The Cellar Door: Bodega Ballabriga

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Senior José Miguel Ballabriga, of Bodega Ballabriga in the Pyrnees region of Northeast Spain. Although he speaks no English, and my Spanish is pretty rudimentary, we bonded and communicated over our shared passion for wine. We tasted 10 of his wines and, I must say, I was bowled over by many of them. The 3 Petret wines are excellent values and others are simply wonderful. Also attending the tasting were William Albarran, Food and Beverage manager of Coronado Golf & Country Club, Carlos Nino of La Teca, Manuel Marian De La Palma Gomez, and several employees of Coronado Golf & CC.

Sr. Ballabriga is first and foremost a producer of meat producing livestock. That is his livelihood and wine production is his avocation. Frankly, when I heard this before tasting his wines, I was a bit skeptical. I’ve tasted so many mediocre, overpriced, ego driven wines from wealthy, hobby producers, my red flag went up. But after tasting the first 3 wines, I knew I had nothing to worry about.

 His passion within his passion is resurrecting old native grape varieties, which have gone out of style in favor of the more international ones such as Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay. His Parraleta bottlings are examples of this. It’s my first encounter with this grape and I loved it.

Accompanying the tasting was a sampling of the Ballabriga produced salumi, Jamon Serrano and a wonderful semi-hard cheese.

The Petret wines have a bird on the label. I’m often a bit leery of so called “critter wines”. You know the ones sporting an animal on the label. Take your pick - penguin, kangaroo, turtle, bird, etc. These are usually a triumph of marketing over wine, because cute sells. But it turns out a petret is actually a bird which is native to the mountains around the winery in Spain. My only complaint is that the Petret wines all have synthetic corks, which can be difficult to pull. Hopefully, they will use screwtops in the future. (See my previous column).

So let’s get to the tasting notes:

2012 Petret Blanco $7.95, 12.5% alc. Spain

A blend of Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. Fresh, spicy and fruity while still dry and crisp. Very enjoyable. BEST BUY

2012 Petret Rose’, $7.95, 13% alc. Spain

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Granache. Lovely dark pink color with strawberries and other berries in the nose and mouth. Dry and crisp, an excellent aperitif or with lighter foods. BEST BUY

2009 Petret Tinto, $7.95, 13% alc. Spain

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Nice full nose with herbs, blackberries and other fruit. Well balanced. A bit hot (alcoholic) at first, but it calmed down after a few minutes in the glass. BEST BUY

2010 Luis Canas Crianza, $12.00 14% alc. Spain

100% Tempranillo (the great grape of Spain) and it shows. Still young with plenty of life left. Really opened up after about 10 minutes in the glass. Rich and complex with flavors of chocolate, black cherries and other dark fruit. Nicely concentrated. Not available in grocery stores.

2008 Luis Canas Reserva $16.00 14.5% alc. Spain

100% Tempranillo. Tannic and young. Chocolate, cherries, earth and a finish that goes on for a long time. I would like to taste this again after it has been open for a few hours. Definitely a candidate for more aging. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

2008 Nunc Crianza, $13.85 13.5% alc. Spain

A lovely blend of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Loads of fruit, but definitely from the old world. You can taste the vineyards it comes from. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

2011 Parraleta, $17.80, 13% alc. Spain

100% Parraleta with no barrel aging. Lovely and unique. In many ways it reminded me of an excellent Cru Beaujolais such as a Morgon or Flurie. If you know French wines, you’ll know what I mean. Dry, fruity and reflecting the land from which it comes. Endless complexity of fruits like cherries, berries and other dark fruit.

2008 Parraleta Emocion, $43.75, 13.5% alc. Spain

100% Parraleta. Aged in French and American oak barrels. From organically grown grapes grown on the estate. What a wine! Every sip is different and tells a unique tale. Clay, herbs, leather, chocolate, berries. And that’s just the beginning. Really needs time to breath in the bottle or glass. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Robin Brut & Rose $11.00, 12.5% alc. Cava (sparkling wine), Spain

Both wines have nice bubbles. Good fruit, round mouth feel with a bit of yeasty complexity.