Albariño: The Audacious

Far away from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, the art and architecture of cosmopolitan Barcelona, and the sun-soaked beaches of Valencia, there lies the small wine region of Rías Baixas tucked away in the northwestern corner of Spain. Known as “Green Spain”, this hilly area located in the autonomous community of Galicia shares very little in common with the dry, desert-like conditions of the rest of the country.  The climate is decidedly maritime, and rainfall (and humidity) is plentiful here.  Historically, the area is closely tied to the culture of the early Gallic people who settled here.  Today traces of this distinct culture are still observed in the fair skin of the population, the native Gallego language which is still widely spoken, the regional seafood-dominated cuisine, and the traditional dress, music, and dances of the region.  This uniqueness is also evident in the fascinating and delicious wines of the region, especially its distinct native treasure, Albariño.

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Tradition dictates that the ancestor of the modern Albariño vine was brought to the region in the 12th century by Cistercian monks of the wealthy Cluny Abbey located in Saône-et-Loire, France (an area in Burgundy).  Although the translation of the name Albariño (“white of the Rhine”) seems to support this tradition, today many ampelographers believe the vine may be indigenous to the region due to its prolific presence in the wild growing along the trunks of poplar trees and there being no genetic evidence of parentage by vine species north of the Pyrenees.  

Wine production in Galicia and Rías Baixas is well over 90% white and, of that, about 92% is Albariño.  The humidity of the region can be problematic for producing healthy grapes, so several viticultural practices have evolved to allow the grapes to have maximum exposure to sunlight and maximum circulation of air to prevent mildew and ensure even ripening.  The vines are traditionally widely spaced and trained on granite pergolas with a wire trellis called a parra.  The workers often stand on grape bins to harvest the high hanging fruit.  Low yields and temperature-controlled winemaking have revolutionized the style of wines produced in the region in the past several decades.

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Albariño wines display a very unique and exuberant aromatic and flavor profile.  Generally the wines are dry with high acidity and a light body.   There is a very strong botanical element to these wines, which can border on that of many aromatic varietals such as Petit Manseng or Viognier.   The botanical aromas and flavors, along with those of rich stone fruits, citrus, tropical fruits, and the characteristic touch of saline sea spray are characteristic of these beautiful wines, which are perfectly suited to the fresh seafood cuisine of the region. 

A wonderful example of Albariño is produced by the Marqués de Cáceres winery of Rioja legend.  They call their 100% Albariño wine Deusa Nai (“mother goddess”) in honor of the goddess of fertility who was highly worshipped by the early Gallic habitants of the region.  Cristina Forner, owener of Marqués de Cáceres, says that they seek to transfer the magic of this ancient myth and the romance of the Rías Baixas region to this wine.  The crafting of this wine from vineyard to bottle is exceptionally artisanal.  The grapes come from the the O Rosal area (one of three main sub-regions in Rías Baixas) where the undulating, granitic vineyards are very close the ocean.  The harvest is 100% by hand, and the fermentation and less maturation are done in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to maximum the vivacity and freshness of the varietal.  The resulting wine is a pale golden color with a distinct mineral character emanating from the terroir.  Characteristic notes of ocean minerals and sea spray intertwine with deep floral and citrus tones.  Stone fruits, such as pear, white peach, and nectarine, further convey the unmistakable character of the grape.  It is truly a white wine of pedigree and distinction. 

When pairing Albariño with food, the first clue is the native cuisine of the Galician region.  This wine simply sings with fresh, simple preparations of high quality seafood.  Fresh white crab, mixed shellfish platters, ceviche, simple grilled fish, and sushi and sashimi immediately come to mind for the younger wines that emphasize the fruit and freshness of the varietal.  More mature examples with perhaps some oak influence are excellent partners for richer dishes such as seafood stews or scallops.  In pairing Albariño wines, do as the Spanish do and consider them “the Manzanilla sherries of the North”, as both wines contain distinctive ocean notes and pair so seamlessly with seafood.  And don’t forget this fruity, vivacious wine as a wonderful aperitif before dinner!

Albariño is truly a special, distinctive grape grown in a special, distinctive place.  It has the broad appeal of favorite mainstays such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio but with a certain uniqueness of place that really distinguishes it from all others.  And people are starting to catch on.  Albariño has enjoyed a surge in popularity in the US for the past two decades.  This popularity has now taken the grape to vineyards in California in the regions of Los Carneros, Napa, and the Edna Valley and even to Oregon and Washington.  In the end, however, the truest expression of Albariño will always come from its ancestral home in Green Spain.

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Port Cocktails

Port is a fortified wine, produced in the mountainous eastern reaches of the Douro Valley of Portugal. Arguably the most famous fortified wine with a rich history, Port is experiencing something of a resurgence.

