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2003 Viñedos de Ithaca "Odysseus" Pedro Ximinez, Priorat, Spain

Ithaca.logo.jpgThere's nothing like a mystery to get me all riled up. For all I know it's not really a mystery -- I'm sure thousands of Spaniards would laugh out loud knowing that I'm now obsessed with this -- but I really want to know who Pedro Ximinez was. And why there is a grape named after him. I imagine him the humble yet respected mayor of a small Andalusian town who rescued his faithful villagers from economic ruin by breeding a grape that winemakers idolized and a nation desired. Sigh. Not even my wine bible had the answer to that one.

What we do know about the grape Pedro Ximinez is that it has been used, along with Palomino, to make dry aged sherry in the Montilla-Moriles area near Jerez, Spain for hundreds of years. It is occasionally also used to make a thick, sweet dessert wine that has become trendy in the last few years as an alternative to Sauternes in foie gras pairings at fancy restaurants.

Rarely, then, is it made into a dry table wine, but that didn't keep young Silvia Puig from giving it a try. For five vintages now, she and her father, the legendary Spanish winemaker Joseph Puig have been experimenting a lot on a small estate in the Priorat region of Spain under the name Viñedos de Ithaca. They have planted their 50 acre plot with Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Touriga Nacional, and Pedro Ximinez, and go about their winemaking in slightly unorthodox ways. In addition to disregarding the traditional styles for some of the wines they produce, they also fully barrel ferment their wines, and do all their aging in large upright 400 liter barrels with nearly constant stirring.

They have named their wines after the hero Odysseus in honor of the Greeks who first brought grape vines to Spain. Says Puig, "The front label is a metaphor for the day. On it, we see the tapestry being woven by Odysseus's wife Penelope for her father-in-law, Laertes. It was in this manner that she spent her time while waiting for her husband to return from the Trojan wars (which he did 20 years later). The back label represents the night. On it we find the mythical Trojan horse wrapped within the tapestry, but unraveled. Penelope had many suitors while waiting for Odysseus to return and stated that she would marry once she finished the tapestry. But, each night, she unraveled her own work and never married, thus demonstrating her fidelity and belief in husband's return."

Tasting Notes:
A medium to deep yellow gold color in the glass, this wine has a delicious nose of lemon peel, coldcream, paraffin, and minerals. In the mouth it is very distinctive in flavor incorporating nectarine and pomelo flavors with notes of dandelions and other flowers wrapped in a sheath of bracing acidity. I tasted it blind at first, and pegged this wine for a Pinot Blanc. It is crisp, and lovely, with a nice finish, and a very distinct character that I really enjoyed.

Food Pairing:
It paired nicely with a couple of small tapas dishes we had before dinner, especially fresh cherry tomatoes stuffed with Spanish olive tapenade.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $25

This wine is available for purchase on the Internet.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.