Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Red Guitar 2005 "Old Vine" Navarra ($9-$11; Spain; imported by Cellar Door/NDC)

Tastes Like This deep ruby wine serves up a pretty floral/violet bouquet, followed on the palate by tender layer s of black cherry fruit nuanced by notes of vanilla and herbs. A touch of balsamic energizes the smooth finish.

Grapes Tempranillo (55 percent) and garnacha (45 percent). Outside of Spain, garnacha is known as grenache.

On the Label The term "Old Vine" refers to the garnacha in this blend. Some of the vines date back to the 19th century, and the average age is over 60. Although old vines typically yield less wine, what little they do produce is more concentrated and complex, which is why wineries often include this term on the label to indicate higher quality.

Geography The winery and vineyards are in the town of Lerga, in the Navarra province of northern Spain. Navarra is located between Rioja and Bordeaux, and the nuanced style of its wines reflects the influence of both of those excellent regions.

How It's Made The tempranillo and garnacha are vinified separately at moderate temperatures. After fermentation, they are aged separately. The American importer, Cellar Door, participates in the final blending trials, which take place shortly before bottling. While such involvement is somewhat unusual, it helps assure that the style appeals directly to the American market, which favors more fruit-forward wines than does the Spanish domestic market.

Winery The winery that produces Red Guitar is ADA, which is jointly owned by a consortium of 52 grape growers. The growers bought the vineyards from a local noble family in 1927, and each of the growers was given an equal parcel. In 1941, facing difficulty selling its grape production in the wake of the Spanish Civil War, the consortium built its own bodega (winery) in Lerga to provide a market for its production. Several of the original 52 members are now in their nineties and still participate actively in the winery.

What Makes It Special Lots of wines today are designed to attract young wine drinkers through a low price and a pretty label. This particular one, however, doesn't take its patrons for granted. The wine is quite sophisticated and is a great jumping-off point for further exploration of Spanish, French and other European wines.

Where to Get It Red Guitar is imported nationally by Cellar Door. It is distributed locally by NDC. For information on stores that carry the wine, call 202-388-8207.

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