Cava, Holiday Wine, Holidays, Samples, Spain, Sparkling Wine

Cava for the Holidays, and All Year Long!

What can be more festive when celebrating the holidays than a glass of bubbles? Sparkling wine adds fizz, fun, sophistication, and…well…sparkle to any celebration, and none more than the holidays. When shopping for sparkling wines, many people automatically reach for champagne. (Of course there are those who think all sparkling wine is champagne, but we are confident that our readers know that champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. All champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne!) Nevertheless, if you opt for the champagne option, you can expect to drop a minimum of about $35 per bottle, and that’s just the entry level. 

We’d like to recommend a more budget-friendly option. One that won’t break the bank but does not compromise quality. One in which you could buy two or three bottles for the same price as that single bottle from France. May we present: Cava. 

Sparkling wine from other regions and countries have different regional names. Prosecco is from Italy. Cremant is from regions in France outside of Champagne. Cava is from Spain, a country with many amazing wines and wine regions that we have fallen in love with. The majority of Cava is produced in the Penedès wine region in Catalonia, not far from Barcelona. Cava is not new to us; we’ve had many bottles over the years, and even served it at our wedding in 2019. Cava is often our go-to sparkling wine, whether celebrating an event, pairing with a meal, or just sipping on a warm summer evening. We have tried many producers and have never been disappointed. So naturally, when we received an email offering us a sample pack of six bottles of Cava, we readily accepted. 

The following wines were provided as media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

We include the Suggested Retail Price as provided with the samples. As you can see, all of them are well within reach for even the most over-extended Christmas shopper. And we’ve seen many of these bottles in local retail stores for even less than their SRP listed here. 

Giró Ribot Paul Cheneau Brut Reserva 

Golden color with vigorous, medium sized bubbles. The nose is nutty, with brioche and citrus. On the palate, lemon curd, lemon, pear, and tangerine, with almond and yeast notes. Crisp and lively with bright acidity, and a clean finish of citrus. 

SRP: $15.99

Bodegas Faustino Brut Rosé of Garnacha 

Salmon rose color. Vigorous tiny bubbles. On the nose, strawberry, raspberry, and just a hint of almond. Flavors of tropical and citrus fruit; pineapple, lemon, with strawberry, raspberry, yeast, brioche, and nutty notes. Bone dry with vibrant acidity and a long, red fruit finish. 

SRP: $20.00

Mascaro Pure Cava Reserva Nature 

Rich, golden color. Vigorous streams of tiny bubbles that last throughout the glass. Aromas of citrus, yeast, and vanilla. On the palate, green apple, Asian pear, lemon lime, with almond, brioche, and yeast. Crisp acidity with a refreshing finish. 

SRP: $15.00

Segura Viudas Cava Brut 

Golden color in the glass. Steady streams of medium sized bubbles lead to aromas of pear, apple, and almonds. On the palate, flavors of citrus, pear, peach, almonds, and yeast. Crispy acidity and a fresh finish. 

SRP: $12.00

Maset Brut Rosé 

Salmon color with vigorous streams of tiny, rushing bubbles. The nose pops with aromas of strawberry, raspberry, citrus, and hibiscus. On the palate, citrus notes of orange and lemon, with strawberry cream, and raspberry. Medium body with a creamy mouthfeel and brisk acidity. Long, crisp finish. 

SRP: $10.00

Vins El Cep Marquez de Gelida Gran Reserva Brut 2016 

This is our first time tasting a vintage Cava. Most sparkling wines are non-vintage, meaning the grapes may have been harvested in different years and blended. A vintage wine must be made using only grapes harvested in the year designated on the bottle. Vintage sparkling wines are typically only produced in the best harvest years, an indication of higher quality.

Golden color. Vigorous streams of tiny bubbles. The nose is citrus and tropical, with hints of almond. Flavors of lemon lime, grapefruit, pineapple, and orange peel, with nutty notes. Brisk acidity with a long, clean finish. 

SRP: $20.00

And that’s a wrap!

