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swirl and savor

Club Swirl February Selections From Spain

Beth Ribblett

Part wine club, part discount program, "club swirl" offers a great way to try new and exciting wines from around the world. Benefits include our 2 wines of the month, discounts on all wine purchases and tastings, invitations to special members only tastings, advance email notices on special wines brought into the store and more for only $39.99/month! Memberships applications are available, call 504.304.0635 for more details.

2007 Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat

If anyone embodies the promise and spirit of “The New Spain,” it is 43-year-old Alvaro Palacios. His L’Ermita is widely considered—along with Peter Sisseck’s Dominio de Pingus— to be the most important Spanish wine in a generation.

One of nine children born to the owners of Rioja’s respected Palacios Remondo, Alvaro studied enology in Bordeaux, while working under Jean-Pierre Moueix at Chateau Pétrus. He credits his tenure at Pétrus for much of his winemaking philosophy and for showing him “the importance of great wines.”

Alvaro could have returned to the security of his family’s domaine. Instead, he was drawn to remote and wildly beautiful Priorat, 60 miles from Barcelona, which had been one of Spain’s important pre-Phylloxera wine regions. With its unique terroir of steep hills and terraces Alvaro believed that here he could make a wine that was like a cross between Pétrus and Grange.

In 1995, the flow of critical praise for Alvaro’s L’Ermita began, and it hasn’t stopped. But while L’Ermita has received most of the attention, Alvaro produces other wines compelling in their own rights: Finca Dofí, Les Terrasses and Camins.

The 2007 Camins del Priorat marks the first year for this exciting entry level Priorat by the man considered the region’s greatest producer. It is a blend of 30% Garnacha, 60% Cariñena, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah made from vines that are 10-50 years old, aged in 100% French oak for 8 months, then bottled unfiltered. Red berry fruits, meat, spice, pepper and oak on the nose. It's a medium bodied Priorat, with lovely dense plum and red berry fruit, lots of pepper and spice and a real juicy core, oak is integrated and crucially the tannins are ripe making it very approachable now. It's got a lovely meaty savory character along with the berry fruits. It's a delicious approachable style with fabulous fruit. A real winner for drinking over the next 3-5 years, though really enjoyable now.

2007 Bodegas Zarate Albarino

Bodegas Zarate is among the oldest family growers of Albariño in Galicia, with their first release in 1950. This tiny 7 hectare farm with very old vines and single vineyard releases is the most eclectic and terroir-driven estate in Galicia. Ernesto Zarate was one of the pioneers in the production of Albariño in the 1950s.

Today winemaker Eulogio Pomares Botana studied in both Bordeaux and then Germany to investigate parallels between Albariño and Riesling. His first vintage was 2000 and he has steadily been upgrading technology but, mainly, improving quality in the 11 vineyards which they either buy from or own. Average vine age is an impressive 35 years and some are being planted, ungrafted, with a view to biodynamic viticulture. As in so much of this area, granite soils predominate.

The estate is dedicated entirely to the Albariño variety and it’s century-old vineyards, expressing the character of each vineyard in the wines. The 6.54 hectare estate and it’s 11 vineyards are located in the villages of Sisán and Padrenda which lie in the Salnés Valley (the northwest subzone of Rias Baixas). All of the family vineyards are planted with Albariño and this level of focus and dedication to quality puts the wines in high demand, leaving only tiny quantities for markets outside of Spain.

The Zarate is 100% estate grown Albarino, aged in stainless steel with 6 months sur lie. It is pure and unadulterated Albariño fruit that is strongly mineral and very focused and tight. Unlike some paler versions of Albariño, this wine should drink well for the next 2-3 years.

2005 Bodegas Castano Solanera

Located in Southeastern Spain, the region of Yecla lies to the east of Jumilla and to the west of Alicante. The Yecla region’s progressive leader, Bodegas Castaño, has long been an advocate of the Monastrell varietal, also known as Mourvèdre. The varietal is best regarded for its influence on the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape where the terroir and climate is not dissimilar to that of Yecla. Both benefit from a very warm, Mediterranean climate with warm days and nights.
Created by Ramon Castaño Santa and his 3 sons, Bodegas Castaño is not nearly as old as the vines it owns. Starting quite small, the family has nurtured old plantings and re-planted other parcels and now owns about 400 hectares (10% of the D.O.) in four prime vineyard estates.

Bodegas Castaño, as it is known today for its entrepreneurial spirit, focus and vision, really begun in the early 80’s when it slowly and carefully started to experiment with bottling and its state of the art winery facility. The family’s commitment to both quality and the Monastrell variety is unparalleled. Today, Daniel Castaño, one of Ramon’s sons, runs the winery with the help of other members of the family.

The 2005 Solanera is a blend of 65% Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Garnacha Tintorera aged in French oak. It reveals an expressive perfume of underbrush, licorice, graphite, blueberry, and black cherry. This is followed by an elegant, intense, smooth-textured wine with tons of red and black fruit, excellent balance, and a lengthy finish. This tasty effort will drink well over the next four years.