Curious about port? Maybe a little hesitant to try it? Try a port cocktail! We’ve rounded up a few recipes that are perfect for port first timers and those well-versed in the wine.

With all of these recipes, we highly recommend Warre's Ports. Founded in 1670, Warre & Co. is the oldest and one of the most highly esteemed port shipping firms in the world.


PORT OF CALL
The Clover Club in New York City makes a delicious cocktail combining the bright, acidic notes of cranberry and lemon with the rich, warm flavors of port and cinnamon. Perfect for the upcoming season, this cocktail has all the holiday flavors you know and love with a unique twist.
Ingredients:
1 oz gin
1 oz Ruby Port
¾ oz lemon juice
½ oz cinnamon syrup (can be made by simmering some simple syrup with cinnamon sticks or bark)
1 spoonful of cranberry preserves
Instructions:
Shake and strain into a glass over crushed ice and garnish with a blackberry, a raspberry, and a mint sprig.

Recipe & Photo: GQ Magazine

Recipe & Photo: GQ Magazine


MANHATTAN
Port can also be used in some of your favorite, best-known cocktails, like a Manhattan. Use tawny port instead of sweet vermouth and orange bitters rather than Angostura and you have a fantastic seasonal cocktail- no pumpkin spice in sight.
Ingredients:
2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce port
2 dashes orange bitters
Instructions: 
Stir all ingredients with cracked ice until cold.  Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange twist.

Image: Port Cocktails, Recipe: Cocktail Enthusiast

Image: Port Cocktails, Recipe: Cocktail Enthusiast


WHITE PORT & TONIC
Gin and tonics are a perennial favorite, but if you're looking for a new classic, try a white port and tonic. Popular in Portugal, white port adds a different flavor that pairs nicely with either a lemon or lime twist. 
Ingredients: 
1 ½ ounces white port
3 ounces tonic water
Wedge of lime or lemon
Instructions:
Fill a tumbler with ice. Add white port and top with tonic. Stir briefly. Depending on your taste, squeeze a wedge of either lime or lemon over the drink and drop into the glass

Photo & Recipe: New York Times Cooking

Photo & Recipe: New York Times Cooking


THE ROBERT FROST COCKTAIL
Created for one of the Obamas' White House holiday parties, this aromatic cocktail also uses white port.
Ingredients:
3/4 ounce bourbon
3/4 ounce dry amontillado sherry
3/4 ounce white port
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 dash orange bitters
Instructions:
1.    Combine ingredients and shake with ice.
2.   Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
3.   Garnish with thinly sliced orange and lemon wheels.

Photo: OhSoBeautifulPaper Recipe: Punch Drink

Photo: OhSoBeautifulPaper Recipe: Punch Drink


Do you have any favorite port cocktails? Have you tried any of the above? Let us know!

Iberian Focus Month

All of October we’ll be spotlighting the Vineyard Brands portfolio of wines of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain and Portugal have a storied history- from famous kings and queens like Isabella and Ferdinand to landmarks like the Sagrada Familia. The wine of the peninsula is as rich as its culture and just as varied.

Photo: Business Media Mags

Photo: Business Media Mags

The Rioja region in northern Spain is one of the most celebrated wine-growing regions in the world. With mountains and rivers, provides a unique terroir for the production of a variety of wines. You can read more about Rioja here

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Marques de Caceres is one of the leading wineries of Rioja. The Forners, an enterprising family devoted to the wine trade for five generations brought the Bordeaux concept to Rioja, revolutionizing the production and business model.

Marques de Caceres has one objective: the quality to obtain the best wines.

 

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Further south you’ll find Warre & Co.- the oldest and one of the most highly esteemed port shipping firms in the world. Founded in 1670,  Warre’s has established itself as one of the most forward thinking Port producers, balancing its long tradition with total dedication to premium quality and successful innovation. 

 

 

This month we’ll be featuring recipes and pairings, winery history and insight into what makes Iberian wines so special. Stay tuned to the blog and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Wine Down

Fresh off the Emmys we've been thinking more about what wines our favorite TV characters drink. 

More and more it seems wine is synonymous with strong female characters on TV shows. While Sex and the City made the cosmo famous, the 21st century has ushered in a new generation of wine drinkers. 

We know we aren’t the only ones who see a glass of wine on TV (or during a Netflix binge) and feel inspired to drink like the character. We’ve rounded up a few wine lovers from our favorite shows and wines inspired by their taste and personality.

Image: Buzzfeed

Image: Buzzfeed

Alicia Florrick
In the Good Wife Alicia faces on challenge after another, but through it all she keeps a steady hand while pouring a glass of red wine. A lawyer with a life as complex as the cases she faced, Alicia would enjoy a bottle of Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir- not overly fruity with hints of savory primal character.


