Category Archives: spain

Spanish Sundays: 2012 Numanthia Termes From Toro DO


Spain is rarely discussed on this blog but it is never too far from my heart. I have a couple of Spanish DOs that I work with and I often drink Spanish wines. I studied Spanish for seven years after returning home from Italy but alas alak, have spent precious little time in that country of late. I do get to travel there though thanks to the wines I can savor here in New York.

This week’s Spanish Sunday is about a wine from the DO of Toro in Spain in the province of Zamora, located in the west of the region of Castilla y León. It is from the well-known winery Numanthia. While a tad less famous than Numanthia and Termanthia, Termes, the wine I had at the Mandarin Oriental in the Lobby Lounge is more affordable and approachable. Retailing at around $25, check out Wine-Searcher, it’s a beautiful expression of the Tempranillo grape in Toro where it is known as Tinta de Toro. The Toro region has been famous since Roman times for its great red wines.

I first tried this wine at a Numanthia dinner back in 2011 hosted by Gregory Dal Piaz, then Editor-in-Chief of Snooth. I thought the wines were lovely and the dinner pairings were outstanding at the time.

The wine comes from vineyards located at 700 meters above sea level and there are some 100 year old vines. Many are also ungrafted because phylloxera never flourished in this region. It macerates for an extended time on the skins before fermentation at controlled temperatures. Post-fermentation, the wine spends 16 months in one year old French barrels.

On the nose and palate, you get the berries you expect from Tempranillo driven wines together with pepper and spice, cedar notes and a hint of leather and cacao. If you can afford the pricier Numanthia and Termanthia, they are certainly wines to try once in a lifetime. If you can’t, I think you’ll find the Termes a great alternative from this region.

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Sindrome da Rientro – Start of the Year

Sunset on the Cape

The year always begins again for me in September. Initially, it was the start of a new school year. While I continue to study and have all my life, September now also represents harvest and the beginning of a different season for work. My son is also a September baby so that ties into my feeling that the year begins this month. That said, as a New Yorker, the year never really gets going for me until after September 11 – a day of reflection and remembrance.

On the wine front, in addition to all important harvest time, September also brings the start – sometimes – of colder weather and a desire to drink bigger red wines. This summer, I was lucky enough to spend a month in Italy, a couple of weeks on Cape Cod and attend a wine conference in DC. I have much to write about and be thankful for as the new “year” rolls around. I also have much catching up to do in terms of writing. I’ve tried in the past to write everyday of the month on this blog with some modicum of success yet my plans always go awry when I make big pronouncements so I think I will try another tack and chart my course according to the prevailing winds. Let’s see if that is an easier way to go.


Today, I want to mention a wine that graced my table this past month, Destello from Penedes in Spain which is a private label brand from Opici. Destello Cava is produced using the traditional method in which the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. It ages in the bottle for 18 months before release. Made from a blend of 50% Trepat, 30% Monastrell and 20% Garnacha, it was a great match for seafood and pasta as well as an aperitif. It was also incredibly inexpensive at $12. I first tasted a wine made from Trepat in 2010. It’s a grape I find interesting and refreshing. I love Cava in general and the Cavas Roses in particular. Like much of the world, I was slow to the Rose game but this summer, have made up for my lack luster Rose years with a vengance and tried Roses, Rosados, Rosatos from all over the world with much to recommend them. I look forward to drinking more this fall but also to getting into some great reds.

World of the day: Destello – flash, sparkle, twinkle

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Filed under Rose Wines, spain

Monday Musings: Society of Wine Educators Conference – Exploring Cavas

Tracy Ellen Kamens, a great wine educator and a friend, held a really informative seminar on Cavas during this year’s conference in Washington. She had an interesting slide comparing Cavas and Champagne and showed many aged Cavas. I have always loved cava but had never really considered their aging potential before as I tend to drink them young. My mistake apparently. This was one of my favorites from Castillo Perelada.


I love the yeasty, almond, pear notes and the crisp enveloping mouth feel that I get with this cava. It is very dry and exactly the way I like to drink sparkling wine. According to the winery website, “When United States President Dwight Eisenhower visited Spain in 1959, Castillo Perelada was commissioned to choose a cava for the reception banquet, and for the occasion it chose one of its own small reservas. The idea for the creation of Gran Claustro was born from the resounding success of this choice. This cava is made using traditional methods and ages in the convent bodegas adjoining Perelada Castle, the same cellars used by the Carmelite monks to make wine over six centuries ago.” With all Eisenhower had to worry about at the time, I am happy to know he was drinking good wine.


