Bodegas Castano Hecula 2013

W Hecula 2013Monastrell (Mourvedre) from Yecla, Murcia, Spain

An Eric Solomon Selection

100% mourvedre (monastrell)

14.0% alcohol

Purchased: 12 November 2017  –  $10.99

Opened: 3 March 2018

els:  9.0/10

Wine Advocate:  91

Guia Penin:  88

Cellar Tracker:  87

The Murcia Region of Spain, located in the Segura River basin in the southeastern part of the country with the Beltic Mountains in the central west, the coastal Mediterranean plain to the southwest and the central high plateau to the north and east. Yecla, 45 miles northwest of the Mediterranean coast, is a small Denominación de Origen (DO — Designation of Origin in English) food and wine region in the northeastern corner of the Murcia Region which takes it name from the eponymous small town of 35,000 people. Yecla enjoys a mixed Mediterranean-continental climate; dry with rare freezes and large swings in the daily temperatures. It is mainly noted for its Monastrell wines and is entirely surrounded by the other notable Monastrell regions of Jumilla, Almansa and Alicante.

The DO classification is Spain’s second highest, DOC being the highest, in terms of quality for wines and food. In 2003 Spain added the DO Pago designation applicable only to single estate wines.  A classification that allows wineries some latitude in production and grape usage, slightly mimicking Italy’s Super Tuscan designation.  Currently there are 2 DOCs (Rioja and Priorat), 69 DOs and 14 DO Pagos in the country.

Yecla vineyards, dating back to the seafaring Phoenicians, are mainly planted in red grapes with Mourvedre vines being the most common. Syrah, Grenacha, Merlot, and Petit Verdot are also grown but in lesser amounts. Currently there are about 26,600 acres of vineyards in the Yecla area with approximately 75% of that existing under the DO designation. This constitutes only 1% of the total grape acreage planted in all of Spain. The Yecla wineries produce upwards to 9,000,000 liters of wine per year, of which 95% is exported out of the country.

Mourvedre is the 9th most planted grape in the world, by acreage, and is the 6th most common in Spain. It is one of the primary grapes for GSM blends, Grenacha and Syrah being the other 2, and is only occasionally bottled as a single grape wine. Spanish wine makers also use this grape, along with others, such as Grenacha and Tempranillo, for making sparkling roses or cava roses. It is a black-skinned variety that is believed to have originated in Spain but is now found throughout the world, especially in France, Australia, US, and South Africa. Spain produces the lions share of this grape with France coming in a distant second; all other countries place as a comparative after thought. The grape has bold flavors of blackberries, tobacco and black pepper.  In cool climates the grape takes on notes of red plums.  It is a full-bodied wine with high tannins and medium high acidity allowing for a long shelf life.

The Bodegas Castano is the best known and largest winery in Yecla. The family run operation traces its roots, in the area, back to the 1950s but it wasn’t until the 1980s they started bottling their own wines. Starting in the early 2000s the family steadily upgraded their winery and cellars including temperature controlled fermentation and smaller tanks for selective vinification. Their vineyards and winery occupy about 16,000 acres with Monastrell grapes planted on a little less than 1000 of those acres.

Only 2 of the 8 Castano vineyards grow the grapes for the Hecula wine: the higher altitude Las Gruesas and Pozuelo. The 400 acre Las Gruesas vineyard at roughly 2600-2800′ above sea level has organically poor, clayey to gravelly limestone soils with 35 to 60-year-old vines. In addition to Monastrell grapes, red varieties of Garnacha, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also grown. The 100 acre Pozuelo vineyard at approximately the same elevation as Las Gruesas has similar soils but not as rocky. Its vines are slightly  older with some in the 80-year range. This vineyard grows, in addition to Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Macabeo and Tempranillo grapes. The growing season diurnal temperature range in the area is 50-85ºF with rainfall ranging from 0.25-2.0″ per month.

The Monastrell grapes are hand harvested, destemmed, sorted, fermented, and macerated at 77ºF in stainless steel tanks for 10 days. The wine then spends 6 months in half new, French and American oak barrels at approximately 64ºF. Production is limited to approximately 12,000 cases. This is an Eric Solomon Selection, slated mainly for export to the US.

A medium to dark ruby-red wine with a light purple rim. Aromas of black fruits and pepper. Full-bodied and nicely balanced.  The tannins are thick and chewy with a very easy acidity that produces a long-lasting finish.