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Claire Underwood
First lady turned Vice President Claire Underwood is cunning and plays by her own rules. No doubt she would appreciate MAAL winemaker Alfredo Merlo’s desire to produce “unique, elegant, and intense Malbec wines.” Claire would be right at home drinking a glass of bestial or rebellion.


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 Skylar White
Few characters that grace our TV screens have been through more than Breaking Bad’s Walter White’s long-suffering wife Skylar White. While much changes over the course of the show, one things doesn’t- Skylar’s love for white wine. Pour yourself a glass of Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo or Cono Sur Bicicleta Sauvignon Blanc and cheers to the fact YOUR significant other isn’t cooking up meth.


Image: DailyMail

Image: DailyMail

Cersei Lannister
Plotting, scheming, and downright dangerous, Cersei casually enjoys a glass of wine while blowing up part of a city. So if you too have similarly large plans (though hopefully less destructive) and are looking for the right wine to pair with said plans, pour of glass of Gradis’ciutta Merlot- the intense bouquet, dry taste, and slightly bitter taste will have you thinking of Cersei to the last drop.


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Blair Waldorf
Queen B of the Upper East Side knows the best way to celebrate any success- whether personal or professional- is with a glass of bubbly. Treat yourself like our fabulously wealthy heroine and toast your latest success with a glass of the incomparable Champagne Salon or Champagne Delamotte

#WineforGood: MAN Family Vitners

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”- Nelson Mandela

Mandela Day is celebrated internationally every year on July 18. The day celebrates Madiba’s (Nelson Mandela’s clan name) life and legacy by promoting acts of service and positive community change. Nelson Mandela fought for social justice for 67 years, so Mandela Day asks for individuals to start with 67 minutes.

South African winery MAN Family Vitners, located in Stellenbosch, knows the importance of giving back to the community.

Like the saying goes, “charity starts at home,” so last year, MAN decided to devote their #67 minutes to one specific charity in the immediate community.  Just down the road from MAN offices in Jonkershoek is Akkerland pre-school.

Akkerland pre-school, or crèche, cares for two age groups: babies and toddlers up to three years old, and ages 3-6.

July is South Africa’s coldest month, so much of MAN’s work for Mandela Day was centered on ensuring the preschool was prepared for the cold weather. Everyone from the farm workers at MAN to the office staff came together to serve the preschool in a variety of ways—from buying carpets to cover the floors to donating educational toys and books to buying warm blankets and clothing.

While volunteering at the preschool, one of MAN’s employees, Maia Bezuidenhout, noticed two young brothers, Imbo (2 years old) and Sohiso (5 years old). These two brothers, raised by a sickly single mother, were especially unprepared for the cold weather. So Maia went to the mall to buy them a few pairs of warm clothing and shoes. A few months after Mandela Day, Maia ran into Imbo, Sohiso, and their mother. The boys’ mother had not forgotten and was so grateful for the help.

This year MAN visited Akkerland in June to prepare for and see how they could best serve on Mandela Day. There, they learned Imbo and Sohiso’s mother had passed away and they were being raised by an aunt far away. While not every story has a happy ending, and while often an act of service might feel like only a drop in the bucket, the smallest devotion of time and the smallest act of service can truly make a difference and have a ripple effect. 

This Mandela Day, MAN again spent time at Akkerland, fixing cots, preparing the school for winter, and making sure they had supplies, from nappies to blankets. But MAN’s relationship with the preschool doesn’t stop after 67 minutes or even after a day. The team plans to make monthly visits to the preschool to spend time with the children, to take them to lunch, and perhaps to focus on specific families in need (inspired by Imbo and Sohiso).

MAN sees the importance of giving back to the community, keenly aware of the overwhelming needs of the underprivileged and underserved in the community.
MAN believes in promoting change and constant progress.
MAN is #WineforGood.

Vineyard Dogs

National Dog Day was August 26. In celebration we're sharing some of our favorite vineyard dogs. After all, dogs are traditionally man's (and woman's!) best friend, and we like to think wine is too. 


Tablas Creek: Located just west of Paso Robles in California's beautiful Central Coast, Tablas Creek farms organically and received their organic certification in 2003. Much of the vineyard uses Biodynamic techniques, including a herd of sheep, alpacas and donkeys. These friendly dogs try to keep their other four legged friends in line, as well as welcome visitors to the vineyard. 

Domaine Alain Gras:  over 12 hectares, primarily located in St. Romain, Domaine Alain Gras produces beautiful whites and reds. 

Alain and his two dogs

Alain and his two dogs

Ernesto Catena Vineyards: Fourth generation winemaker Ernesto Catena founded Ernesto Catena Vineyards in Argentina to truly make art. Both the farm and vineyard are biodynamic, allowing for plenty of friendly farm animals and dogs. 

Hamilton Russell Vineyards: Hamilton Russell Vineyards is known for making some of the best wines South Africa has to offer. Owners Olive and Anthony also have some of the best dogs South Africa has to offer. 

