Monday, May 9, 2011

Alejandro Luna Beberide from Bodegas y Vinedos Luna Beberide in Spain at the Taberna del Alabardero in Washington DC

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Alejandro Luna Beberide

Washington DC top restaurant Taberna del Alabardero’s Chef Javier Romero and Sommelier Gustavo Iniesta presented a winemaker dinner with Alejandro Luna Beberide, Owner and Winemaker from Luna Beberide Winery in Spain and Aurelio Cabestrero, Grapes of Spain Owner and Star Sommelier. The Taberna del Alabardero in Washington DC is a branch of the restaurant by the same name in Madrid and arguably the best Spanish restaurant on the east coast of the US. Among others, my former boss at the International Monetary Fund and possibly future French President, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, likes to eat there.

Wine Producer Spain

Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has over 1 million hectares of vineyard land planted. It is with Italy and France in the leading trio of wine producing nations in the world. Wine making in Spain began many centuries ago, even long before the Romans came.

Spanish wines are classified according a five-tier system, which - starting from the bottom - comprises: (1) Vino de Mesa; (2) Vinos de la Tierra; (3) Vino de Calidad Producido en Región Determinada – all entry-level wines for day to day consumption; (4) Denominación de Origen (DO - for the quality wine regions, comprising nearly 2/3 of the total vineyard area in Spain; and (5) Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa - a step above DO level, given to only 3 regions so far: Rioja in 1991, Priorat in 2003, and Ribera del Duero in 2008).

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Aurelio Cabestrero, Owner of Grapes of Spain

The four most common aging designations are Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. (1) Joven are easy-drinking wines with little or new barrel or bottle aging. (2) Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.(3) Reserva red wines are aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak. (4) Gran Reserva wines typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years aging, 18 months of which in oak.

Major Spanish wine regions include the 3 DOCa regions Rioja, the Priorat and Ribera del Duero; Jerez, the home of the fortified wine Sherry; Rías Baixas in the northwest region of Galicia that is known for its white wines made from Albariño and Catalonia which is the home of the sparkling wine Cava.

The country has an abundance of native grape varieties, with over 600 varieties planted throughout Spain though 80 percent of the country's wine production is from only 20 grapes. Tempranillo is the most widely planted red grape and is an important grape in the Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Penedès regions.

Picture: The Wine Regions of Spain

Sherry is a fortified wine produced in southern Spain. It can either be sweet or dry, unlike Port. Port wine is made sweet by adding alcohol to the fermenting must so the fermentation stops and the sugar of the grapes remains in the wine. What you get is a wine with lots of alcohol and remaining sweetness in the wine. Sherry, on the other hand, is made by letting the fermentation go its full way so that a dry wine emerges. Then, alcohol is added to boost the alcohol level. If the winemaker stops there, you get a dry Sherry. If he also adds sterilized juice, you get a sweet Sherry. Thus, Sherry can be sweet or dry.

Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made in the traditional method of the Champagne. Mostly white grape varieties like Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel•lo are used for Cava.

Bierzo DO

Formerly one of the regions in Spain that was mainly producing bulk wine, Bierzo has become one of Spain's hot wine regions over the past decades. Bierzo was on the verge of slipping into obscurity until the late 1980s, when some ambitious winemakers like the Luna family recognized its potential. It has a DO status now, which it received only in 1989.

The main red grape variety is the early ripening Mencia, which – since Bierzo has always been an important stop on the pilgrimage route from northern Europe to Santiago de Compostella - is believed to have been brought by pilgrims from the north to the region. There are also some terrific whites made from the Godello grape.

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Sommelier Gustavo Iniesta

The region encompasses about 9,000 acres, cultivated by about 4,200 wine growers, which means that the average holding is just over 2 acres. With such a fragmentation, wine cooperatives have inevitably played a leading role in the area. The region is in the northwestern corner of Castilla y Leon, near Galicia, where the climate is influenced by the Atlantic rather than the Mediterranean and the terrain is lush and green.

Alejandro Luna Beberide and Bodegas y Vinedos Luna Beberide

Bernardo Luna Beberide founded the Bodegas y Vinedos Luna Beberide in 1987, 2 years before Bierzo received its DO status. The Luna family planted Bordeaux grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and those grapes find their way into the winery's top blends, with Mencia as the base. Because of the international grapes, the wines have to be labeled Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon rather than Bierzo DO.

