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Above the clouds in the Andes Mountains
With vineyards at elevations over 6,500 feet above sea level, grapes take in the intense Bolivian sun during the day and rest during the cool nights. These ideal conditions, combined with water from the clean Andes Mountain rivers, result in unique, balanced and delicious flavor profiles.
Building on this natural bounty and nearly 500 years of history, Aranjuez Winery has mastered the craft of winemaking in the high elevation valleys of Tarija, Bolivia.
Aranjuez is a highly regarded winery in Bolivia and has begun to make a name for itself worldwide, winning accolades in various European and South American competitions. Although Aranjuez is perhaps best known for its robust, yet surprisingly well-rounded Tannat, its mastery of high elevation winemaking sets all of its varietals apart from other wineries.
2013 Gold Medal, World Tannat Competition in Uruguay
Round, gentle tannins. Opulent, fine, long finish. Plentiful blueberry and raspberry notes, as well as artichoke, combine perfectly with subtle hints of cacao and vanilla.
Tannat & Merlot
50% Tannat 50% Merlot
A delicious blend of bold tannins subdued by the delicacies of the Merlot. Light, clean, exotic. Aromas of red fruit and spice.
Torrontes & Moscatel
50% Torrontes 50% Moscatel
A unique blend of dry and sweet. Light, refreshing, balanced. Aromas of white flowers and stone fruit.
Rujero Singani, a Bolivian Tradition
When the Jesuit priests arrived in Tarija’s high elevation valleys more than two hundred years ago, they planted grapevines alongside ancient peppercorn trees. Today, Rujero is the last remaining vineyard where these original grapes still grow and, which are used in the production of their Singani.
The name Rujero is derived from the Spanish word rujir meaning “to roar.” The Rujero river, which runs through the vineyard, is normally more like a trickling creek than a mighty river.
However, when it rains in the surrounding Andes
mountains, the creek swells into a rushing river whose roar echoes throughout the valley. This is how Rujero Singani got its name.Hailing from Bolivia’s picturesque countryside, Singani (seen-GAH-nee) is widely recognized by millions of Bolivians as the national spirit. It has been quietly distilled in Bolivia for nearly 500 years, consumed for centuries throughout this idyllic Andean country.
“The interesting thing about Singani is not how adventuresome
it seems, but how approachable… This is a spirit with mass appeal.”
– The Washington Post
By Richard J. Serrano, Director of California, Austria, and Distillates
For those of us in the biz, getting asked about food pairings happens all the time. While we’re supposed to be authorities, it’s not that easy, as what you read doesn’t always pan out when you actually put certain pairings to the test. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that most of the established rules and suggestions I’ve read over the years, and continue to read, are mostly bunk.
I know what people will say. But Richard, let peoples’ own pallet decide. Richard, those rules are meant to be broken. Richard, stop being a know-it-all. I don’t have all the answers, but here are some observations I made during 2014, as I was thinking, and tasting, long and hard on the subject.
Has anyone actually eaten a hamburger with Zinfandel and enjoyed it? I mean any kind of Zin, from a restrained Dry Creek version to a giant gobsmacker from Lodi. Or how about ANY dry red with ANY kind of hamburger? They just don’t work. Ya know what works? Off-dry reds, or off-dry sparkling, like a slightly sweet Lambrusco. I was doing this all summer. My hamburger of choice usually involved lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, and avocado. Sometimes mayo and ketchup, sometimes ketchup and mustard, sometimes no condiments at all. Dry red wine never works. Not Zin, not Malbec, not Cru Beaujolais. Never ever. And it’s not just my pallet, as I was testing this on all my civilian friends. Some thought red meat should always go with dry red, but they all saw the light. (Although when I first served them Lambrusco they looked at me like I had two heads.)
BBQ Chicken. We eat it all summer, usually with BBQ sauce. Every food magazine tries recommending lighter-bodied red wine with this. Why? I have no idea. I suppose it’s because of the sauce, yet the sauce is exactly why German Kabinett simply crushes it. There’s nothing better than a bone-in, sweet and tangy BBQ chicken thigh paired with a Mosel or Rheingau Riesling.
But summer’s over and I’m serving chili in the dead of winter. I also pair this with German Kabinett, or sometimes drier Austrian versions, and after everyone initially balks, they’re amazed at how the snappy spritz of the Riesling is just what the pallet needs with the heavy chili. During a recent Packer game a neighbor of mine said, “I’d never have thought white wine and chili could be so good.”
