Featured Monthly Tasting:

and New Gems from Greece,
Portugal, Italy and California

January 2008


Map of SpainThis month’s Featured Monthly Tasting focuses on the wines of Spain, with a heavy concentration of wines from smaller and lesser-known regions. Most wine drinkers associate Spanish wine with the regions of Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat, but these are only three of the country’s 60 official DO’s [Denominacion de Origen]. Because wines from the other 57 DO’s are less known and in lower demand, many are an exceptional value, such as Bodega Virgen de la Sierra Yasa 2006 Tinto Calatayud [$9, 90 points], Tres Ojos 2006 Old Vines Garnacha Tinto Calatayud [$9, 90 points],  and Finca Sobreno 2005 Crianza Toro [$17,  89 points]. I-WineReview also discovered a number of wines of exceptional quality such as: Agustin Cubero Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2006 Calatayud [92 points], Bodegas del Muni Corpus del Muni Lucia Seleccion 2004 Castilla  [92 points], and Pago de Carraovejas 2004 Reserva Ribera del Duero [92 points].

The Spanish wines reviewed this month come from the portfolios of importers Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd., and Bodega Bodega Selections. Kysela was founded in 1994 by the dynamic Fran Kysela and has rapidly grown, both in sales and reputation. As this month’s tasting showed, a Kysela selection is of consistently good value, true to type, and fruit-driven. He purchases finished wines and does not intervene in the winemaking process. More information on Kysela is available at www.kysela.com. (French selections from Kysela’s portfolio are reviewed in February’s Featured Monthly Tasting.)

Bodega Bodega Selections is a new venture started in 2007 by passionate Dutch importer Murk Lels, whose deep knowledge of Spanish wine comes from years of living, working and traveling in Spain. Bodega Bodega Selections specializes in Spain, especially its lesser known regions where excellent values are most likely to be found. Spanish Wines Tasted

Greece ···································································

Flag of GreeceThe International Wine Review had the opportunity to taste some of the portfolio of Dionysos Imports. Greek wines are still largely unknown to the U.S. wine drinking public, because of limited distribution and labels that are virtually incomprehensible to most U.S. consumers. However there are some terrific-tasting wines coming from Greece reviewed here, and we wholeheartedly recommend them. Stay tuned for an in-depth report on Greek wines later this year. Greek Wines Tasted

Portugal ·································································

Flag of Portugal
The i-WineReview is continually impressed by the high quality of the red table wines produced throughout Portugal. The three bottlings reviewed here are from the major wine-producing regions of Dão and Alentejo and are exemplary of the exciting wines from the native Touriga Nacional grape. Portugese Wines Tasted

Italy ········································································

Flag of Italy
Our selections from Italy come from the Mazzei family who have been making wines of distinction in Tuscany for centuries. The three wines reviewed this month are from their  Belguardo estate in Maremma and showcase Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and other vinifera blends. Later this year, the i-WineReview will publish an in-depth report on the wines of Chianti Classico. Italian Wines Tasted

California ································································

Flag of California
This month i-WineReview begins a regular series on the new vintages and releases from selected California producers. This month, the focus is on Spann Vineyards in Sonoma County. We have closely followed the progress of this small family winery over the past couple of years and are favorably impressed with their new releases, particularly a couple of new white blends. Californian Wines Tasted

DO Rias Baixas
DO Bierzo
DO Ribera del Duero
DO Rueda
DO Toro
DO Rioja
DO Calatayud
DO Navarra
DO Jumilla
DO Cava
Castilla-La Mancha

Spainish Wines

Map of SpainSpain is divided into regions called comunidades autonomas. Except for Cava, the country’s 60 Denominaciones de Origen (DO’s) are located within the boundaries of these 17 regions. The Spanish wines evaluated in this month’s report are listed according to DO. Wines made outside DO boundaries or that do not comply with DO regulations are called either Vino de Mesa [Table Wine} or Vino de la Tierra.

DO Rias Baixas

The Rias Baixas DO is located in the Galicia region of northern Spain. Over 90 percent of its production is white wine, mainly from the Albariņo grape. Torrontes and Godello are other white varieties grown in the region and permitted under DO regulations. The young white wines from this DO often feature acidity and freshness.

