Wine: Articles

Exploring the World of Spanish Wine with Swirl&Sip

At our September Fine Wine Divas event, we had a great time learning about (and tasting!) wines from all across Spain…from Penedès to León to La Mancha to Rioja. We pulled out the Spanish Wine Region map (check out this great one from Wine Folly) and went on a wine tour with Jason from Swirl&Sip, our wine sponsor for the evening.

We tasted the sparkling, wine, rosé (or rosado in Spain) and red wines.

  • NV Signat Semi-Seco Cava
  • 2011 Heredad de Penalosa Verdejo
  • 2011 Vina Altaba Rosado
  • 2010 Lar de Paula Madurado
  • 2008 Lar de Paula Crianza
  • 2005 Lar de Paula Reserva

And while everyone enjoyed the Cava, the reds were the favorites. The top two were…

2010 Lar de Paula Madurado

  • Variety: Tempranillo
  • Aroma: Dark plum and bright red cherries
  • Taste: Velvety plum and cherries
  • Price: $13.99
  • Pair with: Tapas, roast turkey or lasagna
  • Our thoughts: Light and fruity yet smooth. Great value wine!

2005 Lar de Paula Reserva

  • Variety: Tempranillo
  • Aroma: Spice, balsamic vinegar, roasted meat
  • Taste: Blackberry, tobacco, black pepper
  • Price: $23.99
  • Pair with: Hearty tapas, lamb with cherry reduction, or a beef stew
  • Our thoughts: Big, smooth, spicy, all at a great price.

While both of these wines are 100% Tempranillo from Rioja, they underwent very different aging processes, and, in turn, are very different wines. The Madurado spent only 4 months in oak, lending it a lighter, fruitier characteristic, while the Reserva spent 18 months in oak, and then aged for 18 more months in the bottle, leaving it big, spicy and intense.

One of the Wine Divas summed it up well, “These red wines are the kind I can spend a night with!”

We paired the wines with Spanish cheeses and Mediterranean tapas which truly demonstrated how food friendly Spanish wine is. While the Divas weren’t crazy about the Verdejo and Rosado, once paired with food they were really nice.

Our lovely sponsor, Swirl & Sip, currently offers a selection of high value wines (including all of the wines above) online. Their first wine shop is scheduled to open later this fall in Fairfax’s Mosaic District, and will offer a tasting bar, an expanded selection of unique and delicious wines, hand-crafted beers and gourmet foods from passionate producers. Sign up for their newsletter online to stay up to date on the grand opening!

Now I need a real trip to these wine regions! ;) Salud to Spanish wines!

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Celebrating International Grenache Day in Spain

It’s International Grenache Day! The holiday emerged following the inaugural Grenache Symposium in 2010, which hosted 250 delegates from 23 countries to draw up a blueprint for boosting the global profile of the wine. Grenache (known as Garnacha in Spain) is one of the most widely planted red grapes in the world. It ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, Sardinia, the south of France, and California’s San Joaquin Valley. The event gave spotlight to one of Spain’s most popular varietals and most widely planted.

Garnacha typically has strong red fruit expression with subtle notes of sweet spices and floral aromas.  The wine is food-friendly, complementing an array of dishes, including vegetables, beef, lasagna and pasta.

Since the wine is often used in blends, it does not often take the spotlight. However, Campo Viejo, the leading winemaker in the Rioja region of Spain, is celebrating the varietal by launching its first-ever 100% Garnacha. Old vines growing in their original terroirs in Rioja Baja under warm climate conditions, result in a wine with strong red fruit expression, floral aromas and softness in palate.

Campo Viejo Garnacha 2012

  • Variety: Garnacha grapes from Alfaro & Aldeanueva (Rioja Baja, Spain)
  • Aroma: Cassis, violet, vanilla spice
  • Taste: Toasty spice with a berry tart and sweetness with hints of vanilla and caramel
  • Price: $12
  • My thoughts: Light bodied yet complex…berry, sweet and spicy. The wine’s spicy toastiness hit me first then the tart yet sweet lingered.Very nice! It would be a very interesting tasting to compare to Grenache from south of France.

Cheers to Campo Viejo’s new wine and to International Grenache Day!

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Discovering New Wine Varieties & Regions: Furmint from Tokaj, Hungary

This Wine Wednesday I’m trying a grape variety AND region I have yet to write about…Furmint from the Tokaj region of Hungary.

At the lovely new wine boutique, DCanter, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Friday, Michael introduced me to the wine, Evolúció.


