April 2024 Tinto Wine Club Notes

Vina Zorzal
2019 NatCool Graciano 1L

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!

Bodegas Frontonio
2020 Telescopico

Regular Price: $34.99
Club Price: $29.74

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We discovered Telescopico during a tasting in our Berkeley shop with the visiting Bodegas Frontonio winemaker, Fernando Mora. What I recall most vividly is how immediately likable and relatable Fernando was. I ended up giving him a ride to his next appointment during time which we had a great conversation about wine, the wine business, and his time in the US.

Fernando got his start in wine by teaming up with friend Mario Lopez in 2008, making wine as a hobby  In 2010, he had an eye-opening “a-ha” experience with a wine from old vines that made them go ‘hmm’…Their journey continued, and with encouragement from artist friend Jesus Solana, they eventually formed the idea of Frontonio cellars. By 2016, the two had found a 150 year-old hillside Garnacha and Macabeo vineyard called “El Jardin de Los Iguales'' in Alpartir, a small town 45 min southwest of Zaragoza and 20 min north of Carinena.  (As a side note, Alpartir is part of the greater Aragon wine region. While this region does include designated regions of origin like Calatayud and Campo de Borja, Alpartir is not within an official DO. )

In 2017, Fernando became the youngest Master of Wine in Spain, and in 2018 he and Mario officially started Frontonio cellars in Alpartir. To come that far in 10 short years is impressive, and so are their wines. If their path towards making wine professionally was focused, this focus is now reflected in their wines, enabling them to capture the potential of each varietal and their old-vine origins. All of their wines are multilayered and interesting.

While all 8 wines we tasted were fabulous, we settled on their Telescopico bottling, a 50% Garnacha, 35% Garnacha Peluda, and 15% Mazuela (Cariñena) blend. Most notable in this blend is the Garnacha Peluda grape, a hairy-leafed mutation of regular Garnacha. It produces lower alcohol, higher-acid wines, which explains the 13.5% alcohol for a wine from a region that routinely produces 14’ers. It’s one of those wines that can be three things in one sip, which keeps you actively exploring while sipping. The wine is a joy to drink. Light in color, the nose delivers slightly wet river stone meets very subtle dark cherry mixed with licorice. On the palate, it offers freshly scraped green eucalyptus bark as well as a surprisingly rich earthiness bordering on meatiness (in flavor, not in body). While the flavors are intense, neither flavor nor body are heavy. The wine sort of levitates, finishing in a touch of licorice and pseudo-smokiness. If left to linger in the glass, it starts to show the dark chocolate raspberry that Garnacha offers, but it’s very subtle. We’re glad that Fernando turned a hobby into lifework, and we appreciate the focus he puts into capturing old-vine fruit delight in the glass. I would pair this with all kinds of food - try pairing this wine with a grass-fed hamburger with a melted slice of Idiazabal, and Romesco sauce instead of ketchup to turn mundane into sublime. ¡Salud y buen provecho! - BMS

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