Adegas Valmiñor 2006 Albariño Rias Baixas LabelAdegas Valmiñor 2006 Albariño Rias Baixas ($17) 89

Bright lemon yellow color. Displays a honeyed nose of pear and melon. Brisk, with bold acidity on the attack accompanied by a dash of petillance and zest. Stony minerality and lemon-citrus flavors dominate. Long, very dry finish. Great wine for shrimp sautéed with garlic and lemon zest.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd.

Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes 2006 Albariño Rias Baixas ($20) 88

Owned by Juan Gil, the Palacio de Fefinanes was the first producer to bottle wine under the DO Rias Baixas. This Albariño is medium straw-yellow color with a fresh floral gardenia nose. Attacks soft and round with good citrus fruit intensity and a touch of petillance. Finishes dry.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

DO Bierzo

The Bierzo DO is situated in the northwest corner of the Castilla y Leon Region. The dominant native grape varieties are Mencia for reds and Godello and Doña Blanca for premium whites. The bulk of the vineyards are planted on alluvial soils situated on slopes and terraces from 500-600 meters.

Orellan 2006 Godello Bierzo LabelOrellan 2006 Godello Bierzo ($18) 88

100 percent Godello grapes cold-fermented in stainless steel. Straw gold color and aromas of very ripe tropical fruit, mango and anise. Tropical fruit follows through on the palate along with good acidity. Finishes crisp.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

DO Ribera del Duero

The Ribera del Duero DO is one of the most successful wine-producing regions in Spain. It boasts many outstanding wines made from the Tempranillo (or Tinto Fino) grape, by far the dominant grape. There are currently more than 230 wineries in the DO. For an in-depth view of Ribera del Duero, see the i-WineReview’s report #8 The Wines of Ribera del Duero.

Convento Oreja 2005 Roble Ribera del Duero ($24) 87

100 percent Tempranillo aged 4 months in French and American oak. Medium ruby color with youthful, bright black cherry aromas. Exhibits a very fruit forward style with a soft attack, low acidity and a soft finish. A successful, albeit commercially styled, wine for easy and early drinking. A great party wine.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Convento Oreja 2004 Crianza Ribera del Duero ($27) 85

Dark ruby color with black and red fruit aromas. Has a soft attack, spicy mid-palate, and somewhat drying tannins.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Ebano 6 2005 Crianza Ribera del Duero ($18) 88

Spends 4 months in French oak. Dark ruby color with a ripe, concentrated black cherry aroma accented by wood spice. Round and soft on the medium bodied palate, with sweet plum and rich black cherry flavors dominating. Very approachable now.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Ebano 2004 Crianza Ribera del Duero ($36) 87

Dark ruby opaque color with a concentrated, ripe nose of vanilla and red and black currant. Attacks softly with nice black cherry and wood spice flavors Somewhat light on the mid-palate but finishes with ripe, soft tannins.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Pago de Carraovejas 2005 Crianza Ribera del Duero ($57) 90

Pago de Carraovejas LabelModern, elegant. 85 percent Tempranillo, 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 percent Merlot from a single vineyard. Aged 12 months in French and American oak. Ruby, opaque. Mushroom, huckleberry, kirsch and coconut vanilla aromas. Lovely, lush rich textured attack of concentrated violet. Although somewhat light on the mid-palate and finish compared to the 2004 vintage, it is a delicious wine.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Pago de Carraovejas 2004 Reserva Ribera del Duero ($80) 93

Opaque ruby color with a lovely nose of licorice and black fruits. Reveals a soft, lush attack of spicy oak and blackberry flavors. This is a beautifully balanced, complex, and elegant wine showing ripe, rounded tannins on the lingering finish.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Vina Buena 2006 Tinto Joven Ribera del Duero ($11) 87

100 percent Tempranillo. Medium ruby color with ripe plum aromas. Quite pretty on the palate with perfumed, light plum flavors and soft, easy round tannins. For easy drinking now.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

DO Rueda

The Rueda DO is best known for its white wines produced from the native Verdejo grape, Sauvignon Blanc and Viura. The best examples are fruit rich with freshness and crisp acidity vinified in stainless steel vats, using cold fermentation, inert gas and other reductive winemaking techniques. The Verdejo grape exhibits a distinctive gooseberry aroma.

