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Abacela Albarino 2011
Thus, the "Abacela" idea was to find in America a similar climate to that of the finest Tempranillo growing areas in Spain. The "marginal" climate sought was hot enough to ripen the fruit but not so hot that it cooked out the essence of the grape. A climate which provided dry summers and cool but wet winters, relatively free of severe freezes to minimize potential cold injury to the vines.
Searches through tomes of wine books, climate records, and maps led us to the West Coast. The search ended in the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon, 11 miles southwest of Roseburg Oregon. Here, the vineyards bask by day in the hot summer sun and are cooled at night by Pacific Ocean breezes. The long growing season allows the fruit to ripen slowly and fully. Our Abacela idea, now a working winery, was christened Abacela, utilizing an old Castilian word that means "to plant grapevines."
Three substantial mountain ranges intersect to create a region of great diversity, not only in soil and topography but also climate and as a result, grape varieties.
Where the Klamath Mountains, Coast Range and Cascades converge, is the rather small AVA, the Umpqua Valley, which boasts over 150 soils in a total growing area of merely 1,500 acres. The soils range from sedimentary, metamorphic or volcanic where valley floors are deep alluvium and heavy clay and hillsides are typically silt or clay.
In the Umpqua Valley AVA, vineyards in the north are cooler and wetter; cool climate grapes such as Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Riesling do well. In the warmer and dryer south mainly Syrah and Tempranillo thrive. But growers here are not afraid to investigate new grape varieties; the region is home to over forty types.
There are two sub-AVAs within the boundaries of the Umpqua Valley: Red Hill-Douglas Country, established in 2004 and Elkton, established in 2013.
Bright and aromatic with distinctive floral and fruity characteristics, Albariño has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last couple of decades. This grape claims dual citizenship of both Spain (in the Rías Baixas region) and Portugal, where it is widely planted in the northwest and is known as Alvarinho. In recent years, plantings have increased throughout California.
In the Glass
Bursting with rich, ripe flavor, Albariño can show flavors of orange blossom, grapefruit, lime, apple, pear, melon, and white peach. It may also have notes of almond paste, fresh cut grass, jasmine, or geranium. The best examples boast zingy acidity and often a briny, mineral quality. It is typically fermented in stainless steel to preserve the purity of its fruity flavors, though oak-aged examples can provide a weighty yet refreshing alternative to Chardonnay with surprising potential for aging. Due to Albariño’s thick skins and large number of pips, it often shows a bit of bitterness on the palate.
Albariño loves seafood, and can be paired with a variety of marine delicacies. Its distinctive waxy texture and lemony acidity make it a perfect pairing with fresh sardines, oysters, octopus, or squid.
Albariño is considered an aromatic variety, and actually shares many chemical compounds with Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat. If you enjoy these elegantly perfumed whites, chances are you’ll love Albariño.