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The Sharp End of the Vine

I love the word swashbuckling! This came up when we tasted a wine from an area near Toledo, Spain this week. If you love history, you might know that the blacksmiths of Toledo have been making the hardest and most resilient steel swords in the world for over 2,000 years. In fact, the famous general, Hannibal, defeated the Romans in the Second Punic War because their swords were made of Toledo steel and hence they were able to decimate the Roman army. Not to be outdone, the Romans began making their own swords from Toledo steel and then went back and gave Hannibal a taste of his own medicine. Such was the fame of Toledo steel that even the Japanese Samurai came over to learn from the Toledans.

Mas Que Vinos Vinas de Meseta Ercavio 2017 ($16) is made from a local clone of Tempranillo called Cencibel and is a wine of just wonderful warmth and juicy character, full of sun-drenched blackberries and wafts of honeycomb on the nose. It is made by three friends: Margarita, Alexandra, and Gonzalo, who started on a shoestring budget rescuing old plots of indigenous grapes that had been left to go wild, hand tending them, farming organically, and bringing them back to life. Then they renovated an old family winery and started making wines. This is a high area of almost 2,000ft. It gets cold, dry winters and very hot summers. The high altitude means that the summer nights get cool, which gives great acidity and balance to the wines. The result is this little gem which goes crackingly well with a spicy paella. As I sipped this and thought about Spaniards and sword fighting, I couldn't help but conjure up the scene from the great movie Princes Bride where Inigo Montoya duels with the dread pirate Roberts. Maybe the line in the movie should be, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You drank my Meseta Ercavio. Prepare to die [of delight of course]!"

While not from Spain, our white wine this week has a strong connection to the country.

Wenzel Furmint ‘Under Flor’ 2019 ($26) This Furmint from Austria is one of Wenzel’s new wines that is the result of experimenting with letting a cap (or Flor to give it its Spanish name) of yeast form over the fermenting wine, creating a more oxidative environment. Sherry made in Jerez, Spain undergoes the same process. This is a first for me and while the process is geeky, the wines are complex and absolutely scintillating. We love Wenzel’s adventurous nature and his ability to continually experiment with natural techniques to such great effect. The yeast gives the resulting wine its distinctive fresh taste, with residual flavors of fresh bread. The result is a wonderful aperitif wine with a clean, bright character and salty finish that goes beautifully with Iberico ham, squid, anchovies and other salty things. During these beautiful October days, it would be a wonderful wine to have with an al fresco tapas lunch.

Finally, it was wonderful to see many of you at our tasting in Muir Beach last week. We had a great turn out and drank some delicious wines, including ending on the utterly gorgeous Tenuat Valgiano, a brilliant Super Tuscan that we popped open as the finale (not on our list, but we do have a few bottles lying around if you're looking for something truly special). If you missed the tasting, don't worry - we're planning one in Sausalito soon, so look for details and be sure to sign up as it is first come first served.

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