Bodegas Atteca - The Juan Gil family and Jorge partnered to make this winery in Calatayud. Two wines are produced and they are both 100% Garnacha (Grenache). Jorge helps produce a number of the wines in his portfolio, perhaps helping to explain some core flavors found across wineries and appellations.
Garnacha del Fuego 2007 - This wine debuted with the 2005 vintage, as I recall. The distinctive fire (fuego) label makes for a great reminder of Garnacha's friendly ways with grilled meat. Although I have never found this wine riveting, the juice has always been tasty and people dig it. Perfect for a backyard BBQ with friends. The 2007 has the regular smoky note, from toasted oak, and the pepper is still there, but only on the finish; it makes quite a bold statement there though. In past vintages, the pepper began on the front of the palate and continued until the end. The fruit seemed a bit lighter than the previous two vintages, but the wine is still eminently gulpable. For the price, this is a serious bargain. $7-$8
Atteca 2007 - The older, more mature, more nuanced sibling of the Fuego. Also Garnacha, the fruit comes from 60-120 year old vines. The block that yields the oldest fruit, 80-120 years old, produces grapes at a mere 0.4 tons/acre. This is nearly unheard of, especially when you view the price. The oak, while clearly present, always seems a bit better integrated at this level than the Fuego. This is only the second vintage I have tasted. Pardon the somewhat cryptic statement, but I found the nose both bigger and more elegant than the Fuego. Let me explain. There was more substance to the nose, implying a deeper and more complex wine, at the same time there was restraint. The difference between someone in their mid-30's putting on cologne versus a 16 year-old nearly marinating in a more obvious style. The finish is longer with more intensity and more pepper. The phrase 'fruit bomb' springs to mind. The succulence and power of the wine reminds me of Zinfandel, but without as much alcohol and wild fruit. Old vine Garnacha sometimes creates incredibly rich, concentrated wines, but I do not find them crossing the line to near syrup as I do in too many Zinfandels. Well made old vine Garnacha appeals to hedonists and lovers of elegant Pinot Noir at the same time - a rarity. $14-$17.
Dominio de Eguren - Better known as Protocolo, the appellation is a bit confusing. The grapes come from La Mancha in the geographic middle of Spain, specifically the northeast corner of La Mancha, sometimes referred to as Manchuela to differentiate the higher quality produced there compared to the rest of La Mancha. However, the grapes are trucked to Sierra Cantabria, a fantastic winery located in Rioja, and vinified there. That is a most impressive facility for wine with so small a price. The appellation reads, Vino de la Tierra de la Manchuela. Since it is not vinified in La Mancha, or Manchuela, it can not bear that name, nor can it be called Rioja since the grapes are not from there. So it is essentially called wine from the earth from Manchuela.
Protocolo Blanco 2007 - Fresher is always better with this wine. The 2008 should be available soon if it is not already. The wine is stainless steel fermented and aged. Airen makes up the majority of the blend, a widely planted, fairly nondescript grape, with Viura, essentially Spain's answer to Sauvignon Blanc, being the remaining 10% or so. Although the wine is hardly a must have, collector's item, it becomes a perfect summer wine, versatile with so many foods, and very drinkable. When I tasted recently, all I could think of was having a clambake. $6-$8
Be sure to look for the Rose as well, always a screamin' deal. More on Roses as I see more 2008's.
Protocolo Tinto 2006 - I am wild about the 2006 Spanish reds. This was my house wine for a long time, because nothing else came close to pairing with a variety of foods at such a ridiculous price. This 100% Tempranillo wine spends a few months in 1-3 year old American barrels. Red fruit is the hallmark here, with a soft, easy drinkability. This vintage features some added spice, although I found it a bit leaner than some previous efforts. Still, it remains a remarkable value, and a good red to match with roast chicken and grilled fish. $6-$8
Codice Tinto 2005 - Also from Dominio de Eguren, this is their flagship wine. The price is higher, but so is the quality. I'm afraid this vintage may be close to gone, but 2006 should be exciting if perhaps a bit lighter than the 2005. This is also 100% Tempranillo and spends six months in barrels of the same age and provenance as Protocolo Tinto. I found the nose a bit shy, but the palate was full of raspberry and spicy, elegant tannin. The oak showed through mostly on the finish with hints of cedar, but was not a major component of the wine. I thought if you poured this blind with wines from Bordeaux from $15-$20 Codice could hold its own. I love the Bordeaux style, but find too many disappointing in the under $20 category, try this for about half that and see what you think. $8-$11