Hijos de Alberto Gutierrez 2005 Cascarela Rueda ($10) 87

50 percent Verdejo and 50 percent Viura. Pale lemon yellow color and an almond and floral bouquet with citrus notes. Has a nicely balanced, soft attack and a steely character on the palate with hint of almonds.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

Bodegas de Crianza de Castilla la Vieja 2006 Palacio de Bornos Rueda ($13) 87

Green tinted straw color. Floral and somewhat pungent gooseberry, lime-citrus aromas. Attacks crisply with good acidity, clean citrus flavors, and a dash of minerality. Shows a hint of sweetness on the finish.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

DO Toro

The Toro DO is located directly west of the Rueda DO with most vineyards situated at 600-750 meters. The most widely planted grape is Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo), which produces powerful blockbuster red wines full of extract, flavor and grip.

Finca Sobreno 2005 Crianza Toro LabelFinca Sobreno 2005 Crianza Toro ($17) 89

100 percent Tinta de Toro from 30-year-old vines planted at very low density. The wine is aged in American oak for 7 months. Ruby opaque color with ripe red and black plum aromas. Ripe and lush in the mouth with delicious plum fruit and generous oak on the mid-palate and finishing with nice gripping tannins.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Bodegas Ramon Ramos 2005 Monte Toro Joven Toro ($10) 87

Medium to light ruby color with strawberry marmalade and plum nose. Soft, fruit forward attack of uncomplicated red plum and strawberry flavors. Nicely balanced and easy drinking in a fruity style.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

Bodegas Ramon Ramos 2004 Monte Toro Roble Toro ($15) 89

100 percent Tinto de Toro aged in American and French oak for 5 months. Opaque dark ruby in appearance with a bouquet of concentrated black fruit and a touch of violet. Very soft, velvety mouthfeel of nicely extracted blackberry fruit. Has a lovely soft finish of ripe, round tannins.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

Bodegas Ramon Ramos 2006 Monte Toro Malvasia Zamora ($10) 86

Light gold straw color with floral and tropical aromas. Shows a very soft, sweet attack of honeydew melon and a light mid-palate. Finishes dry.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

DO Rioja

Rioja is Spain’s most famous DO and produces some of Spain’s best Tempranillo-based wines. Winemaking in the DO varies from the traditional to the ultra-modern. Rioja wines range from barrel-fermented whites with spicy oaky hints to venerable and elegant gran reservas with depth of raisiny fruit and complexity. The International Wine Review will undertake an in-depth assessment of Rioja wines in 2008.

Bodega Valsacro 2004 Dioro Rioja ($55) 90

This winery located just outside the Rioja DO boundaries produces both DO and Table Wines [Vino de Mesa]. From an excellent vintage, the 2004 Dioro is a blend of 40 percent Tempranillo, 40 percent Garnacha and 10 percent Graciano. Aged in new French oak for 12-14 months, it displays a dark ruby color with dark smoky plum aromas and a touch of sandalwood. Lush and ripe, it has a very soft attack, light mid-palate, and a flavorful, fruity long finish.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Bodega Valsacro Razon 2005 Table Wine ($13) 86

Made from old vine Garnacha grapes 70+ years old and aged in American and French oak for 6 months. Extra ripe grapes are left on the vine after the main harvest and then harvested by hand when they are partially hydrated. This vineyard is located just outside the Rioja DO boundaries and only allowed to put Table Wine [Vino de Mesa] on the label. The wine is medium ruby in color with a nose of cherry kirsch. This is a soft, easy drinking wine of medium body and a fairly short finish.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Bodega Valsacro Razon 2006 Table Wine ($13) 87

Also, medium ruby in color. More complicated than the 2005 with a bouquet of sweet, ripe plum and strawberry in a light vanilla veneer. Sweet oak and medium plum flavors show on palate.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

DO Calatayud

The DO of Calatayud is located in the Valley of the Ebro River in the western part of the region of Aragon. The vineyards are situated on the stony soils of the southern slopes of the Sierra de la Virgen mountain. Garnacha is the mainstay of production accounting for over 65 percent of total vineyard acreage. Wines made from low-yielding old-vine Garnacha are especially noteworthy.

