June 1, 2018
Xabier Abando was only 15 when his father passed away, but his memories of seeing him working in the vineyards and making wine had a lasting effect upon him. He carried the dream of his own bodega with him over the years, and in 1996 acquired the first two hectares near the town of Okondo that would become his estate. He planted vines, and each year planted more, patiently waiting for the vines to produce grapes suitable to his taste. In 2008, he felt they were ready, and finally built his bodega for what would be his first vintage, and officially establish Señorio de Astobiza. He was 68. Now Xabier and Ana Martin make wine at this small, high-elevation, organically farmed estate.
Astobiza Txakoli de Alava Blanco 2016 is 90% Hondarrabi Zuri & 10% Petit Courbu, and like the label says, it’s single vineyard, hand-harvested, and estate bottled (without SO2). It’s fresh and vibrant, salty and mineral-driven, with tart green apple, ripe pear, zesty grapefruit, and refreshing acidity. Oysters, seafood, and semi-soft cheeses are good pairs.
*Astobiza Txakoli de Alava Rosé 2017 is a 50/50 blend of the red grape Hondarrabi Beltza, and the white grape Hondarrabi Zuri (also single vineyard, hand-harvested, and estate bottled (without SO2). The red grapes spend a day or so on the skins, giving the wine it’s lovely pink hue. It’s white flower and strawberry scented, with a similar salty, mineral-driven character to the white, along with splashes of citrus and more flowers on the finish. It’s another fine seafood pair…
*oops, had to replace this rosé with Semeli Mountain Sun Agiorgitiko rosé. Not enough Txakoli!
Domaine Glinavos ‘Paleokerisio’ Traditional Semi-Sparkling Orange Wine, 2016, Zitsa, Greece
Domaine Glinavos is in the semi‐mountainous region of DO Zitsa, Ioannina, more reminiscent of Austria or Switzerland than Mediterranean Greece. Limestone soils influence the production of wines that tend toward bright acidity and racy minerality, and the cold winters and cooler summers produce wines that tend to be lower ABV, frequently struggling to achieve 12.5.
Lefteris Glinavos was one of a handful of rogue winemakers who set out in the 70s to steer Greece away from bulk production and into smaller-scale, boutique winemaking. This group of young winemakers who all hailed from humble, winemaking regions, decided to travel abroad to hone their skills which they would bring back to Greece. Lefteris chose to pursue his studies in Bordeaux, returning in 1978 to establish Domaine Glinavos. Lefteris’ son Thomas is now in charge of the 20 hectare property, made up of multiple, high-elevation plots of indigenous varieties Debina, Vlahiko, and Bekari.
Paleokerisio is 97% Debina and 3% Vlahiko (a local red grape) harvested at the end of September and first couple weeks of October. The de-stemmed grapes ferment on the skins for about 12 days in oak casks. In the spring, the second fermentation takes place in closed tanks, producing the gentle sparkle. The wine is bottled without additives, and when there is still a touch of residual sugar. This is a savory, honey-hued wine. Pleasant oxidative notes mingle with butter, apple, vanilla, & clove. Have it with salty cured fish (the producer suggests Greek caviar, known as Botargo and Epirotic pies), savory and semi-sweet tarts, feta and olives, and lots of fried seafood.
Vina Štekar Cabernet Sauvignon Kakovostno 2015, Goriška Brda, Slovenia
Jure Štekar is the current winemaker on this 10 hectare family property that was established in 1985 (Goriška Brda and Italy’s Collio are one region, divided only by bureaucracy, post WWII). Jure took over from his father Roman, who learned everything he knew from his father Emil. While the winery was officially founded in 1985, the family’s roots go back centuries here, and it’s said that their farmhouse was the first house built in the small village of Snežatno back in 1771. Štekar is organically certified, and they do not use any chemicals in the vineyards or the cellar. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented with naturally occurring yeast. Wines are bottled unfiltered, without sulfur, and with consideration of the position of the moon.
This is single vineyard (Početrtka) Cabernet Sauvignon from vines that are about 20 years old. The grapes are de-stemmed and then macerate for 20-25 days before being transferred to 500l Slovenian oak casks for 12-14 months. It’s soft & plummy, with Mediterranean herbs, leather, sour cherries, and fine-grained tannins.