Hungarian wine dates back to Roman times.Since the fall of Communism, wine-makers are rediscovering old traditions and experimenting with new grapes and methods. Western producers have recognized the potential of Hungarian wines and have invested and committed themselves to uplifting it. Producers and merchants from Tuscany, Bordeaux and Germany have joined forces with local growers to produce high quality wines. Either by developing vineyards with popular grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or by attempting to revive interest in regional grapes such as Furmint, Rebola and Plavac Mali and producing truly unique regional wines using modern techniques. (Thank you Boutique Wine Collection for the great information.)

Evolúció comes from the Tokaj region, the oldest and most well known wine region in Hungary. Tokaj produces world class, aromatic dry white wines made from the Furmint and Hárslevelü grapes.

Evolúció Furmint 2012

  • Variety: Furmint from the Tokaj wine region of Hungary
  • Aroma: Apricot, green apple and minerality
  • Taste: Medium-bodied yet crisp green apple taste with spice and apricot
  • Price: $14
  • My thoughts: Wow! I really enjoyed this wine. I knew Michael wouldn’t steer me wrong when I asked for a new and different white wine. He described it as a great cross between Sauvignon Blanc and an unoaked Chardonnay which is spot on. It’s a great transition from summer to autumn white wine.

Cheers to new wine discoveries from new regions!

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Summer Rosé Favorites

I’ve enjoyed many new Rosés this summer from Virginia to Italy to France. And as the last weekend of summer is upon us, I’m enjoying a glass of it on the deck. I thought I’d share with you my favorite new Rosé discoveries of the season.

2011 VieVité Rosé

  • Variety: 30% Cinsault, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Carignan from Provence, France
  • Aroma: Strawberry and spice notes
  • Taste: Light, fresh, delicate, strawberries
  • Price: $19.99
  • My thoughts: I enjoyed two glass of this one at The Champagne Bar at The Plaza in New York City at the beginning of the summer season. Always a great spot for a drink (even though one glass cost about what the suggested retail bottle price is :) )! It’s exactly what a Provence Rosé should be. Produced by Domaine Sainte Marie, located just 15km outside of Saint Tropez, France, it’s vines are from 25 to 80 years old.

2012 Early Mountain Rosé

  • Variety: Malbec and Merlot from Virginia
  • Aroma: Rich red fruits
  • Taste: Full bodied strawberries and raspberries with spicy hints
  • Price: $18
  • My thoughts: On a visit to Early Mountain Vineyards in July, this was a wine several of us tried after our official tasting. Their first Rosé it was fantastic. Definitely a fuller bodied version made with Malbec and Merlot, it will still be a nice glass for the warmer days of September.

Cheers to summer’s wine favorites and new discoveries to come in Autumn!

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New Summer White Grape Favorite: Seyval Blanc

As the end of July approached, I found my usual favorite summer white wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, growing a bit tired on the palette.

Then at a wine tasting in Virginia wine country, Early Mountain Vineyards turned me on to a white variety I haven’t had much of…Seyval Blanc. The 2012 Lovingston Winery Seyval Blanc, while similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, had more floral and citrus notes.  So now I’m out trying more.

Seyval Blanc is a hybrid grape variety, meaning it’s the breeding of other ‘parent’ grape variety vines. Seyval Blanc was originally released in 1921 in Saint Vallier, Drome, France, where it was known as Seyve-Villard, named for its creators, Bertille Seyve and his son-in-law Villard.

Seyval Blanc has characteristic citrus aroma and tastes, but also more minerality making it similar to a white Burgundy from France.

While today the European Union does not allow hybrid grape variety wines, you’ll find Seyval Blanc grown mainly in England and the east coast of the United States in New York’s Finger Lakes region and in Virginia. Some refer to it as “East Coast Chardonnay.”

Last weekend at Breaux Vineyards in Virginia, I tasted their Seyval Blanc and bought several bottles for home.

Breaux Vineyards 2012 Jolie Blond

  • Variety: 100% Seyval Blanc
  • Aroma: Citrus, white floral
  • Taste: Crisp, dry white grapefruit with nice body and floral notes
  • Price: $18
  • My thoughts: The name, Jolie Blond, is nod to the Breaux family’s Cajun roots, meaning “pretty blond.” It’s a great white wine for summer’s favorite dishes, like the barbecue chicken I’m enjoying tonight.

Cheers to a new end of summer white, Seyval Blanc!



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