First Published Costa News Group, June 2010

Randall Wallace on his was West!

CALIFORNIA, THAT’S THE PLACE

YOU OUGHTA BE . . . . . . . .

 . . . . .  So they loaded up the trucks and went to, well El Paso Robles actually! Ah the Beverly Hillbillies, remember the series? Well it’s wine and not Black Gold or Texas Tea that have brought it back to my mind as I’ve been engaged recently in an interesting project – shipping Spanish wines to California!

 Californians Randy and Marianne Wallace have been living in Moraira for about four years but have now decided to return to their roots to set up an e-shopping business, Spanish Tienda, selling authentic, quality Spanish products to fellow Hispanofiles in the Golden State. I think they are onto a winner – all things Spanish are of great interest to American citizens, with Spanish now being the second language of the country.

 Randy and Marianne have been researching for some considerable time and have now left to tie up the loose ends, Stateside, and finally to launch this new enterprise. Pivotal to their business will be their Spanish wine list, short but well chosen initially, and no doubt building as time goes on. I’ve been acting as consultant and it’s my job to handle the Spanish wine side in their absence. As you can imagine we had to taste several wines!

 For the moment we have settled on two bodegas – well known to Cork Talk readers: Bodegas Dominio de la Vega and Bodegas Vicente Gandía Plá, which, coincidentally are quite close to each other inland from Valencia.

 Whilst the priority requirement was of course the good quality of the wines there are other factors that have to be considered too. Clearly the price point is crucial, there are many hidden expenses to add to the price of the actual wine – transport, of course, but also duty, tax, temperature controlled warehousing etc. However we have also been considering the style of wine and the grape varieties used.

 Like anyone else, Californians like to celebrate – and what better way to do just than by popping the cork of some top quality Cava. So Spanish sparklers had to be on the list, white and rosado. Also, whilst California is awash with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and, to a perhaps lesser extent, Merlot, they are often of a similar, big and oaky style. Spanish Tienda would like to offer the same varieties but with a difference.

 Clearly the super Spanish grape variety, Tempranillo, really should be showcased across the pond but also we believe it’s time to spread the word about Utiel-Requena’s jewel in the crown, the indigenous Bobal, whose soft and silky, fragrant red wines are quite unique.

 There’s also a place we believe for some Sauvignon Blanc based wine and why not one with the be-loved Chardonnay as well as super, aromatic Spanish Moscatel in the blend? We have one, and it’s lovely!

Let's Seal the Deal - with Wine, of course!

Having done the hunting and gathering it was time just before they left to invite Randy and Marianne to dinner to tasted the wines on trial to taste both without and with food – there’s no point in being anything other than rigorous in our selection, the success of the wine side of the business depends on it!

 Dominio de la Vega delivered a host of wines from which to choose – we started, naturally with the fizz. I’ve always been a great believer in their Brut cava, for the price I honestly believe you cannot find better. At a blind tasting you’d expect this wine to be at least 10-15 Euros, it retails for about 5! Their Brut Reserva with that elegant bottle, is justifiably touted as a cava with Champagne beating qualities and the excellent retail price tag of approximately 14 Euros – another way that it beats Champagne, hands down.

 Dominio de la Vega’s Pinot Noir Rosado Cava’s label speaks of what is to come – lovely pink flower petals on the nose with good Pinot fruit and the added value of finesse and elegance. A new wine to me, their Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay/Moscatel is such an aromatic wine that the heady perfume leaps from the bottle the moment the cork is pulled. On the palate it there is a fruit cocktail mix of gooseberry, pineapple, banana, peach and raisons – all derived from the varieties used, but also a refreshing acidity with floral and green notes too.

 In the same shaped bottle with the same label their 100% Bobal 2009, blew us all away (good American expression, huh?). It’s had six months in oak adding depth to the super, dark brambly fruit, slight caramel and violet notes. There’s a touch of cinnamon with added spice of sweet paprika and even a passing fragrance of creamy Danish pastry!

 Their Madurado en Barrica 2008 is made with Bobal, Cabernet and Syrah and has dark plum skin and blackcurrant on the nose and a rounded integrated oak note from it’s four months in French wood. We opted for the 2006 Crianza, Bobal Cabernet and Syrah again, but with more time in oak. It’s a developing wine that will last – not that we expect it to stay on the shop shelves for long! Finally the 2004 Reserva swaps Syrah for Tempranillo and is a super example of why it is so good living in Spain!

 Bodegas Vicente Gandía Plá offered us their full, new Fina del Mar range. These 2009 vintage wines are incredibly well priced. The Tempranillo is deep and dark coloured with tinned strawberries joining hands with blackberry fruit and a touch of oak. The Merlot has black pepper and floral notes and the Blackcurrant and Green Peppered Cabernet Sauvignon is perfectly approachable for such a young wine – a virtue emanating from fruit picked at optimum ripeness. Their Chardonnay is light, easy drinking and will contrat well with the blockbusters of California!

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