Conquistadores: The Reign in Spain
Eric Solomon Imports
From left: Jurgen Wagner, Eric Solomon, Philippe Cambie, Adolfo Munoz,
Javier Munoz, Daniel Castano. Photo © Mel Hill Photo
The first seminar was a collection of wines imported by HdR’s 2008 Person of the Year, Eric Solomon. Eric has elevated his company, European Cellars, to be one of the top importers of Spanish wines from virtually every region of that remarkably diverse country. To present what turned out to be a very good selection of the wines he imports, he brought with him some of the top winemakers in Spain: Jurgen Wagner of Cellar Capçanes, Daniel Castaño of Bodegas Castaño and Bodegas Salinas, Javier Muñoz of Bodegas Cigarral Pago del Ama (accompanied by his highly-acclaimed father, chef Adolfo Muñoz of Restaurant Adolfo in Toledo), and Frenchman Philippe Cambie of Bodegas Mas Alta, and also the consulting winemaker for many of the top wines in Chateauneuf du Pape, including Pegau and Vieux Donjon.
Each of the winemakers has some interesting things to say about their wines, and each believes passionately in their respective appellations. My favorite story came from Jurgen Wagner, who explained how the region of Montsant was essentially kept from dying out when a group of rabbi’s from Barcelona come to the local cooperative and asked them to create a Kosher wine for the Jewish community in Barcelona. The deeply conservative (and Catholic) winemakers of the region agreed, and the resulting wine provided the fame and financial security to encourage growers in the region to expand and improve quality, launching a revival of the Montsant appellation. Fascinating stuff.
2006 Celler Mas Gil, Clos d’Agon White, Emporda Made by Peter Sissek of Pingus fame. 45% Viognier, 40% Roussanne, 15% Marsanne. Stony, lemony nose with real minerality, a combination of Chablis and Muscadet. There is surprising richness on the palate to round out the intense minerality. A bit of pit fruits, citrus, flint, and straw all in a beautifully balanced wine with great cut. Nothing like a white Rhone blend from France, but a fascinating take on the varietals, if atypical. Excellent. Find this wine
2005 Celler de Capçanes, Cabrida, Montsant From chalky soils in four different terroirs, 100% Garnacha, 85-105 year old vines. Meaty fruit with plums, black figs and a hint of earthiness. The palate is rich with black fruits and earth, rather tannic and ripe, but with excellent structure from firm acidity. The overall impression is a bit brooding and heavy, but the wine is actually very well balanced. A couple of years of aging should bring significant improvement, but the wine is pretty good now. Find this wine
2005 Celler de Capçanes, Cabrida Calissa, Montsant As contrast to the regular Cabrida, this is primarily from limestone-based soils, and is much smaller in production (1000 bottles vs. 4500 for the Cabrida). Brighter fruit with some new oak, truffle, complex herbs and forest notes. A bigger, richer wine, still quite tannic, but more complex and less heavy feeling than the Cabrida. Some pit fruits and dark berries with less earthiness. Very intensely flavored with great acid/fruit balance and depth. This is delicious now but should age effortlessly for quite a while based on its impeccable balance and depth. Find this wine
2005 Vinedos Cigarral Santa Maria, Pago del Ama Syrah, Toledo 100% Syrah from a small vineyard in Toledo, and due to small production, virtually unobtainable outside the famous restaurant owned by the winemaker’s father, Adolfo Muñoz. The nose is all bacon fat, ripe apricot and bloody meat. Medium bodied and not a blockbuster in terms of texture, the wine has a light, elegant feel despite the intensity of its flavors. Smooth tannins, meaty fruit with lots of spice and great length. There is richness here but in a suave, elegant package. Could pass for an excellent northern Rhone wine. Find this wine
2005 Sierra Salinas, Mira, Alicante 65% Monastrell (Mourvedre), 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet). Rather closed nose with dark fruits, but not showing much. Rich, smooth and creamy fruit on the palate, the wine shows it spent 20 months in French oak. Black cherry dominates the fruit and smooth tannins are supported by firm acidity, yet the wine seems rather heavy and brooding at this time, and rather one-dimensional. Maybe time will help? Good, not outstanding. Find this wine
2005 Bodegas Castaño, Casa Cisca, Yecla 100% Monastrell from 55-75 year old vines, aged for 14 months in American oak. Yecla has a higher elevation than Alicante, and it shows in the brighter feel and crisper acids. The fruits are at the red end of the spectrum, and the creamy vanilla American oak flavor is apparent, although not dominant. Some wood tannins come out in the finish, suggesting the wine needs some time for the oak to integrate. The American oak gives this wine a more international character, and overall it was probably my least favorite of the tasting, although still nice on its own. Find this wine
2005 Bodegas Mas Alta, La Basseta, Priorat 50% Carinena, 40% Garnacha, 5% Merlot, 5% Syrah. Deep black fruit and licorice. Very intense flavors of meat, earth, black fruits and licorice with strong acidity and tannins. This has 50% new oak, giving a creamy texture that balances the tannins. A big wine with a lot of stuffing, if not much complexity at this point. Seems balanced for aging. Find this wine
2005 Bodegas Mas Alta, La Creu Alta, Priorat 60% Carinena, 40% Garnacha. This wine seems much more complex than the La Basseta, with brighter fruit and savory herbs. Fresher, with even better balance and surprising elegance, smooth tannins, a touch of citrus gives lift to the aromatics and an overall brighter feel. Much less rustic than most Priorats of my experience. Excellent. Find this wine