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Recovering from the Society of Wine Educators Tour de Force


As usual I was overly ambitious about what I can accomplish in a short amount of time. I have not been blogging everyday but I am thinking about it every day at least. I often need to think and plan my way into things. Like most busy and ambitious people, I’ve got lots of projects going on at the same time but I also like to take time to think and assess what I have seen and learned of late. The Society of Wine Educators conference that I attended last week is always the beginning of the school year if you will. It always serves to renew my interest and commitment to the field and peaks my curiosity about new parts of the busy I am less familiar with. Case in point this year were seminars on indigenous Spanish varietals being restored by the Torres family, the Chinese wine market in Ningxia , Canadian wine and older vintages of Chilean Cabernet. That was just the last day I think. There are so many interesting sessions to attend that my mind is often racing as is my palate. This coming few weeks will see posts on some of the sessions I attended, all worthwhile and interesting. The conference is a great way to learn, see friends and make new ones.

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Filed under Canada, China, spain

Sparkling Wine of the Week: Castillo Perelada Stars


I first discovered Castillo Perelada many years ago when I was writing up wineries for an importer’s website. At the time I remember thinking that it looked like a dreamy place to visit. I loved reading about it and its history but did not have the chance to taste their wines. At the recent Penin Guide tasting in May however, I did just that. I was blown away but their Cavas. I love sparkling wine and I love Cava in general but this one was really very special. Brut Nature means very little residual sugar which I really appreciate because I am very sensitive to RS. Made from the three traditional Cava varieties, Parellada (60%), Xarello (25%), Macabeu (15%). This wine is the essence of summer to me. Saludos.

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Women in Wine: A Chat With April Cullom – Casa Abril, Alma de Vino

April Cullom

This post is the first one this year of the women in wine series. My interview with April Cullom, a friend and Spanish wine guru, is pretty timely as she is just launching two new wine lines, Alma de Vino and Casa Abril. For family reasons I missed her tasting yesterday at K&D but I am sure she will be holding others in the coming months around New York City and other locals.

We started the chat with the same question I always ask: how did she start out in the wine business?
After experiencing September 11th I decided I wanted to “go back to my Spanish roots” where I had lived for 10+ years to start a new business marketing what I loved about Spain – food, wine and travel. My favorite memories were spending Sunday mornings in the kitchen with my Spanish Mother Charo, learning how to cook traditional dishes for Sunday lunch with the family. The wine was always part of the meal even if what was in the decanter came from a box. The experience was about sitting around the table with loved-ones sharing a meal and lots of conversation.

Back in 2002, I realized not many Americans knew much about Spanish wine so I started organizing Spanish wine tasting classes in New York City to promote the category. I noticed once consumers learned more about the wines and tried them they would ask their local wine store for Spanish wines. The more I learned about wine the more I wanted to know, and hence went on to get certified at the International Wine Center where I received with honorable mention WSET Intermediate and Advanced certificates. I later worked for Spanish wine importers opening accounts in New York and New Jersey and also consulted importers on selecting Spanish wines for their portfolios. Finally, I went on to promote and educate the press, trade and consumers about several Spanish wine regions such as D.O. Navarra and D.O. Ribera del Duero, the last region serving as their U.S. Trade Liaison and Brand Ambassador.

What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?

Gender hasn’t been much of an issue here in the US but at times it was in Spain given the cultural differences and a male-dominated industry.

What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years?

Spanish wines have increased their presence in the States. I’ve noticed more wines made with indigenous grapes and lesser-known wine regions. Packaging has improved immensely
I foresee more of a global market as consumers around the world start to embrace wine and include it as part of their meal. Asia and Russia are good examples where having wine with the meal was not traditionally part of their daily life but now that more and more people are traveling I believe it’s influenced their purchasing decisions.

What do you see happening in the Spanish wine world in the coming years?

A divide between large producers and boutique wineries – some will focus on volume and consistency in “taste” and others will focus on vintage uniqueness and terroir.
More indigenous varietals with a focus on terroir will make their way to USA thanks to demand for “something different” given an increase in sophisticated wine drinkers in key urban markets who have been exposed to well-known varietals and regions with a desire to discover something “new”.

