Wine of the Month
Note: Create joy, one sip at a time.
Featured Wine: Palacios Remondo La Montesa
Grape Variety: 92% Granacha 8% Tempranillo & Mazuelo
Production Zone: Alfaro, Spain (Rioja)
Vinification: Grapes are hand harvested, de-stemmed and crushed, maceration for 35 days
Aging: malolactic fermentation in stainless steel, then 12 months in French and American oak barrels
Filtration: unfiltered but fined with egg whites (sediment may be present)
Color: Light Cherry Red
Price: Around $20
We have hoodlums amongst us, yes, here in Flagstaff, AZ! I am talking about a gang of three. And they mean business. Don’t let their rosy snow chilled cheeks, bright eyes or even their small statures fool you; they are trouble.
It all started in the fall; I noticed three tiny bodies in my neighbor’s yard. They had somehow made it to the top of the very old, very elaborate, very precarious tree house. Armed with a stick, one was swinging and knocking out each screen, from each window. Then, when they saw me, they hunched down, tried to be quiet, as quiet as a kid can be when he is excited, scared and breaking rules. They proceeded to climb down, crouch in the tall grass, crawl, run, slither, until they got to a fence; and one by one, they took the fence and escaped. Since that windy fall day, I have spotted them all over the neighborhood, yes, up to no good. And now that the snow has surpassed our knees, they have found much more trouble to get into and are feeling more invisible than ever. Just the other day, I was walking my dog when I came upon them. Well, first, I saw a sled in the street; when I looked for the owner of the sled, I noticed the ring leader half way over a seven foot fence, while his co-conspirator was coaxing him on the other side, the third, she was on lookout. A few hours later, they were attempting to sled down snow covered boulders in our drainage ditch, with a six foot drop at the bottom; a true deathtrap.
Honestly, besides the wild animals, these kids are my biggest entertainment. They crack me up. They stir up memories of how, as a kid, I sincerely thought that crouching in tall grass would leave me unseen. Being young was being free, still in between reality and imaginary, still able to feel invisible. And as the snow is so deep, around four feet , there are only a few creatures willing to venture in many parts of our neighborhood, but, if you look around, you will see deer tracks as well as the tracks of six small booted feet. They are everywhere and nowhere at the same time; they’re a little invisible, a little wild and extra cute.
Sometimes, when I need a break from inside, I will sit outside on the deck, yes, it is cold, but, I need fresh air, I need outside, I need it, like we need air to breathe and so I bundle up, pour a glass of wine, and head for the deck. It is in these moments that I mostly set my sights on the hoodlums, always up to no good. I don’t know if it is the wine, the kids, or both, but they really cheer me up. It was my lucky day when I poured a glass of La Montesa and headed for my snowy seat on the deck, icicles hanging precariously over my head (I am such a daredevil); there they were, trespassing, yet again, right next door. They were bundled up, sleds in tow, looking for trouble; I smiled inside and out, then took a sip; I felt content. Not just because these kids stir up so many memories, but also because La Montesa tastes good. And wouldn’t you know it, Alvaro Palacios’ wine making techniques are rooted in the past, the organic practices and the bottling of unfiltered wine*, an ideal wine to reminisce with.
Palacios uses old world techniques to a point, but then, he went and kind of switched up the formula; the standard of wines out of Rioja involves a majority Tempranillo, he used 92% Granacha, with merely 8% Tempranillo and Mazuelo. The combination of grapes is by no means unusual, but, the balance is somewhat unique; and I like it. The Granacha gives this bold wine a misleading lightness in color; it makes for a nice surprise.
The nose starts out like a text book Granacha, with fruit and cinnamon; the minor amount of Tempranillo still makes its presence known with notes of cherry and clove. The Mazuelo shows its presence with a lovely bit of citrus. After you’ve taken in all there is to take in via the nose, dive in. You will be hit with the juicy fruitiness of the Granacha along with delightful accents of spice, citrus, toasty oak and vanilla; the finish is long and smooth with some easy acidity. It is a complex wine; three grapes, unfiltered, aging in oak, all contributing factors.
As I sat outside, sipping, note taking and shivering, inside, I had Pastitsio cooking in the oven. Yes, you can drink this wine without food, the tannins are gentle, as is the acidity, but, that same acidity made it so good with the Pastitsio; the creamy béchamel sauce, the sweet and acidic tomato sauce encapsulating the depth of the lamb and beef; what an excellent pairing. I went ahead and patted myself on the back for this one. If you aren’t in the mood for meat, make your Pastitsio with a meatless sauce. If it suits you, sip this wine all cozy on the couch, a fire blazing; maybe watch ‘The King of Staten Island’ or ‘Pretend It’s a City’, as long as you are able to watch while still appreciating your sips and bites. If you are somewhere warmer, set up a table outside; who knows, maybe you will discover that you too have local hoodlums.
We have been keeping fresh flowers in the house and because we never know when we will be snowed in again, our go to flowers, as they last the longest, are mums, alstroemeria, lilies and roses. It is my pleasure to create bouquets with lots of variety, but just lilies will do; either one bunch on the coffee table if you opt for a movie on the couch, or, a few ewers of lilies down the center of the table if al fresco is your choice.
Instead of music, you can listen to Sarah Silverman’s podcast, if she isn’t your cup of tea, maybe Howard Stern? Then again, maybe listen to something that will never, ever be gross (gross is my guilty pleasure); on that note, an apology is owed to you, my reader. A dear friend pointed out to me, regarding my last review, that the story I told was not for everyone; he went so far as to say, it didn’t necessarily make someone want to eat, drink or be merry. I’m sorry. Alas, I tend to be ‘that one’, the one who brings up topics no one wants to hear about while eating, not on purpose, but, yeah, for future reference, just in case, maybe don’t have me over for a dinner party that includes your boss.
*Many oenophiles have many opinions on filtering wine; many believe that filtering is a way to finesse the wine, to soften tannins, to remove bitterness, to enhance only the finest flavors, to increase longevity, to remove any cloudiness or any bacteria that can produce said cloudiness. And then there are others who believe that filtering can remove extra flavor that the sediment holds. There have been many a blind test, many inconclusive results. Either way, unfiltered is an old standard in wine making, as is using the egg whites to fine.