Who ever heard of tasting a bunch of reds before the main white wines? Well, thanks to Gerry Dawes, that is what we did and somehow, it worked out just fine. Maybe it was because the reds weren’t “big” monsters high in alcohol and crushed with oak. Maybe it was the fact that the reds had reasonable alcohol levels and nice mild tannins, my palate was not fatigued. Whatever the reason, conventional oenophilic wisdom was left on its ear as we proceeded to taste some of the most joyous white wines known to man at the Barcelona Wine Bar in Greenwich, CT.. Like the reds before them, these whites were wines of individual character made with the best that nature had to offer.
Galicia is the most northwestern Spanish region, situated atop Portugal with coasts along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea. Known for the incredible quality and diversity of its seafood, it has a white wine production to match the quality of its seafood. I first became acquainted with albariños, the most famous Galician whites about ten to fifteen years ago and was immediately enamored by their steely, crisp profiles. In the ensuing years, though, i have encountered more and more of them drowned in oak and alcohol in an effort to adhere to a particular palate. As a result I had started to move away from these wines. With this tasting, my faith was restored.Ironically, our first taste of this line-up of Galician beauties was corked. The lone bottle of 2010 Finca Teira ($19.99) from Manuel Formigoin the DO of Ribeiro, a blend of native Galician grapes including Treixadura, Godello and Torrontes was just downright corked. What a shame as we could still detect hints of the lovely fruit ruined by the execrable taint. Though there was only that one bottle of Finca Teira, fortunately, we had a different bottle from Formigo to taste, the 2009 Teira X ($26.99), a blend of 60% Treixadura, 15% Alvilla, 15% Albariño and 10% Loureira. This 13% alcohol wine had a lovely, honeyed nose and plenty of grapefruit and green apple notes on the palate.
Albariño may be the king in Galicia, but as with the wines of Formigo, it is not the only wonderful varietal growing there. Second in line, but equally alluring when done well is Godello. We tasted two of them, although, somehow I managed to miss photographing them. The first, a blend of 60% Godello and 40% Treixadura from Sabatelius ($21.99) in Ribeira Sacra was very refreshing at a measly 12.5% alcohol. A pure 2010 Godello from Adegas D. Berna ($24.99) weighed in at 13% alcohol. This wine was full of flint and other minerals.The DO of Rias Baixas is the most well known for Albariño and justifiably so. These steely, crisp whites comprised the bulk of Gerry Dawes’ white offerings. They were clearly compiled with great care and thought. Like the other wines of the tasting I spit these, though I found that difficult to do, as each of them just begged to be drunk. We started with the one lightest in alcohol. At only 12%, I probably could have drunk a fair amount of the 2010 (all of the Albariños were from 2010) Lagar de Candes ($23.99) with its bright citrus notes without any significant impairment, but I restrained myself anyway. At a slightly greater 12.5%, the Lagar de Brouillón was packed with steely, citrus-laden minerals and was just delicious, reminding me once again why I loved Albariños. Unpictured, the O’Forollo ($23.99) had pleasingly bracing acid backbone that made me long for some oysters. Ava Roxo ($24.99) was fat with more grapefruit. The alcohol level started to rise with the ultra-steely Cabaleiro do Val ($24.99) at 13.5%. This was a formidable flight of wines, but there was still one more albariño to taste. At an SRP of $26.99 and 13.5% alcohol, the Rozas Albariño was a bit pricier and at the highest level of alcohol of the albariños, but as great as they were, this one was the most compelling of the lot. Loaded with minerals galore, fabulous acidity and haunting flavor notes, this wine had it a label from Burgundy, would be fetching much more than its current SRP. Had this been the only wine tasted, it would have been worth the trip, but as it was, it proved to be the pinnacle of a great tasting. Unfortunately for the wines that followed the Rozas, the Rozas was not the last one served. Dawes poured four Cavas ranging in SRP’s from $11.99 to $22.99. Three of the four were from Festis and two of them were vintage. These were nice, bright cavas, each representing good value, but it would have been difficult for any wine to stand out after the stellar albariños, especially the final Rozas. Our tasting finished with a sweet wine, the 2010 Aliaga Moscatel Vendimia Tardia ($26.99). This wine had nice flavor, but to me a great dessert wine is all about the acid and this one didn’t have enough of that for my palate. I found it to be a bit too sweet for me. More acid would have given it better balance. Though my focus has shifted from wine more to food in recent years, I have been an avid wine enthusiast since the late 1980′s. I have enjoyed many a wine tasting since then, but few more than this one, which reminded me of what wine is supposed to be. I look forward to tasting more of Gerry’s selections as he expands his portfolio even further in the coming months. Look for them at select restaurants and wine shops, though they may be difficult to find as allocations from these small, artisanal producers are never large. Two top notch wine retailers that currently carry Gerry Dawes Selections are AOC Fine Wines and Chambers Street Wines.