Agustin Cubero Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2006 Calatayud ($9) 92

Agustin Cubero Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2006 Calatayud Label100 percent Old Vine Garnacha. Opaque ruby color with a complex bouquet of licorice, black fruits, allspice and Asian spice. Has a lovely, elegant attack that reveals pure, concentrated dark fruit flavors of black cherry, exotic spices and smoke. Beautifully balanced with a long finish. A truly exceptional value.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

Agustin Cubero Syrah 2006 Calatayud ($9) 88

Black opaque ruby color showing aromas of spice and inky, black fruits accompanied by licorice and herbal notes. Has a velvet soft attack with perfumed flavors of violets, pepper and blueberry- accented black fruit. Densely textured with assertive tannins on the finish. Great value.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

Agustin Cubero Tinto 2006 Calatayud ($8) 89

75 percent Garnacha, 25 percent Tempranillo. Medium dark ruby color with ripe, rich red fruit aromas of plum and cherry. Sweet, nicely concentrated fruit and oak on the palate. Smoothly textured and well balanced. Another incredible value.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

Bodega Nino Jesus Tinto Figaro 2006 Tinto Calatayud ($9) 87

Made at the Bodega Nino Jesus cooperative owned by some 150 grape growers. This 100 percent Garnacha is medium ruby in color, revealing fruity red plum aromas accented by vanilla coming from a short stay in oak barrels. Has a soft sweet attack of raspberry and very ripe plum fruit with a touch of vanilla spice. Although not very complicated, this is an honest, pleasing wine, and a good value, too.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Bodega Virgen de la Sierra Yasa 2006 Tinto Calatayud ($9) 90

100 percent Garnacha from 40-year-old vines. Dark ruby color with aromas of spicy dark plum and herb spice. Attacks soft and velvety with a tasty mélange of dark red fruits. Very flavorful, nicely balanced, and an exceptional value.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Bodega Virgen de la Sierra Yasa 2006 Old Vines Macabeo Calatayud ($12) 90

From low yield bush vines 50+ years old planted in vineyards as high as 1000 meters above sea level. Medium lemon gold color with fruit forward aromas of apple, peach and melon and a hint of almond. Soft and round on the palate with honeyed, tropical ripe flavors and good acidity. Match with sautéed chicken breasts and shaved almonds.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Tres Ojos 2006 Old Vines Garnacha Tinto Calatayud LabelTres Ojos 2006 Old Vines Garnacha Tinto Calatayud ($9) 90

Tres Ojos is produced at the Bodega San Gregorio, a cooperative located in the Ribota River Valley. It is named for the three arches of a local viaduct in the valley which is the origin of the 92 percent Garnacha (40+ years old) and 8 percent Tempranillo in this wine. Medium dark ruby color, the Old Vines Garnacha Tinto is aged 12 months in large steel vats. It has a rich, fruity nose of red plums and spice and reveals ripe tannins and dark plum fruit on the soft, nicely textured palate. A well-balanced wine with a long finish, and a truly excellent buy.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Tres Ojos 2006 Rosado Calatayud ($9) 87

This 50 percent Garnacha, 50 percent Tempranillo Rosado is light cherry color with a fresh, ripe strawberry confiture nose. Shows bright strawberry and cranberry fruit on the palate and finishes long. It is delicious when served well-chilled.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

DO Navarra

The Navarra DO lies close to both France and to the Atlantic ocean. Traditionally famous for its rose wines, Navarra has in recent years begun to produce high quality and innovative red wines from Garnacha (Grenache), Tempranillo and other red grapes, which today represent 75 percent of total production.

