With temperatures in the teens here in New York this week, I’ve been thinking about robust red wines that will warm the spirit and provide just the right accompaniment to hearty winter meals.
In our family, the centerpiece of one of those meals is leg of lamb steaks, which are available in one of our local markets and can be pan-grilled to medium-rare in a cast iron skillet in five minutes or so. Heat up some take-out mashed potatoes, add a green vegetable such as broccoli rabe or kale and you’ve got a quick, comforting winter dinner.
As for the wine, a great possibility for such meals is garnacha from Spain, and one of the best I’ve tasted recently is Masia de Bielsa’s 2011 “Viñas Viejas” Garnacha from the Campo de Borja district of Aragon in the northeast. (Garnacha, you may recall, is the same grape as grenache, as it known in France and elsewhere.)
Viñas viejas means old vines, which tend to produce more concentrated fruit, and this wine is bursting with it – wild blackberry, blueberry, pomegranate and black cherry. The fruit tastes are accented by vanilla and spice and a good deal of minerality and are supported by firm but smooth tannins. In terms of alcohol, garnachas tend to be on the higher side, but at 14 percent this one is not over the top.
Two more attractive things about this wine are its freshness – it is aged in cement tanks without oak -- and its bargain price of around $12. The price is all the more impressive when you consider that Bielsa is a small winery that farms organically. A José Pastor selection imported by Vinos & Gourmet, Richmond, Va.