- 2018 La Sonriente Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain ($6.99 @Trader Joe’s in California)
- 2016 Beringer, The Waymaker, Red Wine, Paso Robles, CA ($10.99 @Costco in California – Item #1060501)
Happy new year to our readers and high QPR* wine enthusiasts! It’s winter (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) and in this first post of 2020, we’re featuring two heavier red wines that match the season without breaking the bank.
Here we go, headlong into a new year and a new decade:
Our Trader Joe’s Wine Pick:
I love the front label on this wine. But I am going to take issue with its back label, specifically where it states:
“The best vineyards of Calatayud are situated high up on the hillsides, where, despite the poor gravelly soil, (emphasis is mine) the vines produce the finest grapes possible in this arid and desolate region. “
Maybe something got lost in translation here, but stating that the vines produce good fruit “despite poor gravelly soil” is flat out wrong. Poor soil actually tends to produce the best fruit – for wine grapes, that is. Fertile soils that would be good for growing just about every other living plant, are actually not optimal for wine grapes. They’re good for table grapes, which are best when they are watery, plump and high in sugar. But wine grapes are best when less fertile soils force the vines to produce small berries – which concentrates flavors. Stress (in the form of inferior soils, and a scarcity of water) is actually a good predictor of superior wines.
Calatayud is a dynamic wine region in arid north-east Spain. Here two-thirds of all wine produced is from the grape Garnacha, the original name for the increasingly popular grape variety known as Grenache in France, the U.S. and elsewhere.
In Calatayud, vineyard yields rarely rise above 1 ton per acre. To put this into some perspective, fine wine grape vineyards here in California are typically managed to produce in the range of of 3-6 tons per acre. As a rule of thumb, the lower the yield of the vineyard, the better quality the juice, and the higher the cost of the resulting wine. But in this case, you can try an ultra low-yield wine, for just $6.99. We encourage you to do so!
So you may be wondering: where in the world is Calatayud?
This is a wine of considerable depth and finesse including intense aromas of sweet cherries and dark plums. There are distinct notes of white pepper and the fruit flavors are nicely balanced by the structure provided by the oak and tannins. It’s a versatile food wine, and would pair well with pasta, poultry, beef and game.
*QPR stands for Quality Price Ratio – our favorite measure of extreme wine value
Our Costco Wine Pick:
The Waymaker highlights the varietals (some common, some less so) that excel in Paso Robles, where red wines reign supreme. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot (three of the five Bordeaux varieties), Syrah, Mourvedre and Tannat. And what a delicious blend it is.
This 2016 Waymaker is a dark and brooding wine. There is a term for wines like this in the wine business: “fruit-driven.” This wine puts the dark fruit flavors front and center in a lovely blend that eschews sharp tannins and structure for deep and complex flavors of dark cherry, blueberry (thank you Syrah!), currant, plum, chocolate, vanilla and spices and some faint smokiness and light leather. It ends with a nice caramel latte finish.
The Beringer estate is one of my favorites in Napa. It provides a unique glimpse into Napa Valley’s past. Graced with stately 19th century architecture and verdant gardens, it is one of the most beautiful properties in California’s wine country. As the longest continuously operating winery in Napa, it’s also one of the most historic. The entire estate was designated a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.
If all these luscious descriptors and nods to the deep tradition of this winery aren’t enough to motivate you to try this wine, consider this: the current $10.99 Costco price is $5 off their usual price, and over half what you would pay elsewhere for this wine. That is, unless you encounter it on a wine list at a fine dining establishment. Then, all bets are off!
Best wishes to you all for the 2020 of your dreams!