Monday, January 24, 2011

Quinta Cruz Rabelo - a taste of Portugal from the Santa Cruz Mountains

Quinta Cruz is a sister brand to Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard that was created in 2008 to showcase wines using varietals that originated on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal).  Owner/winemaker Jeff Emery developed a love for these varietals during his travels to that region.

Jeff particularly fell in love with the ports produced from grapes in the upper Duoro Valley of Portugal.  The unique varieties found here have long been found to produce a very special wine.  He set a goal to produce a port-style wine in California that rivals the fine Ports from Portugal.  Port houses in Portugal used to produce their own brandy for Port production in their old copper alembic stills.  But in the early 1970’s Portugal established new rules for Port production requiring producers to purchase the neutral spirits from the government.

At Quinta Cruz they went back to the old traditional Portuguese methods of producing Ports, including control over the brandy added to fermenting juice to stop the fermentation before the yeast has fully converted the sugars into alcohol.  This added brandy results in a drink that has a good amount of residual sugars, and high alcohol content.

Jeff Emery produces his Rabelo, late bottled vintage dessert wine following the traditional styles by first using truly Portuguese varietals, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cao, and second, he does not allow the grapes to become overly ripe and raisiny.  The grapes are picked while they can provide the fresh, bright, fruit characters.

Working with a local small distillery in the Santa Cruz Mountains where they have a beautiful copper alembic still that originally was used to produce Cognac.  Using Tinta Roriz grapes from Pierce Ranch in Santa Cruz Mountains, they are able to produce a complex brandy that adds to the complexity of the finished wine.  In fact, all of the grapes use in producing Rabelo comes from the same San Antonio Valley Pierce Ranch vineyard, making this a very unique wine.

The San Jose Wine Examiner tasting panel found the 2006 Rabelo offers a special complexity with ripe fruit flavors plus walnuts and molasses.  This is a wine that you can enjoy by itself after a meal, or with some nuts or strong cheese such as a blue cheese.  It is definitely not the same as the fruity, overripe port-like wines produced by many California winemakers.

Rabelo is the flat bottomed boat that originally carried the Port wine from the upper Duoro Valley to the aging houses along the river in the town of Oporto.

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