Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Winery of the Month: Latúe Bodegas

Latúe Bodegas is the largest organic winery in the world. The 6200 hectares (15,500 acres approx.) of vineyards are managed by over 600 vine growers. Begun as the San Isidro cooperative in 1954, Latúe Bodegas was developed in 2007. The bodegas (winery) makes conventional and organic wines on two entirely separate production lines. The vineyards are located in Castillo-La Mancha in the heart of Spain which is the largest wine region in Spain with over 600 wineries.

I had the honor of doing a presentation of Latúe at the Instituto Cervantes, located in the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) last month. I did a PowerPoint presentation and led the wine tasting portion which consisted of four very well made wines. Since Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, which is principally set in La Mancha, there was an obvious match between the institute and Latúe Bodegas. One wonders if the fledgling coop in 1954 “dreamed the impossible dream” of becoming the great success story it is now.

Based on my tasting of the four wines, I predict they will also be successful in America.  The soils and weather in Castillo-La Mancha are not too different from our own in New Mexico where many classic Spanish and Italian grape varietals do well. This makes their wines a good match for the New Mexican palate. I’ve paired Latúe Bodegas wines with many local dishes with great success. Below are my tasting notes for the wines. When they are available in our state, I’ll report on it in my newsletter.

2011 Toscar Airen, Castillo-La Mancha, Spain
Airen, or Lairen is the most widely planted white wine grape in Spain and represents 30% of all Spanish wine grapes. The Toscar Airen is a big, aromatic wine with great acidity, body and balance.  I picked up banana peel, wet stone and minerality in the nose and luscious green tropical fruit; green papaya, green banana, unripe mango and ripen banana on the palate. Unlike the actual fruit, the “greenness” of these flavors adds to the appeal and power it presents to the palate.

2011 Pingorote Tempranillo, Castillo-La Mancha, Spain
This is a lighter, fruitier version of this grape, Spain’s signature red wine grape. The purplish red color entices and the bouquet is rich even before swirling, but deepens. The cherry flavor reminded me of Luden’s cherry cough drops, and I mean that in a good way. The tanginess added to its charm. I also got black pepper and spices. The expansive mid-palate moved to cherry cola with light gunpowder-like tannins and a pleasing finish.

2011 Toscar Tempranillo, Castillo-La Mancha, Spain
This is a bigger, meatier Tempranillo with tobacco, earth, plum and cigar box aromas. On the palate black fruit, cassis and velvety tannins expand the mid-palate. The finish was persistent with red and dark fruit and dark chocolate. This is my kind of Tempranillo.

2008 Toscar Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah, Castillo-La Mancha, Spain
Both of these classic French grapes grow extremely well in Spain. A number of French winemakers have purchased land in Spain and have been growing these grapes for some time. Many local grape growers have also embraced these varietals. This is a big red with blueberry, red raspberry and allspice on the nose. On the palate, blueberry compote, cassis with tight tannins with white and black pepper accents and hints of candied cherry on the finish. In Italy the wines using French grapes are called Super Tuscans so I’d have to call this a Super La Mancha.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Lodge in Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Few historic resorts have impressed me as much as The Lodge. Yes, it is known as "The Lodge" and once I was there I understood why. The imposing structure sits above the town of Cloudcroft, which is a delightful destination in its own right. The lodge is accessed via a serpentine road off the main drag. At 9000 feet elevation it will take your breath away in more ways than one.

Founded in 1899, The Lodge Resort and Spa has seen much history and entertained all of New Mexico’s governors since its inception. The main entrance opens into what looks like a Billionaire’s hunting lodge, with animal heads projecting into the room, wide-eyed and wondering how they got here, no doubt. The stuffed chairs and sofas enclose a very imposing fireplace hearth that invites quiet conversation over a cocktail from Rebecca’s dining room.

The lace of thousands of miniature white lights illuminates the secluded grounds behind the lodge, while those in front outline the lodge and tower; a virtual fairyland at night that only hints at what lies inside. Our room was small but well-appointed, with a gabled window overlooking the pool and gazebo.

My wife was here for an ACI convention and we both dined with the attendees in Rebecca’s restaurant and bar. Normally, convention food is, well, conventional, but that was not how the resort presented the dinner. The food was excellent, the staff handled everything with efficiency and care, and the wine list made me glad I’d come. My white Bordeaux paired very well with the meal and yes, not all Bordeaux wines are red and often are a good value.

And then there’s the ghost. Rebecca according to legend, conjecture, and possibly overactive imagination, was a chambermaid at the lodge. Her lover was a lumberjack, but alas, she took up with a new lover and the lumberjack found out. He used his ax on her, and that’s all we will say about that. Fortunately, apparitions are scarce, and only the poltergeist-like moving of objects is involved.

If you enjoy your dinners with a good wine or cocktail from the bar, and a ghost story to read while sipping on a brandy afterwards, this is a place you need to check out. The Lodge website provides all the details you’ll need.