Saturday, November 1, 2008

La Casa de las Vides Wine Tasting

How could I refuse? A representative of a relatively new winery in Spain was coming to the Boston area and wanted to showcase some of their wines, which are not yet available in the U.S., to a small group of wine bloggers. It was an opportunity which I relished, especially with my deep love for Spanish wines.

Emilio Saez van Erd is the Export Director for La Casa de las Vides, a Spanish winery located in Valencia. “La Casa de las Vides” translates as “The House of Vines.” Though this winery was established in 2005, it is built upon a winery that was constructed back in 1783 and called “La Bodega de La Finca El Galtero.” From 1955, Francisco Gandía‘s family has invested much time and effort into their vineyard, creating three estates “El Galtero,” “El Catalí” and “La Vega.” They are located in a valley that the Arabs named "Vall Blanca," for the white color of its lands and houses. The vineyards are located about 400-600 meters above sea level and the land is mainly white clay and limestone.

Their wine maker is the famed Ana Martin Orzain, who also consults for numerous other wineries in Spain. Their wine making philosophy is simple. “The most important element to good winemaking is to be consistent in your work ethic and to go beyond wavering trends. To achieve this goal, it is our belief that it is a gradual process, without fear of either the experience or the research. Finally, we feel it’s imperative to honor terroir, by using the elements of the land to fashion the highest quality wine possible, which distinctly expresses our terroir; whereby, making our wine unique onto themselves."

Valencia, which is close to the areas of Jumilla and Alicante, is an up and coming wine region that once used to be known mostly for the production of bulk wines. There are now a growing number of wineries trying to produce more quality wines. But, I rarely see any wines from this region available in local wine stores. But hopefully that will change if the wines of La Casa de las Vides are any indication of the quality of Valencian wines.

When Emilio announced online that he wished to visit Boston to show some of his wines, several people worked together to arrange this event. My friends Ryan and Gabriella of Catavino have worked with Emilio for some time, helping him with his website as well as other matters. They helped to facilitate and convey Emilio's needs for the event. Leslie of Uptown Uncorked assisted to organize the event as well as gather some of the attendees. Craig of Bin Ends helped by making this a Twitter Taste Live event by which people all over the world could learn and interact with the tasting. I also helped, finding a restaurant, Melissa's Main Street Bistro in Stoneham, where we could hold the event.

Emilio and La Casa de las Vides have been at the forefront of using the Internet and social media to help promote the winery. For example, they maintain a blog (which they update regularly), use Twitter, and post pictures on Flickr. As a small winery, they want a more direct connection to their potential customers, to maintain a closer intimacy. Their wines are not yet available in the U.S. and they are seeking a local distributor for their wines. Yet they would prefer a smaller distributor rather than some behemoth where their wines might get lost in the dozens of other Spanish wines in such a large distributor's portfolio.

Melissa's Main Street Bistro gave us our own private room for the tasting, and it was nicely set up in a rectangular shape, with different glasses for each of the four wines we would taste. The chef, Jason, also prepared an appetizer plate, like tapas, for all of the attendees. You can see the plate below and the plentiful food was delicious. My favorite were probably the spring rolls. Everyone else at the event enjoyed the food as well. The restaurant deserves kudoes for all of their hard work and I would recommend them to anyone seeking to have a private function. They were very accomodating and reasonably priced. Some of us also had dinner there as well.

We had a small group for this event, including some bloggers I already knew and some I just met for the first time. Dale of Drinks Are On Me was there, who I have seen a lot lately at local tastings, as well as Sharon of Bloviatrix and Jenny of Rollick Guides. It was a good group and we had a fun time.

As for the wines, we tasted four wines, a white, a rose, and two reds.

The 2007 Vallblanca takes its name from the valley where the vineyards are located. It is a blend containing about 60% Verdil, each parts Macabeo and Gewurtztraminer and a little portion from a couple other white grapes. Verdil is indigenous to Valencia and this is the first time that I have tasted a wine using that grape. Catavino has a prior article on this grape that is worth checking out. I felt the Vallblanca's nose really indicated the presence of Gewurtz with its spicy aromas with undercurrents of floral notes and a touch of citrus. As for the taste, I found the wine to be medium-bodied, dry, crisp and with an intriguing mix of pear, spice and mineral tastes. The spices were somewhat muted compared to a pure Gewurtz but definitely were noticeable. I very much liked the Vallblanca blend, especially considering it would only cost $10-11 a bottle. It is just unique enough to make it interesting, and the flavors should please. the only thing I did not like was that it was bottled in a blue Riesling-style bottle. I think that could be confusing to consumers who might except a Riesling, and I don't see much advantage to using such a bottle for the Vallblanca.

The 2007 Rosa Rosae is a blend of 50% Garnacha and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. This Rose had a nice, bright pink color with a subtle nose of raspberry and strawberry. This is clearly an Old World style Rose, more dry than fruity or sweet. It is very crisp with more restrained red fruit flavors, reminding me more of a Provence Rose. I very much enjoyed this wine as it is the type of Rose that I prefer. This wine is also an excellent value at only around $10-11. But, it too came in a Riesling style bottle which I don't think is necessary.

The 2007 Cup is a blend of Tempranillo and Syrah. The label presents a Latin look, using the "v" rather than "u" to make "CVP." The wine spends about four months in French and American oak. It is intended to be a wine for drinking now rather than letting it age in your cellar. It has a dark purple color to it and a rather spicy nose with elements of dark berries. That spice also comes forth prominently on the palate with ripe plum, licorice and vanilla flavors. It has a short, smoky finish and I think this wine would be best with food. At arounf $14, it is a good value.

The 2006 Aculius is a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah and also has a Latin look, including a replica Roman coin tied around the bottle's neck. The wine finishes malolactic fermentation in new French oak. It then ages with the lees for twelve months in the same wood. This was a very impressive wine, and my favorite of the night. The nose was enticing, with a lush, ripe dark berry smell with a touch of caramel. It was a silky smooth wine, with hedonistic fruit flavors as well as subtle spices that enhanced the overall taste. It has a pleasingly long finish and it something I could easily drink on its own or with food. At a cost of only $18-$20, this once again is an excellent value wine.

Value seems to be integral to the wines of La Casa de las Vides. These are wines with character at very reasonable prices. And with the current economic problems, these are the type of wines people will seek, inexpensive wines of value. I sincerely hope they find a local distributor so these wines become readily available in our area.

The winery is also working on a new label pattern for some of their wines. They hired a Spanish fashion designer, Juan Carlos, to create the labels. Emilio showed up some of the new labels and everyone seemed to like them. They present somewhat of an old Roman/Mediterranean look, and come in several different colors. They certainly stand out and would make it easier for consumers to detect all of the wines they make. Check out the new design and tell me what you think.

It was also a pleasure to meet and chat with Emilio. He was very personable, down to earth and knowledgeable. He also possessed that quality I truly treasure: Passion. I certainly wish him and the winery the best of luck, and am glad I was one of the first in the U.S. to have gotten a taste of his wines.

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