March 2024 Tinto Wine Club

LaFou Cellers 2019 El Sender

Regular Price: $26.99
Club Price: $22.94
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One of the terrain features commonly found in the mountainous Terra Alta region of Spain lends its name to the maker of this March Tinto club selection.  Fou means gorge or ravine in Catalan.  Further incorporating terrain and its features into their naming, the winery chose the word for path or trail, el sender, after the path that winds its way through the vineyards the grapes hail from. Their name choice is a lovely way to root an estate and a wine in its terroir.  

Terra Alta is the furthest west and south of the wine growing areas of Catalunya, and is part of the administrative region of Tarragona.  

map image courtesy DeLong Wine Maps

As its name suggests, it’s the high country, and one travels on windy roads through a patchwork of small vineyards to reach remote villages when visiting here.  

a sweeping landscape photo of the Terra Alta region showing plots of land in the foreground and mountains receding into the blue haze in the background

Terra Alta’s climate is mediterranean-influenced continental.  Summers are hot, winters are continentally cold.  During the summer, the diurnal temperature changes are large.  Cold night-time temperatures give the vines time to recover and maintain freshness (acidity) in the fruit even as it ripens.  Two dominant winds shape the weather:  the Cerç (north-westerly) and the Garbinades (strong southerly winds off the sea).  

As is the case with many of Spain’s wine regions, there have been waves of grape-growing and winemaking here, the first wave likely dating back to the romans.  Subsequent waves had the knights templar planting vineyards in the middle ages.  Due to Terra Alta’s distance from markets back then, the vineyards were eventually replanted to olive groves.  The next wave was a period of glory for vinos rancios (‘rancid’ wine, which is a highly oxidized wine akin to sherry) during the 19th century, which ended with the destruction of the vineyards due to phylloxera.  It was not until the 1950s that the vineyards were replanted, primarily by cooperatives, which were known for quality rather than quantity.  The area was declared a DOP, a region of protected origin, in 1972, and over the following 50 years, it has evolved into one of sophisticated wine making focused on Garnacha, both in its white and red varieties. 

This particular wine was a somewhat accidental discovery.  While it’s carried by one of our favorite importers with whom we taste frequently, we discovered it in a San Francisco Catalonian wine showcase organized by the Catalan government.  We tasted the 2020 vintage of this wine, which is not in the US yet.  Our importer had the 2019 in stock and, lucky for us, it drinks even better than the younger 2020.

The nose is a lively cherry fruit with bright but very faint raspberry and earthy overtones.  In the glass, it’s a bright and translucent red.  On the palate, it’s red and black cherry, some black pepper, a hint of white pepper, licorice, and bark. There is very unique aroma in the long finish. It’s hard to peg - earthy and reminiscent of the smell when walking in a creek bed with mossy river stones.  A rainy earthiness, maybe the Fou filled by spring rains gushing over the rocks?  The finish is long and rewarding, and it’s just the right combination of intensity and lightness to invite the next sip.  I (gasp) thought it paired very well with a hearty bolognese, not Spanish at all, but very satisfying.  I also revisited it with a piece of Garrotxa cheese, and the two made for a great match. – BMS


bottle shot of the 2019 Sentencia LLuvia Garnacha red wine

Bodegas Sentencia 2021 LLuvia Garnacha

Regular Price: $34.99
Club Price: $29.74


Hopefully my next trip to Spain will include a visit to Valencia. Friends to hang out with and wine to drink - what could be better? Valencia doesn’t produce a lot of wine, but they do produce distinctive blends, from sea level to the higher elevations inland. Los Pedrones is a picturesque village of fewer than 200 inhabitants in the comarca of Utiel-Requena, about an hour west of Valencia proper. It’s home to Bodegas y Viñedos Sentencia and to winemaker Alberto Pedrón, whose family has tended these vineyards for generations.

Alberto's story is shared by many vintners who have fought hard to preserve family legacy in a place where modernization looms large. Los Pedrones is home to Alberto’s fondest childhood memories - walking with his father amidst the snow-dusted vines in the early morning hours. In 2006 the family’s 6-hectare vineyard was slated for destruction. It was then that he made a bold decision: to revive the family bodega, safeguarding their way of life. Picture standing out in a vineyard, surrounded by rolling hills, about 700 meters above sea level. Touched by a gentle breeze, the climate blends Mediterranean warmth with a hint of continental influence. This altitude plays a crucial role in preserving the freshness of Alberto’s wines, with the soils of ancient limestone, sand, marl, and clay, providing the perfect terroir for Garnacha, Bobal, and Royal grapes.

Bodegas y Viñedos Sentencia’s 2021 Garnacha ‘Lluvia’ is a little taste of tradition from Alberto’s old organically-farmed vineyards. It’s mostly Garnacha, with a touch of Bobal. After vatting and foot-treading in stone lagares, it ferments spontaneously with indigenous yeast. Left to decant in stainless steel over the winter, it's then transferred to used French oak for six months of additional élevage. The result? A well-balanced wine with heritage. Deep ruby color, aromas of red cherry, red currant, and hints of smoke. I especially liked the herbaceous notes of green bell pepper and oregano. Pair this with good company, conversation, and a well-crafted snack made with uncomplicated quality ingredients. A plate of jamón iberico de bellota will do just fine. - JL

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