December Imported Wine: NV Biutiful Cava Brut Rosé, Requena, Valencia, SPAIN

‘Biutiful’—how a Spaniard would read/say the English word ‘Beautiful.’

The Biutiful Cavas are produced at a winery created in 2007, utilizing the latest technology for the production of Cava. The vineyards are based in Requena; a region with a grape growing history dating back to the 7th century BCE. The region lies about 70 km West of the Mediterranean Sea and combines Mediterranean and Continental climatic influences. The winters are long and cold, getting down to near 0F. The summers are quite short punctuated by long, hot days with a cooling easterly wind in the afternoons/evenings. The elevation of the vineyards is between 700 and 900 meters and they grow Macabeo, Chardonnay, and Garnacha.

About the Winemaker: Winemaker Isaac Fernandez brings more than 25 years of winemaking experience to his latest, and namesake project. As the nephew of Mariano Garcia (the winemaker for Vega Sicilia), one could say that Isaac comes by his talent naturally. Using his network of relationships he sources fruit from superior, older vine vineyards in northern Spain. The fruit is handpicked and destemmed prior to vinification. Isaac’s philosophy is simple, “I try to respect the identity of the vineyards and of the grapes with which I work.”

Varietals: 100% Garnacha

Alcohol: 11.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: “Smoky stonefruit aromas lead to a fresh and zesty feeling palate that hits firmly with plum, raspberry and citrus flavors. The finish on this rosé Cava is solid but gaseous, with red-fruit and citrus flavors to spare.” Wine Enthusiast, Issue 2609, October 2013

Food Pairings: Cava, like most other sparklings, is one of the best food pairings around. Whether you are pairing Cava with fried and rich food as a palate cleanser, or with a main meal like butternut squash soup or seafood, you will find this to be a match made in heaven. Try Cava with unusual pairings like sweet and sour food, tangy and tart flavors, and salty dishes!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A great bubbly, with crisp and zesty acidity. Tart cranberries and a nice creaminess. A great sparkling for the holidays, especially if serving food with it. Cheers!”-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

September Imported Wine: 2011 Luberri 'Orlegi' Tempranillo, Rioja, SPAIN

Owned by Florentino Martinez Monje, Luberri is located in Elciego in the heart of Rioja Alavesa. Florentino farms 35 hectars of old vines located principally between the villages of Elciego and La Guardia.

A farmer at heart, Florentino was the original winemaker at Artadi before establishing his own winery in 1992. Florentino is hands-on at the winery, working on all aspects of production, but his true love is working in the vineyards. All the plots are farmed with minimal treatment of the soils and vines. Vineyard sites are separately fermented and vinified. By keeping yields low Florentino extracts grapes with great concentration and flavor. Yields are around 34 to 45 hectoliters per hectars.

History of Tempranillo and its Relation to Luberri: Tempranillo is a variety of black grape widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano (“early”), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. Tempranillo has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of Phoenician settlements. It is the main grape used in Rioja (Luberri), and is often referred to as Spain’s most noble grape.

Grown early in the 20th century to produce jug wines in California, toward the end of the 20th century Tempranillo enjoyed a renaissance there and throughout the world as a fine wine. The grape has been planted in Mexico, New Zealand, South America, USA, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, Turkey, Canada, etc.  The grape is often blended with Grenache and Cariñena (known in Rioja as Mazuelo), Tempranillo is bottled either young or after several years of barrel aging. The grape often grows best at higher altitudes, giving the wine a ruby color, with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather, and herb.

Varietals: 100% Tempranillo

Alcohol: 13.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: “Vivid red. Floral- and spice-accented aromas of red fruits, rose and minerals; smells like a Dujac wine. Seductively perfumed in the mouth, with juicy raspberry and floral pastille flavors dominating. Shows impressive clarity and spiciness on the long, sweet finish. This is extremely easy to drink. “-90 Points, International Wine Cellar

Food Pairings: This Tempranillo is the perfect pairing with lasagna, pasta Bolognese, hearty meat dishes, or Mexican cuisine.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “This is an iconic area of Spain. I love Rioja! The Tempranillo truly shines here. Flavors are dry and savory, with nutty components as well. Loads of cedar and tobacco too. The wine is long and concentrated on the palate as well, with layers of complexity. This wine screams ‘RIOJA!’”-JL