Chamonix: Deep in the wine growing region of Franschhoek in the Western Cape of South Africa, Chamonix makes well-respected wines. Winemaker Thinus Neethling has a beautiful dog that makes an appearance at the vineyard from time to time. 

Drink & Know Things

In the hit HBO show “Game of Thrones,” Tyrion Lannister uttered a line that spawned a thousand memes (and tshirts, Instagram bios, and catchphrases). “I drink and I know things.” Rarely is there an episode where the clever Hand of the Queen doesn’t have a glass of wine in his hand.

This got us thinking. How many other characters are fans of a glass or two of vino? And how can you drink like your favorite character?

Photo: The Telegraph

Photo: The Telegraph

First up, the one and only Tyrion Lannister.
Game of Thrones films in a variety of exotic locations including Croatia, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Morocco, and Malta just to name a few. This current season Tyrion finds himself in the fictional Dragonstone, filmed on location in Spain. So to drink like Tyrion, grab yourself a glass of Spanish red. Our favorites Spanish producer is Marqués de CáceresYou can't go wrong with any of their wines. Tyrion may prefer red, but Marqués de Cáceres makes a delicious white and rosé in addition to their red offerings. 


 

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

Olivia Pope
Like Tyrion, Olivia is a fan of a generous glass of red wine. From her white wardrobe to clean lines and classic style, our white-hat wearing protagonist is a fan of classic and quality. She isn’t drinking two buck chuck. Complex like her character (and the storylines woven by Shonda Rhimes!), Olivia would be one to pour a glass of TriguedinaThe New Black Wine.


Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

Hannibal Lector
Unlike our previous characters, Hannibal Lector is not a protagonist in any sense of the word. (And yes, Hannibal is also a TV character!) He is famed for enjoying Chianti. So if you’d like to emulate any part ofHannibal Lector, let it only be his taste in wine. A glass of Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico would hit the spot quite nicely.


 

Now most TV characters drink red because it looks better on camera (no pesky condensation to deal with like a chilled white wine!) But one of our favorite television characters knows that a crisp, cool white is worth the extra filming hassle.

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

Tami Taylor
When you think football you likely think beer, but our favorite football coach’s wife Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights knows wine is an excellent choice. She wasn’t afraid to make her love of wine known. A bottle like Mohua Sauvignon Blanc or Famille Perrin La Vieille Ferme Blanc would endear you to Mrs. Taylor forever.


So as Tyrion says, drink and know things. Just be sure you're drinking Vineyard Brands. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will You Accept This Rioja?

If you’re a fan of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise or been active on social media this week, you might have seen that current bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, along with her three remaining suitors, recently took a trip to Spanish wine country.

It’s hard to imagine a more romantic setting than rolling hills, medieval villages, and rich vineyards.

Located in northern Spain, Rioja is an easy driving distance from popular cities like Madrid, Bilbao, and San Sebastian.

The Rioja region is one of the greatest wine growing areas in the world. But don't be confused, non-Spanish speakers!  Although at first glance “rioja” looks similar to the Spanish word for red- rojo- the region produces a variety of wines including whites, reds, and even rosés.

The region has been producing wines for over 200 years, but still isn’t as well known to many consumers as other regions. So if you’re more familiar with French wine than Spanish, the Rioja region is often compared to the Bordeaux region of France. High quality wines at a variety of taste and price points abound.

Rioja has the most acreage under vines of any wine region in the world- over 140,000 acres of vines yielding 250 million liters of wine annually.

There are over 500 wineries in the region—ranging from small, more traditional cellars to large commercial producers. 

If Rachel’s quest for love has led you on a quest for love of your own, let us introduce you to a winery sure to win your heart (and your tastebuds)-Marqués de Cáceres.  The story of this winery is practically made for TV (just like the Bachelorette).

The Forner family fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Finding refuge in France, Henri Forner and his brother Elysée bought and restored two antiquated and abandoned châteaux. These two châteaux are now recognized as two of the finest properties in Bordeaux.

Once returning to Spain, Henri decided to establish a bodega of his own in Cenicero, in Rioja Alta. In gently rolling hills and bordered by the Ebro River, Marqués de Cáceres is the perfect setting for a storybook romance…is it really any surprise the Bachelorette chose Rioja?

Drawing on his experiences in Bordeaux, Henri Forner introduced the estate-bottling used in Bordeaux—limiting his source of grapes to those in the immediate area. French winemaking techniques and expertise have been applied to native Spanish grapes, producing one of the finest modern Riojas.

Marqués de Cáceres has stayed in the Forner family ever since. Henri’s daughter Cristina is at the helm and leading the winery to new heights and acclaim.

Curious to try the wine for yourself? 

Pick up a bottle and fall in love. Will you accept this rioja? We know we do!