Pictures: Alejandro Luna Beberide

Today, Bernardo’s son Alejandro Luna Beberide – who I met in Washington DC - is the Owner. Alejandro is a charming guy, but you had to speak Spanish in order to follow him or listen to the interpretation of Aurelio Cabestrero. Alejandro lived and studied toward his Bachelor’s and Law degrees in Madrid for 10 years, before taking over the estate in 2001. The estate comprises 70 hectares of vines, ranging in age from 20 years for international grapes to 60 years for Mencia. The estate has 1.5 hectares of Godello. “It is selling very well,” said Alejandro.

No herbicides or pesticides are used on the vineyards. All of the grapes are hand-picked and carefully sorted at the winery before crushing. The wine is fermented in stainless steel vats under temperature control using wild yeast. The wine is fined using egg whites and bottled unfiltered

Aurelio Cabestrero and Grapes of Spain

The Bodegas y Vinedos Luna Beberide wines are brought into the US by Aurelio Cabestrero, a former Sommelier (he worked as Sommelier in Madrid and for Taberna del Alabardero and Marcel’s in Washington DC; in 1993, he won the Ruinart 1993 prize as the Best Sommelier in Spain), who went into the wine import business about 10 years ago. He imports exclusively from Spain and currently represents 36 producers with a portfolio of 90+ wines from all corners of Spain. His focus is high quality, limited quantity wines. “I hand select each wine and my wines reflect the true personality, quality and character of each vineyard, grape and people who make it. Finally I believe the wines in my portfolio represent an authentic expression of Spanish wine.” Aurelio told me during the dinner.

Taberna del Alabardero

The Taberna del Alabardero is a renowned Basque restaurant in Madrid owned by Luis Lesama - a Madrid classic.

In his first venture abroad, Luis Lezama crossed the Atlantic to open Taberna Del Alabardero in Washington DC in 1989. The relatively new young chef Javier Romero who comes directly from Madrid currently heads the team in the kitchen. In addition to the superb food and excellent wines, the decor is impressive and almost screams you'll be treated like royalty. The group of us dined in one of the private rooms that featured dark walls, gold embellishments and a pretty chandelier.

What We Drank

The dinner was organized by MacArthur Beverages and you find their regular prices below. The exchange rate is currently Euro 1 = US$ 1.48.

Picture: The Wines Gustavo Iniesta Poured

Luna Beberide Mencia 2009

Grapes: 100% Mencia

The grapes come from vineyards, which are oriented south, planted in calcareous clay at 750 meters above sea level, with an average age of the vines between 25 and 30 year old. Harvested by hand with yields between 25 to 30 hectoliters per hectare. Fermented in stainless steel vats and bottled unfiltered.

Retail $16.99

Luna Beberide Godello 2009

Grapes: 100% Godelio

Produced from 60 year old vineyards. Soils are a combination of calcerous clay and decomposed slate. The vineyard is located between 600 and 750 meters of elevation. Grapes were hand harvested prior to overnight skin contact. The pressed must sees fermentation in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures (12-15° C). Following fermentation the wine is aged for 3 months on fine lees prior to bottling.

Albariño remains Spain’s leading white grape variety in terms of prominence and worldwide recognition, but among insiders the jury is still out on whether Godello or Verdejo might not ultimately surpass it. This wine shows why this is remains a disputed matter.

Retail $19.99

Pago de Valdetruchas “La Muria” 2009

A new winery owned by a cousin and uncle of Alejandro Luna. The 2008 vintage was a first for them to bottle their own wines.

Grapes: 100% Mencia

The grapes come from hand harvested vineyards with an average age of 40 years. The vineyards are composed of calcerous clay soils with some stones and are between 650 and 700 meters above sea level. Fermented in stainless steel vats and bottled unfiltered.

Retail $16.99

Pago de Valdetruchas “Los Cerezales” 2008

Grapes: 100% Mencia

Produced from a single 75 year old vineyard located 750 meters above sea level with slate soils. Grapes were hand harvested and fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Following alcoholic fermentation, 50% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in tank while the other 50% underwent malolactic fermentation in new French oak barrels. Then, the wine was aged for 11 months in French oak barrels prior to bottling. This is the first release.

