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Three of the most fascinating wines I have tasted this year are from Toro (yes, Toro!), a winegrowing region located in the west of Castilla y León that dates back to Roman times, fed by the regal Duero River shortly before it flows into Portugal. Toro's terroir is varied and laudable, combining well-draining sandy and rocky, clay and calcareous soils, high altitudes, extreme temperature variation, and a good number of own-rooted plantings of the local Tinta de Toro grape (genetically Tempranillo, but with pronounced local characteristics).
A reputation for high-alcohol, international-style red wines has limited the appeal and obscured the character of Tinta de Toro. Kiko Calvo (Bigardo) and Alvar de Dios are natives of Toro, who honed their winemaking skills elsewhere before returning to farm their familial vineyards and make wine their own way. These young growers achieve much more than delicious and original wines of place; they have torn the shroud of style off of Tinta de Toro, revealing exotic flavors, length, complexity, and pleasure that is all too rarely transmitted by Toro wines. Deep yet affordable, they will breathe new life into winter braises and roasts, as well as simple weeknight pasta/pizza/burger meals. Please try all three of these inspiring wines!
In addition to Toro, we are delighted to have received delicious 2015 bottlings from Silice Viticultores in the Ribeira Sacra, Bodegas Maisulan in the Rioja Alavesa, and Envínate, the talented quartet whose fresh, focused wines from Tenerife, Ribeira Sacra, Extremadura, and Almansa are hard to keep on the shelves.
The Midwinter Spanish Mixed Case is rounded out with robust and refreshing wintry roses (one still, one sparkling) and four textured, tantalizing white wines (two with skin contact, two without) that encourage pairings with root vegetables, whole roasted fish, seafood stews, and poultry. Cheers to long winter evenings with family and friends! Ariana Rolich
2017 Midwinter Spanish Mixed Case* includes a fabulous array of organic, biodynamic, low-SO2 selections at an excellent price, including Alvar de Dios 2015 Toro Tio Uco, Alvar de Dios 2014 Toro Aciano, Bigardo 2015 Bigardo Tinto, Silice 2015 Ribeira Sacra, Envinate 2015 Almansa Albahra, Maisulan 2015 Rioja, Maldivinas 2015 Combate Pink, Clos Lentiscus 2012 Penedes Brut Nature Rose, Pedralonga 2015 Rias Baixas Albarino, Mengoba 2014 Bierzo Brezo Blanco, Marc Isart 2014 La Maldicion Malvar, RuBor Viticultores 2014 Protocolo Zero Blanco. *Out-of-stock items will be replaced with wines of comparable price and quality.
A burst of flamboyant flavors, Tío Uco is an exciting young wine from an exciting young winemaker! A native of southern Toro, Alvar de Dios honed his skills working with Fernando García at Bodegas Marañones (a longtime Chambers Street favorite) before returning to Toro to farm family vineyards and acquire others. Tío Uco comes from 25 to 40 year-old, organically farmed vines of Tinta de Toro on a variety of terroirs (clay, limestone, sand, and gravel), destemmed and raised in neutral oak barrels. Aromas are wild and heady, full of fermenting berries, black cherry compote, incense and clove, with a jazzy, light spritz upon opening, dissolving into the fun and full-flavored palate of cassis, cranberry, cola, salt plums, balsamic, wild rose, and bitter herbs on the finish. Substantial and spicy, but light on its feet, this is an offbeat and slightly wild foil to standard-issue Tempranillos. Ariana Rolich
Elegant and focused compared to the unfettered flair of Tio Uco, Aciano is made from Alvar de Dios' grandfather's own-rooted vineyard of Tinta de Toro planted nearly 100 years ago on pure sandy soils at 700 meters altitude in El Pego, on the southern limit of the Toro DO. Deep brambly aromas with black currant, raspberry liqueur, almond cake, sweet pink florals, blueberry, balsam, blood orange, and cinnamon flow onto the palate of intense black currant, almond oil, savory tropical fruits like papaya and pomegranate, cherry bark, plum vinegar, bitter herbs, and long, lilting minerality. For its balance and beauty, I cannot recommend this wine highly enough. Ariana Rolich
