May 2024 Crianza Wine Club

Vale do Bomfim 2020 Douro

Regular Price: $17.99
Club Price: $15.29

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“I always live in the present. The future I can’t know. The past I no longer have.  -Fernando Pessoa  

Though my trip to the Douro, in Portugal, was over a year ago, I still remember sipping wine and scribbling down notes amongst the terraced vineyards in the Cima Corgo region. Those notes came in handy, as this Crianza pick is a wine I tasted while I was in Pinhão, at Quinta do Bomfim. It’s hard to articulate exactly what I experienced while I was there, but let’s just say that sipping Vale do Bomfim more than jogged my memory. 

The wines were exceptional, the people were incredibly friendly, and the landscape was breathtaking. Quinta do Bomfim had been recommended by my professor because they offer a “biodiversity hike”. One of the best ways to truly understand a wine is by walking the earth it grows in, and as we were there in the off-season, with the grapes dormant and the vineyards desolate, it was an opportunity to really appreciate the terroir. I could have spent my whole word count here explaining the label, but this wine deserves more context, and a bit of an ode to Mother Nature. 

All of the indigenous grape varieties here grow in rugged, stony, schist soils (similar to the black slate in Spain’s Priorat). I hadn’t fully grasped the concept of grapes having to “suffer” until we walked past a section cut out of the side of the hill

Although it seems inhospitable to agriculture, schist actually retains both water and heat. During the growing months, days in the Douro can reach triple digits, and the schist absorbs, and then releases the heat once temps drop at night, maintaining an ideal microclimate for the grapes. The roots dig deep into the earth, sipping up water and nutrients while simultaneously creating an anchor for the grapes above.

While on the hike I noticed the constantly changing grape varietals intermixed with olive trees and other flora. You can see the different grapes in this colored diagram map, all growing together like a mosaic of tiles.

What makes Vale do Bomfim so spectacular is its expression of the Cima Corgo terroir and its long-suffering grapes. The combination of soils, aspect (south-facing to be exact), biodiversity, and the proximity to the river (literally a stone's throw away - see photo), results in a wine that is balanced, complex, and elegant. 

This 2020 vintage is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Barroca. Ruby red in the glass, it has a pronounced nose with aromas of sweet cherry, blackberry, red florals, crushed rocks and a hint of dark spices and cocoa. On the palate I find it mirrors the nose in terms of flavor characteristics.  It’s well balanced, with velvety tannins and a pleasantly long finish. Drink now or hold 2-3 years. I would pair this with traditional Portuguese cuisine like Caldo Verde or Batatas a Murro (potatoes with caramelized onions and melted cheese). Saúde! - AP


Viña Ijalba 2022 Tempranillo

Regular Price: $13.99
Club Price: $11.89

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This month our team was as inspired by some of the “meta” information as by the wines.  Some were inspired by the beautiful flower-themed labels to focus on Mother’s Day. My ‘meta’ is how we decided to choose almost all wines from a single estate and how I inadvertently chose to deeply explore ‘the nose’ of this wine.

Our selection process always involves tasting. Often, we select wines from multiple tastings with different local sales reps.  Last month we were visited by Alfonso Fernandez, export manager at Viña Ijalba in Logroño (the administrative and commercial heart of the Rioja region). We were familiar with one of their whites, but this time got to experience their whole range.  It is rare that a single winery capably covers the spectrum from simple budget wine to high-end, rare, single varietal, but Ijalba does so with ease. Each wine was better than the previous, so our May club choices are all from this great estate.

Ijalba, small(ish) and still family-owned, has a fascinating “origin story”, proudly told by the winery itself: “Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba planted his first vineyard in 1975 on a former open-cast mine. Onto this land, already exhausted, he added some 50 or 60 cm. of poor soil, which came from land clearance, and in this way he reproduced the traditional soils of quality Rioja vineyards, which had low production, typical of the area - land on the hillsides which was shallow and relatively infertile.” While most terroir is created by millions of years of geological processes, Dioniso literally created his own.

They focus on two aspects: organic farming and the revitalization of rare grape varietals. Their Maturana Blanca and Maturana Tinta are outstanding - Riojan in character, but unique in flavor and body. They also work with the more common varietals of Tempranillo and Graciano, sourcing grapes from near Logroño, San Vicente de Sonsierra, and Valle de Iregua.

This young Tempranillo, a simple screw top offering, made our whole tasting team raise an eyebrow and say “yes”. Fresh red fruit (think black cherries) jumps out of the glass along with warm spices (clove, allspice). Don’t let the “grandpa’s living room” wallpaper label fool you - the wine is youthful and fun, both simple in its immediate appeal, yet complex as you sip and savor. Good chilled and in party mode, but equally at home with lingering, contemplation or a medium intensity red sauce dish. 

I am intimately familiar with just how good the nose is after accidentally breaking two bottles while shelving them. I hadn’t noticed the subtle tip of a partial case of wine until the vinous cloud of clove, allspice, and black cherry became too intense to ignore.  After some initial cursing (for the loss of wine), I breathed in its deliciousness while mopping up a small sea of red. There is no use in crying over spilt milk, but there is great use in deeply inhaling spilt wine! Do me a favor and enjoy its delicious nose in the more conventional way - from the glass. Better yet, bring this to your mom’s Mother's Day brunch or dinner and share your organic Cloud 9 of spicy Rioja goodness with her.

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