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08.29.2005

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.

Comments (10)

Brett wrote:
08.30.05 at 2:38 PM

Hi Alder, this is my first time posting to your excellent wine site! I had the good fortune to meet Silvia Puig on my recent trip to the Priorat region. Like many Priorat winemakers, she's very young (in her late 20s!), but as you say, her Odysseus (both the white and the red) is fantastic! The 2003 white we had (which was her garnacha blanca, not the pedro ximenez you had) paired beautifully with an unusual sounding, yet delicious, local dish of mussels cooked with heaps of garlic and rosemary.

Alder wrote:
08.30.05 at 2:45 PM

Brett,

Welcome! Thanks for the comments. I am looking forward to trying her other wines as well. That dish sounds really good.

Jack wrote:
08.30.05 at 3:20 PM

Some Whole Foods stores (like the one in Santa Rosa) stock this wine (the PX). I also picked up the red Odysseus at The Spanish Table in Berkeley last September - but have yet to open it.

Thanks for giving us a write up on this winery. They're definitely not on anyone's radar in the US, yet.

A note: This wine needs a couple of hours of decanting - it was brash upon opening. Glad you liked it!

Jassmond wrote:
08.31.05 at 10:40 AM

Alder,

Do you happen to know who the importer is? I haven't seen this before and would like to try to track it down in Oregon.

Thanks.

Jack wrote:
08.31.05 at 2:00 PM

The importer is Bibulous: www.Bibulous.com

Btw: Finished the last glass of the bottle last night. Was still improving (might give it a 91-92 pts)...and has a ton of tartaric crystals left in the bottle. I'm going to pick up another 3. It's so rare to find a very good Spanish white wine.

Jassmond wrote:
09.04.05 at 1:01 PM

Jack,

Thanks for posting that. It looks like Bibulous might just be the retailer (unless they direct import it). Is there an Importer sticker on the back label? It would be easier for me to pick it up in Portland rather than have it shipped to me.

Thanks again.
Jassmond

Jack wrote:
09.04.05 at 7:30 PM

They are the direct importer of it. There name is on the label. If you have a Whole Foods near you, you might check to see if they have it in stock.

Bibulous wrote:
11.17.05 at 10:53 AM

Hello! We are the direct importers of this wine on the West Coast. These are some of our favorite wines from Spain - both the reds and the whites (and the Rosado!!!). If I can be of any help finding this near you please shoot me an e-mail and I will let you know where to find these wines. Thanks!!! [email protected]

John wrote:
10.30.06 at 6:28 PM

Does anyone know if the full blooded Pedro Ximinez should be served chilled like a fino or room temperature? Thanks.

Alder wrote:
10.30.06 at 6:37 PM

I don’t know what the "proper way to do it" is, but I enjoyed it slightly below room temperature.

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