Vereda Monastrell 17
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Valencia doesn't usually make anyone's shortlist of top wine-producing regions. Actually, when you mention Valencia, most folks will immediately think of the awesome namesake oranges grown there. Others will perhaps recognize the region as the birthplace of Paella -- arguably, Spain's most famous dish. Famous for wine... not so much. Over the years, I've tasted plenty of wines from in and around the Valencia D.O., and I have to say, there are some truly off-the-radar gems coming from here!
The Valencia D.O. is a challenging region for viticulture and winemaking. The sun-baked land is parched into brown dust, and irrigation is next to impossible in most areas. As with neighboring regions Jumilla and Alicante, the saving grace is the Mediterranean. The benevolent maritime influence of the Med steps in and is a crucial element in contributing to the quality and correct ripening of both grapes and oranges.
Cousins Vincente and Rafael Cambra come from a long line of winemakers in Valencia, stretching back to the early 1900s. The family properties are located midway between Murcia in the south and the city of Valencia in the north. The vineyards span 30 hectares of dusty, dry, rolling hills, between 1800 and 2000 feet in altitude, all parked on mineral-rich limestone soils. The terroir is similar to neighboring Alicante in the south, occupying a transitional zone between the coastal climate of the Med and the high desert climate inland.
As I've found with most of my wine buying travels, my favorite wineries are always small independent operations. The Cambra family winery is precisely that; independently owned and operated and housed in a very modest structure. You won't find any multi-million dollar winery showrooms in this village -- just farmers making wine. What might be lacking in glitz and glimmer is deftly made up in the quality and integrity department.
Vereda is made from 100% Monastrell and only stalwart, climate-adaptable grapes like Monastrell can survive the region's blast-furnace sun and bone-dry environment. The vines suffer on the rocky limestone soils, and the absence of irrigation leads to aromatic and highly concentrated wines.
Vereda, the bright cherry red color with glittering violet reflections, introduces a nose of ripe black cherry and red berries mixed with subtle roasted aromas in your glass. The soft, dense palate centers on notes plummy notes of dark chocolate and roasted coffee. The long warming finish melts into ripe, enveloping tannins, just right for the porch or the dinner table.
Pair this one with grilled meats, especially lamb, stews, and ragouts.