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What: Last week we had one of those two-bottle nights. You know, the kind of night where you have a bottle of wine with dinner and it’s so good, the bottle’s empty before dinner is over.

So Teri and I reached for another bottle and loved it, too. We were a little slow the next day, but, oh, was it worth it.

It was an interesting pairing, two wines from the 2005 vintage from opposite ends of the world. One was a Grenache from Spain and the other was an Australian blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Both were the kind of smooth, silky wines that leave you weak in the knees.

We had leftover spaghetti pie for dinner, so first I picked out a wonderful Spanish Grenache (or Garnatxa in Spanish). It was wine we had tasted at a Calvert’s wine dinner in January featuring Master Sommelier and wine maker Emmanuel Kemiji, and wines from the Vineyard Wine Market.

Most of the wines at the dinner were California Pinot Noirs from his Miura label, but with the leg of lamb they chose Arrels Monstant Clos Oblidat Sangre de Garnatxa 2005. I loved it with lamb and I loved it again with spaghetti pie.

Arrels Grenache

The wine, made of 100% Grenache grapes, was fruity but very dry, with an intense flavor. It comes from Kemiji’s first Spanish vineyard, which he bought with three French chefs from California in 2003. Arrels is the Catalan word for “roots of the vine.”

Clos Oblidat is the Catalan expression for a forgotten vineyard. The Romans planted vines in the Monstant region more than two centuries ago, and little has changed. It is lost in time. Many vineyards had to be replanted after phylloxera destroyed vines throughout Europe. Then the area became forgotten and overgrown until it was planted with fresh Grenache vines 15 years ago.

The Monstant region is in southern Catalonia, surrounding the more famous Priorat region which produces several of Spain’s best wines.
Sangre de Garnatxa translates as “blood of Grenache,” because the winemakers think of the grape as the heart and soul of the region. Many of the best Monstant vineyards are on elevated steep slopes, where the grapes get long doses of Mediterranean sunshine and cold temperatures at night.

The soil is known locally as “llicorella,” and is rich in granite and slate. The soil and the temperature extremes contribute to the great flavors of the wine.

The Arrels is a deep red color, with strong fruit aromas. It had some blackberry flavor, an earthy taste, good tannins and a moderate pepper finish. It is a wonderful wine.

The winery produced 333 cases.

Since the Grenache was so good, I knew I had to pick the second wine carefully. It had to be bolder than the first wine, or it would suffer by comparison. But it still had to be food-friendly.

Clancy's Red

I picked Clancy’s Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2005 from Peter Lehmann. What a great wine!

Australian wines have been among my favorites for years, although as their popularity grew, too many winemakers rushed to the market with bad wine, so now you have to pick your Aussie wine carefully.

Peter Lehmann is always a safe bet. He is a legend in the Barossa region of South Australia, having made great wine there for more than 30 years. The Barossa is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, and one of the most beautiful. I visited there in 2000, long before I started writing about wine, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. And the great wines made there.

It was in the Barossa where I tasted my first sparkling red wine (if you don’t count the Cold Duck I had 40 years ago). They’re a little more common now, but that first sparkling Shiraz in the Barossa was almost magical.

Some of the Barossa Shiraz vines are among the oldest vines in the world because they remained untouched by the vine disease phylloxera. The region is a little over an hour by car north of Adelaide, South Australia’s capital.

The success of Australian wines in the 1970s almost led to their ruin because of overproduction of grapes. When Lehmann saw what was happening, he found some investment partners, established a consortium and built the Peter Lehmann Wines winery in 1979.

The first vintage was processed in 1980, and in 1982 the winery was formally named Peter Lehmann Wines. From then on, its wines have been marketed under the Peter Lehmann Wines label. The Hess Family Collection bought 85 percent of the shares of Peter Lehmann Wines in 2003.

Teri and I drank the Clancy’s 2005 vintage. It is sometimes known as Clancy’s Red, but it is always a blend of the three grapes, the percentages varying by vintage. In 2005 it was 37% Shiraz, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Merlot. When I reviewed the 2009 vintage earlier this spring, there was more Shiraz and Cab and less Merlot, but it was still wonderful.

It’s a complex, mellow wine with a deep red color and a whiff of raspberry on the nose. There are lots of red fruit flavors, such as plum, cherry and raspberry.

This older blend that we had recently was much mellower, with most of the tannins blended into the fruit. But it wasn’t a soft, flabby wine. The tannins and acid were still there, giving the wine structure, but they weren’t as pronounced on the taste.

It was a great follow-up to the Grenache, also pairing well with the spaghetti pie. Almost as important, it went well with the popcorn we made to eat with the movie we watched after dinner.

As good as the current Clancy’s release is, it was nice to pull one out of the cellar that had a little bit of age on it. Both of these wines are affordable: the Arrels sells for a little over $20, and the Clancy’s is about $16.

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