HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Tres Picos Garnacha, 2009, Borsao, Spain. 14.5% alcohol. $16-21, but available for as little as $10.95.

Garnacha (Grenache) is usually used in blends, including the sought-after (and usually expensive) Châteauneuf-du-Pape. However, it’s emerging as a popular varietal. And this one, the 2009 Tres Picos, stands long, round, and tall. (Maybe that’s what those three peaks represent!)

It’s utterly delicious, with a taste and aroma that are as pleasant as wafts of the best pipe tobacco I’ve smelled in a long time. This wine has depth, class, and intelligence indeed. Despite all this professorial talk, don’t worry—it is a happy and deeply satisfying wine. No dry austerity here: think Bill Cosby in a glass.

From the deeply aromatic nose, to the flavorful and full mouthful, to the long, satisfying finish, this one is a standout.

LABEL NOTES: The grapes for this exceptional wine were harvested from old vine Grenache vineyards that cling to rugged terrain on the slopes of the famous Moncayo mountains. Low yields of less than two tons per acre produce a rich deeply colored and aromatic wine with concentrated flavors of blackberries, strawberries and nuances of leather, vanilla and plums.

WINEMAKER’S NOTES: It has an ultra fragrant nose, filled with spicy aromas of freshly cracked black pepper and clove, dried figs, warm oak, and just a hint of black olives. And oh what a mouthful—dried cherries, cassis, and oak dominate the palate. It’s got a pleasant bite to it, and notes of cinnamon and dark cocoa that sweep you away to its bone dry charred oak finish.


THE WINE ADVOCATE: The 2009 Tres Picos is a worthy successor to the string of splendid vintages which have preceded it. Heady black cherry and blackberry aromas, Asian spices, incense, and mineral notes lead to a dense, layered, rich old-vine Garnacha that over-delivers in a big way. A tasting of every vintage of Tres Picos ever produced (back to 2001) at the Bodega in January 2011 indicates that 8-10 years of pleasurable drinking is a reasonable expectation. However, this is a wine that is ready to drink on release.

INTERNATIONAL WINE CELLAR: $17; aged half in stainless steel and half in French barriques. Glass-staining ruby. An explosive, flamboyantly perfumed bouquet exudes scents of blackberry, cherry cola, violet and cracked pepper, plus a hint of smokiness. Deeply pitched flavors of dark fruits and candied flowers remind me of syrah, but red fruit notes emerge with air, confirming that this is garnacha, not syrah. Intense, focused and impressively persistent on the finish, which echoes the sweet red and dark fruit notes and leaves a subtle smoky quality. This serious wine should be even better in a couple of years.

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