Wine Talk

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

Iberian wine discovery!

Posted by Richard Foxall, Jun 7, 2013.

I was recently transferred to an office in Fremont, CA, which is like a prison sentence in my work, so how do I entertain myself?  I scout out new wine stores.  And, thanks to Yelp, I found this really cool market that specializes in all things Portugese. It's no secret I love Spanish wine, and my experience with Portugese so far has been that it rocks the QPR scale.  Even when it's not great, it's so affordable that you have to grin.  So, I went nuts.  I bought a Vinho Verde that had a great label (what's with the Asian characters) and a note that it was a Wine Spectator Best Value in Portugese--"Prestigiada Revista de Vinhos Americana" means "prestigious American wine magazine, I learned--and a red with Aragones (tempranillo), Trincadeira (won't find that in the US), Cab and Merlot--a super-Iberian, plus two California wines made by a Portugese family.  EdWilley and I are big fans for Mourvedre, as JD noted.  The owner of the place was behind the counter, barking Portugese at the construction workers buying beer and chips on their way home, but he emerged to direct me to the best Vinho Verde and promised me I'd try everything in the store before my tenure ran out.  There's not a Portugese wine besides the amazing collection of Ports that costs more than $20, so that seems reasonable.  They have some other great stuff, including a 2004 Domaine de la Roquete CdP that I had a few years ago that rocked. 

I'll report back with tasting notes.  For now, here's the day's purchases:


Reply by napagirl68, Jun 7, 2013.

Well, Foxy, I can't wait for your notes.  pm'ing you now...


Reply by EMark, Jun 7, 2013.

Great fun.  The label on the VV would have probably been too much for me to resist, also. 

Is there a large Asian population near that area?  The community where I live has a HUGE Asian population, but I can't say that I've ever seen a Portuguese wine that was directed towards them.  However, inquiring minds want to know, andI am going to go to one or two of the local supermarkets--there are some big ones here that are operated by and target the Chinese or Korean populations--just to see if I can find something like that.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 7, 2013.

It's Fremont, and it's near the Mission San Jose school district, so there are probably some Chinese families here, definitely some Vietnamese as well, but the biggest Asian population here is probably Indian, so it's a big mystery.  What's really strange is that it looks like it was made for the Portugese buyer-- the little emblem that says "Best Value"  is in English because it was WS that named it a best value, but also in Portugese. 

The Mourvedre and the Grenache from El Dorado county are called Mais Fica, which, according to the label is Portugese for "More for me." I liked that it was a pair, and from a good year.  The shop isn't ideal for storage but it's only a few years since release, so I took my chances.  But the stars of the show are definitely going to be the riot of wines from Portugal, most of them pretty darn cheap.  I am going to have to find some worthy reviewers and read up.  I'm also hoping the Batphone is ringing at GregT's, since he's probably the most likely person here to know anything about these wines... and a lot of other things as well.

Reply by penguinoid, Jun 8, 2013.

GregT has a batphone that rings whenever there's a post on snooth that needs his attention? I like this mental image.

I also bought a cheap bottle of Portuguese wine today -- an 08 Quinta das Setencostas Alenquer. I don't know much about it, but should be interesting. It's rare to find Portuguese wines where I live, though, sadly.

Reply by GregT, Jun 9, 2013.

Been offline for a bit. Out in Reno at the moment.

Most of the best Portuguese red grapes went into Port until very very recently when the producers decided to attempt still red wines. So they went out and hired consultants, etc., and produced some good stuff. Often Touriga Nacional blended with Cab, the local Tempranillo, and whatever else. And they come to the market at $60 or so. They taste good enough, heavily influenced by CA and recent Spanish wines, but you'd never know they had anything to do with Portugal and I think a lot of them get sold only because of the connections to Symington, Broadbent, etc.

There are also people like Luis Pato working with his beloved Baga and he's done some good work there actually. But for me the most interesting wines aren't the ones geared towards the international big red market, but they're the cheaper local things. Vinho Verde in red, white, or rosado form can be really good.

Just to see what would happen, I put away some of the "better" Portuguese reds from 2000 and 2001. Haven't tried one in a few years and I've only been tasting the new releases, so maybe I'll crack one in the near future.

Reply by penguinoid, Jun 9, 2013.

I try to avoid the wines made in an 'international' style -- I've seen them here from time to time too, but they're not the ones that interest me. I tried one of Luis Pato's baga wines a little while ago, though, and really liked that!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 9, 2013.

I'm definitely looking for the things that are made with indigenous grapes.  Portugal decided (as I understand it) to use its entry to the EU to up their wine game and get some trade going, but wanted to market their traditional grapes so that they stood out a bit.  I've had lots of good table wines, but nothing that completely knocked my socks off.  What will be interesting about this shop is that the owner is in the place working and yells at customers in Portugese, so he's not far removed from the homeland.  His English is pretty heavily accented, too.  And the wines have lots of grapes listed that begin with Touriga or Tinta and have a's followed by o's, e's followed by i's. 

Reply by edwilley3, Jun 12, 2013.

