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Category Archives: Tempranillo

Review: Celler Barcelòna Red Blend 2014

There are five wine bars in my hometown of Folsom, California. Pretty impressive for a sleepy suburb outside of Sacramento. Of course, when you consider that Folsom is less than two hours from four world-class wine regions (Sonoma, Napa, Lodi/Clarksburg, and the Sierra Foothills) it’s not so surprising after all.

My favorite local wine bar is The Cellar, located in the heart of Old Folsom on Sutter Street. Maintaining its historic Gold Rush façade, Sutter Street is a charming stroll into yesteryear for tourists and locals alike. In addition to the three wine bars in a two-and-a-half block distance, there are taverns, restaurants, art galleries, antique and gift shops, and an old-fashioned chocolate shop. Old Folsom really is a hidden gem. You ought to come see for yourself!

The Cellar

Yup, those are beer taps on the left! For those who don’t wine.

 

When I first started frequenting The Cellar a few months ago, their wine list included the most delicious Carménère I’ve ever tasted. The Vina Maipo Vitral Carménère 2012 was full, rich, and smooth. A few days ago I ventured in for a glass of this enticing delight when, to my shock and dismay, I discovered it was no longer on the menu. I shared my angst with Drew, the ever-present and helpful server, and he assured me that the replacement wine on their updated list would not disappoint. I’m a trusting sort, and Drew has never steered me wrong, so I ordered a glass of this new wine: Celler Barcelòna Red Blend 2014. Once again, Drew came through! This wine is spectacular!

Celler Barcelòna Red Blend 2014 is made from 50% Grenache and 50% Tempranillo. Hailing from Cataluña, Spain, it is aged 25% in French oak, and 75% in stainless steel and concrete over seven months.

Celler Barcelòna was founded by winemaker Russell Smith. Having worked at such prestigious California wineries as Joseph Phelps and Flora Springs, Russell pursued a dream of making wine in Northern Spain. He purchased vineyards in the famed Montsant region, and began production in 2013. Considering how impressive was the 2014 I tasted, this is a winery worth watching for many years to come!

Here’s what I thought of it:

Red_blend_2014

Deep purple color. Aromas ripe blackberry and soft oak. Flavors of blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. Soft oak notes on the mid-palate mingle with soft tannins and light acidity. Long finish of dark berry, chocolate, and spice.

4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points)

Retail price: $16 on the website.

I had this wine on its own. It’s great by itself, and it would also pair very well with a variety of foods like tapas, grilled pork, or The Cellar’s amazing cheese plate.

If you find yourself in the Sacramento area and want some company for some suburban wine bar hopping, drop me a line. I’d love to show you around!

Cheers!

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Regions to Grapes: Understanding the Translation – #MWWC32

I’m a planner. My family used to tease me because I would write an itinerary for family vacations. I mean, we want to make sure we get to see and do all we wanted to see and do, right? Normally, when I write a blog post, especially one as significant as a Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, I like to start several weeks early, so I can take my time to ponder, refine, and polish my work.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

I am aware that not all people are like me. Some people thrive under the pressure of a deadline. They procrastinate until the bitter end, and then crank out whatever comes, and hope for the best. My son is one of those people. In high school he used to drive me insane! Up until all hours the night before a major paper was due, he produced some amazing work. My blood pressure would rise as he sat calmly reading his books, instead of writing his college application essays. Yet, he got into a great school, and always got good grades. Procrastination works for him. It does not work for me.

Nevertheless, my life has been crazy busy these past few weeks. So when I checked my email yesterday morning, and Jeff the Drunken Cyclist reminded me that entries for #MWWC32 are due Monday, my stress level rose. For this piece, I will have to channel my son, and try to crank out a worthwhile piece at the last minute! Working under the pressure of a deadline is foreign to me. So it is my hope that by writing in this unfamiliar method, I am able to adapt and produce a quality blog post. Will I be able to create a decent translation? We’ll see.

translation

As an international product, wine is interesting and confusing. In the United States, and many other New World wine producing regions, the label lists the dominant grape variety in the bottle. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo – consumers have a pretty good idea of what they are getting themselves into when they by a New World wine. This cannot always be said of European, or Old World, wines. Although some producers are starting to list the varietal on the bottle, tradition dictates that the label contains the name of the region, rather than the grape.

