I became intrigued by this wine after reading the excellent article, "A Chef and a Winemakekr's Basque Feast," by Robert V. Camuto in the July, 2012 issue of Food and Wine. New York city chef Alex Raij loves this wine so much that she drinks a glass almost every day. When El Chaparral's winemaker, Concha Vecino, came to New York for a wine dinner, Alex sat beside her, and the two women formed a close mother/daughter type bond, with Alex traveling with her family to Spain so the two could cook together and share culinary and wine knowledge. As Alex put it, "we like the same things. Things that are natural--not made up or too sophisticated."
"Intrigued" is actually too soft a word to describe my interest. I became obsessed by the wine, as Alex did. I had to have it! After visiting every wine outlet in my home town of Kalamazoo and striking out, I finally located and purchased six bottles of El Chaparral from my old standby, Village Corner in Ann Arbor. Tonight is my first experience with "Chappy" (as Alex refers to the wine).
The color is fairly deep for a Grenache wine. As the article explains, the fruit comes from some of the estate's oldest vines--most 60 years of age and over--and Concha has worked hard to preserve these vines against those seeking higher yields and profits. She has also insisted on making the wine n a traditional manner, and one sniff is all I need to thank Concha profusely for her efforts. Haunting scents of cherries and spice, deep and concentrated. The smell of nutmeg is powerful--something I haven't experienced before in a Grenache but very much in keeping with the wine's unique personality. On the palate, the concentration and power of the old vines becomes even more apparent. Deep, deep cherries and spice along with red raspberries and black currants. While the wine is very accessible (actually "irresistible" is a better word) right now, it has the stuffing to go and grow for many years. If this were a $50 bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape, I would not be disappointed.
For less than $15 a bottle, El Chaparral is a special occasion as well as an every day delight. In my view, this is what artisan wine is all about. I want more! And I want to eat in Alex's Manhattan restaurant, Txikito!