The SOMM Journal

October / November 2016

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Page 101 of 132

{ }  101 Upstairs in the quaint asador restaurant Bidea 2 on the square of Cizur Menor in Navarra, we are greeted by Hacienda de Arínzano 2015 Rosé of Tempranillo (SRP $19.99) and jamón, before enjoying fresh tomatoes and tuna, the best grilled peppers I've ever tasted and, then, a huge steak still sizzling on the cast iron serving board—yes, I think I love this place—alongside the per - fectly matched Arínzano 2008 La Casona (75 percent Tempranillo, 25 percent Merlot; SRP $39.99). As we introduce ourselves and immediately begin to bond over fan - tastic food, remarkable wine and easy con- versation, the table next to us, decked out in the appropriate apparel, asks if they can take a picture, and if we'll sing with them . . . Now, I know I love this place. After a raucous lunch, we drive to the Arínzano estate, and as we enter through the large, dramatic rectangular gateway (a graphic of which also graces the neck sleeves of all Arínzano bottles), the theme is already very clear : These are earnest people, enthusiastic and diligent about what they do, and I am excited to taste with and learn from this clearly impassioned and knowledgeable team. After finding our stately accommodations, we reconvene and load in to four-wheel-drives to explore the vineyards in detail. The winery sits in the northwest sec - tion of Navarra. Most Navarra vineyards lie in the southern part of the region, and Arínzano's northerly location is precisely what makes it distinctive. The property lies just to the east of Rioja Alavesa and relies on the same northerly winds—constant, cool and dry—coming off of the Atlantic. The Ega River divides the property, and elevation rises by up to 500 meters, so the soil types vary drastically and add to the uniqueness of the vineyards. "The hand of the winemaker should deliver the best expression of terroir," enlightens Louzada, as we take in the views from the top of the Chardonnay vineyards, which are curiously planted in both a north- south as well as an east-west aspect. Louzada and Ribbert joined Arínzano just last year, and they are completely candid about the challenges they face; in fact, it drives them. "You cut my imagination, and I'll quit my job today. It's the challenges and experimenta - tion that keep this all fun," Louzada jokes. Following the fresh air and energetic introduction, we assemble in the grand room for a "light" dinner—four delectable courses of gazpacho, local peppers, octopus and black cod. The Hacienda de Arínzano 2014 Chardonnay (SRP $19.99) shows off its weight alongside the gazpacho, but its vibrant acidity shines in contrast with the sweetness in the peppers. The Arínzano 2007 Merlot, however, although the food was outstanding, emerges as the star of the evening: savory notes of dried herbs and cigar box with a plush mouthfeel and linger - ing finish, not overpowering and yet resolute. PHOTO: CHUCHI RUBIO PHOTO: ALLYSON GORSUCH Arínzano treats twelve mavens of wine to an experience of a lifetime: a stunning winery with budding vineyards—and the San Fermín Festival, better known as "The Running of the Bulls." In just four short days, 12 strangers became fast friends—all now sharing a lifelong memory. I show up to the restaurant first, and in the next minutes, standing on the street in Pamplona watching the locals banter and laugh, I sink in to the feel of the festivities. Every person I've seen thus far is in whites with red sashes and scarves, and the energy is palpable. CEO of the Stoli Group Wine Portfolio and Chief Winemaker at Arínzano Manuel Louzada, Director of Viticulture and Enology Diego Ribbert and Brand Ambassador Frederico de Salas, in partnership with Stoli Group USA's National Wine Director Daniel Hartenstein and Director of Wine West Lisa Tuttle, are hosting seven wine professionals, including Master Sommeliers Fred Dame and Serafin Alvarado, for what I would consider a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not only will we be exposed to the progressive practices happening at Arínzano—the important Navarra Vino de Pago wine estate that Stoli Group acquired in 2015—but they will treat us to the most "local" experience that anyone could have in visiting Pamplona for San Fermín. DAY ONE: Old Customs, New Friends; Established Winery, New Team

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