Enjoy this wine with a Spanish dish of Chicken Paella. You will need a cup of vegetable oil, 1 green and red pepper diced, 3 breasts of de-boned chicken; each breast cut into 4-6 pieces, 3 cups of white rice, 6 cups of chicken broth, 8 ounces of peas; canned or fresh, 1 small onion chopped, 2 tomatoes diced, 1 clove of garlic or 2 teaspoons, salt and pepper to taste,  and parsley.  Heat half the oil and put the chicken into a(n) (iron) skillet. Cook for 15 minuets or until brown and remove to a holding dish. In the same skillet with the hot oil, cook the chopped onion for 5 minutes, add the diced tomatoes, and cook for an additional 5 minutes while mashing the tomatoes. Strain the mixture through a colander and add the solids to a paella cooking pan; woks work great.  Add the rest of the oil, plus the cooked green pepper and chicken. Stir the mixture to avoid further browning of the chicken.  Add salt, pepper and broth.  Keep hot but do not boil.  Add garlic and parsley to the cooked rice.  Add the rice, peas, and red pepper to the paella pan containing the chicken after the broth is reduced by half.  Cook for another 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, cool for 5 minutes, and serve.

An outstanding wine at an unbelievable price. Drink this year but likely good until 2020-2023. Decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

$8.95-15.27 wine-searcher.com

Bodegas Castano Solanera 2013

W Solanera 2013Other Red Blends from Yecla Region, Southern Spain

An Eric Solomon Selection

70% monastrell (mourvedre)

15% cabernet sauvignon

15% garnacha tintorera

14.5% alcohol

Opened 20 Jan 2018

els: 9.0/10

Wine Advocate: 92

Guia Penin: 89

Cellar Tracker: 88

Ramon Castano Santa and his 3 sons have nourished their Yecla vineyards since the 1950s and today they extend over almost 1500 acres, growing a wide assortment of grapes from the ancestral Monastrell, also known as Mourvedre, to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Garnacha Tinta, Macabeo, Merlot, Moscatel, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Tempranillo. Some of the vines are in excess of 100 years old.  The vines for this wine are 40-100 years old, thus “vinas viejas” or old vines.

The family’s vineyards are located in the northern reaches of the Yecla region, near the foot of Monte Arabi, and are approximately 50 miles northwest of the Mediterranean coast, ranging from 1300-3000 feet above sea level.  The vineyards for this wine are from their Campo Arriba (high land) area and are just shy of 3000′ above sea level, growing in a low organic, clayey limestone with good drainage. The climate is a cross between Mediterranean and a continental weather conditions. Daytime temperatures during the growing season reach into the mid-80s and the night-time lows dip into the mid-50s°F. The summer rains are infrequent and sparse, delivering anywhere from 0.25-2.0 inches per month, perfect for the thick-skinned Monastrell grapes.

The Castano family grapes are used in this Eric Solomon selection and the wine making is supervised by Solomon and Jean-Marc Lafage.  The grapes are hand harvested and fermented separately in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then aged in French and American oak barrels for 10 months.

Dark ruby-red to purple in color with a light purple rim. Elegantly redolent of dark fruits and berries. A rich, thick taste of berries and chewy tannins. Balanced and delicious.

An outstanding everyday red blend at a good price.  Serve with cheese, lamb, pork; the spicier the food the better. Drink now, but should last for many years.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$14.99  wine.com

Pierre Dupond La Renjardiere Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2015

W Dupond 2015Rhone Red Blend from Southern Rhone – Cotes du Rhone, Rhone, France

60% grenache

20% syrah

10% mourvedre

10% cinsault

14.0% alcohol

Opened 17 Jan 2018

els: 8.6/10

Tastings: 88

The Cotes du Rhone wine region stretches along the Rhone River, beginning at Vienne in the north to Avignon, 125 miles to the south. The Central Massif defines the western boundary and the foothills of the Alps, the eastern boundary. The region is designated with 4 levels of distinction: at the bottom and the most basic are the Cotes du Rhone wines, this wine falls into that category, followed by 95 Cotes du Rhone-Villages, then, with another step up there are the 18 Cotes du Rhone-Named Villages and finally at the top are the 17 Crus. Cotes du Rhone wines must contain at least 40% Grenache as their main grape, followed by a minimum of 15% from the secondary grapes: Syrah and Mourvedre.  Accessory grapes, such as Cinsault, can not provide more than 30% of the total.

The La Renjardière is a 300 acre+ vineyard, just north of Chateauneuf du Pape and the city of Orange. The vineyards reside on the right bank slopes of the Rhone with soils consisting of sand, clay and limestone with round pebbles which make walking without shoes difficult, but provide a wonderful assist for drainage. The vineyard’s Mediterranean climate has growing season temperatures ranging from the high 40s at night to the low 80s °F during the day.

