Sometimes you’re sitting in your house and you’re doing work and the internet decides to be an asshole. And keeps being an asshole and not working for many hours. What do you do? Well, grab something to READ (like a BOOK), a glass, and pour yourself some wine. Right?

I’ve had this bottle of Malvar (Maceracion Carbonica) from Vinos Ambiz in my fridge for a little while now. I thought, what the hell. Let’s (me) drink the damn thing. Winemaker Fabio Bartolomei is quite the groovy dude. I’ve never met him, but if there’s anyone I’d want to get stoned with and talk about life, it might be him. His winery is located in the Tajuña Valley near Madrid and he farms his own Tempranillo, Airen, and Malvar organically. It’s a pretty stripped down process from root to bottle overall. Think no SO2, native yeast ferments, etc. He even asks customers to recycle their used bottles, which is why in a case of 12, you might see bottles made of different color glass or in slightly different shapes.

Fabio likes to experiment and he actually made this same wine in a variety of styles; amphora aged Malvar, orange Malvar, and the one I popped open- Malvar made using carbonic maceration. I wish I could have tried all of them side by side since they are all skin contact white wines, but with different types of exposure to the skin.

Bottom line- this shit is interesting and you need to try it.

Importer: Jose Pastor | Buy here: Domaine LA (check out the picture of the back label!)

LudoBites The Dust

On the final night of LudoBites 8.0, I got to take off my apron and experience things from the other side of the table when Jill let me crash her reservation.

Since Jill wrote the wine list and I was working as sommelier for the previous 6 weeks, we were more than familiar with the wines on hand.  Therefore, we wanted to bring some new and interesting bottles to dive into from our cellars.

Jill brought this 100% Petit Meunier Champagne back from her recent trip to France. Delicious! Second favorite wine of the night.

Favorite wine of the night? The Adega Regional de Colares 2005 “Arenae” Malvasia that I contributed. Reminded me of a great dry sherry or a little like a Lopez de Heredia white with more acidity and minerality. It was fantastic with the majority of the food. Spanish importer José Pastor is now working with some exciting Portuguese producers, this small cooperative being one of them. José says:

“Arenae translates to sand – hence all the vines are planted direct, without American rootstock. Very rare in Portugal. The vineyards are located next to the ocean and production is very small. Every year- they make around 300 cases or so of that wine.”

Let us not forget the Lapierre 2010 Morgon Jill shared. It surely ain’t shabby! A red with any more body or muscle than this doesn’t really work with Ludo’s food and I now know that firsthand.

I’m not focusing on the Ludo food from the evening since there are plenty of other blog posts out there that have got you covered, but I just HAVE to show you this little plate of heaven- aka Brown Butter Almond Cake.

This was divine. With salted caramel and orange creamsicle ice cream? I mean, come on. Pretty hard to share with 6 other people but luckily for us/me, we had two of each dessert.

For more photos of the food, head on over to Kevin Eats to see his experience of the final night. Speaking of Kevin, here’s a photo of him…

taking a picture of this….

Cheers! It was a pleasure to work with all you crazy cats.

**Wanna win a trip to LudoBites Nine-O in HAWAII?? Sure you do. Go here for more info!

Laureano & The Tale of Vegetal Water

The most interesting visit of the trip to Spain was without a doubt the one to see Laureano Serres in El Pinell de Brai, tucked away just south of Priorat wine country in Tarragona. Laureano is one unique dude, truly one of a kind. And so are his wines.

So, we arrived in El Pinell (I always think it a miracle that we find literally anything EVER while traveling.) We found his cellar door and soon after hopped in his car with his amazingly sweet dog Brisca and headed out to see the vineyards…and the day of quotable quotes began!

We walked, we talked, we touched dirt. We talked vegetal water.

Quote: Wine in its purest form is “vegetal water” or at least it should be, he said. If you spray your vineyards with herbicides/pesticides or add commercial yeasts or SO2 to your wine, the pure essence of the grape’s liquid/the soil/the sun becomes compromised. This is when vegetal water becomes soup.

There’s water and then there’s soup. I think I get it.

We headed back to his tiny cellar, which is beneath his home, and settled into the office where a few dozen wines awaited us. His wife brought down some plates of jamon, the most amazing jamon+ queso biscuits and pa amb tomàquet (the classic Catalan bread and tomato snack). His kids played with Brisca and swept up all the peanut shells she had been chewing on. There were piles of boxes, empty wine bottles you could tell he loved or at least wanted to remember, an old fan…

Outside the office were some small tanks, a few old barrels and 3 amphorae, which he started using in 2010.

The label Mendall is named after his mother’s childhood home. We tasted 2007 thru 2011 of the “Terme di Guiu”, which is 100% macabeu. In general- think a bit of skin contact, crunchy texture, spice, salinity and gentle oxidation. Basically, it should be the national white wine of Spain if we’re talking pairing abilities with the food.

As we continued to taste, I started to feel like all of these wines before us were some kind of little miracle. This tiny cellar, this one man, no added sulfites…and here they were and they were lovely. His white wines are really where it’s at; they’re unique but still so very Spanish.

We tasted. And tasted. The 2010 and 2011 “Abeurador” (macabeu), 2005 “BB Escollades del 5 (garnaxta blanca or barnatxa blanca/BB in local dialect), 2005 Miau- Macamiau del 5 (macabeu). Then we got into the reds. We tasted every single one from the 2011 harvest. Some whole cluster, some foot stomped, usually a short maceration period and still very young, fresh and vibrant. We then ventured into some 2010’s- “Espartel BP”(local garnatxa clone), “Rock ‘n Roll” (blend of all his reds), “Cabeilles” (10 month barrel aged carignan and cabernet).

All the while, Christina and I spit in our little bucket as Laureano certainly never spit out anything. He continued to tell us funny stories, get poetic about the importance of vegetal water…and sometimes get off track. One moment he stopped for more than a few beats and apologized, “I got involved with this wine.”

And thus is born my official new way of referring to intoxication.

To finish, or so we thought, we tasted “BRUTAL!!!” Complete with a scythe-wielding sulfite-killing Grim Reaper. This was the product of all the red wine that ended up having flaws, like some major flaws. Brett, VA, etc. They all came out to live it up at one big we don’t give a fuck party. And they were proud.

Quote: “My brutal is the most brutal of all brutals.” (Brutal pronounced “brew-tall”, of course.) Can’t say that I’d want to sit down and tuck into a glass of this wine, but I definitely admire his sense of humor.

This back label alone made me fall in love with this man, as if I hadn’t already.

When all was said and done, we had gone through about 2 dozen wines, a handful of which weren’t even his. He started pulling down any bottle that looked fun and enjoyable from his myriad of shelves and stacks. I mentioned my fondness for Olivier Lemasson’s Les Vins Contés wines. Well, wouldn’t ya know! He had some of his “Gama Sutra.” OK- let’s try that too!

Speaking of kick ass labels…how clever is that? I can’t even handle it.

This wine, Laureano said, was soup. “Very good soup, but soup.” Olivier adds very small amounts of sulfites at bottling. We enjoyed it nonetheless, but, I don’t think that Laureano actually swallowed this wine. He said he only drinks vegetal water- completely natural wines.

Did we want to pop open some half bottles of 2003 and 2004 Els Jelepins? All right then, let’s try those too. The night could have gone on like this for, I’m sure, a few more hours. But, we had a 2 hour drive back to our house still ahead of us.

And Laureano had some very good vegetal water to look after.