There are at least four wineries in the Napa Valley and Carneros that are making an AlbariÃ±o wine. Could this be the beginning of a hot new wine in California? AlbariÃ±o is a Spanish grape found in the area of Spain known as Galicia, in the wine region of Rias Baixes. The grape needs a cool and damp environment to thrive.
Here in the Napa Valley and Carneros the AlbariÃ±o grape is grown only in the cool climate of the Carneros region and on Hendry Ranch. Both of these wine areas are in close proximity to the San Pablo Bay. The winds from the Bay provide cooling temperatures to both these areas during most of the growing season. The wineries that produce an AlbariÃ±o in the Napa Valley and Carneros are Hendry Winery, Havens Vineyards, Mahoney Vineyards, and Artesa. An AlbariÃ±o wine is a refreshing wine with lemony characteristics and good acidity. In Spain, this wine is very popular with all types of seafood. A huge amount of Spanish AlbariÃ±o is exported to the U.S where the demand is increasing annually.
I cannot imagine that other Napa Valley and Carneros winemakers will jump on the bandwagon and begin making this wine for two very important reasons. One, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are also cool weather varietals and they are much more lucrative for growers and wineries. Secondly, there is the competition from the Spanish wineries that are exporting this wine into the U.S. in large numbers. Most of these Spanish wines are priced under $15 and are excellent in quality. The four Napa Valley and Carneros AlbariÃ±o wines are priced in the range of $18 to $24. My guess is these four wineries have chosen to make an AlbariÃ±o because they have an affinity for the grape for some reason or another. When I asked George Hendry why he was producing an AlbariÃ±o, he answered without hesitation, “Because I like the stuff so darn much.”
We decided to put the AlbariÃ±o wines from the Napa Valley and Spain to a taste test with our seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. We did a blind tasting of Hendry, Havens, Mahoney with two Spanish AlbariÃ±o wines, a Bodegas Nora and an Adegas Valminor. The Havens ($24) edged out the Valminor ($15), and then came the Hendry ($20) , the Nora ($13), and finally the Mahoney ($18). We agreed that the wines were all very delightful, tasty, and delicious.
There are several other wineries in California making AlbariÃ±o, some in the Monterey area and others in Mendocino. It will be interesting to track AlbariÃ±o sales of both Spanish and California wines. The Spanish AlbariÃ±o is certainly a bargain and can be found in any decent wine shop. Next time you have a seafood dinner, do yourself a favor and try a bottle of AlbariÃ±o. You will find it to be a very pleasant change of pace. I purchased the Havens at the winery, and the Hendry and Mahoney at JV Wines in Napa. The Adegas Valminor is exported heavily and should be easy to find in good wine shops for around about $15. The Nora was purchased at Cost Plus.