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Navarra Uncorked: A visit with Bodegas Ochoa

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark. For me I woke-up each day not feeling as a stranger in a strange town, but as a welcomed sojourner on the path to understanding, acceptance and exploration. Armed only with my rudimentary Spanish speaking skills I've learned as a life-long San Diegan, along with basic gesturing skills [that some call pointing]; I navigated the tightly knit, guest welcoming streets of Pamplona. All of which helped me on more than one occasion put away my fare share of Pintxos which are very similar to Tapas, only better.

Our [the Navarra Five] jumping off point each day started in the famed [Running of the Bulls] city of Pamplona. A wondrously beautiful city which effortlessly  blends both the past and the future in vivid colors and patterns, on the one hand giving you a firm sense of its history, while its citizenry generously embraces the modern world seemingly just outside its doorstep.

Our first day of the adventure one of the wineries we stopped by was family-run Bodegas Ochoa who were very prepared and excited to receive our visit. We were greeted by key members of this family run business; given a quick tour of the facilities and then we quickly dug into the tasting. We tasted through eight different wines; all with excellent price points and quality ranges.

It would seem that for many garden-variety vino-sapiens when it comes to Spanish wine; many think of strawberry scented and savory red-fruited Riojas. Ah-yes that can be quite true; but there is far more to the Spanish wine scene than Rioja. Thus you have the fam--trip sponsored in part by the Navarra DO for the purpose of reminding folks of the wonderful wines coming from the Navarra wine region in northern Spain. Speaking of very tasty juice; Bodegas Ochoa produces many traditionally aged wines with extended periods in oak and bottle aging prior to release, fine wines of full of rich complexities and nuances which are emblematic of savvy winemaking techniques.

But in today's review I want to focus in on what could be considered their value-line. They have three different wines in that line-up which I thought were just superb and I know those are two words that on the cusp; seem at odds. But stick with me, as you'll will be hard pressed to find wines at these prices points which over-deliver on quality, taste and substance.

The even better news is; that these wines are available now here in the U.S. and are all selling for under $10. These wines get my coveted, "Drink now and Drink often" recommendation. The three wines in this line-up [pictured above] are a 100% Grenacha Rosada,  the Red-Blend [60% Tempranillo and 40% Garnacha] which I have dubbed the "Navarra Nouveau" and their Blanco-Blend of 70% Viura and 23 % Chardonnay; it may also include Muscat 7%.

2010 Blanco Blend: A vivid yet lightly hay colored core, the nose was very engaging, a waft of orange blossom, peaches and drop of minerality. On the palate a round mouth-feel, nearing ripeness of white peaches, gentle acidity, very floral flavors folded into a light bodied wine that would make pinot-grigio fans very happy. A great food pairing wine that would meld effortlessly with many seafood and fish-type dishes or just a easy going wine to sip with friends before dinner. [$9.99]

2010 Rosé Garnacha: Wow a rosado for this price with so much substance, impressive. In the glass a shimmering slice of ripe watermelon. On the nose a waft of dried rose petals and baking spices. After the first slurp; a sumptuous bite of ripe summer strawberries bursting with flavor, mouth-watering acidity, great depth and nice structure. I gave this little stunner a clean, refreshing 90 points of yumminess. Great alternative to heavier reds to pair with barbecued cuisine or to just sip pool-side on a hot day and watch the clouds float by. [$9.99]

2010 Navarra Nouveau: While I have given it a new name; it's simply referred to on their web-page as Red Garnacha & Tempranillo. Either way; this wine is dressed to impress right out of chute, a real no-brainer. This is a great wine for new wine drinkers looking to turn it up a notch from their usual sweet wines; who may want to explore a walk on the red side [uber-approachable]. In the glass a brilliant violet colored core. An easy going wine with a boat-load of dried blackberry aromas escaping easily from the glass. On the palate this wine is plush, a bit of rich tobacco, very mellow tannins and balanced acidity plays nicely with the red and dark fruits that dance on your tongue, with just a touch of black and blue berry jam on the sumptuous finish. Great pairing partner with hamburger and fries. [$9.99]

These are great everyday wines that you should be on your own wine-shopping short list. The style of wine that really give the credence to the phrase;"The intersection of where great wine meets reasonable prices". This review folks is just the tip of the iceberg of amazing wine discoveries I encountered, while on this wine-soaked journey through the Navarra Wine Scene, so please stay tuned for more. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

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