Monday, August 14, 2023

A Trio from El Coto de Rioja

El Coto de Rioja consists of twelve separate cellars and wineries, each designated with a distinct task. This includes the original winery that first opened in 1976, six years after their very first harvest. Today, that winery building operates as the administration offices, but there are new facilities that operate to process just white wines, others to just process Crianzas and Coto Real. Still another to age the Crianza and others for aging the Reservas and Grandes Reservas.  The vinification is carried out in small tanks that do not exceed 50,000 liters and all our red wines are aged in oak barrels, which are replaced annually. 

Last month I received samples from this brand that is a leader not only in Rioja, but all of Spain. 

El Coto Blanco 2022 ($11.99)
This wine is primarily Viura (with smaller percentages of Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo) that was grown in the Finca Carbonera vineyard. This vineyard was first planted in 2010 right when the  Regulatory Council authorized the planting of white wine grape varieties. The additional of white wine became so popular that in 2017 El Coto built a separate facility at Finca Carbonera to process these grapes. This is a fundamental summer wine -- begging for shellfish. It starts with a floral aromas that transitions to a saline driven center of white peaches, white grapefruit, and lemon, then finishes with racy acids.

El Coto Rosé 2021 ($11.99)
This rosé is dominantly Tempranillo 10% Garnacha  harvested from the Los Almendros vineyards. This site is the largest vineyard in all of the Denomination of Origin Rioja. The wine is made in the Provence style with light pressing, short skin maceration, and fermenting under low temperatures. This rosé is all red berries but what separates it from others is a noticeable herbaceousness with slight tannins and a fuller body.

El Coto Crianza 2019 ($16.99)
This savory wine is composed of 100% Tempranillo and processed using the regional requirements -- fermented and aged in oak for at least 12 months with an additional six months resting in bottle, prior to release.  The wine starts with a vibrant aroma of dark fruit, tobacco, mint that leads to a juicy, earthy, and herbaceous core. The finish is long dominated by approachable tannins.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Les Vergers Lafrance - a Multiforme Cidrerie, Vignoble, Domaine, & Distillateur

Perhaps our favorite craft beverage stop during our Quebec visit was to Les Vergers Lafrance, a multifaceted establishment located just outside of Saint-Joseph-du-Lac. This municipality is surrounded by panoramic mountain views, orchards, and a truly rustic countryside.  LaFrance participates in providing these orchards with their 30 hectares of 13,000 apple trees, 4,000 grape vines, 500 pear trees and 250 plum trees. And the apple trees are distributed among 20 different apple varieties.  Besides les vergers, LaFrance is a cidery, winery, distillery, maple producer, and restaurateurs.

Vignoble Lafrance is composed of more than 4,000 grapevines, particularly all shades of Frontenac  and Sabrevois -- both cold climate grapes bred at the University of Minnesota. LaFrance uses the grapes exclusively for the production of spirits. One of these is their Dandy Gin which is a fruit distillate made from apple, pear and grape eau-de-vie as well as our Marc de Raisins eau-de-vie. The botanicals consist of selected herbs and apple tree flowers from the estate orchards. Need less to say, this gin is quite floral, with less juniper but more citrus. 

The distilling operation started in 2013, when Domaine Lafrance acquired an alembic still made in Bordeaux by the Stupfler family. This family has been producing stills for four generations starting in 1925. Lafrance produces almost a dozen spirits and aperitifs as well as a range of ready to drink cocktails. We also purchased a bottle of the Quartier Lafrance - a Grand Marnier inspired spirit made from 50% Georges-Étienne apple brandy and 50% caramelized orange liqueur. Try to beef up are cocktail options with this surprisingly drier and complex liqueur.

Les Vergers LaFrance is also a purveyor of maple products available in their Sugar Shack. The maple products are made from the syrup from 200 Maple trees that are processed in early Spring during sugar season. 

Despite all these endeavors, the prime focus of the enterprise is cider where they produce close to 20 different cider products. This includes the canned Bio Sparkling Organic Cider and Bio Organic Rosé Cider that complemented the suddenly sunny afternoon picnicking in front of the Boutique. Another easy option was the canned Darragon dit Lafrance sparkling cider. And please try the Rick Special blend #3, an unfiltered sparkling brut cider that was fermented in ice cider barrels.  We didn't sample any of the still ciders, but had to bring home a miniature of the Domaine LaFrance Ice Cider. I would have brought full 375ml bottles of all their ice ciders, but was leery of crossing the border with a weeks worth of cider and beer. These are elegant ice ciders. 

Monday, August 7, 2023

Happy Hour with Art of Earth Organic Wines from Mendoza

This weekend we enjoyed a happy hour courtesy of samples from importer Mack & Schuhle. These are organic wines from Mendoza produced by Art of Earth Organic Wines and retail at an extremely affordable $11.99. Art of Earth is comprised of organic vineyards across the globe. The Argentinean contingent consists of 29 cooperatives (5,000 winegrowers) managing 25,000 hectares (more than 60,000 acres) of vineyard plantings located throughout Mendoza and San Juan. 

The grapes for both wines are derived from grapes grown in the San Martín district of Mendoza. The organic vineyards are located at 700 to 800 meters and the presence of the Andes Mountains acts as a barrier to the humid winds of the Pacific. The climate is continental with areas of semi-arid desert conditions with alluvial soils ranging from sandy to loam. 

The 2021 Chardonnay starts with a tropical and citrus nose then moves to fresh pears and tropical notes (mostly pineapples), slight lemons and vibrant acidity.

The 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon is fresh with tart berries, a very solid mouthfeel, approachable tannins, and juicy acidity. This one went much quicker than expected.