2011 A Portela Mencia Valdeorras

Hello friends. The wine trade in the northwest can be a really, really small world.

To wit: John House, the man behind the new Ovum wines project that we featured back in December, recently informed me that he is also the west coast sales director for Olé Imports and asked me if I was interested in tasting terroir-driven wines from Spain.

In our current era of over-oaked Rioja and over-extracted Ribera, terroir-driven Spanish wine is an oxymoron at worst, an anachronism at best. But John is a terroir freak (as evidenced by his hunting down of oddball southern Oregon Riesling vineyards for Ovum), and I was intrigued.

So we tasted through the lineup, and I came away deeply impressed. Olé has struck a rich, broad vein of Spanish reactionaries: winemakers making earth-driven wines during an age of cloying fruit ripeness. The broader wine press has taken notice, with no less than Robert Parker himself weighing in:

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “[TEXT WITHHELD].”

We’ll plumb the depths of the Olé lineup in the months to come, but let’s start today with one of the most exciting wines in the lineup:

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “($17); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

This is one of the rare Spanish wines that Parker reviewed himself (instead of delegating to Neal Martin), and that combination of score, price, and prose has made the wine difficult to source. Because of that, I decided to jump in on this as a short pre-order. The wine is scheduled to arrive in late February, so the wait will be a bit longer than typical for Full Pull. But the reward is a good one: our list has first dibs on a good chunk of the parcel, a chance to stake our claim before the remainder of the Seattle market jumps in.

The wine is 100% Mencia and 100% from a single vineyard called A Portela, high on a slope (nearly 2000 feet elevation) in the Galician town of Larouco. Let’s get oriented. Here is a zoomed-out map for context, and here is a zoomed-in map to see what a crazy, mountainous region this is. This picture helps to show how Larouco (and the vineyards) are cut into the mountain.

That mountain is made of granite and decomposing slate, which also comprise the soils of the vineyard. These non-nutrative soils give natural yields that are substantially lower than is typical for the region (35% of average). Low yield equals high concentration, important for Mencia, which in more fertile soils can produce light, pale, forgettable wines.

This wine is anything but forgettable. It starts with an expressive nose of black fruit, earth, and some funky truffle notes, aromatics that won’t be unfamiliar to lovers of Washington Syrah. Minerality is the center of gravity on the palate, a dense mass of cut-rock around which swirls raspberry and black pepper and lavender. There is nary a hint of oak here (this was done entirely in steel), and for such a young red, the mix of richness and vibrancy is a rare pleasure.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in late February, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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