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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bodegas Comenge

The moment I first saw the web site for Bodegas Comenge I knew I definitely wanted to visit there during my time in Ribeira Del Duero. Situated in the province of Valladolid between the sloping terrains of Curiel de Duero and Pesquera de duero, the winery and vineyards encompass a total area of thirty-four hectares (eighty-four acres).

I arrived in Curiel in early April and even though it was a few weeks into spring, the weather was still quite chilly and the vines were all dormant without any leaves. The best time to visit northern wine country in Spain is most likely late August or early September when there are actual grapes on the vines.

When we showed up to Comenge for our 12:30 tour they weren't quite ready to begin and wanted to wait a bit to see if anyone else would turn up. We were told to feel free to walk around the property in the meantime until they were ready to start. I took photos of the vineyards and the town as well as Castillo de Curiel and pretty much everything else in sight.

In front of the winery buildings is a little pond which is home to three white ducks and one very territorial grey goose. When my companion walked over to the pond to get a closer look the goose had come over and made a huge fuss. I started taking pictures and went around toward another side of the pond to get close enough (close being a relative term here) to take some video footage and ended up being chased and attacked by that crazy goose.

Fortunately our guide, Leonor, came out soon after to start the tour of the winery. We began beside one of the vineyards where she explained that Bodegas Comenge currently grows thirty-two hectares of Tempranillo grapes and two hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon which ultimately become their Crianza and Reserva.

Our next stop was in the tank area where the must (grape juice) is first fermented in stainless steel for thirty days and then moved to concrete to better control the temperature of the wine as it develops. From the concrete vats it then goes into oak barrels (French and American) for aging.

Of course there are many things that can ultimately affect what a wine will taste like once it is in the glass but one of the things I learned at Comenge was that the type of yeast used during fermentation (there are a number of possible kinds) is one of the key determining factors. (During this trip I also learned that the word roble means oak.)

From the fermentation area we moved on to the (very cold) room where all of the barrels are kept. I can still smell the faint odor of wood and wine every time I look at my photographs of the barrels. Here Leonor explained that after the initial aging period the wine will be returned to the concrete tanks and reblended before being returned to the barrel once again so that when put into bottles the wine will all taste the same.

After leaving the barrel cellar we moved on to the area where the wine is actually put into bottles. This was our last stop on the tour of the actual production area of the winery. From here we went into another dimly-lit cellar which houses the wine after it has been bottled. In this area we saw rows and rows of large wire-rack cubes stacked from floor to ceiling filled with thousands of bottles awaiting the moment when they would start their destination to someone's table where they would finally be opened and enjoyed.

Bodegas Comenge bottles two red wines and one white. The grapes for both of the red wines are grown on the estates in Ribeira Del Duero while the grapes for the white are grown on a separate property in Rueda because legal restrictions do not allow for the growing of Verdejo in Ribeira.

We concluded our tour in the winery's gift shop . From here we had to go back outside in order to get to another area that would lead us to the tasting room which was located upstairs in a sort of annex at the far end of the building.

The beautifully modern tasting room overlooks the vineyards on either side and has sliding doors which lead onto a small balcony.
Beyond the room are two other areas that serve for dining. I had expected to dine in the winery's restaurant but it did not appear to be open.

For our tasting session Leonor set out a dish of salami, one with shoe string potato sticks and another with a sort of tubular mini bread stick and the wines of course.

The first wine was the Comenge 2009 Verdejo (Rueda). I found it to be "green" on the nose with that vegetal character I usually do not like in a white wine. (I would soon learn why many people identify this aroma as grapefruit) However, I found it to be very pleasant on the palate with nice fruit and none of that green bell pepper essence I had been expecting based on the nose. It was mild with a creamy feel and subtle acidity.

The next wine we tried was the Crianza (100% Tempranillo). It had a nice, rich, toasty nose. I found it to be fruit forward with a long finish that really lingers. It seemed just a slight bit astringent, but not in an unpleasant way. There was some slight bitterness in back with notes of leather, spices and tobacco with very subtle tannins.

The third wine was the Don Miguel Reserva which even though it is labeled as all Tempranillo has about 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon. This one had a great sweetish nose that hinted of vanilla. There was a subtle sense of something sweet on the palate (maybe the vanilla I thought I could smell?) and something aromatic (possibly fennel?) It was a lot heavier bodied than the Crianza and I felt I should have been having some kind of food with it.

All too soon my visit to Bodegas Comenge came to an end.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A weekend of Wine

It was one of those weekends that was almost non-stop wine tasting. I started out on Thursday at Cork and Bottle for the Rodney Strong meet the winemaker tasting and then the next day I was at Swirl for the return of Free Fridays. Saturday afternoon I met some of the members of the wine meetup at Bacchanal for the first annual Rosé Festival.

What a weekend! Though, actually, I guess I could say I started the weekend on Wednesday since I was at Santa Fe for Cinco de Mayo. I had received a phone call from Carlos the day before asking for help finding music for that evening and made some calls around to the guys I knew (who are mostly Jazz musicians) and lucked out when my friend Detroit Brooks gave me the telephone number for guitarist John Bagnato. I put him in touch with Lale and they worked out the details.

