This year we were invited to a friends’ house to celebrate “Passover”, and decided to bring two bottles of wine for the occasion.
The first one was the typical wine for Passover; Manischewitz. This is a kosher wine, meaning that it has been produced following the Jewish law and blessed by a Rabi. It is an inexpensive wine (around $5,00) and not very good, but I like it because its unique sweet flavor characteristic of the Concord grape. Also this wine pairs well with the typical dish for this day called “Haroset”, that is made with apples, walnuts, lemon juice and dates.
Next, with the typical “Matza” Ball Soup we opened a bottle that I brought to the USA. A red Spanish wine from Magallon, Zaragoza, D.O. Campo de Borja. Being 100% Syrah: Aliana Carácter, ($12,00) it is smooth and elegant. Aliana Carácter is made by Alicia and Ana (Ali-Ana), the two daughters of Susan Ruberte, director of Bodegas Ruberte.
With the main dish of meat, pasta, green beans and “horseradish” we opened a bottle of Kunde ($35,00). This is a good wine that our hosts had brought from Sonoma Valley. Somebody told me that the secret of finding good wines is to know that they are not found in the stores because the producers keep them, and sell them themselves. I’m not sure if this is true, but it makes some sense.
The typical dessert is “Mandle bread” a type of cookie with cinnamon that I loved. To go with it was a bottle of Port from California. Selby ($27,00) is a young Zinfandel fortified wine that will age well and it was very enjoyable.
In summary, this was a really nice meal with good food, and wine, and with people that even though not religious, maintain the tradition as a connection to past generations, who got together in this day to celebrate the end of slavery of the Jewish people.
California has a fantastic energy! I always liked the mixture of sophistication with informality. Here people of means rub elbows with working class people without an air of superiority. California is a big state in the USA – almost as big as Spain – and Napa Valley is located an hour north of San Francisco, one of the most liberal cities of the United States. It goes without saying that to come here in style one has to arrive in a convertible!
Napa Valley consists of several towns connected by a single road. On both sides of the road there are wineries nonstop and they all have their own tasting rooms. I heard that there are more than five hundred wineries – too many for me. We chose to visit only one that happened to be one of the oldest and most expensive. The tasting cost $65 per person and we were lucky to find availability despite making the reservation three weeks in advance.
Far Niente is not located directly on the main road but tucked a bit out of the way. The property has a rural charm with views of the mountains and the fields. The main building is imposing and the gardens magnificent. It is mid march and the lilacs and tulips are in bloom. After an introduction to the philosophy of the wine making of this family and a tour in the caves under the house, we had the actual tasting, with tasty bits of a variety of cheeses to accompany two white wines and two reds.
Far Niente 2011 Chardonnay Cave Collection
Far Niente 2012 Chardonnay Estate Bottled
Far Niente 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Cave Collection
Far Niente 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Bottled
The wines were good but nothing amazing, especially considering the prices, around $70 and $65 for the Chardonnay, and $185 and $135 for the Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wine that got me excited was the one that they brought at the end; a dessert wine called Dolce ($170 per bottle of 75 Cl.). It is not very sweet but has surprising favors that keep changing as they flow in the mouth. The first impression is of bitter flowers but suddenly it changes to pineapple and pear notes, to finish with a smooth honey and vanilla finish. Very complex and satisfying.
Our final stop in Napa Valley was a three Michelin Star restaurant called The Restaurant at Meadowood. The prix-fixe menu inspired by the famous restaurant El Bulli was outstanding and very creative. However, as we have never before visited a restaurant of this caliber, it is not possible for us to make a comparison with others of such high quality. Having said that, our impression was like attending great theatre.
Everything was choreographed for a sybaritic experience. Here we had a wine from the neighboring Sonoma Valley: Anthill Farms Pinot Noir 2012 (about $40 a bottle of 75 Cl.). This wine made, as well as its name, from the Pinot Noir grape variety, had an unimpressive color and the smell did not impress me either. But the flavor was very well balanced and complemented and enhanced each of the delectable courses.
I’m sure there is much more to explore in Napa Valley regarding wines without getting drunk, but in order to enjoy the convertible I did not want to get to that point.