The wine has a dark ruby-red color with a nice garnet rim. It exhibits a medium but distinct nose of  cherry and strawberries. The tongue tells me that plums and black fruits are nearby. Tannins are easy, acidity isn’t overpowering, or in other words a balanced, mild wine with a medium to long finish, reminiscent of a young woman with small, but invitingly round breasts. The wine should be good for a few more years.

A good everyday red at a good price.  Serve with cheese, lamb, or pork.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$12.99  wine.com

Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres 2013

W Gerard 2013Rhone Red Blends from Languedoc-Roussillon, France

50% syrah

40% mourvedre

10% grenache

14.0% alcohol

Opened 3 Nov 2017

els 9.1/10

Wine Advocate 90-92

Gerard Bertrand, living a charmed life, grew up in the vineyards of southern France, a rugby union flanker for 10 years, captain of the team in 1993-1994, winemaker, owner and manager of 13 estates in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon; not exactly a Dickens’ Pip, but one who has reached heights of achievement likely unimagined by his father, Georges.

The vineyards for this Rhone Red are located in sun setting shadows of Mont Canigou, one of the lofty peaks of the Pyrenees along the French-Spanish border, 30 miles from the Mediterranean coast. The area around the mountain is known as Les Aspres, meaning arid in Catalan, forested at higher altitudes, barren scrublands occupying the lower, flatter altitudes.

Les Aspres, officially delimited, as a red wine only, viticultural area in 2004, is a sub-region of the Cotes du Roussillon appellation, in Languedoc-Roussillon, southern France. The Les Aspres label is reserved for Roussillon’s higher-quality red wines.

The land rises gently from the Mediterranean coast in the east to the Pyrenean foothills in the west. Most wineries and vineyards are located at altitudes around 330 feet. The climate for Les Aspres is definitively Mediterranean, with long, hot, dry summers; temperatures ranging from the low 80s during the day to the low 60s, Fahrenheit, at night; delivering rains of less than one inch per month from June through August. The

W Mount Canigou

Vineyards below Mount Canigou in France. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

poor soils within Gerard Bertrand’s Les Aspres vineyards are generally Tertiary, detrital and alluvial schists, ranging in size from pebbles to silt.

 

The Syrah and Mourvedre, the primary grape varieties, along with secondary grenache, are used to produce these rich, full-flavored Les Aspres wines. The area, recently, is undergoing a ‘wine revolution’; fine wines replacing the past production of sweet table wines.

This wine has a splendid garnet-brick color. The bouquet brings forth visions of plums, prunes and cloves. The acidity and tannins are smooth producing a full-bodied wine with a long finish.  Serve with lamb. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$16.99 wine.com

 

Hewitson Miss Harry G.S.M. 2013

W Miss Harry 2013Rhone Red Blends from Barossa Valley, Barossa, Australia

47% grenache

31% mourvedre

12% shiraz

7% cinsault

3% carignan

14.0% alcohol

Opened 31 Oct 2017

els 9.0/10

Australian Wine Companion  95

Wine Spectator 90

The Hewitson’s vineyards and winery are located in the heart of Australia’s famous wine-producing region, Barossa Valley, about 35 miles northeast of downtown Adelaide, along Australia’s south-central coast. The Barossa Valley, named after the low, rounded mountains of the Barossa Range, was formed by the North Para River, para meaning river in the local dialect. The river provides the vine loving soils and water to nourish the extensive vineyards in the area.

The Barossa Range is named after the British-French, 1811, Battle of Barrosa near Cadiz, Spain, where the British, outnumbered 2-1, routed the French. The different spellings are attributed to a clerical error when the names were registered from the survey records.

The Hewitson’s vineyards contain some of the oldest vines in Australia. Their Old Garden vineyard contains 8 rows of Mourvedre, planted 164 years ago in 1853. The roots of the vines reach down 30 feet into the sandy soils, keeping the plants cool and refreshed even on the hottest, driest days.

The continental climate of Barossa Valley produces summer days reaching past 100 degrees Fahrenheit with the nights dropping down into the low 50s. Rain, during the growing season, has a scanty range and output of less than 1 inch to 1.5 inches per month.

This is a clear ruby-red wine redolent of cherries and spice.  The acidity blends well with the tannins producing a delightfully smooth and balanced wine.  This wine pairs well with just about anything, marbled steaks to pasta to cheese to a solitary glass, or two, enjoyed in the shade on a hot summer day. Decant and aerate the wine for an hour or two, it will help immensely.

$18.99 wine.com

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