2008 Monterey County Albarino
Albariño •Estate Grown & Bottled
California: Monterey County
What we say
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Mission Codename: Neruda’s Gift
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Laumann Family Estate Wines on California’s Central Coast, and procure winemaker Eric Laumann’s fabled Albariño
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Laumann Family Estate Wines
Wine Subject: 2008 Albariño
Winemaker: Eric Laumann
Backgrounder: Albariño is the primary grape used to make dry white wine in Northwestern Spains Rias Baixes (Lower Inlets) part of the Galicia region. Considered to be Spain’s premier quality white wine, Albariño is known in Portugal as Alvarinho, where it is often used as a component of Vinho Verde.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Golden yellow with just the slightest hint of light coppery orange. The wine is perfectly clear and it catches glints of sunlight as you swirl it. When the wine settles, skinny legs run down the inside of the glass from up near the rim.
Smell – Bright and fresh, with aromas of white peach, nectarine, soft citrus and crushed white flowers. After some swirling, soft aromas of almond and acacia wood.
Feel – Soft and velvet smooth up front, the wine starts off voluptuous and round. Then, a beautiful Albariño sharpness appears as fine tannins introduce an easy dryness that starts on the tongue, and then spreads its way outward to the lips.
Taste – Beautifully balanced, with lush sweet and tart flavors of peach, pineapple, green apple, acacia flower, soft just-dried straw, zest and fresh white peach skin.
Finish – Long and flavor-filled, the finish of this wines starts off slightly tart, but the goes sweet with fresh fruit. After a while, a soft mineral dryness sets in as flavors dwindle and soft dryness sets in.
Conclusion – This is a beautiful and perfect Albariño, from one of our very favorite small producers. Eric Laumann is a masterful winemaker that specializes in ‘unusual’ (for America) varietals such as Albariño and the very difficult (but amazing) to understand, Tannat. In today’s wine, Eric has crafted an Albariño of beauty and refinement. He has shepherded in a wine that is honors its Spanish roots, while integrating incredible California fruit. This wine is an easy wine to drink, and our tasting panel found itself opening a handful of bottles, in order to ‘conduct an in-depth review’. We sipped and explored and discussed this wine at length. We came to the simple conclusion that we all loved it – deeply. We were captivated by its freshness, its delicious flavors, and its sheer drinkability. If you love Albariño, you will love this wine. If you have never tasted Albariño, then now is your chance. Today’s wine is a great warm-weather wine, to be sure, but it is exceptionally food-friendly. Enjoy a few bottles now, and with your best Holiday meals!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Eric Laumann
WINE EDUCATION: Enology degree from UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Owner and Winemaker, Cambiata Winery
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: always blind taste your blends and be honest with yourself.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: I like both types of music: country and western
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1984 (Missed opportunity to call it “Thirteen on the Clock” or something like.)
AGENT RED: Greetings, Eric. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Albariño today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
ERIC LAUMANN: We’re small and you found us. Your field agents must be effective.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
ERIC: There’s a difference between love of winemaking and love of wine. After 27 harvests, I still get a kick out of making really good wine; that’s my fondness for winemaking and it keeps me striving to make better and better wine. I really enjoy crafting a statement between soil and grape. I’m on a mission to follow the progression of food and wine and try to hold up my end of our culinary evolution. When I was younger I loved wine because it allowed me to work outdoors and in a creative environment. Now I love wine because it’s a great companion. Together we have many stories.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
ERIC: In order of appearance: Fred Franzia, Dick Graff and Randall Grahm. All brilliant and all incredibly interesting to work for.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
ERIC: I started my own winery so I wouldn’t have to make corporate wines. I wanted to make uncommon wines that offered consumers more choices and more flavors for pairing with gregarious cuisine. I’m making wine for those who pay attention to food and wine pairing.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
ERIC: Albariño is an amazing food wine, particularly with fresh fish or shell fish. Where the Atlantic Ocean touches Spain, the local fishermen have been drinking Albariño with the fresh catch of the day for centuries. Fresh fish is so much easier to obtain these days and also we’re no longer bound to simply cook it in lemon and butter. When you dress up your aquatic fillet with cilantro, red pepper and paprika or chopped tomatoes, shallots and cumin, then you need a wine as lively and versatile as Albariño.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
WINEMAKER: Living in Monterey I can buy fresh fish off the dock and then stop at a local fruit stand on the way home for side dishes. The type of fish really doesn’t matter that much as long as it was swimming that morning; halibut, ling cod or a lively Dungeness crab, it’s all going to be good. Our local fruit stands have great peppers, leafy greens and artichokes. We make it up as we go and we have confidence that the Albariño will keep pace with our culinary efforts.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the [REGION] so special?
