This is a big, full-bodied grenache that is best served just under room temperature and is perfect for smoked and grilled meats, or other powerful flavors that will stand up to bold tannin and structure.  Cabrales cheese, spicy sausage, or savory dishes with heavy sauces could be alternate pairings. The Spanish influence is quite apparent, and if tasted blind I would have suggested Northern Spain, not France. This wine possesses big and bold flavors in a way that juicy California blends have never imagined. 

 

Dave tells his story of Dept. 66 here: 

 

Dave Phinney’s wines have mesmerized me since my first taste of The Prisoner many years ago. He plays by his own set of rules, making delightful wines outside of the standards of the big winemakers, and without corporate constraint. Department 66 is a decidedly different beast, by Phinney’s own admission. He has matured, learned, and this is a new venture, seemingly a personal aspiration. I am fascinated to see what Phinney does next! 

 

To find out more about these wines, click on: https://www.department66.com/

 

#WIYG? Share with me! 

 

à votre santé!

Wines of Cariñena for Summer! #CoolDownwithCariñena

12 Aug

Bodegas Paniza Agostón 2016 Viura and Chardonnay Blend, Cariñena, Spain. 12.5% ABV, $13-14/bottle, internet/street. Screwcap Closure.

 

Color is a translucent, neutral straw with just a tiny hint of green. The nose offers a gentle citrus with lychee. On the palate, there are notes of lime zest, green melon, and sweet plantains. Gentle acidity on the back palate and a subtle, bitter finish. I am quick to refill this in the heat of the summer. A blend of 70% Viura and 30% Chardonnay,  it is light, cool, and refreshing: reminding me of the wonderful local wines I tasted last summer while sailing the Mediterranean Sea. This is delicate, and so similar to the wines of last summer- easy to imbibe all afternoon or to pair with raw seafood, cold gazpacho, salads and vegetables, along with baked white fish, chicken or pork. Yum!

 

 

Corona D Aragon Garnacha Blanca 2017. Cariñena, Spain.  12.5% ABV, Around $10/bottle street price.  Nomacork Closure. 

 

 

Color is young straw. The nose is quite delicate, with hints of honeysuckle blossom, sunflower, and almond paste. On the palate is fresh lemon rind, crisp apple, with a hint of tangerine. Nice acidity is left behind on the tongue and front palate, the overall effect like a ray of sunshine catching you after being lost behind the clouds. This is a blend of 87% white grenache, and 13% chardonnay grapes that paired perfectly with Chinese stir-fry and again with spicy Thai noodles, but also with flatbread white pizza and a traditional Naples-style pizza with a spicy San Marzano tomato sauce.

 

 

 

Bodegas San Valero, Origium 1944:  Rosé of Garnacha, 2016.  Cariñena, Spain. ABV 12.5%, Street Price under $10/bottle, Traditional cork closure.

 

Color is a beautiful and deep cerise. The nose is of tiny fresh red berries and a hint of green leaves. On the palate is fresh cranberry, watermelon, a touch of young raspberry. Delightfully young, exuberant, and lively, with acidity crossing the top of the palate, leaving your mouth refreshed. 

 

This is a wine you want to start sipping before mid-day. It’s so fresh, bright, and unassuming– you will want to continue sipping this lightly with lunch, in a hammock as you enjoy the sun, all afternoon long as you prepare supper, while you rest with your family, and relax with friends. This lovely rosé of garnacha will pair beautifully with smoked or roasted game (think cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving) or with vegetables or any hearty flavors. There is enough acidity here to handle savory flavors of pan-tossed brussel sprouts, artichoke hearts, or a lovely paella! Just a hint of vanilla & cedar lets you know it was aged in wooden barriques and has the ability to stand up to serious main courses, not just appetizers.

 

All of these wines are excellent for hot weather, with bright citrus and delicate fruit.

If you’re looking for a great traditional dish from a regional recipe of Cariñenas, try this migas recipe with garnacha blanca, a viura/chardonnay blend, or garnacha rosé!

 

#WIYG? Whats YOUR summer wine to beat the heat?  Have you tried these?

Share your thoughts with me below!

 

à votre santé!

A Dry White Season

23 Feb

Two dry white wines, one new and Austrian, one vintage and Spanish; both deserving of your attention.

Fritsch “Windspiel” Grüner Veltliner 2012, Wagram, Austria. Purchased from 67 Wine, $12.99. ABV12.%.

Pale straw in color with a tinge of green, the nose is barely detectable of distant wildflowers and herbs. In the mouth, crisp acidity with lemon-lime citrus and under-ripe white pear are dominant.  As it warms on the palate, the tartness expands and secondary notes of white orchid, minerals, and white pepper are exposed. A gentle, dry, and pleasing finish begs for the for the next bite or sip. An ideal match for light dishes and seafood, this wine has enough acidity to complement spicy or savory flavors. Impressive value with flexibility in pairing. Website: http://www.fritsch.cc/

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Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanca 1996. Rioja, Spain. Purchased from Astor Wine and Spirits, $45. ABV 12.5%.

This white Rioja is blended from 90% viura and 10% malvasia. Aged for at least five years in barrels before bottling, this is a precious older wine that is both widely appreciated and able to be sourced and purchased at a reasonable price.

Golden color with a nose that needs a moment to allow the funk to burn off. Afterwards, the nose resolves with notes of dried floral arrangement and tangerine peel. In the mouth, dried apple and dried apricot flavors are accented by touches of vanilla and orange zest,  giving way to a very direct acidity. A perfect match for savory fish, poultry, egg, and truffle dishes. Focused but not singular, this is an unusual, special wine that is perfect to keep a few bottles and have on hand for that dish that needs a certain “je ne sais quoi”. Commonly rated in the low to mid 90’s, you might be amazed how an older white wine can pair so well with savory dishes. The answer in in the aged fruit, focused acidity, and short, dry, clean finish.  Website: http://www.tondonia.com

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à votre santé!

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