Fazenda Prádio Merenzao

Anyone who really knows me, knows I’m not much of a romantic. I’m not into candlelight, I don’t actually know how to use a fork at a nice restaurant and I’ve never clamped a love lock on the Pont Neuf. That’s not to say, however, that I have never felt romance. In 2012, when the A’s swept both the Mariners and the Rangers to win the division- romance. My first taco truck experience (85th and Edes), the first time I saw Beyoncé’s XO video and the first time I tasted the Merenzao from Fazenda Prádio; all of these moments, romantic as hell.

Fazenda Prádio sits on the Miño River in Ribeira Sacra, Galicia. It is a small, family-run operation that has been farming in Ribeira Sacra for a number of years. Xabi Soeane (with help from friends, family and animals) runs a winery, a guesthouse and a restaurant in the small town of A Peroxa. Xabi thrives on being an insurgent. He spurns the use of chemicals, he refuses to be part of the DO, and each year he works to replant his vineyards to more obscure varietals that are indigenous to the region of Ribeira Sacra- whether or not his neighbors want to follow suit. To put it lightly, a little anarchy never tasted so good. The wines are some of the best coming out of Spain and they happen to be natural- if you are into that sort of thing. 

Merenzao (aka María Ardoña, Bastardo, Trousseau) is a red wine grape that originated in the Jura region of France, over centuries has made its way to Spain and has found its digs in Ribeira Sacra, Galicia. It is a fantastic alternative to Pinot Noir, and when I’m playing sommelier I thoroughly enjoy introducing it to guests. On the whole, wines made from Merenzao tend to have a lot of dark red cherry fruit, a little pepper and are potentially high in alcohol. The Prádio Merenzao clocks in at 13%. The entire lineup of Prádio wines is fire. Choosing the Merenzao is like choosing Steph over Draymond, Klay, Dre…it’s hard, but it’s my favorite. It is a wine of place. It tastes like soft red fruit, graphite, dirt and the banks of the Miño River. It is the best Trousseau I’ve tasted, a sexy monkey. It pairs well with octopus, tortilla española, fresh vegetables, empanadas and Enrique Iglesias. It’s fairly limited, so if you see it around town I suggest you grab a bottle or two. I happen to have three bottles myself and, if you promise to not light any candles, I just might share one with you. 

Blogged at: Mom and Dad’s

Soundtrack: Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

 

Priorat, the Power Hitter

In 2012, Yoenis Céspedes knocked a 462 foot bomb into the left center field of the Oakland Coliseum. It was probably the longest home run Oakland had seen in 13 years- possibly ever, and it’s certainly the longest it’s seen since. Now the size of Priorat may be arguably smaller than the size of the All-Star Cuban power hitter, but the wines are just as muscular, just as handsome and come just as equipped with la potencia to clear the bases.

Priorat sits in northeast Spain, in the heart of Catalunya’s most well respected wine regions. Were I a baseball nerd, I’d give it five-tool player status. It is one of only two DOQs in Spain- which in Spanish wine law speak means it’s really good. It is one of the only regions in the world that is based off garnatxa (grenache), and super low yielding vines incite quality over quantity. The steep, terraced vineyards get their fair share of sun, giving the berries the power to become bold and full bodied. It is the soils of Priorat, however, that set this region apart. The most sought after wines come from a soil made of decomposed slate called llicorella. These shiny, broken pieces of slate impart balance in the wines, giving them a distinctive mineral quality that makes them seriously next level. Vines have to dig and push their way through the broken rocks to collect water and nutrients, making their root systems super powerful- and when you taste the wines you appreciate why the struggle is real.

Wine has been flowing in Priorat since the 1100’s, when the rocky hillside vineyards were covered in garnartxa vines and produced mostly sacramental wine. Sometime in the 1800’s the Spanish government redistributed the vineyards, but when phylloxera hit, the pesky little aphid wiped out almost everything, leaving the region neglected for years. It wasn’t until 1979 that a man named René Barbier came in and started somewhat of a revolution. Realizing the region’s potential, Barbier collected a band of talented winemakers who, throughout the 80s, managed to turn the wines of Priorat into some of the most coveted in Europe. Barbier and friends each chose specific sites, using their own names and dubbing each of them a Clos. The bulk of the vines were kept garnatxa and carineña, but a number of French varietals like cabernet, merlot and syrah were planted, as well. Clos Martinet, Clos Mogador,  Clos Dofí, Clos de L’Obac and Clos Erasmus are pretty much the OGs of the Priorat, and each had a hand in its quick evolution. The last 20 plus years have have been explosive, with hundreds of new acres under vine and a ton of new producers on the seen- and along with René Barbier and friends, the region continues to pump out some of the most desirable, expensive wines in Spain.

