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Wine Without Pretense: Enjoy a taste of Spain with a Verdejo from Rueda
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Wine Of The Month

The wine: Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Vineyard Zinfandel 2011

The grapes: 90 percent zinfandel, 10 percent syrah

The source: Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Calif.

The verdict: Whenever we go to Sonoma we stop to say howdy to Jack London, the famed writer, who is buried near his tragedy-torn Wolf House. Jack’s vineyard is on a hillside, and produces high-quality fruit. That’s why the Jack London Vineyard series from Kenwood — one of my favorite wineries – are terrific wines: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and zinfandel. If you’ve never experienced a fine zin, this is one to grab. It lets you know, and not too subtly, just what zin is all about: rich, spicy, full-bodied, fun to drink. Dark fruit flavors dominate — plums, black cherries. You can almost smell the California eucalyptus trees, and vanilla from the small French and American oak barrels. But it is a restrained wine, not a bruiser. Stranded on a desert island, I would pray for a case of this.

The price: About $26

Ever heard of Verdejo? How about Rueda?

Unless you’re a dedicated wino, the answer to both questions is probably “No”, or at least “Huh?”

Verdejo is the most popular white wine of Spain; that’s the name of the grape from which the wine is produced. And Rueda is the name of the Denomination of Origin, or growing region. I was vaguely familiar with both, but was quite surprised to learn that 95 percent of the white wine production in Spain comes from Verdejo.

The wines are crisp and dry, with a hint of mineral in the finish ... the aftertaste. Verdejo really is a fine food wine, and I recommend it with seafood, lighter chicken dishes and pasta — without the red sauce.

I recently came across a half-dozen Verdejos from Rueda and my overall impression is that they remind me somewhat of Chilean sauvignon blancs ... but not totally. Let me tell you about some of them.

While Verdejos are made from the same grape, there are stylistic differences among them, depending upon what the winemaker is trying to say. And some are blended with grapes other than Verdejo.

Of the six, I was impressed by three. The other three just did not float my boat. Here’s my listing, in order of preference.

Marques de Riscal Finca Montico 2012: This is 100 percent Verdejo and I really like this wine. There’s a good level of acidity in it that makes it quite good with food. I tasted it with a plate of oven-fried shrimp, and the wine has sufficient body to it that it held up to the spicy coating as well as the flavorful shrimp. About $25.

Martinsancho Verdejo 2012: Also 100 percent Verdejo, this tangy beauty comes from Bodegas Angel Rodriguez from fairly old vines. My first sniff evoked herbs such as tarragon and basil. Grapes are hand-picked and given extra care in the vineyard and winery. It is given a superior rating. I tried this with a grilled halibut fillet and it was great. About $20.

Tierra Buena Verdejo 2011: This is a blend of 60 percent Verdejo, 30 percent Viura and 10 percent sauvignon blanc. The grape blend varies from vintage to vintage, depending upon the character of the fruit. I did enjoy this wine, which represents good value, but would suggest you look for the 2012 edition. It gets no exposure to oak barrels and is crisp and pleasing. The winery suggests pairing it with that classic Spanish rice and seafood dish, paella, which is too much work for me. About $11.

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Ever find yourself having to buy a bottle of wine, but not knowing what to put into your shopping cart? Or wondering what it is about certain wines you like? You’re not alone, trust me.

But the good folks at Tasting Room, by Lot18, offer an easy, online way to find out just what kinds of wines you really like. And if a technology troglodyte such as yours truly calls it “easy,” it is.

Tasting Room sends you a Wine Sampler Kit, six mini-bottles containing about 1.7 ounces. My kit contained two whites and four reds. Chill the whites, then place each bottle on the appropriate numbered space on the tasting mat included in the kit.

Sample the wines, make notes — mental or otherwise — and then log on to ... and let it flow.

You’ll be asked which wines you liked and why. From your responses Tasting Room puts together your personal wine profile — a WinePrint. Once that is completed, Tasting Room will begin sending you wines that match your WinePrint.
It costs $9.95 to join Tasting Room. For additional information log on to

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on