Here’s a pairing that I never saw coming. I tend to think of big domestic Chard as a cocktail wine that can only pair with cream-of-corn soup. I was wrong. In 2014 I learned to pair domestic Chard with eggs, specifically, veggie omelets. It’s a perfect match with this much-maligned category.
One pairing that everyone tends to agree on is steak with big reds. “Steak needs a tannic red to cut thru the fat.” I guess. I’ve had Cab and Malbec with steak, and it’s okay. In 2014, however, I paired steak with California Valdiguie, which barely has any tannin, and it was divine. A seared rib-eye, with all that fat, was just fine without a tannic red. Also, a very savvy industry friend turned me on to pairing steak with a nice weighty Pinot Blanc. Yup. Pinot Blanc. Try it. I dare you.
So that’s what I learned in 2014. That, and how to properly hook a bowling ball.
(It doesn’t have to be so complicated)
Let’s break our German wine labels down into two categories; the first we will call QbA (Qualitätswein) and the second one we’ll call QmP (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat).
QbAs must be produced only from allowed grape varieties grown in one of the 13 wine-growing regions of Germany. This region will always be printed on the label. There are several other rules, but for now this is the important part.
A wine classified as a QmP is at the top level of the German classification system and will have extra information about the wine printed on the label. The ripeness level, printed clearly on QmP wine labels is the most complicated part to understand, but also one of the most important.
Your enjoyment level of German wine will reach new heights when you fully understand the differences between ripeness and sweetness.
More about the ripeness level:
Think of ripeness in terms of weight. When you bite into a crisp apple, you get a snappy, almost crunchy and light sensation as you chew. Now imagine biting into a very, very ripe peach and the juicy, gooey, syrupy mess that virtually melts as you slurp. Both are delicious and both have complex flavors, fruitiness and acidity. But there is a difference in the perceived heaviness or body. Just like the two fruit examples mentioned, the final weight of the wine is directly effected by the ripeness level of the grapes at the time of harvest.
Below are the terms describing each level of ripeness and the corresponding “weight” of the wine.
• Kabinett – the first level of ripeness, these grapes produce the lightest of the QmP wines.
• Spätlese – later harvest, medium level of ripeness, makes a medium weight wine.
• Auslese – specially selected, usually later harvest, makes medium / heavy weight wines.
• Beerenauslese – or “BA” – a wine made from individually selected berries, makes a heavy bodied wine.
• Trockenbeerenauslese – or “TBA” – made from individually selected dried (very ripe, almost raisin-like) berries, makes a very heavy bodied wine.
• Eiswein – wine made with grapes which were harvested while frozen. Eiswein must be at least as heavy as Beerenauslese and can be more concentrated than a Trockenbeerenauslese.
There are several grape varieties that are grown in Germany and made into wine, but by far the most popular grape is Riesling.
For those of you who think that all Rieslings are sweet, you are in for a big surprise because they are not.
This is undoubtedly the biggest misconception about Riesling.
So, how do you tell if the wine is dry or sweet? One of the best ways is to take note of the alcohol level. The lower the alcohol percentage (7-8%), the sweeter the wine. This is because the bulk of the sugar in the fermenting fruit has not been converted to alcohol. Longer fermentation times allow the sugars to convert to higher levels of alcohol (11-13%). This is why it is possible to have a very dry late harvest Riesling (can you say yum?)
By Richard J. Serrano, Director of California, Austria, and Distillates
Sometimes selling Riesling makes me want to cry. The other day I poured a 2007 Setzer Riesling from Austria for some non-industry friends. Most said that they didn’t like it because it was sweet.
Technically, the wine was dry. BONE DRY. No residual sugar whatsoever. But they still tasted sweetness. Why? Because it said Riesling on the label. I tried to explain that they were simply tasting fruit, but it fell on deaf ears.
If I had poured them a low-grade Shiraz with 6% residual sugar, no one would have batted an eye. Most Americans would assume red means dry. Also, for most Americans, Riesling, the greatest grape of all, gets no respect. Riesling, with soaring acidity and an ability to match with so many foods, is frowned upon. Riesling, the grape that reads terroir better than even Pinot Noir, is looked at askance. Many Americans would say that they only drink “dry” wine, at the same time guzzling a caramel latte. I can perfectly understand all this, given what has historically been passed off as Riesling. (Do you think the average Liebfraumilch drinker knows it’s made from Muller-Thurgau?)
