Spanish wines recovering from poor vintage, enjoyed in Temecula

Difficult vintages can hurt a country’s chances of sustainable growth in international wine sales. Wine aficionados, columnists and wine shops can get down on an appellation, and recovery can take years. Such was the case with wines from Spain.
Spanish wines have a curiously different approach to a release year. Most wine growing areas promote their wine time from harvest, and in a barrel and bottle as preferred or premium. I would jump on a bottle of Tampranillo Reserve Red that was five to 10 years vintage for under $25 only to be disappointed by the raw tannins and weak flavor. Some research revealed that the heavenly vintages of ’97 through 2000 in Italy and France were ordinary or even poor in Spain.
This vast grape growing area cultivates more acres of vineyards than any other country in Europe with a wide range of climates and soils. The Rioja appellation is the most important of the growing grounds of Spain. Its “bodegas” or vineyards have turned in some impressive performances in the 2001 and 2004 vintages. The Tempranillo grape varietal is the most popular and best represents the concentrated fruit flavor of Spain. Many are single estate wines that mature in French Oak.
Spanish wines have recently moved up the ladder in sales in the U.S. About 10 percent more of these wines were sold last year over the year prior, and about 44 percent more than five years ago. The two solid wines from Rioja are the 2004 Bodegas LAN Edicion Limitada ($48) and the Bodegas Muga Torre Muga ($88). An excellent value is the Bodegas Marque de Caceres 2001 ($23).
In Temecula Wine Country, you can enjoy Spanish wines at La Cereza, where owners Buddy and Cheri Linn have devoted themselves to a lineup that included Tempranillo and Garnarcha, the Spanish version of the French Grenache.
The Garnarcha, which was one of my top 10 wines tasted in 2007, has an excellent blackberry, smoky flavor with spice accents.
La Cereza’s tasting room also functions as an art gallery where customers can view original Spanish art, which is recreated onto the labels of the La Cereza wine bottles.
A fun side attraction is Hemingway’s, an exotic Spanish cigar and wine bar. Visit www.lacerazawinery.com for details.
Annual Temecula
Wine Classic
The Temecula Wine Growers Association presented the 2008 Food and Wine Classic a few weeks ago, unveiling award winning wines from 22 wineries.
The appellation received over 40 Best of Class/Double Gold awards and one of the member wineries, South Coast, received the Golden Bear Award as the best winery in the state! Congratulations to: Baily, Bella Vista, Briar Rose, Callaway, Cougar, Falkner, Filsinger, Hart, Keyways, La Cereza, Leonesse, Maurice Carrie, Miramonte, Mt. Palomar, Oak Mountain, Palumbo, Ponte, South Coast, Stuart Cellars, Thorton, Wiens and Wilson Creek.
The Local Sip
The seventh annual Grape Stomp and Crush Party at Cal State San Marcos is from 1 to 6 p.m. Oct. 11 in the Founders Plaza. Wine tasting, live music, barbecue and bocce ball will all be featured. The cost is $25 each. Call (619) 871-7643 for more info.
The Four Seasons Aviara is the location for a Clos Pegase Wine Dinner with owner Jan Schrem, at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15 beginning with a reception a lovely five-course dinner. The cost is $120.79 each. Call (760) 603-6800, ext. 5056 for details.
Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula has a harvest Festival Grape Stomp starting at 5 p.m. Oct. 19. Wagon rides, a great buffet from the new Creekside Inn, live music with Tony Seraci and dancing! The cost is $74 each. Call (951) 699-WINE for details.
Wine Street in Carlsbad has “Tasting for the Cure” with a great lineup of wines benefiting the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Raffle drawings. It happens at 5 p.m. Oct. 24. The cost is $20 each. Call (760) 431-8455 for details.

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