Monday, June 20, 2011

Richard Jenning's Recap of the TAPAS Grand Tasting

2011 TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society) TASTING 
– Herbst Pavillion, Fort Mason, San Francisco, California (6/5/2011) by Richard Jennings

This was the fourth annual TAPAS grand tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco, and the second one I’ve been able to attend. The TAPAS mission is to promote new world production of wine grapes and wine styles native to the Iberian Peninsual (Spain and Portugal). These grape varieties include white grapes Albariño, Garnacha Blanca (Grenache Blanc) Malvasia Bianca, Torrontes, Verdejo and Verdelho, and red grapes Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano, Monastrell (Mourvèdre), Tempranillo, Tinta Cao, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional.

As I reported after attending the event two years back, I believe the most successful Spanish import to the U.S. so far has been Albariño, with its refreshing high acidity and ability to pair with lots of foods. It does well when aged in stainless steel as well as oak, and its high acidity gives it some good aging potential. There were several fine examples at this event. Another white variety doing well in the U.S. is Verdelho, the high acid grape from my beloved island of Madeira, not to be confused with Verdejo, the flavorful but often herbaceous white grape that dominates in Spain’s Rueda region. I also believe that Portuguese varieties Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and the like do well in the heat of California growing regions, and there are some respectable single varietal and blended versions being made. I am more reserved about the success of Tempranillo, Spain’s most widely planted grape, in the U.S. as I have yet to taste any that really wow me, unlike a great old Gran Reserva from Rioja. Tempranillo is a grape that is typically low in acidity and fairly high in tannins, so it needs some years of aging to mellow out. Most of the plantings of it in the U.S. are still fairly young, and few U.S. producers have been making wine from it here long enough to have examples with significant age on them. The oldest U.S. bottling I’ve tasted to date was a 2000 Truchard, which was appealing (I rated it 89 points). The very best domestic Tempranillo I’ve had to date, which I rated 93 points, was from a producer not represented at this event, Cayuse. The 2007 Cayuse Impulsivo En Chamberlin Vineyard, after eight hours of decanting, was a complex and flavorful monster, if a little concentrated for my taste. Nonetheless, there were a few good California and Oregon versions of this varietal as well at the tasting, showing some potential yet for this grape, especially when given some significant barrel and/or bottle age.

I was impressed by Abacela’s Albariño at this event two years ago, and I was delighted by the line up this time. The Albariño was the best of that varietal I tasted, the Tempranillo Reserve was one of the best Tempranillos of the day, and the “Port” was my WOTD.

Earl Jones became enamored of Spanish wines that were dominated by Tempranillo when he found years ago that they paired better with spicy meats and peppery foods that he likes. After lots of research, and travel with wife Hilda to Spain, the couple planted Tempranillo in 1995 in Southern Oregon on land in Umpqua Valley they purchased in 1992. In 1997, they made the Pacific Northwest’s first Tempranillo. They grow lots of other varieties too, including Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. They also do a lot of experimentation, with clones and rootstocks, and 10% of the grapes are planted on their own rootstock. The winemaker is Andrew Wenzl, who previously worked at King Estate and Silvan Ridge-Hinman Vineyards. They’re clearly very serious about what they do, and the results show. The wines are reasonably priced too: the Albariño sells for $18; the Port, my favorite wine of the tasting, goes for $50.
2010 Abacela Albariño Estate Grown – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valle
Intense, citrus, chalk nose; tasty, tart citrus, grapefruit, mineral palate with medium-plus acidity; medium-plus finish (100% stainless steel) (91 pts.)
2008 Abacela Tempranillo – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua ValleyLight plum, berry nose; medium bodied, tart plum, tart berry palate; medium finish (clones 2 and 3) (87 pts.)
2007 Abacela Tempranillo Estate Grown – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua ValleyDeep black fruit, tar nose; tart black fruit, tar, charcoal palate; needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish (95% French oak, 10% new; clones 1, Ribera and Toro) (88 pts.)
2007 Abacela Tempranillo Reserve – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua ValleyAromatic, berry, tar, anise nose; tight, tasty, tart black fruit, tart plum palate with good acidity; needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish (100% French oak for 13 mos., 1 year in bottle) (90 pts.)
2007 Abacela Port – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua ValleyVery dark purple red violet color; rich berry, black fruit, licorice nose; very tasty, complex, tart black fruit, tar, licorice palate with acidity; remarkably good U.S. port; long finish 92+ points (Tempranillo 53%, Bastardo 19%, Tinta Amarela 13%, Tinta Cáo 9% and Touriga Naçional 6%) (92 pts.) 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Another Great review from Midwest Wine Guy

