Habla Espanol?

Very pleased to offer a selection of outstanding and well-rated wines from several Spanish speaking countries (yes the conceit is flimsy but hey, you try theming). Many of these wines are hitting the province for the first time because buying wine is amazing right now. We begin: 

ARGENTINA 

Familia Zuccardi “Jose” Malbec 2014, Uco Valley, Mendoza. Remember that cool goth kid from high school that you tried to make friends with but they wouldn’t take off their headphones? But you just knew they were interesting so you bought them a hot chocolate so they’d talk to you but they just stared at it because of course, hot chocolate is for babies and what were you thinking, you’re both, like, practically adults? And it wasn’t until several weeks (and embarrassments) later that they actually said something to you, and you’re like “omg omg omg they talked to me”? Yes, this. “Jose” is the Argentine Malbec that most resembles Cahors, the birthplace of Malbec in France, and I mean that in the most austere, goth way (even the label looks like a Siouxsie and the Banshees cover). Deep, resentful and ferrous in the first few hours, “Jose” takes a super long time to open up to you – it’s actually more expressive a day after opening – but holy cow is it worth it. Once it decides to talk to you, it’ll scream about black fruits, white pepper and earth, with balsamic notes on the dusty, plummy finish. This’ll cellar like a Barolo, crazy value for such a serious wine, if it weren’t so angry it would be a Back Up The Truck selection. 94 points Robert Parker, 6 6-packs available, $53.98 +tax 

1884 The President’s Blend 2018, Uco Valley, Mendoza. A complete pivot from the previous Malbec: instead of ignoring you for a day, this brawny blend of Malbec, Cab and Syrah (and not an actual blend of presidents, sadly) will happily do your homework, make you a sandwich, and can probably find you some weed if that’s your thing. Ignoring the contemporary Mendoza movement away from Napa-inspired girth-bombs, 1884 wears 2003 like a prom dress and looks incredible doing it. Super jacked blueberries, blackberries and raspberries top this black forest cake of weight and comfort, the oak influenced full body glides down to earth like a magic marshmallow. In a good way. Nicolas Catena, who purchased the house back in the ‘90s, used to use this fruit for his top labels, but with the recent focus on terroir-driven wines from the Adrianna vineyard (see below), Catena has allowed 1884 to resume making the deliciously generous, mouth-filling comfort food it’s so very good at. 97 points Decanter, Best in Show, Decanter World Wine Awards, 95 points Tim Atkin, 6 6-packs available, $52.98 +tax 

Nicolas Catena Zapata “River Stones” 2017, Adrianna Vineyard, Gualtallary, Mendoza. I’ve said it before and will repeat it here: we’re at the dawn of a new First Growth and these prices will indeed rise accordingly (they already have, a bit). So focused on posterity is winemaker Alejandro Vigil that he excluded one of the riper vineyard plots from this 2017 so that the fruit weight wouldn’t obscure the limestone minerality that beams like a laser; this vintage is also the first to employ 100% whole clusters, which will be the practice going forward. Built like a Burgundian fortress on a Left Bank Bordeaux plot of land, the tannins and acid are a little delineating right now but should settle into this full body in about 3 years. The nose, which changes every 45 minutes or so, is dominated by violets and stones but hints of blackberry and sandalwood slowly emerge to lurk underneath. Freaking brilliant in every sense. 100 points James Suckling, 98 points Robert Parker, 3 wooden 3-packs available, $249.98 +tax 

CHILE 

Garage Wine Co. “Lot 67” Carignan Field Blend 2015, Maule Valley. If you’re experiencing flashbacks, no, this isn’t the Garage Wine Co. Vigno that sold out a few weeks ago, but both wines are related: this Lot 67 is essentially declassified Vigno. Sharing the same source vines (farmed by hand and horse by the Orellana family), the higher-acid, more ageable barrels go into Vigno but the tastes-awesome-now barrels of dry-farmed Carignan (with a small dose of Mataro/Mourvèdre) build this sexy beast Lot 67, which is a fuller, rounder wine. The ancestral farming is followed by near-ancestral winemaking, non-temperature-controlled ferments with old barrel aging and minimal sulphite additions, but there is no “natural” vibe to this: the nose is full of earth, smoked meat, blue fruit and flowers, and drinks much smoother than its famous older brother. 94 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $53.98 +tax 

GERMANY 

Loosen/Rodriguez Graacher Himmelreich Riesling 2015, Mosel. Yep, I hear you. You’re saying “they don’t speak Spanish in Germany! Stop this bus, I want off!”. Well, I’ll have you know that this wine is bilingual because it’s a collab between good friends Ernie Loosen and Telmo Rodriguez, so I will accept your apology in writing. It works like this: Loosen ages his Riesling from the ancient Himmelreich vineyard for two years in the barrels that Telmo made (red) Rioja in, with a small measure of Riesling skins present for the ferment; although the process sounds like the kind of ideas that come from two dudes drinking too much wine together (which they did), it’s actually a practice called “naturrein” that was employed in the Mosel a century ago. The result is a golden, nearly orange wine with quince, citrus, mint and heaps of honey on the nose – the skin contact and oak aging give the body a round shape, and it finishes dry with wisps of honey and beeswax. I’m sure this can age but I’ve no roadmaps as to what it’ll turn into; I say drink now and be merry, these guys certainly did. 93 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $66.98 +tax 

