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Wine tasting featuring Cellars Melis from Priorat, Spain

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Cellars Melis wines

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Javier López Botella and winemaker Victor Gallego, from Cellars Melis, of Prioriat, Spain, recently presented a selection of their wines at Graziano’s Restaurant in Coral Gables. The tasting featured a selection of vintages of their Obrador, Elix, and Melis wines, together with three wines from Sea Smoke (Gallego was the director of winemaking at that vineyard).

Melis was founded in 1999 by Victor Gallegos and Javier López Botella, on 19 hectares of land in Priorat, Spain, near the town of Torroja. Over the next several years they worked on restoring the existing 60-year old Cariñena (Carignane) vines, and planting Garnacha, Cariñena, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their first harvest was in October, 2004. According to the winery, their philosophy is that “…that the wine should honor and reflect the wild, earthy richness of Priorat’s traditional varietals and terroir, while achieving a world-class balance and elegance.”

The first wine tasted was a 2008 Obrador, a blend of 50% Grenache, 24% Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon/Carignane. The wine retails for about $28.00. The aroma is of dark fruits, blueberries, licorice, and a hint of cigar box. The wine had a medium body, with flavors that were spicy, with soft tannins, blueberries, strawberries, and milk chocolate. The wine had a medium finish that was soft, slightly bitter, with hints of plums and apple skins.

We next tasted three vintages of their Elix wines – 2004, 2005, and 2007. The Elix line retails for $35-$40.

Elix 2004: The blend was not provided, but was at least Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carignane. The aromas were eucalyptus, spice, licorice, dark fruits, black raspberries, with flavors of dark cherries, licorice, and faint vegetal notes. The wine had a medium body, and a medium finish with strong hints of blueberries. We felt that this wine was a little past its peak, but still delicious.

Elix 2005: Composed of 45% Grenache, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carignane, 6% Merlot, 3% Syrah, aged for 16 months in 100% Burgundian French Oak. On the nose, this wine was spicy, with white pepper, licorice, dark cherries, and a hint of espresso. It had a medium body with soft tannins, and flavors of dried fruits, licorice, and a touch of leather. The finish was medium, with blueberries, cedar, and a hint of tobacco.

Elix 2007: Composed of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Syrah (percentages were not given). The wine was barrel aged 16 months, 100% Burgundian French Oak . The nose was blueberries, smoke, and macerated cherries. The flavors were strawberry, milk chocolate, menthol, and spice. This wine had a lighter body and softer tannins than the ’04 and ’05. The finish was medium, with hints of blueberries and tobacco.

Melis is the winery’s premium line, retailing for $80-$100. Both Melis and Elix are grown in the same vineyards, and use the same grapes. The separation comes at the time the wines are blended; the better juice is used for the Melis line, while the lesser is assigned to Elix.

2004 Melis: 63% Grenache, 16% Carignane, 14% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel aged 15% in 100% Burgundian French Oak. The wines are not filtered or fined. The aromas were of menthol, licorice, floral, white pepper, and some milk chocolate. The flavors were of blueberries, earth, dark fruits, and a slight herbaceous note. The body was a bit thin, and the wine had a medium, mild finish. The tannins were light.

2006 Melis: 62% Grenache, 19% Carignane, 6% Syrah, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel aged 16 months in 100% Burgundian French Oak. The wine is not filtered or fined. On the nose, this wine was earthy, spicy, with a pleasant baked apple tone, along with blueberries, strawberries, and smoke. The flavors were cedar, earth, dark fruits, mild tannins, and a nice body. The wine had a long finish that was slightly mouth-drying, and notes of smoke and dried cherries.

Overall, those present at the tasting preferred the 2005 and 2007 Elix, mainly due to maturity of the wine – both examples were ready to drink. However, it was equally obvious that the 2006 Melis had quite a bit of potential bottled up, and given a few years, would certainly show its strength. Both Robert Parker and Wine Spectator have given the wines of Melis strong, positive reviews, indicating the potential of the wines and vineyards.

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