Flamarique 2003 Crianza LabelFlamarique 2005 Garnacha Viejas Cepas ($9) 87

From 45-year-old Garnacha vines and aged 4 months in American oak. Medium dark ruby color with scents of perfumed red plum and oak. Has an almost spritzy attack of medium red fruit. Highly quaffable and competitive with other Spanish wines in this price category.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

Flamarique 2003 Crianza ($12) 89

50 percent Tempranillo, 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot aged 12 months in American oak. Medium ruby-garnet color with a butterscotch vanilla nose. Has an attractive cigar box, mushroom and leather character with good underlying red plum fruit. Nicely balanced, complex wine with ripe tannins and a good mid-palate, followed by a long finish of oak and plum fruit.

Importer: Bodega Bodega Selections

DO Jumilla

The Jumilla DO is located in the Castilla-La Mancha region. It is adjacent to the region of Murcilla on the east and is close to Spain’s Mediterranean coastline. Surprisingly, Jumilla was never attacked by the phylloxera virus in the 19th century, so its vines were never grafted onto American root stock. However, phylloxera finally did hit in 1989, leading to a massive replanting of vineyards with native grape varieties, especially Monastrell, which represents 85 percent of all plantings in Jumilla.

Bodega Torre Castillo 2006 Monastrell Jumilla ($13) 88

100 percent Monastrell from dry farmed, ungrafted vines and aged 4 months in new American oak. Medium dark ruby color with a rich nose of ripe red and black fruit. Rich, ripe and elegant on the well-balanced palate, showing sweet black raspberry flavors and sweet vanillan notes. Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

DO Cava

The Cava DO is unique in that it refers to a style of wine-making instead of a specific wine region. Indeed, producers who use the methode champenoise required for Cava DO status are located in eight different regions of Spain, although 95 percent of the country’s cava is produced in Penedes in Spain’s Catalonia region. Three principal grape varieties are mainly used to produce cava: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada.

Cava Privat (Carmenet Winery) Laieta 2007 Cava Reserva Brut Nature LabelCava Privat (Carmenet Winery) Laieta 2007 Cava Reserva Brut Nature ($ 35) 89

Carmenet is an atypical cava producer in that it uses Chardonnay and Pinot Noir rather than the traditional Spanish varietals to make its cava. The Laieta is pale gold with a rose tint. Has a medium bead and aromas of minerals and green pears. On the palate, the Laieta is tart, crisp and spritzy with a lush, full mouth feel. The finish is medium long with a sweet fruit note.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Castilla-La Mancha

Located to the south and southeast of Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha is one of the 17 autonomous regions that constitute Spain. It includes 17 distinct DO’s, including Jumilla and La Mancha. In addition, in 1999 the region created a new category of wines called “Vino de la Tierra de Castilla” that includes wineries that lie outside the established DO’s but within the boundaries of Castilla-La Mancha. One must be careful not to confuse this category with “Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon” that refers to wines originating in the entirely different region of Castilla y Leon.

Bodegas del Muni Corpus del Muni Viña Lucia Seleccion 2004 Tierra de Castilla ($18) 92

Bodegas del Muni Corpus del Muni Viña Lucia Seleccion 2004 Tierra de Castilla LabelBodegas Muni is a small family winery located in Villatobas, Toledo, just south of Madrid. It was established in 2001 by the Perea Contreras family and has the good fortune of owning some 17 hectares of old vine parcels averaging 70+ years. The winery currently produces two high quality wines.

100 percent Tempranillo from the Viña Lucia vineyard located in the comarca [county] of La Mancha, aged 12 months in American and French oak. Opaque ruby-rimmed color showing a concentrated, meaty nose. Very soft, velvety, balanced and concentrated on the nicely-structured palate, showing black fruits and earth. This superb wine is better than when we first tasted it back in April 2007 and will improve still further with a little bottle age.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Bodegas del Muni Corpus del Muni 2005 Roble Tierra de Castilla ($14) 89

75 percent Tempranillo, 20 percent Syrah and 5 percent Garnacha from vines averaging 70 years old and aged in French and American oak. Dark ruby, almost opaque in color displaying a sweet cola and herbal nose. On the palate, cola, black cherry, coconut and sweet vanilla flavors compete for attention. This is a real crowd pleaser and has improved with bottle age.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Casas de Benitz 2006 Tempranillo Vino de la Tierra de Castilla ($10) 85

Medium ruby. Bright cherry aromas, carbonic maceration. Soft, vanilla and strawberry flavors with sweet oak highlights. Should probably be served chilled.