SPAIN 

Finca Casa Castillo Las Gravas 2018, Jumilla. Burgundy from the moon. Strange that so elegant a thing can escape so cruel an environment. The sun pounds Jumilla like a spotlight, the soil is more gravel (gravas) than dirt, and while other vines are trained in rows these bush vines are solitary and far apart, so that they don’t starve each other competing for the ground’s scarce nutrients. Any wine that can be made from this hellscape could be forgiven for holding a grudge, but Jose Maria Vicente manages to wrest singing, soaring expressions of Monastrell (Mataro/Mourvèdre) from this Las Gravas vineyard that hue closer to a Volnay or Chateauneuf than most lugubrious Jumillas. Green herbs give subtle hints around the red cherry, raspberry and jasmine aromas, the full-ish body flows like velvet towards a chalky, refined finish with great minerality. Even more impressive is that the almost innocent beauty of this wine came out of one of the most severe vintages in recent memory. Gorgeous and striking. 96 points Robert Parker, 4 6-packs available, $63.98 +tax 

Guimaro “Camino Real” 2018, Ribera Sacras, Galicia. I believe we’ll be hearing a lot more about Ribera Sacra in the coming years, not only for its killer value, but also for its unique expression of the Mencia variety (pronounced Men-Thee-A in Galego because long ago someone sneezed in the middle of the word and now they’re stuck with it*). Famous for the kneecappingly severe wines of Bierzo, Mencia takes a more feminine turn in Ribera Sacra, where the steep slate speckled vineyards resemble the canyon-like topography of Côte Rôtie or the Mosel, and the grape’s high terpenoids and aromatics almost form a halo above the glass. Pedro Pérez’s mid-level “Camino Real” (the “Royal Way” to anyone who hasn’t read The DaVinci Code) is a nose-feast of hibiscus, roses, dried cherries, red apples and crushed rocks, the medium body proceeds with perfect tension towards a long finish laced with pomegranate. Keep your eyes on this region and this producer. 94 points Robert Parker, 4 6-packs available, $43.98 +tax 

Envinate “Migan” 2018, Tenerife, Canary Islands. Prepare to be Funkified. Situated off the western Moroccan coast and just north of the Tropic of Cancer, that fact that any wine grapes can be grown on these blistering, desert islands seems like a miracle, but it’s actually a function of altitude and the Canary Current, part of the North Atlantic Gyre that brings cooler air to the Canaries and influences the viticulture there almost totally. Grown on the oldest, highest vineyard available (600m), the Listan Negro vines, a local variety brought to the islands by the Spanish centuries ago (a genetic match with the Pais/Mission grape in the Americas but clonally quite different), must be trained into hair-like braids in order to withstand the constant Atlantic pressure. The young folks at Envinate craft this grape into a weird and wonderful brew of salinity, strawberry, pepper and smoke (due to the volcanic soils), atop a medium body and mild tannin – the whole package reminds me of a premium Blaufrankish more than anything else – and the finish shows flowers and more pepper. Only the 3rd vintage made, I’ll be watching these brilliant weirdos much more closely in the future. 95 points Robert Parker, 2 6-packs available, $51.98 +tax 

USA 

Stolpman Vineyards “Para Maria de los Tecolotes” 2018, Santa Barbara, California. Although probably inadvertent, the pendulum that for decades was over on the South-America-tries-to-be-like-California side now appears to be swinging towards the other polarity. Case in point: this drop dead gorgeous blend of Syrah and Petit Verdot that could, in times past, feel at home atop a stack of pancakes is now a blazing streak of freshness and fruit purity brimming with life, not dissimilar to some of the outstanding Syrahs out of Chile (minus the stank). The hot/cool Santa Barbara climate chimes in with vibrant blue fruits and boysenberry, but the Syrah (once in a decanter for 2 hours) starts to show smoke, black pepper and dark chocolate. Full bodied but still agile, this’ll be a matchless BBQ wine once that’s a thing again. Not sure why Tom and Marilyn Stolpman called this wine “For Maria of the Owls”, but the striking black and white owl on the label stared into my soul and told me I was worthy. 92 points Wine Enthusiast, 2 cases available, $41.98 +tax 

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS 

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info, I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you. 

Losada 2017, Bierzo. 95 points James Suckling, 6 cases available, $39.98 +tax 

Aalto 2018, Ribera del Duero. Not yet rated, 6 bottles available, $88.98 +tax 

Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial v.20, Ribera del Duero. 98 points Robert Parker, 2 bottles available, $1082.98 +tax 

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