Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Drinking Local: Albarino

I've been getting to know Spanish wines this year, and have had some excellent whites and some flavorful reds, too. I was struck at this week's Family Winemakers tasting by how many domestic producers are starting to plant Iberian varietals from Spain and Portugal, and how good the wines can be. Tempranillo seems to be the favorite Iberian varietal among US producers at the moment, but you see others as well, including verdelho and albarino.

I recently had an extremely good Albarino grown in the wilds of Mendocino County. This area is known for sparkling wine, pinot noir, and chardonnay so I was delighted to find a Spanish grape tucked into the mix. This counted as drinking local for me, since the grapes were produced at Eaglepoint Ranch Winery just up Highway 1 and a right turn on Highway 128 away from the coast. The 2006 Eaglepoint Ranch Albarino ($18, direct from the winery) was a real surprise, with its exciting aromas of almonds, apples, and citrus. I've never been able to smell any almonds in an albarino from Spain, even though it's a hallmark of the varietal, so when I got that decided whiff of nuts I was hopeful that the flavors would be a fitting follow-up. Made with organic grapes, there was a little bit of spritz when the wine was first opened, but this quickly dissipated leaving a lively still wine. It had great acidity, but the mouthfeel was rounder than many of the Spanish versions of this varietal that I've tasted. To me, this tasted less tangy, with the citrus taking a decided back seat to the almonds and apples. We had it with roasted chicken and a big summer salad, and that roundness came in handy with the lemon and rosemary that flavored the first, and the herbs and vegetables that filled the second.

Only a few cases were made of this wine, and it costs a bit more than the entry-level Spanish albarinos you can easily find at the big chain stores. But if you love albarino I'd heartily recommend you contact the winery and see if they can send you a bottle or two or three of this very good QPR wine.

3 comments:

Orion Slayer said...

I agree with you that it is exciting that some California wineries are growing the " Iberian varietals." I enjoy Albarino, but read that it's a real treat to get it in the country it's bottle in because the trip across the ocean causes some of the "spritziness" and freshness to lessen. I can't wait to try a locally grown Albarino. Do you know if anyone is producing a Vihno Verde in California!?!

farley said...

We make a Petite Sirah from Eagle Point that I absolutely adore. Will have to give the Albarino a try...

Dr. Debs said...

I'm not aware of anyone in the US making Vinho Verde, but my guess is that if someone was Ryan and Gabriella at Catavino would know, so it may be worth dropping them a line. Farley, they were out of the PS, so I nabbed their Grenache. Looking forward to trying that, too.