Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Best Grenache On The Planet!?

Grandiose pronouncements such as, 'vintage of the century' and 'best I've ever tasted', are often fueled by alcohol and a desire to silence other opinions. Lately it seems the next 'vintage of the century' rolls around a few years past the first. I admit, however, to being unable to think of much better Grenache (Garnacha) that's ever crossed my lips.
Chris Ringland who makes Three Rivers wine in Barossa, has a loyal cult-like following. He also consults on El Nido and Clio with Dan Phillips and Jorge Ordonez. Good luck finding any of those bottles. Bodegas Alto Moncayo also has the same three involved, plus my favorite little bargain Garnacha winery, Borsao. As you may have heard me mention before, Campo de Borja is the undisputed production area for bargain Garnacha. Now it also produces world class versions.

The earliest record of the wines I can locate in my Jorge material is 2002. The vineyards are scattered across three villages with mostly red clay soils, some are calcareous. The age of the vines ranges from 36-93 years old according to Jorge's fact sheets. I was under the impression that some of the vines were considerably over a century old.

As I mentioned in the post previous to this one, Garnacha (Grenache) possesses this intense, thick, fruity quality when harvested from old vines. It can seem ponderous on the palate, but just when you feel it may turn out to be sweet, and nearly liqueur-like, it brightens, focuses, and dries up enough to work with dinner. That litheness makes this a very interesting wine in that it offers so much pure hedonistic pleasure, yet appeals to fans of more elegant wines. I find Burgundy fanatics often roll their eyes when discussing Grenache, but when presented with these wines, they tip the glass back and quickly look for more. Cabernet drinkers do not often have the same reaction. Grenache seems too soft and silky for them. Exceptions abound, and I love to see people's faces when they try a true, old vine, full-throttled Grenache for the first time.

That being said, these wines can be difficult to locate and need some time in bottle to really shine. As far as food goes, grilled meats are best, with lamb, venison and ribs leading the charge for me. They work particularly well with fruit reduction sauces. Years ago, a venison dish with a blueberry sauce produced magic when paired with a Grenache I wish I could remember.

All of the wines are basket pressed to retain more of their inherently fruity nature.

Alto Moncayo Veraton 2006 - The baby of the bunch, this is generally lighter and more accessible early then the other two. However, it is still hedonistic and will grab your attention. Sorry to use the word again, but hedonism is the first word in my notes. Very solid effort, perhaps a bit clumsy, but it is endearing at the same time. The clumsiness reminded me of two teenagers in a backseat perhaps. not completely sure what they're doing but positive with every fiber of their being it is the right thing and it will be fantastic. Veraton is all earnestness, it is eager to please. The fruit is deep, lush, and very juicy with just a bit of the wild berry fruit mixed with some hint of earth that the French might call 'sauvage.' There is a whiff of cellar, not dank cellar, on the back end, now fading more into cedar closet (no mothballs). The cedar comes from the new oak - the wine was aged 17 months in new French and American wood. This is a great starter kit for this winery, if you hate it, don't bother spending any more money. If you're intrigued, take the next step, it will blow you away. Importer - Jorge Ordonez $25-$30

Alto Moncayo 2006 - Yes, classically Spanish, this wine is actually Alto Moncayo Alto Moncayo, but I'll address it as only one name. Generally older vines here, with the aging regime mimicking the Veraton. This, for me is where the action is; it offers more of everything than Veraton, but does not reach the expense of the Aquilon. I wrote 'Wow.' More polish here than with Veraton, it is silky smooth, soft yet with plenty of vim and vigor to keep it lively. Not quite a fully coiled spring, but there's plenty there to unfold with time. Quite extraordinary. My final note, "that's the one.' $40-$50

Aquilon 2005 - At a certain point, words become nearly pointless to describe luxury. The difference between a comfortable chair and an uncomfortable one is easy to describe. Even moving to a more comfortable version can be easily expressed, but when you reach two incredibly welcoming chairs, the difference is more of a feel and less subject to evaluation. This is the way I feel about this wine. It is monolithic, and shows more American oak on the nose and palate. I believe they are moving toward more French, but do not know the percentages. Clearly this is aged longer than the other two in wood, but, again, I have no information to confirm that. The wine is a bit tight, but the finish returns for wave after wave of flavor and aroma. Huge, but lifted, massive, but with some elegance, an elephant in ballet slippers perhaps? Or better, a dancing bear, tutu or not, your choice. It is an experience worth having, find a bottle, get 7 or 8 friends to chip in and enjoy. I have had this wine on two occasions now, and I simply enjoy the somewhat dumbfounded looks on faces after tasting. You have never tasted anything like this. As close as I can come would be some of the La Las from Cote Rotie by Guigal, La Landonne, La Turque, and La Mouline, but those go for more nearly three times the price of Aquilon. $135-$170

How can you not be intrigued by a wine produced from vines like this?!?!

Aquilon 2006 - This was a bit unfair perhaps. The wine is clearly young and showed more wood and even a primary caramel note on the palate from the oak. I actually thought the mid-palate and a hint of the finish showed more promise than the 2005, but it was hard to evaluate more accurately. Still, quite an experience. $135-$170

No comments:

Post a Comment