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FORBES – Wines Of The Week: El Vinculo And Quilceda Creek For Labor Day Weekend

El Vínculo Alejairén Crianza 2015 La Mancha, Spain


Brian Freedman

There’s no better way to celebrate Labor Day weekend than with great wine. The traditional foods of the holiday may be more commonly associated with big coolers of cold beer—which I also love—but wine is also a phenomenal option. Grilled hot dogs with still or sparkling rosé, for example, can be transformative. Pulled pork with a spicy and beautifully concentrated Zinfandel is tough to beat. The options are limited only by your menu and what you can find at the local wine shop. And these two are more than worth the search.

My white Wine of the Week, El Vínculo Alejairén Crianza 2015, from Alejandro Fernández’s Grupo Pesquera in La Mancha, Spain, is one of the most versatile white wines I’ve tasted all summer, and would be a perfect way to start the weekend’s imbibing.

It’s made from the Airén grape variety, which historically hasn’t been used to craft particularly memorable bottlings. Indeed, despite the fact that it’s likely not all that familiar a name to most consumers, it accounts for around a third of all grapevine plantings in Spain, depending on whose numbers you consult. And while most of it ultimately goes anonymously into brandy, this 2015 is a wine that proves its incredibly high potential.

Hand-harvested grapes are aged for two years in neutral American oak after fermentation, after which they repose for another six months, minimum, in bottle. The result of that time, plus another several months in my own wine cellar, is a wine of almost distractingly charming character, with sherry-like aromas joined by preserved lemons, mashed almonds, and pistachios. The palate is lively yet dense, creamy yet cut through with acidity, and marked by flavors of stone fruit, fennel bulb, almond blossom, and honeysuckle. On its own as you’re getting the grill fired up this weekend, or alongside seafood or fish dishes—it could even stand up to a simply grilled pork chop with ease—this is perfect for the holiday.

My red Wine of the Week, the Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 from Columbia Valley, Washington, is a blockbuster. This should come as no surprise to readers who have had the good fortune to taste the wines of this legendary estate before, as they are easily among the most accomplished Cabernet Sauvignons in the country…and beyond.

Quilceda Creek was founded by Alex and Jeanette Golitzin in 1978, and is now helmed by their son, President and Director of Winemaking Paul Golitzin. Over the years, the family and their team have crafted some of the most unforgettable wines to ever come out of Washington State, and the 2016 is a worthy addition to that heritage. More than that: It’s an absolutely stunning wine in its own right, a testament to the vision and dedication of the Quilceda Creek team…and a wine that actually caused me to be actively sad when I’d finished the bottle.

The wine is sourced from four of the premiere vineyards in the Columbia Valley—Champoux, Lake Wallula, Palengat, and Wallula—and the tapestry of expressions of Cabernet that they provide the final blend (itself 100% Cab) is deeply exciting and hauntingly complex, especially once it’s all been brought together and aged for two years in new French oak.

The 2016 explodes from the glass with eucalyptus and a hint of menthol, as well as floral peppercorns, melted black licorice, star anise, cardamom, coriander, and something almost meaty against blackberry liqueur, black cherry, and a hint of cigar humidor. On the palate, chocolate, cherry ganache, sachertorte with a seam of black raspberry preserves, charred orange peels, and a sweet sense of venison jerky and violets ring through. It’s magnificent now, and will continue to evolve for another two or three decades. If I had another bottle, however, I’d have no problem at all opening it up with a grilled ribeye or, just as good, some simple hamburgers this weekend. Wine this transcendent will make anything you pair it with seem infinitely better.

With charm and character to spare, this starts off with almost sherry-like aromas joined by preserved lemons, mashed almonds, and pistachios. The palate is lively yet dense, creamy yet cut through with acidity, and marked by flavors of stone fruit, fennel bulb, almond blossom, and honeysuckle. This is a remarkable wine. SRP: $30