Are people interested in different varietals? International varietals?

Yes, especially since many people who love wine also enjoy traveling and the quest for discovery. However, some consumers are “purists” and seek authentic varietals from the region and others embrace the new additions of international varietals as a way of complementing the blend.

What wines from Spain are truly interesting to people these days?

I’m seeing more people get excited about “minerality” not only in white wines but also reds. Well-balanced, not as much presence of oak and conservative levels in alcohol volume. It’s as if the pendulum is swinging back to “moderate” or perhaps even slightly to the other extreme. Fortunately, in Spain there’s something for everyone.
Wines from lesser known regions and native varietals.
What do you think about the level of wine education in general in the US about Spanish wines?

In general, I’d say “basic” level. They’ve heard of Tempranillo, Albariño, Garnacha at best. I believe there is a true need for education at all levels and it would be wonderful if the Spanish government could launch an educational program for professionals via ICEX.

What secrets can you share about pairing Spanish wines with food?

I learned one basic trick a long time ago “what grows together, goes together” such as seafood and Galician white wines or “Fino” and “Pata Negra” Iberian pig ham, so go local.
I also like to look for contrasts in textures such as pairing a creamy Arzua Ulloa cheese with a high-acid white wine.

What is going on with sustainability in Spain?

Given most of the vineyards are dry-farmed, soils and climate are ideal environment for grape vines. Coupled with the traditional mentality of what goes in the soil eventually is absorbed by the grapes, you’ll find many wineries practice sustainability, however it’s only been recently they’ve realized the importance and value of these practices as a way of maintaining terroir and uniqueness in such a crowed market. I’ve also noticed there’s a surge in wanting to promote and defend these “eco-friendly” viticultural practices, as each year there’s a wine show “FIVE” (Feria Internacional de Vino Ecologico) dedicated to organic and biodynamic wines which has been growing year by year.

alma de vino

Tell me about Casa Abril and Alma de Vino?

After almost 15 years working with Spanish wines, I’ve made quite a few friends as winemakers who also have their own vineyards albeit more like “parcels” of vines. In a collaborative way, we make wine together focusing on the unique expression of terroir in the vineyard. The difference between the two brands comes down to the kind of experience you want with the wine. If we were in Spain, let’s imagine we walk into a restaurant/bar, and we decide if we’re going to have lunch either at the bar with tapas or sit down at a table for the “menu del dia”. It depends on what you’re in the mood for and the kind of food you want to enjoy.

Casa Abril wines are easy-drinking, go with many dishes and are easy on the wallet and made from recognized Spanish varietals such as Tempranillo and Garnacha for example.
Alma de Vino wines strive to surprise an educated palate and are focused on working with blending wines from various parcels with century-old vines or using lesser-known varietals such as Caiño Blanco or Bobal.

casa abril_


Filed under product launch, spain, spanish wines, Women in Wine

Wine of the Week: Rolland &Galarreta Rioja D.O.Ca.

R & G Event

This week’s wine of the week is from Rolland & Galarreta, a joint project between Michel Rolland and Javier Galarreta. The pair teamed up to make wines in Rioja, Ribera and Rueda. The Rioja was from Alavesa from 25-40 year old vines. It was made from 100% Tempranillo and was lush ruby red in color with an elegant bouquet of floral and fruit notes as well as American oak undertones. On the palate, the wine was elegant and voluptous with a long finish.

Rolland & Galarreta

This new project which they announced in October at an event at the Tribeca Grill hosted by the Connected Table produces 500,000 bottles from 500 hectares of vineyards throughout the regions. They make approximately 150,000 of each one of the wines. The Rioja spent 10 months in American oak and is made to drink now rather than age, according to Rolland. He is interested in the more modern versions of Rioja he noted. The pair are able to pool considerable resources and to use such modern techniques as optical sorting. The wine retails for $23.

Wine Lineup

Charlie Arturaola was also part of the event, presenting a trailer of his movie The Duel of Wine. Charlie is a friend and I’m a big fan of his so whenever he is part of something I know it is something to consider.

Charlie Arturaola

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Filed under Memorable Events, Rioja, spain, Travel, wines