Tucked in the hills of San Martin de Valdeiglesias, a region just southwest of Madrid, the Bernabeleva estate is blessed with a perfect climate and ideal soils for growing grapes – especially Grenache grapes.
The estate was acquired in 1923 by a Madrid doctor named Vincente Alvarez-Villamil, who dreamed of making wines of exceptional character in this idyllic setting.
It turned out that this land also had something of a mythical past. Indeed, the property is dotted with large, ancient Celtic carvings of bears. Vincente named his estate Bernabeleva, or “the bear’s forest,” and the image of the goddess of hunting riding a bear became the estate’s logo – as you can see on the label.
Unfortunately, the Spanish Civil War put an end to Vincente’s dream, and it would not be until 2006 that it would be resurrected, under the aegis of two of his grandsons.
The two cousins, Juan Diez Bulnes and Santiago Matallana Bulnes, aspire to making wines that are pure and expressive from the 80-year-old vines that grace the estate. They use long fermentation, minimal handling and old barrels – with sparse use of new wood so as not to camouflage the grape’s inherent aromatics.
Not surprisingly, the team has been turning out wines that are extremely aromatic, deep and vibrant – a pure delight to the palate.
Bernabeleva – Navaherreros Grenache 2009
Producer: Bodegas y Vinedos Bernabeleva
Region: Vinos de Madrid DO
Serving: Decant for 1 hour
Bernabeleva’s Navaherreros Grenache is all about the fruit, but it is by no means a fruit bomb. The first sniff reveals lovely aromas of red fruit, vanilla and a hint of spice. The aromas are expressive, clean, bright.
On the palate, the wine comes to life. Flavors of red cherry, plum and pomegranate expand in the mouth along with hints of vanilla and spice, just as the nose suggested. But there’s a great concentration of fruit; this wine is positively luscious. Yet all that fruit is kept in check by a lively acidity and supple tannins. Then, the succulent fruits linger in a long, mouthwatering finish.
This is a Grenache with zing! And a Grenache that’s a food-wine par excellence.
The pairing I chose today might seem a bit surprising, but after tasting several different varietals with these spicy black bean tacos, Bernabeleva’s Navaherreros Grenache came out the clear winner.
Undoubtedly the tacos brought out the spiciness in the wine, but the concentrated fruit harmonized magnificently with the multilayered flavors of the tacos. Moreover, the tacos, although certainly flavor-packed, are not heavy, and neither is the wine. Their weights were a perfect match.
I have since served this wonderfully crafted wine with many different types of dishes, and it has never disappointed. It has become a standby in my modest cellar.
Where to buy
In my tiny village resides a jewel of a wine store: Piermont Wines. Jung Kim, the proprietor, has an exquisite palate and offers a small but outstanding selection of wines. It’s through him that I discovered Bernabeleva. For those of you who might live nearby, it’s worth coming to Piermont just to visit his store. Jung is also happy to ship wine to most states in the country.
503 Piermont Ave
Piermont, NY 10968
Recipe: Spicy black bean tacos
Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.