October Domestic Wine: 2010 Viña Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CALIFORNIA

Viña Robles crafts wines that represent a stylistic bridge between the Old and New worlds, capturing the finesse associated with European wines, while celebrating the bold natural flavors of their estate vineyards in Paso Robles.

Here, proprietor Hans Nef and managing partner Hans – R. Michel bring their Swiss heritage to California’s Central Coast, where they aim to unite the best of both experiences.

“I want Viña Robles to express a unique balance of European heritage and American opportunity. As individuals, we are rooted in the Old World. As winemakers, we are empowered by the New World. But both worlds bring value to what we do, and we endeavor to capture this distinction in our wines.”-Proprietor Hans Nef

History of Viña Robles in Paso Robles: They first discovered Paso Robles in the early 1980s and became enamored with this emerging wine country. Along golden slopes, where the Pacific coastline unfolds into rugged ranchlands and cowboy ambiance, a new generation of California winemakers was turning Paso Robles into one of the world’s most dynamic winegrowing regions.

In the mid 1990s, they planted their first estate vineyard and established Viña Robles as a family winery specializing in varieties that excel in the region’s diverse terroir. The vision for Viña Robles is summed up by their motto: European Inspiration – California Character.

Varietals: 81% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Petit Verdot

Alcohol: 14.1% by volume

Tasting Notes: “The fruit for our 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was selected from four of our estate vineyards in Paso Robles. It was handpicked at night in small lots to ensure perfect quality and ripeness. Afterwards, the fruit was destemmed and gently crushed into temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Pump-overs took place regularly to enhance color and help extract tannins from the skin. After pressing, the wine was racked into barrels to complete malolactic fermentation and aging. Before bottling, we blended in 19% Petit Verdot from our Huerhuero and Adelaida Springs vineyards to round out the blend. The Petit Verdot enhances mouthfeel and structure.”-vinarobles.com

Food Pairings: The wine pairs well with richer foods. A great wine for grilled meats, heavier pasta dishes, and barbeque. Also a great match with salty cheese!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich and deep, with a lavish style. Layers of flavor and complexity here. In perfect harmony of red and blue fruit here. The wine has great intensity and a supple soft finish. Flavors of cassis, raspberry, and cedar are all intermingled. I love it!”-JL

October Imported Wine: 2011 Godelia ‘Viernes’ Mencia Tinto, Bierzo, SPAIN

Godelia is a relatively young project, at least in its present form. Its wines come from a combination of very old mountain vines and maturing vines from the hill-slopes in the centre of the valley. About 30 of the 50 hectares which go into production of Godelia were planted in 1989 by a former owner, who traded under a different brand name. Godelia as such came into being when Vicente Garcia Vasquez, the pharmacist of Cacabelos, purchased these holdings in 2009.

The now 20+ year old vines and some 90 year old bush vines in the mountains were entrusted to Joseph Serra Guyillen, a Catalan winemaker brought in from outside specifically to avoid local complacency and to revise inherited bad viticultural habits. His brief –freshness and elegance. His right hand in winemaking is Silvia Marrao.

History of Bierzo and Wine Styles in the Region: About 10% of plantings are the white varieties Godello and Dona Blanca. Historically, these were blended in with the reds to make Clarete–fruity, light reds with around a quarter white grapes. These were the typical local wines for a long while–not just here in el Bierzo, but in Ribera del Duero and Rioja too. Like much of Galicia, the wine tale of el Bierzo is one of great loss in recent times. Starting with the onset of phylloxera in the late 19th century, which eradicated 2000 years of continuous vine culture and accretion of knowledge, this loss continued during the 20th century due to the twin barbarisms of the post-civil-war dictatorship and twentieth century chemical-industrial agriculture. Agriculture was shifted down into the fertile river valley and only a remnant of hill-slope and mountain holdings were left planted to vine. Planting virtually ceased between 1950 and 1985 and the region’s population hollowed out with people moving into mining, industry and the cities.

Like Alfredo at Pittacum and Ricardo at DJP (and Telmo and Pablo in other regions), Vicente and Joseph are keenly aware that good viticulture and lovely resultant wines requires a significant investment in untying the 20th century and going back before phylloxera… a deliberate exercise in cultural re-discovery and preservation. Currently, this takes the form of getting the nursery out of the vineyards. Godelia’s 20-odd year-old plantings at Castro and Legúas were planted to ‘clones’ –generic material from the nurseries, and favouring high crop over quality. Josep is grafting these over with quality genetic material selected and transplanted from their best old vines. High up on the slate vineyard of Sobrado and the quartz at 900m of San Pedro de Olleros, are authentic local cultivars which give low yields of sweet-tannined fruit from small grapes in open-habit bunches.

The name, Godelia, is Vicente’s invention –intended to allude to a fresh and feminine Bierzo, it is a made up contraction of Godello and Lias (lees).

Varietals: 100% Mencia        

Alcohol: 13.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: Meaty and plush, the fruit is all wild cherry and blackberry, a dark red fruit confiture with a lovely wild sense –wild hedge and crushed velvet spiciness, earth, bramble, anise and choc-tannins. On the palate, cold rock and dry mineral gives a deep sense of earthiness, which informs the granular tannins and carries lots of scrubby, caney, dried hedge and herb border botanicals through a raspberry-licorice fruit line. ‘Viernes’ by the way is Friday in Spanish and Godelia’s intention is thatthis thing says ‘party time’! I hear it…

Food Pairings: This Mencia could pair with lighter red meats, chicken, and shellfish, especially when cooked with wine or served with a tomato sauce.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A wine that is rich and flavorful. Full throttle in flavor and loaded with fruit…a wine that has a perfect balance and great backbone of acidity, with a long finish. A great wine for this season, I think you will enjoy with or without food. Cheers!”-JL