Importer: Spanish Vines, Inc. Columbia, SC

Greek Wines

Map of Greece Showing Land Utilization Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at AustinThe ancient Greeks were renowned winemakers, and in recent years the modern Greeks are making giant strides to reclaim that fame. Vineyards are now located throughout Greece, especially in Peloponnesos in the south, Macedonia in the north, and the Aegean Islands located between Greece and Turkey. The grapes used to make wine are predominantly traditional Greek varietals, but French ones are also increasingly used. The principal white grapes include Assyrtiko, Moscophilero and Rhoditis. The principal Greek red grapes include Agiorgitiko (also called St. George) and Xinomavro.

The following are Greek wines from the portfolio of Dionysos Imports, Lorton, VA.

Ktima Argyros 2005 Canava White Santorini ($25) 89

The Argyros winery, located on the island of Santorini, was established in 1903 and includes vineyards well over 100 years old. The Canava White is a blend of Greek varietals. It is medium-straw color with aromas of lime peel and jasmine. It sports citrus flavors and a rich, honeyed, somewhat nutty character complemented by good minerality and acidity. It could be mistaken for a high acid Meursault.

Strofilia 2006 Averoff Rose Attica ($15) 89

Strofilia is a modern winery with vineyards located throughout Greece. The Averoff Rose comes from vines located in Attica, a peninsula jutting into the Aegean Sea. This strawberry jam colored wine is made from the Agiorgitiko grape. Touches of cinnamon and strawberry are present in the nose, and the palate is soft with strawberry flavors and earth notes and good acidity.

Fragou 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon Peloponnese ($16) 92

The grapes for this deep, dark garnet Cabernet Sauvignon come from the harsh, rocky area of the southern Peloponnese. Herbal and mint notes are present in the bouquet. Lush, dark fruit erupts on the palate with touches of loam and spicy oak. Ripe, soft tannins complement the long finish. Impressive and great value.

Amethystos Lazaridis Red Macedonia LabelAmethystos 2006 Lazaridis White Macedonia ($18) 88

Amethystos is a modern winery located in the Drama prefecture of Macedonia. The Lazaridis White is a blend of Greek (Assyrtiko) and French (Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon) varietals. Yellow-green straw in color, this clean, crisp wine has aromas of lime and grass. It’s slightly spritzy on the palate with gooseberry and citrus fruit flavors and brisk acidity.

Amethystos 2005 Lazaridis Red Macedonia ($23) 89

The Lazaridis Red is also a blend of Greek (Limnio) and French (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) varietals aged one year in 225 liter oak barrels. Dark red garnet color with vanilla and dark cherry aromas. The attack is soft and lush with concentrated, dark plum fruit and vanilla and mocha notes.

Foundi 2004 Naoussa Red Macedonia ($12) 91

The Foundi Estate is located in the hills of Naoussa in the Macedonian village of Strantza. This estate puts the emphasis on producing terroir-driven wines using traditional winemaking. The Naoussa Red is made from the Xinomavro grape, the predominant grape variety in Macedonia, and is medium-garnet in color with an earthy, herbal nose. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied with spicy blackberry, herb and leather flavors finishing with firm tannins.

Protopapas 2004 Syrah Macedonia ($10) 89

Aged one year in French oak and cellared for 1-2 years in bottle, this estate-grown medium bodied Syrah offers up aromas of dark plum and spicy oak. Lovely, cedar-toned plum fruit shows on the rich, vibrant palate.

Aivalis 2005 Nemea Red Peloponnese ($19) 90

Made from 40-year-old vines of Agiorgitiko grapes, this dark ruby artisanal wine offers up aromas of dark fruit and vanilla spice. Dark fruit and assertive tannins characterize the palate.

