Wednesday, August 1, 2012

WW: Alamosa Cellars' El Guapo

When Sean and I visited Alamosa Wine Cellars back in May, the first wine that really impressed us was the El Guapo 2010. For starters, we are both great fans of Tempranillo (this is 75%). Next, the blend of the two other grapes, 20% Graciano (another of our Alamosa favorites) and 5% Garnacha, added an extra layer that we had yet to experience with a Tempranillo blend. Recently, we opened up the bottle we brought home with us when we visited the winery in Bend. Right away, I found myself seeing the wine.

From Alamosa Wine Cellars

The Image

A Texas Garden

It clings, humid air holds
the heat close to everything.
The over ripe blackberries,
maybe dark raspberries,
ooze on the bush. Their scent
fills the air. Everywhere

it smells of fermenting and aging
fruit, and the tang of the top soil
collected around a hole; mounds
of it, little grains sticking together,
sticking to everything, clumping
and collecting. Full and heavy,
with water or with vitamins,
with something that gives it weight;

it is rich, yet, soft, malleable
under the slightest touch; moving,
enfolding, falling away.  Every inch
a dark contrast to what rests just below it.
Strength: drier, grayish grains bound into clots,
larger than the rocks
found interspersed between them.
Fortified, resistant to pressure,
except for the flaking pieces
that take to the air as dust.

The clots can shatter, scatter
into raged pieces,
but they still remain as they come to rest
along the hole's mouth.
And at its bottom, still,
rests the caliche. A mineral barrier
but also a foundation. Everything
sets here, finds support here:
the earth, the soil, the fruit. It lingers here.
It collects here,
all finds its way here.

Here, the pieces come together
in the garden.

Alamosa Cellars' El Guapo

The Basics

Drinking Notes

We decided to let this sit awhile. After opening, we let it rest over an hour. This allowed the wine to really open up; both aroma and taste seemed heightened.

Tasting Notes & Interpretations

As the poem suggests, when I taste this wine, I think of a backyard garden, not so different from my own. It is pungent and seducing on a hot humid day. The berries are ripe and have broken under the sun. This is the wine's scent; it smells so thoroughly of dark fruit, fruit I imagine to be just shy of going bad. And the first taste, the first experience mirrors that, but it is more.

From the onset, this particularly wine is fruity, but it tends toward the dark side. For me it is reminiscent of dark berries -- blueberries, blackberries -- just before they are too ripe to eat. The darker flavors of chocolate, especially bitter, dark chocolate, slip in and make the wine seem heavy and rich. This reminded me of fresh top soil. It is also the part of the wine that is deceptive. It seems like the wine will overpower everything, like the dense and rich top soil. I first wondered if these fruit and chocolate flavors would control everything; however, like the top soil, they prove malleable. They shift and give way to the leather, the earthier flavors of the garden's natural dirt come into play.

Then the wine's strong, resilient flavors emerge: tones of leather and the earthy minerals that linger on afterwards and can stand on their own. They quickly become the focus of the wine, the other flavors slipping into memory. But they also balance with the richness, provide depth instead of overload. This is much like the garden. Top soil is often too weak to stand on its own, it falls apart with ease. When placed on a firm bed of natural dirt, it seems even and stable. But even this bed cannot stand alone.

These flavors transition quickly and naturally. They give way to the fuller picture of the wine that dominates every sip after the first few. After awhile, the full range of flavor seems to dominate from the very beginning of a sip. A structural element is needed to provide a founding and connective force between what seems two very different aspects. In a Texas garden, this is caliche -- calcium carbonate. The mineral represents the tannins and acid at the end of the wine. They hold the two seemingly divergent parts together, provide a greater structure. It helps make the wine complete.

A garden is easy to appreciate it. It, of course, can provide beauty and sustenance (or even the grapes for wine). But those who have found the joy of getting their hands dirty, there are other sensual pleasures: there is the smell, the feel. Alamosa's El Guapo wine brings all of this together to make for a wonderful experience.

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