Saturday, June 26, 2010

California wines from Spanish and Portuguese varietals

Spanish and Portuguese varietals grown in the U.S. include a wide range of both white wine and red wine grapes, some which should be very familiar. The white grapes include Albarino, Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Malvasia, Torrontes, Verdelho and Viura. The red grapes include: Garnacha, Graciano, Mataro (a.k.a. Monastrell, Mourvedre), Sousao, Tempranillo (a.k.a.Tinta Roriz), Tinta Cao, Touriga Francesca, and Touriga Nacional. In addition, there are many more varietals that are planted in very small quantities in the U.S.

Domestic producers of wines from these grapes tend to be concentrated in the Western U.S. with wineries located throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Texas.

Even though the Southwestern U.S.A. was originally settled by the Spanish, wine producers in Spain were reluctant to let their precious grapes be transported to the New World. Thus the winemakers in the Southwest were left to make wines with grapes indigenous to the land. It was not until recently that U.S. winemakers discovered the unique character of Iberian (Spanish and Portuguese) varietals and started planting and producing wines from these grapes.

UNWINED hosted a special wine club tasting of several California wines made with Spanish and Portuguese varietals. Hatcher Winery 2007 Mourvedre from Calaveras County has a dark red color with a black cherry aroma mixed with Tootsie Roll, rhubarb notes and hints of white pepper. On the palate, the black cherry is paired with plum and pluot flavors and a pleasant earthiness that one would expect from Mourvedre. This wine would pair nicely with a BBQ hamburger on a summer evening. The price is $24.

Mourvedre was introduced to Catalonia in Spain by the Phoenicians. While it is called Mourvedre in France and the U.S., it is also known as Mataro in Portugal and Monastrell in Spain.

The Odisea Wine Company 2007 “Temporary Insanity” Tempranillo from Clements Hills has a dark, ruby color and a nose of juicy black cherry fruit with a touch of violet, mineral, white pepper and toasty oak. On the palate these same flavors come through with touches of vanilla and spice that linger through a long finish. This wine will pair with ribs and tri-tip. The price is $25.
Odisea (O-di-say-a) is derived from the word “Odessey, meaning a long wandering and eventful journey.

The Michael Martella 2007 “Fiddletown” Grenache from Amador County is made from almost 100% Grenache which is unusual. It has a dark garnet color and is amazingly rich in body, flavors and texture. Aromas include toffee, prune, dark fruit, floral and spice. Flavors include cola, coffee, dark dried fruits and a wonderful savory umami quality. This Grenache would pair nicely with meats and poultry or a cheese platter with figs and honey. The price is $26.
Michael Martella has been the winemaker for Thomas Fogerty winery since it was founded in 1981. He makes small amounts of wines at that facility for his own label, sourcing fruit from the best vineyards throughout the state.

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