As I wipe away the tears I take solace in the knowledge that Riesling currently has the highest percentage of growth among all grape varieties. Granted, it’s from a small base, but the category is on the rise. Plus, Millennials seem to have much less fear of hock bottles than baby-boomers. And for every 5 people that recoil when I offer them a glass of Donnhoff Trocken, there will usually be one person who will be convinced, and start down the Riesling path. (This is not easy. It takes blood, sweat, and tears to turn people onto Riesling, but we can’t be deterred. And I’m only discussing DRY, since selling off-dry Spatlese is a whole other set of issues.)
Fortunately, not all my friends are tasting sweet and walking away. My friend Kate was a longtime Sauvignon Blanc fan. She loved crispy, high acid whites, and she HATED Chardonnay. When I suggested Dry Riesling to her, she looked at me like I had two heads. After sharing many Alsatian and Austrian Rieslings, I had her repeating the words, “My name is Kate and I love Riesling.” True story. It took some time, but she no longer hesitates when grabbing a Riesling off the shelf. And I no longer cry when trying to sell Riesling, as much.
Raised on beer and tequila since the age of 12, Richard had his first sip of White Zin at the age of 26, and declared it righteous. A bottle of cheap Chilean Merlot followed a week later, and there was no turning back. After a brief flirtation with high-alcohol fruit-bombs, two years in wine retail tempered and matured his palette. He now spends his time in the Sisyphusian pursuit of finding Domestic wines that emphasize balance, purity, and terroir. Known as the company hothead, he spends his off time listening to acoustic blues, reading Decanter, and trying to find old bottles of Roussanne on close-out.
Cathy Corison believes in the Bench. The Bench in question is the Rutherford Bench, that famous patch of Napa Valley land west of HWY 29 up to the Mayacamas mountain range, starting from the northern tip of Yountville, heading north through Oakville, then Rutherford, before ending at St. Helena. When Andre Tchelistcheff innocently referred to this area as the Rutherford Bench, we did not have the current AVA system, with arbitrary boundaries cutting across the valley from east to west. While Rutherford is a tiny town, the Rutherford Bench is a true terroir.
Cathy Corison’s belief in the Bench shows both in her wines and in her impassioned longevity, crafting her style without regard to current trends or fashion. While we stood in her organically farmed 8-acre Kronos vineyard, with 40yr old vines yielding a paltry 1.8 tons an acre, she pointed to the dirt and declared, “This is some of THE BEST land for Cabernet Sauvignon in the world!” And after tasting through a vertical of Corison Cabernets, I must admit that I believe, as well.
After acquiring a master’s degree from UC Davis in 1975, Cathy was one of the earliest female winemakers in the valley, eventually landing at Chappellet where she really made her mark, but all the while she yearned to make wines on her own terms. She wanted to make Rutherford Bench Cabernet with both power and elegance, which she’s now been doing with her own label for 25 years.
It’s pretty simple. Her Kronos Estate Cabernet is 100% from the 40yr old Kronos vineyard, which surrounds her winery. This lies in the heart of the Rutherford Bench. For her Napa Cabernet Sauvignon bottling, Cathy sources from 3 vineyards which also lie within the heart of the Rutherford Bench, with which she has long-term partnerships.
For many of us, the mark of the Bench lies in both the liveliness of cassis, plum, and blackberry flavors, but also in the supple texture as it’s delivered on the palate. The balance between that density of fruit, and a velvety, elegant tannin structure, are a hallmark of this area. Cathy does not want to make the loudest or brashest wines in Napa. Rather, she wants to make wines that are both ripe and elegant, which will be true to the terroir of the Rutherford Bench.
Cathy Corison is many things. She is the first female Winemaker-Proprietor in Napa Valley. She is the San Francisco Chronicle’s 2011 Winemaker of the year. But above all this, Cathy is a believer in the terroir of the Rutherford Bench. Taste her wines and believe for yourself.
d’Arenberg is not your average winery. Established in 1912 and into the fourth generaton of management it is both innovative and traditional. Celebrating our 100th birthday in 2012. Since 1912 the Osborn family have grown grapes and made wine in the picturesque surrounds of McLaren Vale.
Today fourth generation family member Chester Osborn is at the winemaking helm, making distinctive wines using traditional methods in the winery and the vineyard. From entry level to iconic, d’Arenberg wines are hand crafted with all grapes basket pressed and red wines fermented in small batch open fermenters and foot trod. The red striped range is considerable with 37 wines making use of over 25 varieties including white, red, fortified, sparkling red and dessert wines. Over a thousand show medals and praise from wine scribes the world over attest to their merits.