“How to make good wine? Get no sleep is a good start. Allow Mother Nature to take its course as opposed to trying to be manipulative.” Fernando Oliveira – Azorean Lava Vineyards
Join me if you will on a trip back in time to an ancient and independent kingdom, a place called the Kingdom of Navarra (KON) or simply Navarra, in the country of Spain. The Kingdom of Navarra as it was referred to back in the day, was one of the Christian nations to emerge in northern Spain during the 17th century. In fact, Navarra has been at the crossroads of history for more than 1000 years. In the past, the wine world regarded it as the “kingdom of pink” because of the many Rosado or rosé wines produced from the abundant Garnacha grape, but that perception is rapidly changing, as producers are eager to embrace a new and robust identity for the region, rich red wines, with depth and substance.
If you’re not familiar with the region, Navarra is one of the most essential and yet relatively unknown areas of Spain. While it’s known for its beauty and diverse terroir, it offers garden variety vino-sapiens a feast for the eyes, as well as the senses and so much so for the palate as well! The wines are incredible, diverse and are home to two of thirteen Vino de Pago certified vineyards. The various vineyard sites can be found from the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains to the Ebro river in the North, squeezed in between Madrid and San Sebastian, home to Pamplona and at the base of the famous Camino de Santiago, Navarra.
Part one of our holiday gift guide is so full of gift ideas for food and wine lovers it wouldn’t all fit. Here’s part two.
From France we head to Northern Spain to the Navarra region, home to Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and many other varieties. They are wonderful wines you can easily choose as everyday wines at budget-friendly prices. The 2016 Bodegas Castillo de Monjardin La Cantera is 85% Garnacha with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This $12 wine is a great match for hearty stews or paella. The 2016 Nekeas El Chapparal de Vega Sindoa is 100% Garnacha aged five months in French oak. Garnet colored, it’s juicy and spicy on the palate and it sells for $14. Innurieta 2016 Mimao is also 100% Garnacha which spends seven months in French oak. Deep in color with loads of fruit on the palate, it has a very long finish and sells for $18. Finally from Javier Ochoa is the 2014 Crianza. This 100% Tempranillo is ruby red with red berries on the nose and ripe fruit in the mouth. It sells for $23.
From Vitis Sylvestris to Tempranillo & Garnacha in Spain’s Vinos D.O. Navarra
“The first records of winemaking in the region date back to ancient Roman times, but grapes were almost certainly thriving here long before that. Vines of the prehistoric Vitis sylvestris species – predecessor of the cherished Vitis vinifera – have recently been discovered still growing in Navarra. After the Romans, grape-growing continued under the Moors, and was then greatly expanded under Christian rule. Demand for wine was strengthened by Catholics making the pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago to the shrine (now a cathedral) in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, where tradition has it that the remains of the Apostle St. James are buried.”, Wine-searcher.com
Bodegas Ochoa Crianza 2014 ($23)
Javier Ochoa has been producing this 100% Tempranillo wine since 1987 from grapes sourced from their Santa Cruz estate. One year aging in American Oak plus some rounding in the bottles provides a medium bodied texture wit fresh sour cherries, dense dirt and chewy tannins.
Senorio de Sarria Crianza 2013 ($17)
This wine has the least amount of the Spanish noble grapes as it is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% each Graciano and Garnacha. The grapes were sourced from vineyards planted in limestone and marl near the town of Puente la Reina — “the crossroads of the ways” — a medieval town where the two main routes on the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela converge. After fermentation the blended wine was aged 12 months in American oak that shows oaked vanilla and spices along with a juicy and earthy character that finishes with smooth tannins.
Bodegas Nekeas El Chaparral Old Vine Garnacha 2016 ($14)
This winery is located in the sub-zone Valdizarbe and this 100% Garnacha comes from vines planted 70+ years ago. The hillside vineyard consists of porous marl and sandstone and benefits from large diurnal temperature swings – slowing growth and enhancing acidity. After fermentation the wine was aged five months in French oak providing some vanilla and spices to this bright, fruit forward wine.