Mas Martinet– The wines of Mas Martinet are some of the best (probably my favorite) wines coming out of Priorat. They are made by Sara Pérez- a serious, beautiful, badass winemaker with a permanent smile and a work ethic like none other. I’m constantly amazed by the quality of every single wine she makes, and I can’t wait to (hopefully) see her again when I’m in Spain. Her dad, José Luis, is one of the original in the band of pioneers (Clos Martinet). She makes wines from several vineyards throughout Priorat, and they are all beautiful, mineral driven power hitters. The wines need a little time to age, so grab one with a few years under its belt, or lay that bad boy down for a while. Any bottling will do you right, but for fun, look for Gratallops Partida Bellvisos – a label she makes with her husband…who happens to be René Barbiers son (ehhooo).

Pasanau- If you want some good stuff on a budget, Pasanau is where it’s at. I sold this wine at St Vincent like it was the thing to do, and the people loved it. The wines contain the usual suspects- garnatxa, cariñena- but they also throw a little cab in there for good measure. They are super approachable and affordable, with the appropriate amount of masculinity and a serious mineral backbone.

Blogged at: Birba, Mom and Dad’s

Soundtrack: Kanye West, Life of Pablo, Warriors vs Wizards

 

Conca de Barberá

The Conca de Barberá is an energetic, spunky little wine region that sits respectfully amongst some of Catalunya’s more prominent players. The surrounding superstar regions of Penedés, Priorat, Costers de Segre and the Montsant get most of the credit, but the wines coming out of Conca de Barberá are proving major contenders. Very little wine actually leaves the region, as most of the grapes are sold to the bigger guys or used make Cava, but the wines that do make their way to the great USA are consistently on point and are often natural or biodynamic. (more…)

Txakolina! And Other Confusing Words

Spring has sprung- at least in the baseball universe. Ken Korach’s lulling voice is vibrating through my radio, the A’s have beaten the Giants twice already and I can almost smell the scent of kettle corn that wafts optimistically through the left field bleachers. The sounds and smells of summer are slowly approaching, and with that comes the super light, slightly effervescent little patio pounder, Txakolina. (more…)

¡Cava!

As a sommelier and wine geek there are wines I frequently find myself defending, and to be sure, Cava is one of them. People are scared of it, and rightfully so, I suppose. Diners have been burned by the substandard, cloyingly sweet sparklers restaurants have been willing to put on their list as a cheap alternative to Champagne. And to be real, the Cava DO hasn’t exactly been known to favor quality. Many Cava producers are looking to make a dollar on volume, rather than focusing on the terruño or the wine’s potential for depth and character. But, in the words Steph Curry, “let’s make that old”. (more…)

Garnatxa Blanca and Terra Alta

Grenache Blanc has never been a favorite of mine. I’ve always found it a little flabby, slightly oily and lacking in the acid department. There is a special place in this universe however, called Terra Alta, Catalunya, where Garnatxa Blanca changes shape (is more fun to spell), and becomes a mineral, salty, slightly voluptuous little vixen that makes you understand why wine is a thing of place, and why we can thank our lucky stars somebody put it there. (more…)

Envínate and the Canary Islands

Located 70 miles off the west coast of Morocco, on landscapes that rival an episode of Star Trek, lie the Spanish-owned Canary Islands. It is the most tropical wine region in all of Europe, and boasts having never been affected by phylloxera- that pesky little aphid that destroyed most of the vineyards in 19th century Europe. Seven Islands make up the Canaries, each with its own soil composition and microclimate. It’s likely we’ll talk about every island at some point, but right now I want to talk about the island of Tenerife, and the very tasty bottle of 2014 Envínate “Táganan Parcela Amogoje” I just drank. (more…)