Two young female entrepreneurs are making a splash in the Vancouver wine world. Amo Vino is a new wine agency that specializes in wines that are outside of the norm. They have searched out wines that speak to their roots, their sense of place. Amo Vino features wines from small BC producers, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, natural wines, and rare collections from the US; definitely not your typical offerings. As their web site says, “Sharing a love of niche and natural wine.”
Jessica Luongo, earned her wine chops working for her grandfather’s wine agency, Burrows Luongo, a long-time fixture among BC wine importers. Now, Jessica has partnered up with long-time friend, Marisa Varas, whose background is in business. They are well-matched partners and have jumped in with both feet, making a big impact since launching their company just a year ago.
My most recent visit – earlier this year – was to a VIP meeting with Diogo Reis from Agricola Sanguinhal, a winery in Lisbon, Portugal. It is one of the oldest wineries in Lisbon and Diogo represents the fourth generation of this family owned winery. For almost one hundred years, they have produced wines from indigenous grapes and, more recently, from a number of international varieties as well. Their newest vines are 40 years old. They own three vineyards and produce wines under a variety of labels.
Diogo mentioned that the key to making a quality Portuguese wine is in the blending. Agricola Sanguinhal has had the same winemaker for years. Currently, they export to Africa, Northern Europe, China and North America.
Reis was in town for the Vancouver International Wine Festival and participated in many events prior to the big consumer tasting.
I was very lucky to taste through all the Sanguinhal wines available in B.C., as well as sample some new wines that are soon to arrive. ‘Quinta’ designates a single vineyard or estate, while the wines bottled under the Casabel label are blends from their three estates.
This wine has already made a big splash in the Vancouver scene. Its light colour belies its intense nose, due largely to Moscatel and the supporting Arinto and Vital. It is light, bright and fresh with a mouth-watering fruity palate and at only 9.5% ABV, it is a perfect luncheon wine. Serve chilled. Delicious!
Quinta das Cerejeiras Branco
A blend of Vital, Fernao Pires and Arinto. This wine shows character as it opens up. Golden yellow with medium-minus intensity. Fragrant, fresh and fruity with citrus, tree fruit and honey notes. Good structure and balance. This is a wine for people who like French white wines. Lovely with shellfish, white fish or grilled chicken.
Quinta das Cerejeiras Branco Reserva
Half barrel fermented Chardonnay, Arinto and Vital. Rich and buttery with a creamy palate. Melon, honey, butter and caramel on the nose. Mouth-watering with good acidity. Well balanced with a medium-long finish.
Castelao, Aragonez and Touriga Nacional. This is an orange tinged rosé with medium intensity. Good balance. Delicate fruit on the nose. Bright fruit on the palate with a medium-plus finish.
The name ‘Casabel’ means ‘house of Abel’ who was Diogo’s great grandfather. Here, Syrah replaces the Touriga Nacional in the three-grape blend. Orange tinged with medium-minus intensity. Cherries on the nose followed by orange blossoms and a hint of wild strawberry. Good body and balance. Pleasing fruit on the palate with a medium-plus finish. Serve with charcuterie.
A blend of Castelao, Aragonez and Touriga Nacional. Garnet red with medium-deep intensity. Bramble, boysenberry and cherry undertones. Medium-plus body, smooth ripe tannins. Flavours follow the nose and a medium finish.
Another blend of Castelao, Aragonez and Touriga Nacional. Garnet black with medium-deep intensity. The nose is intense and rich and Bordeaux –like. Very good balance. Packed with flavour. A medium-plus finish.
Peninsula de Lisboa
Aragonez and Castelao aged in oak. Garnet, almost black in colour with deep intensity. The nose is deep and inky with cherry, plum, cocoa, red currant, earth. Smooth and silky. The flavours echo the nose followed by a medium-long warm finish. Cellar worthy. This would pair well with Italian cuisine.
Quinta de S. Francisco
A blend of Castelao, Aragonez and Touriga Nacional. Garnet/black with deep intensity. Creamy, vanilla, ripe fruit, especially ripe cherries and chocolate on the palate. Medium-long finish. Very noticeable difference in terroir.
Sanguinhal 2014 Touriga Nacional
Needs decanting. Aged 12 months in French oak. Garnet black with deep intensity. Meaty, earth, dark fruit, violets, vanilla and spice with bramble undertones. Concentrated with lots of body, good structure and smooth ripe tannins. The flavours mirror the nose followed by a medium-long finish.
Quinta do Sanguinhal
This time Touriga Nacional moves up to second place with Aragonez playing the minor role. Garnet black with some bricking and deep intensity. Aromatic with Dark fruit, juicy cherries, vanilla, meaty, sandalwood. Wow! Good for another five plus years.
Quinta das Cerejeiras Reserva 2011
The usual trio of grapes has been aged for 24 months in French oak. Garnet black with deep intensity. Rich and layered nose showing aromas of dark fruit, earth, bramble, cocoa, sweet spice, tea and vanilla. Well balanced. The flavours reflect the nose. This is an impressive wine.
While all the wines feature similar grape blends, the soils, vineyards and winemakers differ. All are so very approachable. They have their own unique charm and represent excellent value. Look for Sanguinhal wines at better restaurants and private stores throughout Vancouver.
Thank you so much, Jessica and Marisa, for the invitation to this exclusive tasting opportunity.
(All photos – Sam Hauck)