Wine Makers

Succés Vinícola and the Power of Positive Energy

There is a lot of emotion that goes into making bottle of wine. You feel it when you watch someone drive through their vineyards the morning after a hail storm, when you watch someone trimming vines at 7am and continue to work until they are wrapping up cases at midnight, when you see a winemaker smiling after hours of talking about and pouring her/his wines at a tasting. We’ve all got our shit, but good, passionate winemaking emits a vibe that gets passed along from the vineyard, to the winery to the glass. As a somm, this enthusiasm is transferable on my end, as well. The more I believe in a bottle of wine, the more I smile and sing along to Beyoncé while I’m pouring someone a glass, the more people genuinely dig it. It’s a powerful energy, my fellow humans, and along with a little abv it can really make ya warm on the inside.

This passion and positive energy is evident in the wines of Succés Vinícola. Albert and Mariona are a hard working, extremely hospitable husband and wife team out of Conca de Barberà who make wines from trepat and parellada- two indigenous varietals of the region. They fell in love in oenology school and created Succés Vinícola when they were only 20 years old, and from what I can tell they have not stopped smiling ever since. They have amazing connections to old vine fruit sourced from throughout the region. They, along with their German Shephard, Talki, have taken me in on two separate occasions since I have been in Spain. I watched the Warriors win the Championship from their upstairs bedroom. They are my people. They are as excited about their wines at 2am as they are at 9am, and quite frankly, so am I.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Succés trepats for a number of years, as we had them on the list during my St. Vincent days. The La Cuca de Llum is the bright, refreshing trepat you want to throw on ice for summer BBQs, the El Mentider the slightly buffer version as a result of a little oak. It’s unseasonably hot here in Spain, however, and this weather has made the Succés white and rosado my new best friends. The Patxanga rosado emulates summertime. Refreshing as all get down, there’s even a watermelon and a flip flop on the label- you can’t help but fall in love. The Experiència is a lively, extremely quaffable white wine made from 100% old vine parellada. A little time on the skins adds texture, while limestone soils send fresh minerals flying out of the glass. There were, of course, a few other super slick wines on the dinner table, but we’ll talk about those when they hit the states. For now just grab a bottle, pour a glass and enjoy the summer vibes.

Blogged at: Fransesc’s flat (Celler Frisach), Cobera, Spain

Soundtrack: Shrines, Purity Ring

 

Vegetable Water: The wines of Escoda-Sanahuja

An hour or so south east of Barcelona lies the region of Conca de Barberà and Celler Escoda-Sanahuja. The winery, complete with 10 hectares of farm and vineyard land and a full restaurant, sits right outside the town of Penafreta, close to the municipality of Montblanc and completely undetectable by my TomTom.

Winemaker Joan Escoda is stocked full of energy, somewhat of a francophile and totally obsessed with natural winemaking. Upon my arrival he quickly threw on some American rock ‘n’ roll, which he dubbed “music without sulfites” and we got started on a cellar tour. Joan has a myriad of grapes- some in steel tank, some in amphora, some in underground cement tanks. He makes a handful of wines, mostly using the same varietals every year but employing no hard rules. Joan is always experimenting. He changes varietal percentage, aging process, cork or crown cap depending on the vintage, the grape or possibly how the wind blows- the jury is out. He grows French varieties like chenin blanc, merlot and cabernet franc, but indigenous varieties such as sumoll, sumoll blanc and parellada are a large part of his catalogue, as well.

“People tell you their wines are natural, but people lie,” says Joan. And no matter how many f@#*s you give about natural wine, speaking from experience, he’s right. Joan hasn’t added a sulfite since 2005. He will wait for months for fermentation to start naturally and when it is finished, it’s finished, even if the wine contains a little more residual sugar than it did the year before. When first opened, some of the wines have a hint of reduction or even mouse cage on nose, a quality in natural wines to which I’ve become accustomed and an attribute that does not come through on the palate. The wines are lively, energetic and clean. Joan places huge importance on water, in both human life and in vine life. He refers to his wines as “vegetable water” because the sap feeds the grape, because they are a liquid derivative of his plants and because one after another they are vibrant, fresh and complete.

Besides Escoda-Sanahuja, Joan partners with other French and Spanish winemakers to create various labels. He operates an on-site restaurant called Tossal Gros with Chef Kaya Jacobs, a San Francisco transplant who shares Joan’s passion in fresh, organic ingredients. He, along with winemaker Laureano Serres, founded the PVN, an association of natural winemakers that believes in neither adding nor taking anything away from their wines. He is a busy guy, always thinking, always innovating. The vineyards are beautiful, wild, surrounded by mountains on all sides and blessed with a marine wind that keeps them dry and cool in what can be very extreme weather. Escoda-Sanahuja can be found in various spots around the Bay Area or online, but Ordinaire in Oakland always comes correct with a variety of these wines.

¿Vamos? ¡Vamos!

Blogged at: My girl, Miriam’s flat. Gràcia, Barcelona.

Soundtrack: Shakira, El Dorado

 

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

Conca de Barberà

The Conca de Barberà 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 Barberà 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…)

¡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…)