Kiko Calvo made wine all over the world before returning to Toro to farm his family's own-rooted Tinta de Toro vines and use his diverse winemaking experience to draw out their potential, with no adherence to local styles or conventions. Bigardo's website notes that Tinta de Toro grapes ("not Tempranillo!") for this wine are harvested over the course of 45 days, with many individual fermentations highlighting the character of specific vineyard parcels, which range from 20 to 100 years old. This incredible effort to enhance and layer the personalities of the grapes is evident in the finished wine as well, which feels supple and sculpted, a braid of rich textures and flavors. Aromas of currants, cherries, and sweet smoke swirl onto the palate, which at first is red-fruited, pretty, and pleasantly acidic with sweet tannins, opening with oxygen to reveal layers of creamy purple and black fruit - mulberry, black currant, and earthy plums - rosebud, licorice, candied violets, cocoa, and and cooling hint of pine. Shape-shifting and marvelous! Ariana Rolich
Silice Viticultores is a partnership between super-talented winegrower Fredi Torres and brothers Carlos and Juan Rodriguez, who are dedicated to shining light on the power of the steep and mighty Ribeira Sacra region to produce complex and luscious red wines without excessive intervention. Farming is organic and biodynamic, with no additives or manipulation in the cellar (beyond tiny amounts of SO2), which sets Silice apart in a region where chemical farming and acidification of wines are commonplace. Primarily Mencia, with Merenzao, Albarello, Garnacha Tintorera, and some white grapes, from multiple small vineyards on slate and granite slopes in Amandi averaging 60-80 years old. Aromas of sweet smoke and tangy wild berries, herbs, and damp earth meet a juicy, mid-weight palate of tart cranberry, wild cherries, sour plum, cedar smoke and blueberries, with wild thyme, purple and blue florals, and salty, funky soil. Lovers of Pinot Noir and Cru Beaujolais in search of some Spanish sun, spice, and soul need look no further. Ariana Rolich
Envínate is a collaboration between four friends who met at enology school in Alicante and have gone on to make memorable and terroir-expressive wines from special parcels of vines all around Spain: Ribeira Sacra, Canary Islands, Extremadura, and this one from the Almansa DO (just inland and south of Valencia). Made from Garnacha Tintorera (a deeply pigmented and vibrantly acidic grape) from organically farmed vines at 800 meters altitude on chalky, clay-calcareous soils, blended with another vibrant red grape, Moravia. Wild yeast fermented and raised in large cement vats, Albahra is racy, bright, and light-on-its-feet, with electric blackberry, soft blueberry, and chewy purple fruit skins, with purple flowers, clove, and hints of earthy funk. Ariana Rolich the 2015 vintage is riper and richer than 2014, still energized by bright acidity with aromas of spicy rose florals, crushed purple berries, cinnamon, and licorice, with flavors of sun-kissed, sappy blackberries, bramble, chewy black fruit skins, with oregano, clove, and salty licorice sticks. Ariana Rolich
Envínate is a collaboration between four friends who met at enology school in Alicante and have gone on to make memorable and terroir-expressive wines from special parcels of vines all around Spain: Ribeira Sacra, Canary Islands, Extremadura, and this one from the Almansa DO (just inland and south of Valencia). Made from Garnacha Tintorera (a deeply pigmented and vibrantly acidic grape) from organically farmed vines at 800 meters altitude on chalky, clay-calcareous soils, blended with another vibrant red grape, Moravia. Wild yeast fermented and raised in large cement vats, Albahra is racy, bright, and light-on-its-feet, with electric blackberry, soft blueberry, and chewy purple fruit skins, with purple flowers, clove, and hints of earthy funk. Ariana Rolich
the 2015 vintage is riper and richer than 2014, still energized by bright acidity with aromas of spicy rose florals, crushed purple berries, cinnamon, and licorice, with flavors of sun-kissed, sappy blackberries, bramble, chewy black fruit skins, with oregano, clove, and salty licorice sticks. Ariana Rolich
Maisulan is 100% Tempranillo from organically and biodynamically farmed vineyards around the village of El Villar in the Rioja Alavesa. Aromas of dusty purple berries and plums, rose hips, and tendrils of sweet smoke combine on the dense, full-flavored palate of wild cherry, dense boysenberry and raspberry, with red apple skins, spicy cinnamon, gritty tannins, and a long finish of savory and smoky earth. Affordable and versatile. Ariana Rolich