Remember, like all sparkling wines, Cava isn’t just for holidays and celebrations. As a wallet-friendly option, you can enjoy Cava all year round! So get yourself some Cava and add more sparkle to your life!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Ribera del Duero, Spanish, Tempranillo, Wine, Wine of the Week

Our Wine of the Week: Bela Ribera del Duero 2017

We head back to Spain this week for our Wine of the Week. This time we are exploring Ribera del Duero. Though red wines from Ribera del Duero feature the same Tempranillo grape as the arguably more famous Rioja region, there are subtle differences between the wines from the two regions. Ribera del Duero is at a higher elevation, cooler climate, and receives less rainfall than Rioja. As a result, the grapes tend to be smaller, with thicker skins and a more concentrated flavor. With less stringent rules on aging, Ribera del Duero wines can be fresher and lighter, and less acidic, with bright fruit flavors. 

In our previous Wine of the Week from Spain, we reviewed Asúa Rioja Crianza 2016, part of the CVNE family of wines in Rioja. This week’s wine is a CVNE offspring, from Bela wines. Bela strives to emulate CVNE’s commitment to quality in Ribera del Duero. The official spec sheet explains the three stars on the Bela label represent the three children of CVNE’s founder, Sofia, Áurea, and Ramón. Sofia was known as Bela.     

 

In the United States, Bela Ribera del Duero is distributed by Arano USA. Their website shares a few historical details about Bela. The winery was built in 1999, and the 74 hectare vineyard planted in 2002. The Bela Ribera del Duero 2017 is 100% estate hand harvested Tempranillo. After fermentation, the wine spent six months in new French and American oak barrels, followed by one year in neutral oak. The care and attention to detail in the wine making process shows clearly in the resulting wine. 

Deep garnet color. Aromas of blackberry, boysenberry, vanilla, and baking spice. On the palate, blackberry, blueberry, cassis, plum, vanilla, and black pepper. Medium body with smooth tannins and fresh acidity. Soft and delicious, great with flank steak.

Next time you’re looking for a quality Spanish Tempranillo, give Ribera del Duero a try. The Bela Ribera del Duero 2017 is a shining example of what this region can produce. 

Cheers! 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Rioja, Wine, Wine of the Week

Our Wine of the Week: Asúa Rioja Crianza 2016

This week, our Wine of the Week takes us to Spain. Specifically, the Rioja region in Northern Spain. Rioja red wines are all Tempranillo based. There are many well known producers in Rioja, and wines from this region have gained wide popularity in recent years. One of the more historic Rioja wineries is Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España, abbreviated in their production and most of their labels as CVNE. Many of the CVNE wines are quite affordable, in the $20 or under range, while others are cellar-worthy, top cuvées, with correspondingly higher prices. 

CVNE has been producing wine since 1879, and remains under a family owned and operated winery. They own 545 hectares (1,350 acres) of vineyards, and also source fruit from nearby independent vineyards. 

In addition to the eponymous label, CVNE offers a number of others, one of which was recently featured by Total Wine & More as a “Top 20 Wines Under $20”: Asúa Rioja Crianza 2016. Eager to see what all the hubbub is about, we added a bottle to our cart and a few days later, pulled the cork. 

Despite being produced by CVNE, this wine is currently absent from their website, so finding information about it proved challenging. The back label declares: 

“Asúa is produced by the Real de Asúa family, fifth generation winery owners from Rioja and the driving force behind CVNE. The abbreviated wine’s name, Asúa, is a tribute to the founders of this legacy, continued to this day in the legendary wines of CVNE.” 

Rioja is one of the rare regions in the wine world where words like Reserva and Gran Reserva have meaning. In most of the world, those are mere marketing terms, with no regulation or control. But in Rioja, you will find these terms, plus Joven and Crianza, on the bottles, and each identifies the treatment and aging of the wine. 

