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Wines of Madrid

I recently attended the first presentation of Wines of Madrid in the U.S. It was held at Rialto Restaurant in Cambridge, MA. I love Harvard Square and this was the perfect excuse to get away from the office for a bit, learn something new and, well, drink some
wine! After not being able to find my keys at the last minute, I raced over (within the speed limit of course!) to the Attleboro train station and made my train with a few minutes to spare. It was a bit nippy that morning, but seeing as it was opening day for the Red Sox (!!) the sun was shining, and I would warm up soon with some wine, I didn’t mind the chill at all.

Starting promptly at 11am was a seminar and tasting led by writer-photographer Gerry Dawes, specialist in Spanish gastronomy, wines, culture and travel. In the past decade, he has made more than sixty extensive food and wine trips to Spain and leads gastronomic and wine tours to the country. According to Food Arts magazine, he is known, “for good reasons in wine and periodical circles as ‘Mr. Spain.'” Dawes was awarded the prestigious Spanish National Gastronomy Prize in 2003.
He started us off with a brief slide-show/overview of the Madrid wine region. Madrid is the only world capital that lends its name to a wine growing region. The D.O. of Madrid, located one hour outside Spain’s cosmopolitan capital, has been producing wines since the 13th century according to ancient documents. It was not until the 1990’s that Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture officially recognized the area as a protected D.O. Today, there are 44 wine producers in the three sub zones of the D.O. covering more than 10,000 hectares devoted to vineyards. 13% of total production is exported to the U.S.
The Red Wines of Madrid are made using Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Savignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes, with the first two of these being the main grapes grown in the D.O.
The White Wines of Madrid are made using Malvar, Albillo, Parellada, Torontés, Viura, Airén and Moscatel small grain grapes. The first two of these grape varieties are the main ones grown and are native to the region.
The region has three sub-zones:
Arganda is located on the Jarama River and it’s tributaries the Tajuňa and Henares. The area has the lowest rainfall in the region, and has abundant sunshine – over 2,800 hours per year! Key grape varieties are Tempranillo and Malvar.
Navalcarnero is located in the southern zone, dividing north to south by the Guadarrama River. The area is known for it’s rosé but is also gaining recognition for it’s reds. The predominant grape variety is Garnacha.
San Martĺn, located in the southwest zone near the central mountain system, accounts for 35% of all vines. Temperatures are milder than the other areas since the mountains protect from such strong winds. The predominant grape varieties are Albillo and Garnacha.

In addition to the seminar, we were able to enjoy some Tapas provided by the talented kitchen staff at Rialto while sampling wines from the nine featured producers in attendance:
1.)Bodega Don Alvaro de Luna Quod White: 100% Albillo grape. Aged for 1-2 months. in American oak barrels. An entry level wine, very affordable. Light, light, good with fish.
2.)Bodegas Jesus Diaz Tinto 2007: 85% Tempranillo and 15% Syrah. Light and fruity
3.)Valleyglesias Organic Vineyards: Red, 1st wine out of the bodega under this new demonination. Very little sulfites. A very young wine, mildly rich and spicy. Great with lamb and bean dishes.
4.)Bodegas Orusco Main Crianza 2005: 100% Tempranillo. 4th generation wine maker. A lovely wine that feels great on the tongue.
5.)Vinos Jeromin Grego Crianza 2005: a well balanced red, lovely color. Not a strong bite. 60% Tempranilo, 30% Syrah, and 10% Garnacha(14% alcohol). This wine and the above, would be great paired with lamb, goat or steak.
6.)Bodegas Nueva Valverde “750” 2004: 100% Tempranillo, aged 14 months in French & American oak barrels. This one is popular in most Madrid restaurants. Very nice balance, good right away.
7.)Bodega del Real Cortijo de Carlos 111 – Homet: a deep gorgeous, delicious wine really nice nose, spicy finish, oak and fruit. Do serve this with food!
8.)Bodegas Tagonius Gran Vino 2003: 50% Cabernet, 45% Syrah, 5% Tempranillo. The Syrah really pokes thru on this one. This wine is getting lots of press. It is a high octane, expensive wine with a nice bite and a little pepperiness.

9.)Bodegas Ricardo Benito Divo: A voluptuos expensive wine ($150!)aged for 18 months in new French barrels. Winery is gorgeous and located 2,00 ft. above sea level in the subzone: Navalcarnero. Only 2,000 bottles are produced a year.

The February 29, 2008 issue of Wine Advocate gave five wines form the region ratings of 90 points or higher: Vinos Jeromin Manu 2005 (93 points); Bodegas Tagonius Roble 2005 (90 points); Bodegas Tagonius Crianza 2004 (91 points); Bodegas Tagonius Reserva 2003 (93 points) and Bodegas Tagonius Gran Vino 2003 (95 points).

Wines of Madrid also hosted a dinner party at Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston. At the restaurant famed Chef, Gordon Hamersley paired the wines with a custom menu to show their compatability with a range of dishes.

1st Course: Seared Salt Cod with Cherry Tomatoes, Saffron and Olive Oil paired with Vinos Jeromin Grego Crianza 2005

2nd Course: Grilled Quail with Apricots and Toasted Almonds
paired with, Bodegas Nueva Valverde “750” 2004

3rd Course: Lamb Three Ways with White Beans, Garlic and Sherry vinegar paired with:
Bodega Del Real Cortijo De Carlos 111 Homet 2003 note: this winery served many years ago, as the command post of the Republic. The wine caves are made of limestone and are 900 meters long!
4th Course: Spanish cheeses with Quince Paste and Toasts paired with Bodegas Jesús Diaz Tinto 2007 (this is considered the “Beaujolais of Madrid” a delightful young wine sometimes served a little chilled.)
The cod was beautifully crusty on the outside and I loved the saffron sauce, but the cod was wildly over-salted. My dining companions said it is so very important to rinse and rinse and rinse the salt cod to rid it of excess salt. The Quail was so yummy served with a perfect risotto. The Lamb three ways was outrageous, but I was so full by that point sadly, I could hardly finish!

This D.O. is relatively young (1990) and has just recently started to really promote itself within Madrid, Spain and the rest of the world. Wines of Madrid are even finally being noticed by Madrid wine writers. Most of these wines are currently not available in the US, but very soon that will change!

Thank you to chef/owner Gordon Hamersley of Hamersley’s Bistro for preparing such a wonderful dinner. It was so terric to finally meet him! A special thank you as well to Melanie Young of M. Young Communications and Nancy Civetta & Colleen Oteri of Civetta Comunicazioni. Thanks as well to Mark Starr of Newsweek Magazine for making sure I got to the train station in one piece to catch the last one out!
It was such a pleasure meeting the wine makers and promoters from Madrid and trying their wonderful wines. I have never been to Spain, but am preparing my passport so I will be ready! In the meantime I will be patiently waiting for these fabulous wines to arrive stateside!

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