ERIC: Monterey is a true coastal climate; Albariño is a coastal grape – not necessarily a cold climate grape because while our summers are cold and foggy, our winters are relatively warm. Monterey has a regional cuisine based on the seafood we harvest from the bay and from the deep water canyon. Albariño and Monterey cuisine is a perfect match. It’s very old world, where before we had highways and the internal combustion engine, you ate what you harvested and your wine had match well because options were limited.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
ERIC: Harvest and worrying about the weather.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
ERIC: Drink wines that allow you to be spontaneous with a menu. Allow my wines to stimulate your culinary creativity and intellect. Realize how easy it is to have a great experience with food wines.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
ERIC: We’re a small, independent winery without a marketing budget so if you like our wines and our approach please tell a friend. Check out the web sites for more information: www.cambiatawinery.com and www.ludwigwinery.com
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
What the winery says
Awards & Accolades:
Awarded Best of Show – Premium White Wine, 2009 Orange County Wine Competition
Awarded Best of Class – 2009 Central Coast Wine Competition
About The Wine:
What you need to know: this wine is pleasantly floral, reminiscent of ripe peaches, pears and nectarines. The wine is dry and crisp but with enough body to be substantial and rich in the mouth. The floral qualities bring a cool sweetness to the wine so it will match well with hot and spicy food. The crispness is right for most fresh fish and the rich viscosity lends itself well to bold seafood like crustaceans or shellfish.
Material of possible interest: This is the fourth vintage of Cambiata Albariño and over the years the production has doubled from almost nothing to slightly more than zero. The hillside vineyard is settling down and dialing the crop size for extra super fine wine has becoming easier. The oldest vines are already producing concentrated wine so the future looks bright for Albariño from cool, coastal Monterey.
Cambiata Albariño is fermented cold to capture a fair amount fruit and I’ve always found that yeast kept cold produce a wine with greater depth. This wine is made anaerobically from harvest through bottling which means I take extreme care in making sure the wine never sees oxygen until it reaches your glass. This method, sometimes referred to as the anaerobic New Zealand style, not only keeps the wine fresh but averts the destruction of many flavor precursors that the yeast will later turn into some of the highly enjoyable complexities liberated only after the wine swirls around your tongue.
The ulterior motive: We don’t cook or eat like we did 20 years ago. With the Cambiata project, I am positioning the wines for ultimate survival in our culinary evolution. Since we are pumping up the flavor of our food, making fusions of fusion cooking, employing ingredients from around world, we need new wines that hold up their end of the food and wine tango. Fish with lemon and butter is a staple but start adding toppings like poblano peppers, mangos and cilantro or shakes of paprika, cumin and red pepper and now you’re in the realm where the Cambiata Albariño really shines. Please enjoy this cultural favorite of western Spain, now grown on a hillside in Monterey.
Check out the Cambiata Tannat on Wine Library TV
We planted our small Tannat vineyard in the rocky and well drained soils of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The cool growing region means we can harvest grapes that are fully ripe yet still retain the appropriate amount of natural acidity.
The challenge with Tannat is balancing the wine’s fruit and its aggressive tannins. During fermentation we try to accentuate the soft tannins with aerobic pump overs and long macerations. Because Tannat loves oxygen, it took over 24 months of barrel aging before this wine was ready for bottling.
About The Winery:
HISTORY: Cambiata is a small independently-owned winery. For 25 years I have made wine and grown grapes for quality California wineries. In 2002, following the fortunate securement of a long-term Monterey vineyard lease, I decided to produce wines under my own label. Simply, this venture came about from my enjoyment of making wine and the desire to have full control over winemaking and the end result. My intention is to make distinctive wines for wine enthusiasts who appreciate learning about and enjoying great food wines, wines that go beyond the Franco triumvirate of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone.
