Hi everyone! Marti here. Sorry if anyone's Tuesday was ruined for lack of delicious pintxo posting. I was otherwise occupied (eating a ton of delicious ones) but will be back with a doozy next week. Take it away, Lulu!
It was pretty clear that the sun was not going to shine last Saturday. The clouds hung heavy and seamless with the hazy marine layer. Marti and I poured out of the apartment and onto the streets, making our way to the local Gros (name of our district) wine shop, Vinateria. It rests only a few blocks away but requires weaving through and around that constant roadblock, the window shopper. It's a 'thing' here, really. A complete abandonment of time to a moment's view of...anything. Anywho, we reach the warm glow of our destination, where the owner, Manu Mendez, was standing out front on the phone. Marti soon strikes up a conversation with him while I wander along the walls of what feels like a massive private cellar. Wooden crates and dusty vintage liquors line the floor; olives, oils and other magnificent non perishables are wedged in corners and clinging to the edges of over 500 different wine and liquors.
Marti picked up a bottle labeled 4Besos, informing me that Manu was the vintner. For me, this news was too good to be true. Marti was playing translator when I asked how he came around to becoming a winemaker. A response that encompassed his life's work and passion, the dream of making his own wine was fueled by his 'If I don't do it now, I'll never do it.' Words to inspire, eh? I was grinning ear to ear knowing that I was venturing of with a local's fruition in hand.
THIS WEEK'S BOTTLE:
Name: 4Besos (4Kisses)
Vineyard: Lar de Paula
Region: La Roja / El Villar de Alava
4Besos hails from the vineyard of Lor de Paula, located near the cool and high region of the Sierra Cantabria in Elvillar de Alava. Alava is the largest of the three Basque provinces (as well as being the least populated). 4Besos is a single variety Tempranillo carrying strains of 46 year old vines. This has fermented in 'Ganymede'-stainless steel and then had 14 months of maturation in French oak barrels.
I pulled the cork from the bottle with the sound of beads hitting the floor. The cork had sprouted what looks of amethyst crystals. A bit confused, I stuck my index finger in the neck of he bottle and pulled out a rock candied finger. A Science museum treat from the gift shop I always wanted to like but never did. After clearing the diamonds, I slowly poured the wine scanning its intense dark cherry pigment for any remnants. Surprisingly, none.
Swirling the wine, long transparent gams coated the glass and a rich but complex aroma broke loose apart from the explicable dark berries and cherry. First sip, a sharpness and burst of dark fruits that carried a heavy stain. Second-third swigs, noticing something distinct but impossible for me to peg....if you could sip a sensation, it contained a crispness of cool mountain air, along with a hint of leather and earth. It sounds insane, but it's the only way I can describe it. There was an initial bite and dryness that striped my tongue dry - but when it became yesterday's wine, that sharp edge wore off.
* crystal notes * now, that confetti corking experience had me googling 'wine crystals' faster than my own drinking - if the wine is stored correctly the crystals themselves form towards the mouth/cork. The crystals are Tartaric acid which naturally form as part of the aging process. Most all mass wine producers process their wine to prevent this occurrence.
The 4Besos label may be off putting with its Coca-Cola like text and Jessica Rabbit kiss - but the overall experience was a privilege. Maybe a bit biased on my part due to the intimate circumstances. How often does one partake in drinking a thoughtfully made wine grown in the ancient hills of Basque Country and crafted by a local man you're happy to 'know' ....oh Spain....I'm one lucky creature who's sad to see this journey come to an end.