I went by Wednesday night around 8:30 to see how things had turned out and the place was packed! John and Eduardo ended up playing an extra hour. I had a seafood quesadilla and a couple glasses of the Postales Sauvignon - Semillon white. That wine is so pleasant. It has just enough fruit forwardness for it to be social and it's "light" enough to be refreshing in the New Orleans heat and humidity without making you feel like you've been drinking.

Thursday, the Rodney Strong wines were not bad, not great, though I did like the '07 Pinot and the Symmetry Cab blend. Most of them had that toasty vanilla-ish thing going that we've been told is a result of the oak treatment. (More on those later.) I went into Clever after to maybe have a glass of wine after I was done, but the folks I was looking for had already left and there was music starting that didn't really appeal so I went out into the farmer's market. It was winding down by then but I managed to locate Dan Esses and get some fresh spinach pasta (that I almost ruined!) and putanesca.

I don't have a kitchen (still) and I don't know what I was thinking (insert laugh track here); I got home and put some of the pasta in a dish and poured some of the sauce on top and nuked it a bit before I realized I needed to cook the noodles. Of course it was fresh pasta, I got it from Dan! I had to scoop off the putanesca and rinse the noodles and then put them in a pyrex dish and microwave boil them. Surprisingly enough, I didn't ruin them. That sauce was really good too.

Friday at Swirl I got there after six and the tasting was already in full swing. I did manage to beat the crowd and get in all four tastes before the socializing took over but somehow I didn't record both of the reds and now I can't remember what the heck I had that night. (Details below on the ones I did record)

Saturday at Bacchanal turned out to be a blast. Up until now I would not say that I am a lover of rose, but that is because I still think of rosé as what I drank as a teenager. Even now some taste too much like Jolly Rancher candy but then there are others that are really light with floral notes or have almost the same characteristics of Red wines (which really should not be a surprise). Some reds seem to work better than others as rosés and of course climate and location and vinification all play a role. In the last year or two I have been discovering some wonderful rosé wines that I truly enjoy. There is such a vast world of wine and every new bottle is a new journey.

A few photos from Rosé Fest:

I can only hope the rose festival was as much of a success for Bacchanal owner Chris Rudge as it was a pleasure for those of us who attended. (I went back this past weekend for the Spanish whites tasting and purchased a bottle of the Saintsbury; too bad I didn't get two...) I'd had the Postales wines before so I didn't really make notes on them but they are listed below.

So here are the wines of the weekend in order of sampling:

'07 Reserve Chardonnay
Nose: Neutral
Palate: Fruit forward, note of vanila, bright acidity

'07 Reserve Pinot Noir
Nose: hint of dried cherries.
Palate: fruit forward (black cherry?), not too dry, subtle and warm with hint of (green?) tobacco on finish; kind of lingers.

'06 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Nose: fruity, toasty, hint of vanilla
Palate: fruit forward but quickly changes as it moves across; goes from vanilla to dry tobacco-esque to an interesting aromatic herbal quality. Mildly tannic, a little jammy; lingers.

'06 Symmetry Cabernet
79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 8% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
Fruit forward, hint of vanilla, slightly dry, pleasant and pretty good.

'06 Rockaway Cabernet
97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec
Nose: neutral
Palate: Oak? Sweetish Vanilla

Friday Swirl

Nose: petroleum jelly (slight)
Palate: Fruit forward, pleasant; subtle acidity, citrusy, bright.

Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon
Palate: light, refreshing, subtly fruity, perfect for summer.

Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec
Palate: (Didn't record anything)

Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah
Palate: kind of Sweet, toasty vanilla, nice enough

Bacchanal Ros

é Festival

Nick Selby/Uncorked

Dry, crisp

Gurruxtaga 2009
Txakoli Rose
Very light, sharp vegetal tones

Cuvee Les Trois Soeurs
Light, good, refreshing. Has subtle feel of a red.

Light, zesty, pretty pale pink, floral note, nice.

Sangiovese Rose
Light, notes of strawberry, very nice.

Gabe Daigle/Select Wines

Pinot Noir
Interesting; foamy & yeasty

Rosada de Malbec
Nice, light, dry, barely fruity. Drinks like a very light red.

Grenache 58%, Syrah 37%, Mouvedre 5%
Slightly dry, some fruit, drinks like a lightweight red

Pinot Noir
Dry, very much like a red, little green/tobacco; long finish

Mike Procido/Wines Unlimited

Rosado of Tempranillo and Garnacha
Pretty good.

Vin Gris of Pinot Noir
Light, lovely with a slight floral quality

Crios 2009
Not bad

Gris de Gris
Grenache gris & noir, Cinsault, Carignan & Mouvedre
Really nice!

George Brown/Vino Wholesale

Cotes De Provence
Absolutely lovely! Delicate and delicious!

Veilles Vignes Bourgogne
(Missed out on this one)

* Recommended

Coming soon... Wines and Food of Spain