When you travel to the Canary Islands, you think about the most obvious, good subtropical climate, beaches, beautiful volcanic landscapes and other common topics, and if not that they tell the millions of European tourists who spend the raw months of winter lying in a hammock in the sun.
No one would say (except the most seasoned fans and connoisseurs of the world of wine) that, in this remote archipelago, geographically located in Africa, there is a very particular and interesting production of wines on each of its main islands, even though its small extension surprisingly one of the Spanish communities with the most Denominations of Origin, with about 11.
Its insular character and the particularity of the volcanic terrain give Canarian wines unique characteristics that are based on the type of grape varieties that are mainly grown and exploited on these islands.
Although it is true that we can find both reds and whites in the Canary Islands, it is the white wines that mainly concentrate the production, being the varieties that have gained more prestige and recognition at an international level.
Among the white wines that are grown throughout the Canary archipelago, those from the island of Lanzarote (D.O. Lanzarote) are the most famous and recognized; Not surprisingly, it is the pioneer island in the wine industry with the appearance in 1775 of Bodegas El Grifo (one of the 10 oldest wineries in Spain), among others.
Main D.O. Canary Islands
During our stay from January 24 to 31, we were able to taste and taste different wines, of which we will now give you our tasting impressions of those that, in our modest understanding, we have considered the most interesting and recommended. Obviously in “matter of taste there is nothing written” and the opinions that we provide here are ours, so our best advice is that: each one tastes the wines and thus reaches their own conclusions.
As we said before, Canarian white wines are special and different; difference that is already evident in some of them in the same packaging and labeling, with bottles with a touch of color and shapes that have nothing to do with the usual.
As a first rule, it should be noted that since they are young white wines, their ideal age of consumption should be one to three years at most.
Seven (7) are the white wines that we have tasted, five (5) of them from the island of Lanzarote and two (2) from the island of Gran Canaria. As a common denominator, almost all the wines tested (all those from Lanzarote) are whites made 100% from the grape variety malvasia “Volcanic malvasia”, all of them with an alcoholic degree of 13% and a serving temperature recommendation of between 8 ° to 10 ° C.
As for the pairing of these wines, dry malvasias are magnificent to accompany any seafood dish, fish and rice or pasta (paella, fideua). As for the semi-sweet malvasias, they go well with all kinds of cheeses (goat, cow, sheep), foie gras and desserts.
EL GRIFO dry malvasia D.O. Lanzarote. Price: 9.75 €
Variety: 100% volcanic malvasia. (Dry White)
Tasting sheet: Very clean and bright wine of a pale straw yellow color, with fruity aromas accentuated by peach and some floral notes similar to jasmine. On the palate it is a very tasty, fresh and light wine, with a very good and smooth entry. Surprising, in return, its broad and sustained finish, lengthening the sensations it produces.
As a culmination it should be noted that this is a wine with a fantastic value for money and that it has won numerous awards in numerous international wine competitions.
YAIZA dry malvasia D.O. Lanzarote. Price 11.95 €
Variety: 100% volcanic malvasia. (Dry White)
Tasting sheet: Clean and crystalline wine of a pale yellow color, with intense tropical fruit aromas and some floral nuances. In the mouth it goes very well being very soft on the palate and with very balanced taste sensations from beginning to end.
It is necessary to highlight the differential fact of its bottling in a dark blue Rondavel type bottle, which gives it a touch of originality. Finally, also say that we are talking about a proven wine that has won more than one award in national and international wine competitions.
LA GERIA semi-sweet malvasia D.O. Lanzarote. Price 9.00 €
100% volcanic malvasia variety (semi-sweet white)
Tasting sheet: Wine, like all the others, clean and crystalline with a lemony yellow color and a touch of gold, with aromas of tropical fruits such as pineapple and also something of lemon. In the mouth it is a wine that enters smoothly, resulting later something unctuous or dense.
It should be noted that this wine has a slightly lower alcoholic strength than the others, specifically 12.5%. As a curiosity to say that the La Geria winery, near the famous Timanfaya park, is one of the most visited in all of Spain, with an average of 300,000 visitors a year.