I have a friend here in Dallas who used to work in Portugal very frequently. He told me straight up that all the really good Portugese wine other than Port stays in Portugal, or at least it DID. He frequented a restaurant run by a local wine enthusiast who poured him new selections every night. Nothing but fond memories. His story reinforces the notion that it's better for tourists to delve into the culture and scene than to stay on the outskirts.

Reply by zufrieden, Jun 18, 2013.

How timely.  I am going to take another look at the Torre de Belém and the Cafe Brasileira  Lisboa and perhaps do some more touring of central and southern Spain while I am at it.

I shall be sampling the local elixir in each and every locale and shall, in time, report back on any unusual finds.



Reply by Dias, Jun 25, 2013.

On Portuguese wines:

I live in Lisbon, and I am more than happy to help in any wine and/or restaurant selections on this side of the Atlantic!

We are currently under 35-37 celsius degrees, little humidity. Time for the Rosés (not excluding Mateus, the "funny shape bottle", but there are some really nice Rosés made from Touriga Nacional) and some nice, crispy, low alcool, whites.

Arinto is definetely a grape white wine lovers should look for.

Reply by EMark, Jun 25, 2013.

Thanks for the input, Dias.  Portuguese wines do seem to be getting more attention and respect over here.  My limited experience with Portuguese wines has been positive and I look forward to trying new things.  Distribution, however, is a problem.  I live in a large metropolitan area.  I can find some Portuguese wines, but not a lot.  Based on your recommendation, though, I will look for Arinto.  Can you suggest makers that we should seek?

Reply by Dias, Jun 25, 2013.



I see your point. I do not know the city you live in, so it is hard to figure out the best "arinto based" white wines.

The best ones are from the "Lisboa" region (formerly known as "Estremadura"), particularly those that come from "Bucelas" (a small region north of Lisbon). A couple of well known brands: "Bucelllas" (Caves Velhas), Prova Régia (Quinta da Romeira).

However, you find Arinto all over Portugal (North to South!) and there are even some "Vinho Verde" wines that are based in this grape variety (Dom Diogo, Quinta da Pousada,  etc; outside Bucelas Arinto is called "Pedernã")...

Again, my help is limited since I do not know which brands/distributors you will find where you live.

I hope this was of some help. These are seriously good, mineral, nice acidity, sea-food-loving wines!


Reply by outthere, Jun 25, 2013.

I have had some real nice domestic Touriga Nacional Rosés here in the States. Crisp, refreshing, tangy, low alc, wonderful!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 17, 2013.

Time to revive this thread.  Stopped by the market and reloaded, including a few repurchases, although it looks like two of those will go to my colleague, who asked if I could pick up a couple bottles of wine to try--he heard me raving about the deals.  So I took a six pack carrier and actually overflowed--as I was standing at the register, the owner suggested I try a bottle that was, what, about $6. 

I've had the Flor de Crasto (second from left), the Fonseca Periquita (third from right) and the Padre Pedro (far right) before.  All were worthy bottles, not special occasion wines, but very decent bottles.  Good with chicken, cheeses, pizza.  I've put tasting notes on CT for those.  I decided to open the Marques de Borba that evening and I'm glad I did.  Really nice wine with a pretty wide blend of grapes, including Alicante Bouschet--don't see that very often.  I also picked up the Follies, which is a wine from the Aveleda folks, big company in Portugese wine (they make the best selling Vinho Verde, which is not bad, either).  I really wanted a straight Touriga Nacional to try.  Here's the funny thing:  They make a blend with Touriga Nacional and Cabernet and it's a couple bucks cheaper!  Suggests they think the Touriga is worth more, or maybe they just know that a wine geek will pay more.  (Or they have to charge more because they sell less of it.  Really, I'm guessing.)  That's a pricey wine in this crowd:  At $13, only the Crasto and the Esporao were more expensive.  All the bottles were under $20 and the total for 7 was $94 with tax.  Tonight we're drinking Chianti, but I'll make sure to come back here when I drink the next one.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 11, 2013.

The tastings continue and nothing has been bad and quite a bit good.  I received a PM asking if there was any Yelp info or a link to the store--there is a link above, but I guess it doesn't show up on monochrome monitors.;-)

Anyway, here's the Yelp:

This is my second experience in a few days of someone actually making a decision to visit a wine-related business based on what they read here.  Guess I had better be careful about who I defame.

Reply by EMark, Dec 12, 2013.

Fox, thank you for resurrecting this conversation.  I haven't been traveling to Fremont to check out your place, but recently I have tried a few wines from Portugal that have been fairly inexpensive and very good.  A white from Dao (Grao Vasco) and a couple reds from Douro (Quinta de Ventozolo DOC Reserva) and Alentejano (Herdade do Peso Vinha do Monte).   The Alentejano was particularly outstanding.  Portugal may replace Spain as my "go to" region for best buys.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 12, 2013.

Emark: Why choose?

I actually handed out a case of those Borbas to my co-workers right before T-day and they won people over.  Not a bad wine for Thanksgiving dinner, so I'll have to remember it for next year.  I'm leaning toward opening that Follies Touriga this weekend with my folks.

Reply by EMark, Dec 12, 2013.

Point taken.

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