introducing abacela’s gran reserva – paramour

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yesterday afternoon I popped the cork on a bottle of Abacela 2005 Paramour, which is being officially released to the world today. I have followed the efforts of Abacela’s Earl and Hilda Jones almost since their very first wines were released more than a decade ago. And I have never failed to be impressed with their vision, dedication, and (at times) dogged efforts to pioneer the cultivation of Iberian grapes – notably tempranillo – in southern Oregon’s Umpqua valley.

“We moved here to make this wine” is the opening quote from Earl Jones on the one-sheet that accompanied the bottle. In a phone call a week or so ago he elaborated on that thought.

“We’ve been trying to put together the components for a Gran Reserva style wine,” he explained in his soft southern drawl; “it’s been a dream since we came to Oregon. We’ve been very impressed with those kinds of wines, which are so much better than fruit forward, oak crianza, or even a reserve wine in Spain. This 2005 had two years in the finest French oak. It’s based on Tempranillo; the rest is a secret. It’s been in bottle four years; it’s just now emerging and revealing its true character.”

Naturally I had high expectations for the Paramour, not only because of what Jones had to say, but also because of the very high standards that previous vintages of Abacela reserves had already set. My expectations were more than exceeded, but not in the way I imagined. My thought was that this would be some sort of über-reserve – super-slathered in oak, dark as the night sky in Waitsburg, maybe a 16 percenter in the alcohol department.

In fact, none of the above is true. It is what you might call an intellectual wine. At first it is the aromas that show the complexity and detail, but the flavors remain locked up. They breathe open gracefully over some hours, and as they do the wine broadens out and lengthens. I won’t bother you with a shopping list of fruits and flavors – you will find them in abundance when you taste the wine for yourself. Suffice it to say that it is subtle, engaging, provocative and deep. The alcohol is listed as 14.2 percent, and just 30 percent of the French oak barrels were new. “Reduced from 100 percent to enhance fruit aromatics” notes Earl.

Just 169 cases were made. It was bottled on August 9th, and is estimated to reach full maturity in the next 6 – 15 years. Certainly the wine has the structure and mettle to age at least that long. It is offered for $90 through the winery’s wine club. As of this morning, no details had been posted on the website, but that should change shortly. Try here!

Postscript: One lesson immediately apparent from this lovely wine, is why context is so important in wine appreciation. Yes a more “objective” approach to reviewing would be to place the bottle in a blind tasting of other Tempranillo-based blends. Had I done so, in all honesty, the subtle elegance of this wine might have slid right past me. Blind tasting has an important place, and it is the sole approved method for my Wine Enthusiast scores and reviews. But in this instance, I chose to taste the wine solo and let the story impact me. I gave it extra time and consideration. I pulled so much more pleasure and value from the experience than I would have in a quick blind tasting. Sometimes, that is more important than a score.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It was bottled on August 9th,..." - based on two years in barrel, four years in bottle, that would have been 2007. Nice review - interesting comment on how blind tasting for scoring isn't like relaxing and "getting to know" a wine.

George Wroblewski said...

Will the Abacela 2005 Paramour make it to the UK?

PaulG said...

Anon - I see your point re: timing but it is perhaps possible that the blended wine spent 4 years in a tank (not a bottle). To be honest, I'm a little fuzzy on it myself!

Earl said...

Sorry for the confusion. This lovely wine was bottled August 9, 2007 after 22.5 months in barrel. In bottle the Paramour remained closed (tight) for almost four years awakening sufficiently in the last six month for release on Oct 15, 2011.

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