Aivalis 2005 Nemea Monopati Peloponnese ($35) 92

Also made from Agiorgitiko, and aged 14 months in American and French oak. The dark garnet colored, single vineyard Nemea Monopati serves up a heady mélange of chocolate, tobacco, and rich vanillan oak on the nose. A modern, internationally styled wine, the dense, almost brooding, palate shows rich chocolate and dark cherry flavors.

Papantonis 2004 Agiorgitiko Meden Agan Peloponnese BottlePapantonis 2004 Agiorgitiko Meden Agan Peloponnese ($19) 91

Located in the viticultural region of Nemea, Papantonis is a small winery with a 27 acre vineyard in Malandreni. The medium bodied, dark ruby red Meden Agan is made from 100 percent Agiorgitiko that offers a nose of spicy plum, black cherry, and cigar box aromas. Harmonious and round in the mouth, this nicely balanced and complete wine finishes long and flavorful.

Papantonis 2006 Metron Ariston Roditis Chardonnay Peloponnese ($14) 89

A blend of 60 percent Roditis and 40 percent Chardonnay, white peach, honey, and vanilla aromas give way to a sweet, creamy attack of moderate acidity, lively fruit and a touch of spritz. It finishes clean and dry with a citrus note.

Tselepos 2006 Mantinia Dry White Peloponnese ($15) 89

Made from Moschofilero grapes grown on the cool, 700-meter high Mantinia Plateau in the Peloponnese. Medium yellow-gold color with a pink hue, the Mantinia Dry White has perfumed aromas of ripe peach, lychee and flowers. It has good acidity, a dry, mineral attack and a nice long finish. Traditionally served with Greek salads.

Tselepos NV Amalia Brut Sparkling ($19) 88

A very aromatic methode champenoise sparkling wine made from 100 percent Moschofilero grapes showing peach, tangerine, and honeysuckle on the nose. While the palate is dry, the attack is slightly honeyed and fruity. Finishes nicely with a touch of sweetness.

Tselepos 2005 Nemea Driopi Peloponnese ($20) 91

Made from 100 percent Agiorgitiko. Very polished, dark ruby color with cigar box aromas. It’s warm and soft on the palate, beautifully balanced with rich flavors of dark cherry, vanilla, loam and chocolate. Among the best reds we tasted.

Manousakis 2006 Roussanne Crete ($29) 90

Yellow-green straw color with aromas of melons and roses. The approach is soft and very flavorful with a rich, fat mouth feel from the extended lees contact and oak aging. Has a long finish too.

Portuguese Wines

Quinta dos Roques 2005 Touriga Nacional Dão BottleQuinta dos Roques 2005 Touriga Nacional Dão ($ 35 ) 90

Opaque ruby purple color showing an attractive nose of dense, dark fruit with aromatic violet and loam notes. Has a silky smooth and nicely balanced palate of blackberry fruit and mocha and finishes with gripping, ripe tannins. One of the more impressive new releases of Touriga Nacional we have tasted from Portugual.

Importer: Wineworth Importers and Distributors, Bellevue, WA

Terrenus 2004 Reserva Alentejo ($NA ) 88

From 80-year-old Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, and Grand Noir vines in the Serra de S. Mamede that spend 14 months in new French oak. Opaque dark ruby-garnet color with aromas of, dark berry fruit and a touch of creosote. Loam, spicy oak and ripe blackberries, with moderate tannins show on the palate.

Herdade dos Grous 2005 Reserva Alentejo ($ 50) 92

A blend of Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, and Syrah from vineyards located near the tiny village of Albernoa in the Beja district. Aged for 12 months in new French oak. Opaque ruby color with pure ripe, concentrated aromas of ripe blackberries, cassis fruit and mocha notes. Exhibits a soft, ripe attack and is round, elegant, and beautifully integrated on the palate. An impressive, very modern styled wine with good grip on the long finish.

Importer: Barterhouse Imports, New York

Italian Wines


The Mazzei family began development of the Belguardo estate in Maremma, Tuscany in the 1990s. The estate comprises more than 200 acres; vineyards are planted with carefully selected varieties and clones of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other vinifera.
The three selections reviewed here are both 100 percent Sangiovese and Super Tuscan in style.

