Hello friends. We’ve struck a rich vein of quality Spanish wines so far in 2014, thanks in large part to the efforts of John House at Ole Imports. We know John through his Ovum winery project in the northwest, and that connection has allowed us to pluck some of the best cherries from the Ole/Peninsula book.
Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “When Olé Imports began in 1999, there were only three wines in their portfolio, and one of the two founders, Patrick Mata (the other founder being Alberto Orte), was not even old enough to consume alcohol! A great success story, this tiny boutique company searches out, as they put it, ‘unique terroir-driven wines of extraordinary value.’ Often such sayings are hyperbole, but not in the case of Olé Imports… While none of their wines are household names, readers should seek them out as they represent sensational values from viticultural regions throughout Spain.”
For March, we’re aiming for something different: a special order from Ole/Peninsula’s east-coast warehouse, for a pair of wines that are currently not being brought into Seattle. John was kind enough to ship some samples, and these two were real standouts. As far as I know, our list members will have exclusive access to these wines (at least for now; if other retail/restaurant accounts decide to place their own east-coast special orders, more power to them).
We’re in Montsant today (region #27 on this map), a DO with a rising reputation, and one that is frequently (and favorably) compared to its neighbor Priorat. Neil Martin (Wine Advocate) has famously said “If Priorat is Pauillac then Montsant is Margaux.” Much like in Priorat, the reputation grape in Montsant is Garnacha (Grenache).
The winery today is called Pinyolet, and here is the description of the term from the folks at Ole/Peninsula: “Pinyolet is the name of the unique type of soil that makes superior wines in the Montsant appellation. If the best wines in Priorat are produced from Licorella soils, the most singular wines from Montsant are produced from vines tended in Pinyolet soils. A pinyolet is a pebble of limestone [Ed note: here is a picture] that results from the erosion of limestone boulders only found in the upper hills of Montsant. These pebbles of limestone communicate an element of minerality and brightness that is unique to the best wines of this terroir. Even though Montsant is next to Priorat nothing could be more different. Montsant is cooler and higher in elevation than Priorat. The cooler nights allow Garnacha to retain more acidity and make wines that are uplifted, floral, full of tension, more elegant.”
2011 Pinyolet Garnacha Montsant
We begin with Pinyolet’s “entry-level” Garnacha. I put air quotes around entry-level because, while the price point may be modest, this comes from a vineyard that celebrated its 50th production year in 2012. That’s Spain for you: old-vine material for a song. And that deep fruit is what’s celebrated with this bottling, which sees a mere six months, all in stainless steel. With no oak influence, we’re just experiencing pure old Grenache fruit. It expresses itself through aromatics of blackberry, wet stone, star anise, and mint; very appetizing stuff. The palate combines black fruit with insistent mineral and leafy tones. This conveys outstanding balance, breeding, and a sense of place unexpected at this tariff but beginning to become the normal expectation for wines from Ole/Peninsula. This is just such a transparent expression of Grenache, it practically shimmers.
Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “($16); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”
2010 Pinyolet “Seleccion” Montsant
We move up a few dollars, and here’s what we get in exchange: First, the addition of 20% Carinena (Carignan). Second, even older vines (Grenache from a 1945-planted vineyard and Carignan from a 1928-planted (!) vineyard). Third, longer aging in 2-year old French oak, and longer time in bottle before release, such that we’re one vintage older than the Garnacha.
This begins with a nose of smoky cherries, an even more pungent star anise note, and more pronounced crushed rock/mineral notes. In the mouth, you notice the texture first, because this is a total palate-stainer, deep and dark and extracted with blackberry fruit, espresso, and plenty of earthiness. It’s riper than the Garnacha, more supple, with more smoky oak nuance. You can really pick your poison here; there are plenty of occasions where each of these two styles would be appropriate.
Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “($21); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”
We’re special ordering these from Ole’s east-coast warehouse, and we’re placing our order on Sunday night, so please try to get orders in before then. This also means that reorder requests are unlikely to be fulfilled. For now, it’s first come first served up to 48 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and both wines should arrive by the end of March, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.