Joven wines are young and fresh, with little to no oak aging. They are intended for consumption within two years of production. Crianza wines must be aged in oak for at least one year, and an additional year in the bottle. Reserva wines also spend one year in oak, but must age in the bottle for three years before being released. Finally, Gran Reserva wines age for two years in oak, and another three years in the bottle. As one would expect, prices and ageability increase with each designation. 

Asúa Rioja Crianza 2016 

A young, fresh, and fruity Rioja. Garnet color with a ruby rim. On the nose, fresh raspberry and blackberry with hints of oak and vanilla. Flavors on the palate include bold, fresh blackberry, blueberry, and cherry, with clove, tobacco, and vanilla. Medium body with vibrant acidity; perfect for food pairing. Medium finish of red fruit and baking spice. We paired with shredded chicken tacos and it was magical.

For a great wine and an amazing price, check out Asúa Rioja Crianza 2016 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
#WBC17, Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, Wine, Wine Blogger Conference, Wine Cave Dinner, Winery

Pulling the Cork on WBC17

It was a dark and stormy night.

Snoopy

That seems an appropriate way to open a story about a trip to Santa Rosa, home to the Charles Shultz museum. Charles Shultz, of course, was the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, and everybody’s favorite beagle, Snoopy.

Our “easy” drive to Santa Rosa was hampered by the first significant rain storm of the season. The roads were slick, and glare from oncoming headlights was blinding, so everyone was driving extra cautiously. And slow. But we made it, and spent the last three days enjoying the activities and adventures of the 10th Annual Wine Blogger’s Conference, #WBC17.

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It was our first time attending WBC, but it will not be our last! It was a fun, informative, and engaging event. This post will be a general overview of events, with more detailed posts of the highlights in coming days and weeks.

Our first event was an excursion to Hanna Winery. Located on a hilltop with gorgeous, sweeping views of the valley, Hanna Winery has been in operation since 1985. We were greeted by our host, Christine Hanna, who gave us some history, and then winemaker Jeff Hinchcliffe took us down to the barrel room for some tasting. Following this, we enjoyed an amazing lunch, paired with several Hanna wines. Welcome to Sonoma County, indeed!

Upon our return to Santa Rosa, we participated in a Wine Discovery Session with Mark Beringer, Chief Winemaker at Beringer Vineyards. He led us through a tasting of their Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, starting with four of the single vineyard wines that go into the final blend. Once we had established the baseline, we “worked” our way through a decade vertical tasting of the Private Reserve wines, starting with 2014 and travelling back in time to the 2004, 1994, and finishing with the 1984 vintage. The evolution of these powerhouse wines was amazing to behold.

Later in the day, we journeyed around the world with A Study of Pinot Noir. Our tour guide was Senior Winemaker John Priest, from Etude Winery. He took us from Sonoma County, north to the Willamette Valley, then all the way south to New Zealand in our exploration of this incredibly versatile grape. It was a wonderful trip!

The wine education sessions were followed by an opening reception, where we met many of the bloggers we have been following, as well as new friends. Thus ended day one!

The following day, we attended educational seminars covering writing tips, legal and ethical issues, wine vocabulary, and developing relationships with wine companies. Lunch was hosted by El Dorado Wines. Nearly 30 El Dorado County winemakers lined the back of the conference room, and then poured samples of their wines.

After lunch we enjoyed a Wine Education Seminar, presented by Lyn Farmer, about the “Region to Watch,” DOP Cariñena in Spain. We were immediately enamored with the region, and have added DOP Cariñena to our list of “Must Visit” destinations. We tasted through an amazing flight of Garnacha, with one Cariñena varietal wine (you may know it as Carignan) mixed in for interest. These are some amazing, affordable wines. You’ll want to try some as soon as possible!

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Following a captivating keynote address by Doug Frost, we participated in our first Live Wine Blogging event. Wineries get five minutes at each table to pour tastes, and we blogged, Tweeted, or Instagrammed our impressions of the wines. It was kind of like speed dating, but with wine! A high-energy and raucous time, we tasted some amazing wines! The Friday speed-tasting was whites and rosés.