I heartily recommend drinking more deeply pigmented rosés throughout winter (especially at holiday feasts). This is an addictive, fuschia-hued, slightly off-dry rosado of Garnacha from Maldivinas' prime vineyards in Cebreros, the heart of the Sierra de Gredos. Two-thirds of the fruit comes from vineyards on schist and one-third from granitic soils. The perfumed nose of hibiscus, wild flowers, and damp brown earth continues onto the wild, juicy palate of strawberry preserves, raspberry patch, and black tea. Lots of bright, tangy acidity is present to balance the rich, wild fruit and the touch of sugar that remains in the wine. An explosively delicious rosé for sipping and an inspired pairing for any cured or smoked pork products, dark poultry (like turkey or duck), Asian fare, cheeses, and fruity or chocolatey desserts. One barrel produced. Ariana Rolich
Manel Avinyó of Clos Lentiscus makes the most fascinating and delicious no-added-SO2 Champagne method sparkling wines in Penedès. This one is 100% Samsó (the Catalan name for Carignan) from vines planted in 1939 in the Garraf National Park (just south of Barcelona), which Manel and his brother Joan farm organically and biodynamically. This bottling is from the 2012 vintage, fermented with native yeasts, with 25 months in bottle and disgorgement with no dosage. Carignan's raw, wild soul is finessed into a pale salmon sparkler with lots of surprises and complexity. Aromas of spice and musk and minerals with blood orange, wild strawberry, and sea breeze; the palate is dry and dense, with fresh saline and herbal notes that infuse tart yet rich flavors of apricot, cherry skins, bitter almond, blood orange, minerally earth, and purple florals, with a long finish of almond oil, maraschino, and fragrant Mediterranean herbs. Ariana Rolich
Bordeaux native Gregory Perez makes some of the best white wines in northern Spain under his Mengoba label, and this expressive wine from his second label, Brezo, keeps us on our toes vintage after vintage! mouth-watering blend of Godello and Dona Blanca from 30 to 80 year-old vines in Bierzo , with elegant build and depth that vastly exceed its price point. Notes os fresh pear, green apple, lime blossoms, almond, jasmine tea, chalky minerality, and subtle white pepper spice led a colleague to aptly describe this wine as "Chenin meets Grüner." Extremely versatile, brightly acidic, and delicious with fresh seafood, roasted chicken, spicy fare, and cheeses. Ariana Rolich
Another fabulous 2015 Albarino from Rias Baixas, Pedralonga has a pulse all its own. From 7.5 ha of organic and biodynamically farmed vines, it is energetic, salty, savory, and long. Pedralonga - "big rock" in Gallego - refers to the chunks of granite that protrude from the vineyard soils and create the textured, mineral core of the palate. Aromas of oyster shell, meadow flowers and creamy stone fruit dance onto the energizing palate of fresh citrus, briny sea spray, green apple, and pink peppercorn. Pair with shellfish, charcuterie, sushi, or vegetable pastas. Ariana Rolich
We are big fans of winemaker Marc Isart, who makes the perennially popular Bernabeleva wines from the Sierra de Gredos, west of Madrid. His Maldicion label comes from vineyards on the other side of Madrid. This one is an austere orange wine made of 100% Malvar from vines planted between 1910 and 1960 around the town of Valdilecha. Fermented with skins and stems for 50 days and aged in large neutral oak casks, it is subtle and mineral on the nose with white flowers and hints of savory spice. Flavors of green tea and apricot oil, bright acidity and a tickle of tannin make this wine a tasty foil for Asian food or sweet and spicy Caribbean fare. Ariana Rolich
A delicious introduction to orange wine and Rubor Viticultores, made of 100% Albillo Real, the great white grape of the mighty Gredos Mountains, west of Madrid. Rubén and Orly explore a wide range of expressions between their two old-vine Albillo parcels planted on granitic soils - La Peguera and SADE - through strategic harvest dates, skin contact, and vinification style. Protocolo Zero allows them to marry the fresh, youthful, and bright wines with rich, spicy, and aromatic ones, in proportions of their choosing. This succulent white explodes with exciting granitic texture and length, with flavors of musky peaches, Bosc pear, butterscotch, chamomile, and a hint of fresh ginger. Pair with roasted poultry, seafood, pâtés and cheeses. Seriously delicious on its own as well, for lovers of white wines with a little skin contact! Ariana Rolich