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2001 Celler Vall Lach "Embruix," Priorat, Spain

There are a lot of American celebrities moving into winemaking these days, and their wines are most often accompanied by massive marketing efforts rather than acclaim from the masses, if you know what I mean. However, there are other places in the world where the famous are making wine and at least in one case, doing it quite well.

Celler Vall Llach (no that's not a spelling mistake, it's Catalan) was founded in the early Nineties by the Spanish singer Lluis Llach and his friend Enric Costa. They selected a small village named Porrera, one of the nine villages in the south of Catalonia that together make up the Designation of Origin (D.O.Q.) of Priorat. Porrera is a farming co-operative with a scarred past of rebellion against the dominant powers in the region, and as a result has been razed nearly to the ground countless times. Luckily several of the historic buildings have survived, including a 300 year old wine cellar/shop in which Vall Llach now makes its home. After moving in, perhaps in to complement the age of their building, the proprietors purchased some prime vineyard real estate filled with 60 to 90 year old Carignan and Grenache vines, planted a few more with Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah, and started making small quantities of wine from expertly managed micro-yields. They have also recently added some carefully selected grapes from the other old-vine vineyards in the area.

This wine, whose name means "enchantment" in Catalan, is a mix of Grenache, Carignan, Merlot and Syrah (I am unsure of the exact proportions) all from Priorat old vines. The wine was fermented over 35 days in stainless steel, and then aged in French oak barrels with light and medium toast for 14 months. It is actually the second tier wine for Vall Llach, who make an eponymous wine as well as one named "Idus de Vall Llach" in addition to the Embruix.

This is one of the best wines from Spain I have had recently, and it matches or tops some wines that have been twice to three times as expensive. If Vall Llach's secondary wine is this good, I shudder to think what their top wines are like. The next stage beyond enchantment must indeed be ecstasy.

Tasting Notes:
This is a dark, dark wine, deep purple in the glass with a nose perfumed by (but not overwhelmed by) sweet oak, cherry, and vanilla aromas. In the mouth it is awash in lush cassis, cola, tobacco, and black cherry flavors cushioned by velvety tannins that carry it to a lasting finish, that resonates for a long while in the mouth. Powerful, rich, and sumptuous are all words that come to mind.

Food Pairing:
This is one of those wines that is best appreciated with a dish that does not compete or contrast, merely complements. Keep it simple and earthy -- seared Kobe beef or Wagyu beef with a little salt and pepper and potentially a morel or two would be an ideal match -- no fancy sauces.

Overall Score: 9.5

How Much?: $25-30

So. Where to get this stuff? Looks like there's a bit out there on the Internet for varying prices. Try Wine Searcher.

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