Friday ended with what was the absolute highlight: a Wine Cave Dinner at the Thomas George Estate. It was a first class affair! It was an amazing, “check-it-off-the-bucket-list” adventure. We’ll write more about this later, but suffice it to say this was among best meals we have ever had!

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Saturday opened with more educational sessions, including Social Media tips, photography and video, and panel discussions covering relations with PR firms, and ideas for monetizing a wine blog. (If you’re into that whole, making money doing what you love thing.) We also attended a presentation about the devastating wild fires that ravaged the area only one month earlier. The destruction was unprecedented, but the recovery and rebuilding has begun, and Wine Country is open for business.

Following lunch, we returned to Spain with our host, Lyn Farmer, to explore DO Rías Baixas, and the spectacular Albariño wines being produced there. We tasted through 10 (yes, ten!) different expressions of this amazing white wine. I can’t say enough about Lyn Farmer and his friendly, comfortable teaching style and encyclopedic knowledge of Spanish wines.

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After another round of Live Wine Blogging, AKA speed-tasting, this time with red wines, the conference concluded with a banquet hosted by NakedWines.com. As you probably know, I am a long-time customer of NakedWines.com, so it was fun to see many of the winemakers and staff I have come to know over the years.

Even with all the fun and wine (did I mention we had wine?) the biggest take-away for us is the comradery, support, and encouragement that exists in the wine blogging community. From big name bloggers and writers, who have thousands of followers and are making a living writing about wine, to brand new members who have yet to post their first blog, we were warmly welcomed and embraced as part of the family.

Finally, the dates and location for next year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference were announced. Walla Walla, here we come! We hope to see you there!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

 

Celler Barcelona, Grenache, Spain, Tempranillo, Wine

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:

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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!

Catalonia, Priorat, Spain, Wine

Review: Capafons Osso Sirsell 2008

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This week, my continuing exploration of Old World wine regions brought me, figuratively, to Priorat. In recent years, wines from Priorat have increased in popularity, so I was happy for the opportunity to check them out. The Priorat DOQ (Denominació d’Origen Qualificada) is located in Catalonia, in the northeastern part of Spain. priorat-montsant

Priorat is one of only two wine regions in Spain to earn the distinguished Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa), the highest classification in Spain, indicating consistent high quality wines. The other region is Rioja.

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The primary grapes from this region are Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan). In addition, winemakers often blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah in their wines. Influenced by the warm, Mediterranean climate, Priorat red wines tend to be intense and full-bodied, with ripe, bold fruit flavors, with ABV in the 15% range, and as high as 18%.

Priorat’s rise in popularity began in 1989, when a group of winemakers joined together to revive the oft-neglected region and improve the quality of the wines. I’ve seen more and more Priorat wines in articles and reviews, so I was excited when I received a bottle as an upgrade in a recent Underground Cellar purchase. For those who don’t know, Underground Cellar’s claim to fame is “free upgrades.” When you purchase multiple wines from a sale offer, random bottles are upgraded to higher priced bottles at no additional cost.

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The Capafons Osso Sirsell 2008 is a blend of 35% Garnacha, 26% Merlot, 22% Cariñena, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Syrah. Like most Priorat red wines, it spent 12 months in French oak. Here is my review:

Dark purple color. On the nose, aromas of blackberry jam and ripe blueberries, with hearty oak. These carry to the palate, and are joined with flavors of raspberry jam, cassis, and spice. Tannins are very soft and smooth, and the acidity is balanced. This is quite a jammy wine, especially for an Old World wine. Yet it isn’t a “fruit bomb” but rather is juicy and delicious. The finish lingers long with dark fruit jam followed by earthy mineral notes.

3.5 Stars (85-87 points)

Retail: $24. I paid $21 and got it as an Underground Cellar upgrade.

Although this wine was a little jammier than I prefer, my wife loved it! She’d rate it at least 4.0 stars (88-91 points). I look forward to buying and trying more wines from Priorat.

Cheers!