Bodegas Castillo de Monjardin La Cantera 2016 ($12)
This estate was founded in 1988 and the Garnacha is sourced from 70 year old vines on the La Cantera vineyard. “La Canera” translates to “quarry” which describes the vineyard’s rocky and poor soil where vines must root deeply in order to produce even its low yields. Combined with 15% Sauvignon Blanc, the grapes are fermented in stainless steel then aged six months in French oak and 6 months in the bottle before release. This is a jammy wine, fill of bright dark fruit, noticeable tannins, and finishes very clean.
The northern Spanish wine region of Navarra is known for its beauty and diverse terrior, with vineyard filled with Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and beyond. This Garnacha is just another fine example from this region.
This wine is cold soak for eight days at 5°C to heighten its aromas and texture. It is then fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve its bright fruit flavors. Malolactic conversion and refining were performed in slightly used French oak barrels for seven months. This results in cohesiveness of the aromatic intensity, as well as finesse, elegance and freshness of this wine.
This Garnacha exhibits deep, lively, and intense color with floral and fruit aromas. Its highly attractive aromas meet you upon entry while the mouthfeel is lively. Its wonderful red cherry flavors are mature yet fresh. The finish is long-lasting, with minerality and bright fruit. This is very typical of fresh, ripe Garnacha from the Navarra region.
The wine notes state that this is “… a voluptuous wine, fresh, round, fruity and slightly spicy, it is the perfect companion to vegetables, meats, roasts and even lightly aged cow cheese.” It’s as good as it sounds! And, it’s a great value. Enjoy!
2016 El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa Old Vine Garnacha ($14)
This wine is from the Valley of Valdizarbe, D.O. Navarra, in Spain. One of Navarra’s most historical viticultural areas. The grapes are from vines planted over 80 years ago.
After the Garnacha grapes were lightly crushed, they were cold macerated before fermentation. It was then transferred to French oak barrels for malolactic conversion. Finally, it was aged five months in new French barrels.
This is a very delicate Garnacha with flavors of red cherry and raspberry. It’s light on the tannin with moderate acidity. A nice easy wine that you don’t want to overpower with bold foods. Enjoy this one all by itself or with light fare.
Yet another wine that fits the bill to be featured in Behind the Cork™ – Wine of the Week as a great value for such a nice wine. Enjoy!
Not at all what I was expecting – and in a good way. A lean, spice-laced nose gives way to an energetic texture full of bright, vivacious fruit integrated into the light-medium density structure. Surprisingly elegant given its vigor. Brief aging in French oak complements rather than masks the fruit flavors. Very extroverted. Even with glass in hand, I’m salivating thinking about my next sip. Very enjoyable indeed. What a screaming bargain on top of it all!
Entries were blind-tasted and judged by 63 internationally renowned tastemakers from six countries, including 20 Master Sommeliers, 18 Masters of Wine, and other category experts. Of these entries, the judges awarded 2,223 medals: 285 Gold medals (9% of total entries), 760 Silver medals (24%), and 1,178 Bronze medals (37%). Suggested retail pricing of medal-winning entries ranged from US $2.99 to over US $700.00. Vintages spanned eight decades, with the oldest being 1957.
Otazu, Premium Cuvée, DO Navarra , 2013, Gold
Más de Berceo, Tempranillo, DO Navarra , 2016, Gold
Quaderna Via, Be Bike, Garnacha Rose, DO Navarra , 2017, Bronze
Ochoa, Reserva Single Vineyard,2007
93 Wine & Spirits
Still youthful, this 2007 has plenty of freshness in its red fruit flavors. It’s juicy with vibrant acidity, showing some development in the complex spicy notes on the finish. A blend of 55percent tempranillo with cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this comes from the clay and limestone soils of Olite.
Otazu, Altar Red, 2008
92 Wine Spectator
Tobacco, cedar and sanguine notes frame a core of plum, dried cherry and mint flavors in this big red, which is round and deep, with firm tannins and balsamic acidity, a muscular wine that’s maturing well. Drink now through 2020. 750 cases made.
Inurrieta 2012 Altos de Inurrieta Reserva B1
92 Wine Enthusiast
Ripe berry aromas are backed by notes of licorice, raisin, fig and chocolate. This blend of Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Garnacha from a hot vintage is saturated in feel. Flavors of chocolate, burnt toast, blackberry and cassis are maintained across a deep finish; drink through 2021. Vinaio Imports. —M.S.