This difference between Old World and New World labels can cause no small amount of confusion for wine consumers. There is, one could say, a loss in translation. Many wine lovers who favor wines from the U.S. simply don’t understand European labels. This is not limited to newbies. Many experienced wine drinkers I know mistakenly believe that Bordeaux is a grape variety. It’s not. Bordeaux is perhaps the most famous wine region in France, characterized by wine blends made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Much confusion surrounds Old World wine regions. Sometimes all that is needed is a simple translation. Many famous wines from regions in Europe are known by their regional names. However, many people do not know the grape varieties from which these wines are made. Allow me to help with the translation of some of the more notable regions.

  • Barolo: An Italian wine from in the area around the city of Barolo, in the Piedmont region located in Northern Italy. Barolo is made from Nebbiolo. Pricy and age worthy, it is often known as the “Wine of Kings.”
  • Bordeaux: Perhaps the most famous wine region in the world, Bordeaux is located in southwest France. The region is bisected by the Gironde estuary. A number of different grape varieties go into these blends, but they are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Wines from the left bank are typically Cabernet Sauvignon based, whereas right bank wines are predominantly Merlot.
  • Burgundy: Another famous French region, Burgundy produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. Don’t fret, though; not all the wines from Burgundy are from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Burgundy is most famous for its red wines, produced from Pinot Noir. However, the region also produces spectacular white wines using Chardonnay grapes. If you’ve had a bottle of Chablis, you’ve had a Chardonnay from a sub-region of Burgundy.
  • Champagne: One of the most widely misunderstood and misused wine terms (in my opinion.) Everybody knows what Champagne is, but many don’t seem to understand what Champagne is not. California Sparkling wine is not Champagne. (Yes, there are a handful of California producers who are allowed to use the term, but that does not make them true Champagne wines.) Prosecco isn’t either. Nor is Cava. Champagne is a sparkling wine produced only in the Champagne region of France. It is typically made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
  • Chianti: Everybody knows Chianti! Those quaint straw-wrapped bottles found in Italian restaurants, often used as candle holders. Yet Chianti is so much more than kitschy decorations. Well-made Chianti is spectacular! Chianti is an Italian region in Tuscany. The wines from here are predominately made from the Sangiovese grape.
  • Rioja: From sunny Spain, Rioja is perhaps the country’s most famous wine. Located in the northeast part of Spain, Rioja is made mainly from Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) grapes. Classifications on Rioja wines mean something, so a little study can help you find what you like. Wines labeled simply “Rioja” are young, and spend less than a year in the barrel. “Crianza” wines are aged at least two years, including one year in oak barrels. “Rioja Reserva” wines have aged three or more years, including one in oak. “Rioja Gran Reserva” wines see at least three years of age, of which two are in oak. As one might expect, the longer the aging, the higher the price.

Speaking of Tempranillo and Rioja, I recently had an opportunity to compare a local, California Tempranillo and a Rioja Crianza. Out to dinner one evening a couple of weeks ago, while perusing the wine list, the Wise Villa Winery Tempranillo caught my attention.

Wise Villa TempranilloDeep purple color in the glass. Aromas of ripe blackberry and raspberry. On the palate, juicy blackberry, dark cherry, black plum, and soft oak notes. Soft, smooth tannins with nicely balanced acidity. The long finish is dark berry and soft spice. Great on its own, and pairs nicely with a variety of foods.

Then, about a week later, I selected the Carlos Serres Rioja Crianza 2012 from the list at a favorite wine bar. The difference in styles was interesting, and a great illustration for a New World versus Old World comparison.

 

Medium purple color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of fresh raspberries, Bing cherry, red plum, and baking spices. The tannins are smooth, and the acidity is bright and lively. The long finish is dominated by red berry, spice, and white pepper notes. This is a great wine for sipping with a special someone, and would also pair very well with tapas or other regional foods.

There are dozens of other wine regions worth exploring, both Old World and New World. I encourage you to do some research on your own and learn your own translations.

 

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