Tasting sheet: It came with an attractive greenish yellow color that stands out in its original and slender bottle, labeled only on the neck. It is a wine with fruity aromas that have hints of lemon, peach and / or mango, to later give way to more subtle floral aromas. In the mouth, it enters with a smooth passage, reaffirming the previously perceived lemon nuances, reaching a balanced finish, but perhaps somewhat short.
We find a wine with packaging made by one of the most prestigious wineries on the island of Lanzarote and without denying that we have a good wine in our glasses, this perhaps suffers, in our modest opinion, from a shorter finish, or, for in other words, drier and less tasty than some of the other wines we have tasted.
Tasting sheet: Very clean wine of a straw yellow color with green and crystalline touches. It has pronounced, clean and elegant aromas of tropical fruits such as mango and also some citrus such as lemon. Some floral notes such as daisies or jasmine are also perceived. Its passage through the mouth is very refreshing and fruity, where it reminds us of those citrus aromas of lemon and perhaps orange. Very balanced with medium acidity and a finish with a very long persistence.
We are without a doubt in the presence of a great wine, awarded with the Food Award of Spain for the best wine in 2013. This high-top wine, served at banquets and official receptions of the royal house and the diplomatic corps to high positions and personalities, does not detract at all from its well-earned fame, which logically is also reflected in its price, the most expensive by far of all.
LOS BERRAZALEZ dry malvasia-muscatel D.O. Gran Canaria. Price 8.00 €
Variety 50% Malvasia and 50% Muscat (Dry White)
We have left for the end the two wines tasted from the Berrazalez winery, because here we find wines that are a mixture (coupage) in different proportions depending on the type of wine, the varieties of Malvasia and Muscat.
Tasting sheet: It was a straw yellow color with some golden trim, clean and bright. Aromatically we find the scents of fruits such as mango and finally white flowers such as jasmine. In the mouth it has a balanced and pleasant pass, with a contained acidity and maintains taste touches to the tropical fruits that we have perceived in the olfactory phase.
LOS BERRAZALEZ muscatel-malvasía semi-sweet D.O. Gran Canaria. Price 8.00 €
Variety: 80% Muscat 20% Malvasia (Semi-sweet white)
Tasting sheet: Wine of a somewhat pale golden yellow color, with some greenish touches, bright and dense. In the olfactory phase, intense aromas are perceived that are reminiscent of fruits such as mango. In the mouth you can see its good balance between its acidity and its sweetness (sugar) and there is a taste like dates.
This is the only wine that we have tasted that is more clearly different from the others, being made practically (80%) with the variety of muscatel and not the predominant malvasia, which in this wine is only 20%. Consequently, it is a wine that, due to its sweet touch “muscat”, is ideal for tasting sweet desserts and/or strong cheeses such as goat.
Of all the wines tasted and highlighted, in this section on white wines, there are three that we particularly liked: STRATUS, YAIZA and EL GRIFO.
First (STRATUS) It is a wine worth tasting and of great quality and elegance on the palate; We could say that it has been the winner in the quality section, but on the other hand, its high price penalizes it in relation to the other two proposals. Thus, the option of YAIZA, It is highly recommended for its high quality and the originality and exclusivity of its bottling. Finally the proposal of EL GRIFO, We will say that it has been the winner in the quality/price section, finding a wine with fruity touches that, for less than € 10.00, is very tasty and pleasant to consume.
We could not leave Gran Canaria without trying some red wine from the island and as a final touch to what is described here, here you have the details of this.
LAS TIRAJANAS listan black-tintilla and vijariego D.O. Gran Canaria. Price 4.95 €
Variety: Listan black, Vijariego black and Tintilla
Volume of alcohol: 12,5%
Tasting sheet: We find a young red wine, coupage, which has aged in American oak barrels for 2 and a half months. Its color is intense cherry red, with a medium layer and a powerful mid palate, with mineral and red fruit notes, soft tannins and a balanced finish.
It should be noted that it is a very correct wine with a good palate that is pleasantly consumed and that goes very well with dishes of red meat, cured cheeses and stewed dishes such as tripe, fabada, stews, etc.