Finca Albret, Navarra La Viña de Mi Madre Reserva, 2012
91 Wine Spectator
Espresso and mocha notes frame ripe blackberry and plum flavors in this generous red. Well-integrated tannins support the thick texture, while citrusy acidity keeps the finish fresh. Big but balanced, in a modern style. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink now through 2026. 555 cases made.
Ripe black-fruit aromas include earthy notes and a hint of roasted meat. This is powerful on the palate, with popping acidity and hard tannins. A flavor profile comprised of cherry, plum and berry fruits finishes with oak-based notes of vanilla, mocha and baking spices. This is nowhere near its peak; drink through 2027.
Finca Albret, Navarra La Viña de Mi Madre Reserva, 2013
90 Wine Spectator
Baked blackberry aromas are creamy and saturated. On a full and jammy palate, this Caber- net Sauvignon (with a touch of Merlot) is edgy with tannins. Spicy blackberry, olive, herb and coffee fla- vors finish with an odd note of chicken fat as well as chocolate and oak-based toast notes.
Cool rooty aromas of cola and tree bark grace the nose on this ripe but still not fully mature Cabernet Sauvignon (with 5%Merlot). In the mouth, this is choppy due to sandpaper tannins. Flavors of sarsaparilla, pepper, and blackberry are dense and chewy, while the finish is bumpy and scraping due to aforementioned hard tannins. Drink or hold through2022.
Aromas of cherry, plum, forest floor and tobacco feed into a clampy palate with fresh acidity. Lightly spiced currant and red-plum flavors are limited in scope but nice, while this tastes herbal and feels tight and racy on the finish.
Dark berry aromas are calm and oaky. This blend of60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon feels full and blocky, although bold acidity helps. Minty, oaky flavors of plum, cassis, and tomato are salty and spicy, while this runs long on a finish that boasts a ripe-fruit base.
Finca Albret, Navarra Reserva, 2012
89 Wine Spectator
A thick texture carries ripe flavors of blackberry and currant in this chewy, rustic red, backed by muscular tannins and sweet-tart acidity. Licorice, loamy earth and espresso flavors add depth. Tempranillo and Merlot. Drink now through 2025. 1,022 cases made.
Finca Albret, Navarra Reserva, 2013
89 Wine Spectator
Raisiny berry aromas are jumpy and foxy as well. In the mouth, this feels dry like desiccated fruits. Black plum, oak and vanilla flavors finish flush and full but also tough and intense. Five years after harvest and this is no easy ride.
Ripe, raisiny, lightly baked aromas set up a full palate with tomatoey acidity. Flavors of baked plum and cherry are backed by notes of mocha, tobacco, vanilla, and herbs. A long, balanced, cedary finish helps this along. Drink now.
Bodega Otazu, Chardonnay Navarra, 2016
89 Wine Spectator
Apple and pear flavors mingle with toasted vanilla and smoky notes in this firm, lively white. Full-bodied, with racy acidity. Ginger and lemon accents keep this energetic. Drink now through 2020. 6,665 cases made.
Principe de Viana, Garnacha Rosado, 2016
88 Wine Spectator
This rosé has a deep color and a notable structure, with firm acidity and light tannins. Cherry, orange peel and leafy flavors give this character. A throwback, in a good way. Drink now. 24,000 cases made.
Principe de Viana, Navarra Edición Rosa, 2016
88 Wine Spectator
This rich rosé has a lovely texture, round and plush, delivering ripe fruit flavors of strawberry and watermelon, with vanilla and fresh herb notes. Drink now. 1,700 cases made.
Pago de Larrainzar, Navarra Reserva Especial, 2009
88 Wine Spectator
This firm red offers a core of black cherry and plum flavors framed by coffee, loamy earth, and licorice notes, a nice mix of fruity and savory. The tannins are a bit grippy, but the finish is clean. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Garnacha. Drink now through 2019. 1,500 cases made.
Bodega Otazu, Chardonnay Navarra, 2016
88 Wine Spectator
Bright, fresh and well-structured, this dry rosé offers cherry, red plum and vanilla flavors, supported by lively acidity and a touch of tannins. Has a bit of fruity sweetness. Drink now through 2019. 2,665 cases made.
Castillo de Monjardin, El Cerezo Unoaked Chardonnay, 2015