Selections for October 2016

A Great No-Name Place . . . More beautifully honored

2015 LAS CAPAS TINTO – Aniñon, Calatayud, Spain

I’m losing count, but I think I have visited this dusty little pueblo 4 times in the past 10 years.  Even one visit would be considered excessive by the more critical, were they to take a cursory glance at the place:

“Why would you want to go THERE?”  

How do I list the reasons? 

I want to go here because no other gringo does.

Because it has super old Garnacha vines, many grown above 3,000 feet. 

Because these super old Garnacha vines produce but one measly ton per acre, promising more intensity of flavor instead.  

Because each old farmer (often younger than his vines) working just five or so acres can’t afford a winery of his own, so he and his neighbors co-own a downtown cooperativa and pool their resources. 

Because mono-agriculture is resisted here; many of these farmers also grow the biggest cherries you’ve ever seen, as well as peaches, almonds, and olives – and they all head for the cooperativa and the wealth is shared according to contribution. 

Because this is one of hundreds of eternally-shrinking pueblos, with the children leaving more often than staying, heading off to more exciting times and careers in Madrid or Barcelona. 

Because hundreds and hundreds of years ago the Moors, once conquered and forcibly converted (and re-named “Morizcos”) built the Catholic church here, imposing their own Mudejar architectural style.  Because that church – like all great churches – looks heavy and imposing on the outside and light, airy, and colorful within. 

Because I have smoked three cigarettes here over the past decade; the only place I’ve done so. 

Because, while there are few businesses in Aniñon a very nice lady owns and bakes for her panadería the best cookies you’ll probably never get to eat. 

Because even in this rustic situation Spain’s reverence for Gin & Tonics is faithfully expressed.

Because, like that lady, people are simply genuine here. 

Because the wine, as selected and imported by one agent and called “Figaro,” is darn good juice. 

Because another importer has finally found this backwater village, recognized the potential for better wine, and put it in the bottle before you.

Las Capas is imported by Hand-Picked Selections.  Proprietor Dan Kravitz himself visited Aniñon and obsessively tasted through a myriad of blend concepts to finally arrive at what you’re given here.  I visited the cooperativa a mere half year after this accomplishment and was shown his work.  I came back to the U.S. to discover that Las Capas does not come to California and, for love of place and its delicious product, I worked harder on getting you this wine than I usually would.  To justify the cross-country shipment we had to speak for more cases than your club needs, leaving us with an excess of goodness.  Anyone careful enough to read this knows what’s next:  If you like this, please come in and buy a lot more.

Frankly, I think we’ve found you the ultimate crowd pleaser.  This blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, and (interestingly) the white Macabeo is extremely fragrant with cherry jam, underbrush, white pepper, thyme, and tobacco.  The palate gushes with youthful fruit generosity AND provides enough tannic grip to inspire a barbecue. 

I have a dream.  I want to go to Aniñon to make you my own wine someday, and to eat all the cookies I can before being politely asked to leave (which would sound pretty cool in Spanish).

The Case for Barbera

2014 MARCHESI di BAROLO ‘Maraia’ – Barbera del Monferrato, Piemonte, Italy

This varietal causes quite the misunderstanding. 

The “casual” California consumer walking in and requesting Barbera must be sat down and questioned about his or her real expectations.  I’m making some of that up, but we do in fact reply to their request with a request of our own, “Can you let us know whose Barberas you’ve enjoyed?”

More often than not, this customer’s experience of the grape consists of visits to Sierra Foothill (or perhaps Lodi) wineries, where Barbera plops into their glass with a purple-black color and indulges with rich, ripe fruit.  If there is the slightest tinge of lemon-y acidity it isn’t noticed or it’s quickly forgiven; all those blackberries and black cherries serve as pacifiers.

This Barbera is NOT what that customer is requesting.  It is NOT a cocktail wine but a great advocate for eating with your wine.  It is the real deal from the grape’s home country:  Piemonte, Italy.  It is meant to enliven the palate, to inspire hunger and creative cooking.  If some wines indulge, others refresh.  This is the latter.  This Barbera, to the purist and the eater of good food, is the real thing.

We hope you get it!