April 2024 Blanco Y Tinto Wine Club Notes

Vina Zorzal
2019 Nat Cool Graciano 1.0L

Regular Price: $33.99
Club Price: $28.89

The other day, I had the pleasure of tasting through many of the Viña Zorzal wines at El Chato. (a little plug for the hip taberna-style wine bar in SF with good vibes.)Among them was Vina Zorzal’s 2019 Nat Cool 100% Graciano.

“Nat Cool'' is a new wine category, introduced by Dirk Niepoort, of Portugal’s esteemed winemaking family. The concept: bringing together multiple producers from across Spain and Portugal with the joint goal of creating wine for the contemporary audience, which has been increasingly looking for more natural and lighter-bodied wines. The winemakers bring with them all of the expertise and know-how gleaned from their particular traditions, learning from each other, while also staying current.

The “Nat Cool Rules” of winemaking set by Dirk Niepoort are as follows:

1. No rules
2. Always respect the first rule
3. Less is more
4. Cooler = less alcohol, less extraction, less mess
5. Authentic, organic, cool attitude
6. One-liter bottle
7. Cool price
8. The incredible lightness of the being, meaning the aim is for light and refreshing wines that are easy to drink.

This wine, a Niepoort collaboration with the Michelini brothers at Zorzal, is a great example. Crafted from the Graciano grape, mostly found in Rioja and Navarra, it comes from a robust vintage that had optimal sunshine and rain during harvest time. Bottled in 2020, it’s undeniably youthful, showing vibrant charm and liveliness. Not overly complex, it perfectly captures the qualities sought after by the Nat Cool teams for the past two decades: affordable, quality, natural wine that emphasizes acidity and drinkability over concentration and ripeness. With Viña Zorzal Nat Cool Graciano, they’ve nailed it! - JL

Bodegas Maximo Abete
2022 La Roya Garnacha Gris

Regular Price: $22.99
Club Price: $19.54

Grey is back baby! I just love a gray sweatsuit, foggy gray SF mornings, fluffy gray bunnies, a sharp Blackwing graphite pencil, and I am digging the latest oyster gray hair trend (though I am not quite ready to give up my brunette locks).

I also love a delicious Garnacha (Grenache) Gris. This grape/wine is not actually gray but is the pink-skinned cousin of Grenache Blanc, and the most important grape varietal of Roussillon, the wine growing region in southern France. Just over the Pyrenees and into northeastern Spain we find Garnacha Gris, in Navarra. During the time of phylloxera France was quickly decimated, but Spain wasn’t hit with the root louse until later - about 1892. This gave Navarra and Rioja (the regions closest to the French border) the opportunity to expand vineyards, grow large quantities of grapes, and sell to French producers.

Fast-forward to modern day Navarra and we see winegrowers not only planting Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Graciano, but also recovering abandoned vineyards containing Garnacha Gris. It’s a bit of a unicorn in the wine world – not all that common but surprisingly aromatic and bursting with flavor. Locals refer to the grape as ‘Garnacha Roya’, and sisters Yoanna and Maria of Maximo Abete (seen below in their vineyard), are working to keep this indigenous varietal alive and known.

The 2022 Guerinda+ LA ROYA, made from 100% Garnacha Roya, is a great example of a wine that showcases both a grape varietal and a sense of place. Using organic and sustainable viticulture practices, wines from Maximo Abete highlight the terroir of the rugged, remote Guerinda Mountains. By fermenting the grapes in temperature controlled
stainless steel tanks, Yoanna and Maria successfully retain the delicate floral (citrus blossoms/chamomile) and herbal (anise/fennel) aromas, characteristic of Garnacha Gris. Spending little time on the skins, the wine is a pale apricot yellow color. On the palate this wine is clean, smooth but not too oily, with flavors of apricot jam, honeysuckle, chamomile tea, and a hint of brioche from time spent on the lees. I’d pair this wine with curried chicken salad or any type of fried seafood, such as shrimp tempura. While I may not convince everyone that gray is “in”, I can assure you that you won't regret reaching for the bottle of Garnacha Gris over a Grenache Blanc. Saúde! – AP

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