When I was 17 years old, I spent most of my time watching MTV and attempting to noodle my way through Jimmy Page guitar solos. When Juan Antonio Ponce was 17 years old, he was already a certified enologist.
After a few years working as Telmo Rodriguez’s right hand man at Remelluri in Rioja, where he learned the ins and outs of biodynamics, Ponce returned to his family’s 22 hectare farm in the Manchuela DO. Manchuela lies a bit inland from the Valencian coast, between La Mancha to the west, Utiel-Requeña to the east, and Jumilla to the south. With the courage of a 23-year-old, Ponce boldly broke his family’s pattern of selling the harvest of their native bobal vines, in favor of bottling estate wine. In relatively few vintages, his work has already earned him recognition as the leader of Manchuela, and the title “King of Bobal”. But can he play “Heartbreaker“?
Monthly Pass holders may already be familiar with “Clos Lojen”, the entry point to Ponce’s wines, and a surprisingly gulpable version of bobal. “La Casilla” is a bottling of 80-year-old vine bobal from the Estrecha area, and might be the most immensely impactful wine in the shop right now, though it somehow maintains structural balance. “Reto” is made from the under-appreciated albilla variety, which carries a graceful honied peach note that reminded us of some young Vouvray. “Buena Pinta” is the only red made without bobal, highlighting instead another local variety, moravia agria, whose inherent freshness and aromatic complexity are bolstered in this case with the addition of around 40% garnacha.
Laura Lorenzo recently made the leap from a decade of work as head winemaker for Dominio do Bibei to starting her own winery. As the name would suggest, she seems at home in the natural world of the vineyard, where her focus has been to re-establish the natural connection between the ancient, nearly abandoned vineyards of Ribeira Sacra with the grape varieties that once thrived there. She works a constellation of plots scattered throughout these stunning hills, the sight of which, even on Instagram, is capable of taking your breath away.
Mixed old plantings of mouraton, mencia, garnacha tintorera, marenzao, gran negro, and other less known varieties go into the first red we’ve brought in, “Azos de Vila”. For the whites, “Erea” is predominantly 80- to 120-year-old godello, while “Gavela” is old vine palomino. Just a couple of years into her new project, we have the sense that Lorenzo is just scratching the surface.
Please join us Friday, October 7, 5-7 pm for a first taste of Laura Lorenzo’s Daterra Viticultores.
Of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is the island closest to the African continent. The entire archipelago is of volcanic origin, having intermittently sprouted from below sea level over the last 20 million years or so. Viticulture here is an astonishing accomplishment, given the average annual rainfall of around 6″, complete lack of water in the subsoil, and up to 110°F dust-laden African winds. Workers dig holes (hoyos) in the volcanic sand to access soil nutrients and build stone walls around each vine to protect them from the incredibly harsh conditions, giving a visual effect to the vineyard that looks like it’s on another planet. Growing vines in the desert isn’t all bad news, though, as the island has never been hit by phylloxera, preventing the need for grafting onto American rootstock.
The cellar of Los Bermejos belonged to a prominent family for a few centuries before descending into almost complete inactivity near the turn of the millennium. New ownership reinvigorated viticultural activity and brought back international acclaim over the last fifteen years. Conversion to organics is nearly complete, and after a brief hiatus, the wines are once again available here in Massachusetts. This month we’re thrilled to offer both the still and sparkling versions of the local malvasia volcanica, and the red and rosé bottlings of listan negro, a grape with a surprising connection to the history of winemaking in the New World.