Monday, September 12, 2011

Guest Post: California Mourvedre v. Spanish Monastrell

This week Lucha Vino features a guest post from his tag team partner, Foxall, from down South in California.  So the matchup features California v. Spain.  This is a great match read on!

The Vuelta a Espana closed today with a relative unknown—Juan Jose Cobo—winning the race.  He was expected to ride in support of two other, more famous riders: Denis Menchov, who has finished on the podium at the Tour de France a couple times, and Carlos Sastre, who actually won the Tour in 2006.  Further, he’s a native Spaniard, who wasn’t even the “favored” Spaniard in the race.  Here’s a good article about his road to the win:

In that spirit, we have our competitors in my guest appearance on LuchaVino.  The grape in question is a relative unknown compared to its better known teammates in Southern Rhone blends, where it appears in elite Chateauneuf  du Pape, but rarely steps out on its own, unlike Grenache and Syrah.  It’s a native of Spain, although not the more famous of the native varieties—in fact, it’s not even well-known by its Spanish name, and people aren’t always sure what to call it. In Australia, the “M” in GSM blends is usually called “mataro,” although it’s the same grape.  Most people think of it as mourvedre, but its origin lies in Spain, near the town of Murviedra.

Stepping into the ring, fraternal twins, one going by Monastrell, and one going by Mourvedre. 

First luchador is Juan Gil Monastrell, from the Spanish D.O. of Jumilla.  In the other corner, Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre, from Contra Costa County, California.

(Sorry, Washingtonians, but it’s not easy getting your wines down here, and the Spanish varietals that you grow pretty well?  Forget it.  The best publicity that Washington Tempranillo gets comes courtesy of this blog.  Believe me, I tried.  I can get wine from the Canary Islands more easily.  Now, back to the match!)

Tale of the Tape:

Juan Gil Jumilla Red Wine 2008.  100% Monastrell estate grown from 40 year old vines, aged 12 months in French Oak Barrels.  15% ABV. $14 at WineMine in Oakland, CA, but widely available in the US after getting plaudits from Wine Spectator a while back.

Cline Cellars, Ancient Vines Mourvedre, Contra Costa County 2010. All Mourvedre from a vineyard they have sourced for many years, although Cline’s holdings are mostly in Sonoma County. 14.5% ABV.  $14 at K&L Wines, can also be purchased at CostPlus World Market for the same.

Round 1: First Opening:

The Cline has notes of leather in its aroma, and tastes of the same.  There’s hints of dry wood (not a good sign), black tea, and sour cherry.  The finish isn’t long at all. 

The Juan Gil, never mind the French Oak, smells of violets.  The taste is leathery, in a good way, but it’s not showing much.  Not a long finish here, either.

Neither wine is showing the barnyard-y, bretty, odors or tastes that can mar or enhance mourvedre/monastrell/mataro depending on your tastes and the intensity of that brettiness.

Almost too close to call, but the slightly bigger character of the Cline gives it an edge.  But just.

Round Two, one hour after opening:

Now the Cline is showing a hint of coffee—this wine definitely has a bitter edge.  There’s still that hint of dry wood, a taste and smell I remember from replacing some floor joists that suffered dry rot.  The leather notes are still there.  This wine isn’t improving greatly and any arguments about fruit bombs can end right here:  Although it’s the younger of the two wines, almost nothing except the earlier sour cherry said anything remotely about fruit.  The label says it will age for five to seven years, but maybe that’s because it won’t lose any fruit.  There is more than a bit of tannin, but possibly from stems or seeds, and it’s a little clumsy.

Meanwhile, the Gil has opened up, with a richer mouthfeel, a little savory edge, and just a whole bed of floral notes.  My wife is all over this, like Brett Ashley on the bullfighter in “The Sun Also Rises.” I’m enjoying the velvety notes, the taste of sloes, the warm blackberries.   I’ve had this wine before in other vintages and am enjoying watching it unfold again. 

Huge advantage this round to the Gil.

Round Three, Three hours after opening:

No change to the aroma of the Cline, but it’s gained a little umami in the flavor, that savory, mushroomy taste.  The  Gil has developed a little menthol or camphor in the nose and the mid-palate.  It’s pleasant, not overwhelmingly medicinal as that can get, and a little minty in that vein.  But it tastes a little hot, and the flavor is going flat.

Slight edge to the Cline.

Wrap Up and Overall Conclusions:

The middle round was decisive for the Gil, and I would recommend that any purchaser NOT decant it.  Drink it in a group big enough to finish it off within a couple hours.  Both were competent, this version of the Gil not as good as some other vintages.  Cline offers some solid wines, including a GSM blend called “Cashmere” that raises money for breast cancer research, and a Syrah that is good for the money from Sonoma County.  I’m guessing neither is a long ager, but at these prices, you buy it now.  I give the Gil 87 points (my wife would give it more, but she only tasted it at the peak), and the Cline 85.

1 comment:

  1. So Fox, are you comparing your wife to Ava Gardner?

    Unfortunately, your recount of the Cline offering is all too familiar from my experience with their other bottlings. I like that they're pushing some interesting varietals, but....