About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Visit to Freixenet Sala Vie

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, it is the season for great sparkling wine and no one does more sparkling wine than Freixenet. This Spanish based company was born in 1914 following the marriage of a daughter of one of Spain’s oldest winemaking families to the son of a premiere agricultural family. The founder Pedro Ferrar Bosch and his eldest son were killed during the Spanish civil war. His widow Dolores Sala Vie took over and today leadership of the company rests in the hands of her son, Jose and grandson, Pedro. It has grown into the largest producer of sparkling wines in the world distributed in over 150 countries. Serious exporting began in 1941 with their flagship Cava Carta Navada and expanded exponentially in 1974 with their signature Cordon Negro Brut, the brand that Americans are most familiar with. The company expanded to Mexico opening the Sala Vie Winery (named for the foundress) near Ezequiel Montes in 1980. Expansion continued through the 80's with a purchase of the 3rd oldest winery in the Champagne region of France, Maison Henri Avele, in 1985 and the opening of Gloria Ferrar in Sonoma, California in 1986. Expansion and acquisitions of Spanish properties put the company in six different major regions in Spain. Since 2000, they’ve also added facilities in Conwarra, Australia; Bordeaux, France; Mendoza, Argentina and in Chile.

Mrs. Wine Guy and I were recently able to visit Freixenet’s Sal Vie facility in the heart of Mexico's Queretaro wine country. (see photos) As expected, there were great vinos espumosos (sparkling wines) to sample. Their signature Sala Vie Semi Secco, while nicely made, was not quite to my palate. Mr. And Mrs. Wine Guy, along with our Mexican friends Silvestre and Rosaria did enjoy the Petillant Brut. This crisp and refreshing brut utilizes 70% St. Emilion (what the Mexicans prefer to call the Ugni Blanc grape). The remaining 30% is a blend comprised of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Macabeo, one of the standard grapes in Cava. The Petillant Blanc was crisp, refreshing, well balanced and finished smoothly to a very subtle hint of nuttiness.

Of some surprise, given Freixenet’s renown as a sparkling producer, were the still wine offerings. They numbered ten in all, bottled under the brand names of Vivante for their joven (young) wines and Vina Dona Delores (again named for the foundress of Freixenet) for their crianza wines. After passing on their Rosado and their Sauvignon Blanc, we elected to take with us the very satisfying Vina Dona Delores 4 Regiones. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah included grapes grown in four different central Mexican states. They included grapes from Queretaro, Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes. The wine was macerated for 95 days, aged in oak barrels for 4 months and then additionally aged in the bottle. The result was a nice complex blend that began with a little of the fruit forwardness you’d expect from a Mexican wine, but broadened into some subtle hints and nuances as the wine aired and opened up. I found it to be an enjoyable blend that I feel would further benefit from some additional ageing.

We actually made two visits to this facility, once during midweek with our Mexican friends as guides. The other was a shorter weekend stop, while returning from a day trip to the magical village of Bernal. Freixenet Sala Vie, on weekends, takes advantage of their large patio area by hosting events to encourage wine sampling and education, particularly to weekend visitors from Mexico City (less than 2 hours away). A number of vendors ring the courtyard offering accessories, souvenirs, snacks and food that even included authentic Spanish paella. They also have their own wine bar, just off the plaza in nearby Tequisquiapan. If you’re planning to visit the state of Queretaro, plan to invest an hour or two at Freixenet or take one of the many wine and cheese tours offered out Tequisquiapan. You’ll have a good time!

If you can read Spanish, visit them online at www.freixenetmexico.com.mx.

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