2007 Abacela Port

The 2007 Abacela Port wine is a blend of 5 Douro grape varietals - Tempranillo (53%), Bastardo (19%), Tinta Amarela (13%), Tinta Cao (9%) and Touriga Nacional (6%).  This opaque purple wine is ricly textured and has aromas of blackberry, raisin, spice, chewy figs and dried apricot.  The alcohol content is well within check for a port at 19% and this young wine is not fumey or hot at all.  In fact, it is incredibly smooth and silky, leaving you wanting more with each sip. The dried fruits and rich flavorful black fruits shine through on the palate, combined with cocoa powder, soft ripe plums and blueberry.  Historically many young ports can be difficult to enjoy and require years of cellaring before they can be tasted appropriately.  The good folks at Abacela have created a port that is not only approachable now, but one of the best that I have tasted in many months.  I would suggest buying a few bottles - one to enjoy now and then cellar the others for awhile to see what flavors develop further.  This wine would be a perfect match for a three layer chocolate fudge cake, but I tasted it on its own mertit and I was blown away.  Tasted from a 375ml bottle. (750ml available) Score:  93 Full blog

Friday, June 10, 2011

Abacela takes BEST OF CLASS for 2010 Albarino

We're excite to announce that our 2010 Albariño just took the BEST IN CLASS with a Gold Medal and 93 point rating. 

Comments on our Facebook announcement: 

Shannon W. "That's a no brainer! Your Albarino is my favorite wine!!"

Mandy v. "Congrats! So deserving!"

Tim & Charlene V. "Congrats on the well deserved award!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011 TAPAS Grand Tasting

Abacela proprietors, Earl & Hilda Jones
A great new blog about this past weekend's TAPAS Grand Tasting in San Francisco, CA....
TAPAS wines defy convention... 

At the TAPAS Grand Tasting in the City by the Bay

Over 1,900 wine and food lovers attended the TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers & Amigos Society) Grand Wine Tasting in San Francisco’s Fort Mason this past Saturday, June 4; making this the third year in a row that attendance to this once modest affair has doubled.

Out of that 1,900+, some 75% of those attendees were clearly younger than 35, giving the organization’s wineries (about 80 of them), growers and card holding “amigos” (another 30+) a strong idea of where their pan is currently being buttered.

... and as we all know, when it comes to fashion, food and wine, very often the other consumer segments follow the younger crowd.   It often takes the older folks a little longer to catch on to a good thing like this: the appreciation of wines and foods associated with grapes of Spanish and Portuguese traditions.

Second, your come-to-Jesus caveat:  these wines do not lend themselves to the same ol’ qualitative assessments to which mommy and daddy, gramps and granny used to subscribe, and blindly follow.  You cannot put a number like “95” or “85” on, say, the 2007 Abacela Umpqua Valley Estate Tempranillo – grown, as it were, by TAPAS founder Earl Jones in the rolling hills of Southern Oregon – as dark, buoyant, concentrated, fraise-like, fleshy or wild beasty a red wine as you may perceive it to be.

Fact of the matter is, an Abacela Tempranillo knows no stinking numbers when you actually drink it the right way, with something like herb roasted leg of lamb. a whole pig, or grilled, pungent portobellos or eggplant.   It’s when you experience such wines in culinary context that meaty flavors and complexities your senses have no way of detecting when tasting the wine on its own suddenly emerge and knock you upside the chin, and then you are visited by this epiphany:  wines crafted from Spanish and Portuguese grapes cannot, should not, and absolutely will not be pinned down by concepts as odiferous as 100 point scores, as well meaning as people who dole them out may be.

Judging from the crowd at the TAPAS tasting in San Francisco, we think this “new” way (actually an old way, since wine historically evolved within culinary cultures) of appreciating wine may finally be sinking in:   people there for an experience of good wines, not to make judgements, or to rush home afterwards and tear out those dreary magazines or dive into online reviews droning mindlessly on with “ratings” as if good drinking wines were appliances awaiting their Good Housekeeping seals of approval...