Mazzei 2004 “Serrata” Maremma Toscana ($22) 88

This medium-bodied blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot displays a ruby color with aromas of ripe red plum fruit and spice. It offers a soft attack with mouthfilling fruit flavors, rounded tannins and a firm finish. It is ready to drink now and is delicious.

Mazzei 2002 Poggio Bronzone Morellino di Scansano DOC ($30) 90

Mazzei 2003 Tenuta Belguardo Maremma Toscana Label100 percent Sangiovese; 14 months in oak. Dark garnet. Very ripe nose of blackberry fruit, black olive, leather, earth. Very concentrated, mouth filling, long lasting.with a licorice note and gripping, ripe tannins on the finish.

Importer: Palm Bay International

Mazzei 2003 Tenuta Belguardo Maremma Toscana ($60) 92

70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Sangiovese, aged 18 months in oak. Opaque purple color. with ripe, dense, inky, extracted black fruit on the nose. Explodes on the palate with blackberry, fruit flavors Modern in style. with big tannins on finish. Blockbuster.

Importer: Palm Bay International


Spann Vineyards

Spann Vineyards is a relatively new winery owned and operated by Peter and Betsy Spann. Their vineyards are located in the Mayacamas Mountains and are situated on a steeply terraced mountainside. The Spanns dry farm their vineyards and strive for low yields, in some cases as little as one ton per acre. All of the Spann wines are handcrafted in very small quantities using both New and Old World winemaking techniques (foot crushing, blending, destemming). This is our second look at Spann wines (see April 2007 Monthly Tasting Report) and we think this winery is on its way to becoming an innovative producer of high quality food-friendly California-style wines. Both whites and reds are showing well. The winery website is www.spannvineyards.com

Spann Vineyards NV Betsy's Backacher “Bottle Blond” North Coast ($15) 91

This is a terrific-tasting blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Viognier. Medium gold in color with floral and honeyed aromas and an attack of buttery tropical fruit. Very ripe. Mouth filling. Delicious sweet flavors. Finishes dry with almond notes. Quite unique. Match with Indian curry.

Spann Vineyards 2006 Chardonnay-Viognier Sonoma County ($20) 89

This blend of 59 percent Chardonnay and 41 percent Viognier displays a medium lemon gold color with aromas of apricots, crème brulee and butterscotch. On the palate it offers mango and other fruit flavors and minerals with a dry lingering finish and good crisp acidity.

Spann Vineyards NV Betsy's Backacher Blend North Coast ($15) 89

A multi-vintage blend of Merlot, Carignane, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. Dark ruby in color and exhibiting plum and cherry aromas. Fleshy on the palate with flavors of black cherry and notes of warm, sweet vanilla oak, the wine has a pleasant finish with round ripe tannins.

Spann Vineyards 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Twenty-Three Barrels Sonoma County ($32) 88

Spending 20 months in old and new oak, this dark ruby bottling offers aromas of black currants, wood spice and mint. On the palate it displays light-bodied fruit flavors and a somewhat light and slightly dry finish.

Spann Vineyards 2004 Mo Jo labelSpann Vineyards 2004 Mo Jo Sonoma County ($40) 90

The Mo Jo is our favorite in this vintage; last year it was Mo Zin. The Mo Jo is a delicious blend of 46 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 23 percent Merlot, 20 percent Sangiovese, 8 percent Syrah and 3 percent Cabernet Franc. It exhibits a medium ruby color with black cherry and vanilla aromas and a soft round attack with a full medley of red fruit and oriental spices. Enticing and complex with excellent balance and a long lasting finish.

Spann Vineyards 2005 Mo Zin Sonoma County ($20) 88

Mo Zin is an intriguing juicy Rhone-style blend of Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Carignane and Petite Sirah. Dark ruby in color, it offers ripe plum aromas and oak spice on the nose with ripe red and black currant fruit on a slightly bitter attack. Long lasting finish with grip.

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