Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seattle's Sustainable Sommelier features Abacela wines and environmental efforts

Here is an excerpt from today's blog post by Sustainable Seattle featuring our winery:

More News from our Sustainable Sommelier

A recent trip to Southern Oregon brought me to visit quite a few of the plentiful wineries exploding in the Umpqua River Valley. I tasted quite a few great wines, but wanted to pass on three wineries to our readers who are really doing things the right way. Not only making great wine, but practicing sustainable farming and taking great care of the earth that supplies them with their grapes. Definitely worth a trip to visit. Or pick up a bottle from your favorite wine retailer, or ask them to procure one for you if they don't yet carry it.

I hold on for dear life as Earl Jones’ tractor careers along the steep grade of his Umpqua vineyards, and he explains to me why he and his wife decided to set up a winery in this little known corner of Southern Oregon:
He was sipping a phenomenal little Ribera del Duero (Spanish wine made from the Tempranillo grape) while eating chorizo cooked in a hormo—Spanish slow cooked stove –while in Spain on travels, when he suddenly became incredulous. “It is criminal for America to not produce a great Tempranillo!” he thought to himself, and thus the search was on.

It took almost ten years from that moment to the first planting of grape vines, but after researching sites throughout the US, he found a little spot of very hilly land in the Umpqua Valley that mimicked qualities of some of Spain’s top Tempranillo producing regions. He and Hilda set up about ten acres and slowly over the years, the winery has expanded and production now includes Tempranillo, Malbec, Garnacha, Dolcetto and Syrah for reds, and Albarino and Viognier for whites. They also make a lovely port style wine out of traditional Portuguese varietals like Tinto Roriz, Bastardo (my favorite name for a grape!), Tinta Cao and Touriga Nacional.

Earl and his wife’s backgrounds were in medicine, not winemaking. So the start of this new venture led them to both learn a lot about the geology and growing conditions of their little microclimate. The vineyard land sits on a fault line of the Juan de Fuca plate in between the Klamath and Oregon Coast Range mountains, and causes intense variety of soil types and steep hillsides. Blue schist and volcanic soils mix with jasper on the incredibly steep terrain. The challenge of growing grapes in such conditions has created the need for innovation as well as the replacement of many tillers on the tractor! Because dry farming is not possible on such a rocky site, they take extreme measures to conserve water use. They have developed a modified sprayed irrigation system that diversifies the water to the perimeters of the vine roots in order to spread the depth and increase tenacity of the vines in such rocky soil. He experiments with different clones of the Tempranillo variety, looking for those that will grow with the most ease to make great wines on the site, and plans for a clonal test vineyard are already underway alongside the plans for the newly expanding winery.

The viticultural practices are sustainable, though not certified, and Abacela joined LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology liveinc.org) this year. He works with the neighboring Wildlife Safari to obtain “zoo doo” as compost in trade for the pomace from the winery which is used in the elephant bedding materials.

Between the Fault Line and Chaotic Vineyards, Hilda works with orchard experts to help retain some of the property's extremely old apple and pear trees. This natural preserve within the vineyards also acts much like a biodynamic wineries “wild space” allowing various birds and wildlife to create homes and diversify the ecosystem.

Tasting Notes of some of my favorites:
Albarino 2009 – dominant peach flavors are enhanced by early removal of the North slopes leaves to allow full ripeness of the grapes. Great acidity and subtler mineral notes. Versatile white, especially with seafood—crab!
Garnacha 2008 – overwhelming fruit on the nose with lighter color and bright acids. Lighter bodied red for early in meal—seafood.
Tempranillo Reserve 2005 – really dark color, incredibly complex nose. Spice and chewy cherry and fruit leather with a velvety mid palate. Roast and braised meats, charcuterie and pork.

Read the full post

Our Port visits Portugal!

Port takes its name from the city of Oporto, Portugal, which is situated at the mouth of the 560-mile long Rio Douro or "River of Gold." Port became famous in 1678 after two Englishmen arrived in Lamego, a mountain town in the Douro Valley, and discovered the sweet, fortified concoction produced at a local monastery. The abbot of Lamego practice mutage, arresting the fermentation of his wines with brandy while sugar was still present. The Englishmen sent the wines home where the strength, richness and durability earned it wide popularity. 

Our Port is crafted from the five traditional Douro wine grapes grown on our estate- Tempranillo, Bastardo, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Cáo and Touriga Naçional. It has been recognized by Wine Press Northwest as "Outstanding, one could call this the Northwest's most honest Port-style wine for a variety of reasons, starting with Earl Jones' adherence to Portuguese varieties..." and by Paul Gregutt saying, "I have not had a finer American version." 

This picture was snapped today and it was so exciting to see our Port visiting its ancestry in the Douro: 

Saúde! (sow-ooh-jee- cheers in Portuguese) 

Monday, August 30, 2010

FIESTA like a Llanero!

Although everyday seems like a "fiesta" here, once a year we make it a formal event by hosting our "Llaneros" Wine Club Fiesta. It is one of our most anticipated events of the year with our loyal members flocking in for a day of Spanish varietals, themed dinner and flamenco guitar and dancing. 

This year's theme was "Under Construction" to commence the groundbreaking on our new Visitors' Center (more information coming soon). Our construction shirts were a big hit:

Before the official party started, our winemaker, Andrew Wenzl, held an exclusive comparative Tempranillo tasting. He guided a group of 20 members through a tasting of Tempanillos from Spain and our own Library selections. 

This year we featured three dueling paellas, our very own along with two other guest chef's creations. And what would a fiesta be without plenty of tapas served?
Under the wine tent we made food and wine pairing suggestions as well as pouring some of our newest releases.

The dance troupe Sol Flamenco accompanied by Mark Taylor on guitar traveled all the way from Santa Rosa, California to perform riveting performances every hour.

And don't think Hilda was missing in on the action! She was busy giving guests tours of the winery from fruit processing to bottling. She was even revealing the new plans for the Visitors' Center.

"Llanero" (Ya-nAIR-o) is Spanish for ranger, someone who goes on patrol looking for things out of the ordinary (like great wine!). By becoming a Llanero you are always on patrol for newly released Abacela wines. Since many of our experimental varietal wines are of limited production, membership in our Wine Club ensures you the opportunity to try these wines first. You'll also receive significant wine discounts, our newsletter keeping you up-to-date on the happenings in the vineyard or around the winery, and of course invitations to our Wine Club events like our Fiesta.  For more information, visit our Llanero page.