Retail $21.99

Luna Beberide “Finca La Cuesta” 2009

Grapes: 100% Mencia

Fruit for this wine is sourced from a single steeply-sloped, south-facing vineyard in Villafranca de Bierzo. The vineyard is between 700-800 meters in elevation and is planted to 60 year old vine Mencia. The soils are comprised of Bierzo’s two main soil types, decomposed slate and limestone based clay. Following fermentation with native yeasts in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, the wine was aged for 12 months in 100% French oak barrels, new and 1 year old. Bottled unfiltered.

Retail $21.99

Luna Beberide “Art” 2009

Grapes: 100% Mencia

Made from a selection of the best south facing vineyards between 700 and 900 meters in elevation. The vines are over 60 years old, yielding 25 hectoliters per hectare and are grown in calcerous clay and decomposed slate along with abundant mother rock. Grapes were hand harvested the 4th week of September, destemmed and fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel tanks. The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels prior to be bottled, unfiltered.

Retail $54.99

Paixar 2008

Paixar is a collaboration between Alejandro Luna, French vintner Gregory Perez, and Eduardo and Alberto Garcia, sons of Mariano Garcia, the former winemaker at Vega Sicilia. They began the project in 2000 through the acquisition and leasing of tiny parcels of vineyards in the Dragonte village in the Bierzo region. The vineyards are between 700 and 900 meters on south facing slopes.

Hand-harvested into small boxes, cluster sorted, cold pre-fermentation maceration, native yeast fermentation. This wine was aged for 16 months in new French oak barrels and bottled without any filtration. 20 hectoliters per hectare.

Retail $64.99

Luna Beberide 2002

Grapes: 40% Mencia, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot

Produced using only native yeast from vineyards yielding 20-25 hectoliters per hectare, the wine was aged for 26 months in 80% new French oak and 20% American oak barrels. The wine was fined using egg whites prior to bottling. No filtration or stabilization. Generally, the winery has shifted its style over the past few vintages to emphasis their Mencia in the blend and minimize International grapes

Retail $ 23.99

The Menu

Picture: Taberna del Alabardero Chef Javier Romero

Assortment of Tapas

Choricitos a la Parrilla, asadillo de Pimientos
Grilled Spanish Sausage over Roasted Bell Pepper
Tocino Ibérico con Melón
Pork Belly with Cantaloupe
Morros Estofados a la Antigua
Old Style Braised Pork snout

Luna Beberide Mencia 2009


Ensalada Templada de Vieiras a la Menier con Gambas
Warm Scallops Salad in a Lemon and parsley
Vinaigrette topped with chopped Shrimps

Luna Beberide Godello 2009

Second Appetizer

Sobre aceite Texturizado, Pulpo a la Gallega
Grilled Octopus and broiled Potato with Paprika and
Sea Salt served over Olive Oil Gelatin

Pago Valdetruchas “La Muria” 2009

First Course

Brick de Habitas con Mollejas y Foie Grass
Brick filled with Faba Beans, Sweetbread and FoieGras

Pago de Valdetruchas “Los Cerezales” 2008

Second Course

Atun Ahumado, Tomate Confitado al Tomillo
Smoked Tuna served with Spiced Tomato Confit

Luna Beberide “Finca La Cuesta” 2009

Third Course

Cabrito a la Segoviana (A mi manera)
Roasted Baby Goat” Chef’s way”

Luna Beberide “Art” 2009

Main Course

Entrecotte de Ternera en Salsa de Frutos Rojos
Beef Strip Loin in Berries Sauce

Paixar 2008

Cheese Plate

Quesos Curados y Melocotón
Assortment of Cured Cheese and Peaches in a light Syrup

Luna Beberide 2002

schiller-wine: Related Posting

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Meeting Up-and-coming Winemaker Rita Ferreira Marques from the Duoro Area in Portugal at Screwtop Winebar in Clarendon, Virginia

Meeting Winemaker Yolanda Viadero from Valduero Vineyards in Ribera del Duero and in Toro, Spain, and Tasting Her Excellent Wines

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post, Herr Schiler. It'd have been good to know your opinion on each wine and/or course as well. As it is it's just a bit "clinical".