PHILOSOPHY: By choosing Cambiata for my label, I wanted to work with a concept that broadened the vocabulary of the way that we usually think about wine.
Cambiata in musical language means more than the literal translation of “exchange” or “changed note.” It is the added tonal dimension that occurs when two chords momentarily share properties, so that the transition has greater depth and mellifluence. It was a radical idea back in the sixteenth century and was almost outlawed, along with a large group of polyphonic idioms.
The cambiata is expressed on my label with the idea of divine proportion. People gravitate towards objects or art that incorporate divine proportion: the Parthenon, the Taj Mahal, The Last Supper. These proportions are also common in nature, and, for example, are seen in the rose and the nautilus shell. On the Cambiata label the use of the spiral refers to the recursive shape of the nautilus, and of the recursive character of the wine, elements that continue to appear vintage after vintage, and work to better define, expand and make the terroir more evident—somewhat like the time dimension that’s needed for the musical cambiata to work. Divine proportion, then, is a metaphor for the balance between terroir and wine, where the wine proportionally expresses the vineyard.
I chose “Gradus Ad Parnassum,” the title of Joseph Fux’s 1725 music textbook, as Cambiata’s motto, and this appears on the wine’s label. This pedagogical thesis, translated from Latin under the supervision of Bach and still in print today, was used by Leopold Mozart to teach young Wolfgang Amadeus, his son, the fundamentals of counterpoint—one essential fundamental being the beautifully melodic and vivaciously harmonic Nota Cambiata. “Gradus ad Parnassum” translates as Steps to Parnassus, the mountain of the muses. Fux chose the title to implore his students to rigorously study and practice, to climb the metaphorical mountain. Over vintages, a winemaker’s ability grows with the knowledge he engages. You can make fine wine from the start if you hire good help but to make wine with soul you yourself must study, develop philosophies and rigorously follow those beliefs. “Without method,” Fux writes, “the passionate and the ambitious will remain forever desperately athirst.” This fable carries Fux’s lesson—that the muses will only grant mastery to those who do the climbing.
WINEMAKING AND WINES: I personally survey every row in the vineyard and top every barrel with my own hands. I focus my attention on the meticulous winemaking and farming practices that give rise to wines with distinct character and varietal expression and a clear sense of place. Cambiata wines must be worthy of fine foods and impeccably balanced.
Why Tannat and Albariño? I didn’t set out to plant unfamiliar varietals but when the opportunity arose to plant this small vineyard I found myself drawn to working with varietals that I thought were intriguing and that were relatively unexplored in the U.S. I also wanted to bring some new flavors to the wine enthusiast’s table. Anyone who has tasted Albariño and Tannat from their indigenous appellations is usually a fervent fan. I find them to be remarkable wine varietals that hopefully will have a bright future as the number of wine aficionados continues to grow.
Albariño is just a beautiful grape. It is the customary white wine in northwestern Spain’s fishing villages—not surprisingly, it goes superbly well with seafood. What I like so much about this grape is not just its crisp acidity but also the opulence that develops on the palate. This combination is what makes it so enormously versatile with food. In the nose, the citrus and spice aromas are complex but not overpowering. You could say Cambiata Albariño has forward aromas like Viognier, richness similar to Chardonnay and the crispness of Pinot Gris. Albariño, however, is singular, distinctive, delicious and definitely worth sharing with your best friends.
Tannat means tannin and therein lies the potential and the problem. No other grape seems to be surrounded by as much mysticism as Tannat, as if in its dark tannic depths lives a spirit that will challenge your sensibilities. After drinking this wine, will everything you thought you knew about red wine be suspect? Probably not but as a winemaker, I have never seen a wine behave so independently and imperviously to cellar treatments. When we tried to soften it, it only became tougher. We racked it, we splashed it and we still had to keep moving the bottling date further into the future. After months, we finally started to see the assembling of tannic structure and the emergence of an intense core of blackberry fruit. The results had lived up to Tannat’s reputation. The Pyrenean Basque grape growers hold dear to their old Tannat vines, even though they are so close to Bordeaux. Creating a convincing version of this challenging varietal made me feel that I had a small part in this esteemed old winemakers club.
Residual Sugar: zero