Along with Rioja, the Spanish wine region of Priorat is one of only two to obtain the country's highest classification, called DOQ.  Located in Catalonia, the relatively small wine region is about 30 miles southwest of Barcelona.

The region's soils are characterized by black slate (called llicorella in local terminology), and the climate is hot and dry, producing very low-yielding vines.  The area is known for its steeply terraced vineyards and harsh landscape.

Though a small amount of white and rosé wines are also produced here, the reds made primarily from Garnacha, with Carinena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah are the most prized wines.

While there are some Priorat reds selling for $15 a bottle, most cost significantly more, with the most valued bottles easily commanding triple digit price tags.

The first place wine was a clear winner; only Kristin decided that it wasn't the best bottle . . .  this wine was dark, balanced, and powerful.  There was a tie for third place, with the interesting result that David and Andy brought the same wine, but different vintages.

Thanks for Megan and Claudia for being guest tasters this month.

First Place: Mas Doix Salanques 2005 (Priorat).  Dark aromatics, featuring espresso, cocoa, charcoal, cedar, and cola.  Tasters also found hints of popcorn, wet cardboard, and peppermint on the nose.  Powerful, with a warming chocolaty character that included flavors of cherry cola.  Youthful, but very balanced and expansive on the palate.  Smooth, slightly gamy finish that Ali described as "like liquid paté".  This one really improved with aeration.  Well-crafted.  Made from 65% Garnacha, 20% Carinena, and small amounts of Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  15% alcohol.  Five tasters voted this as their top wine.  Received 34 points.  Ali's bottle.  About $35.

Second Place:  Nita 2006 (Priorat).  Unfiltered, with aromas of buttered popcorn, musky soap, hand lotion, soil, and "Christmas cookies" (Kristin).  Lovely, complex palate, featuring cola and cinnamon flavors.  Megan was reminded of "a summer day with children running around".  Ali hated it.  Kristin voted it her favorite of the evening.  A blend of 45% Garnacha, 35% Carinena, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Syrah.  14% alcohol.  Received 15 points.  Claudia's bottle.  About $23.

Thrid Place (tie):  Vall Llach Embruix 2005 (Priorat).  Wet soil, fabric softener, and meat aromas.  Notions of flowers on the nose that Megan described as "like a spring breeze".  Kristin was reminded of " a pork meat product".  Flavors of black licorice, blackberries, espresso, cola, and charcoal.  Powerful, with a long blueberry tinged finish.  This was made from 38% Garnacha, 26% Carinena, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, and 6% Merlot.  The name Embruix means "bewitched" in Catalan.  15.5% alcohol.  Received 13 points.  Andy's bottle.  About $31.

Third Place (tie):  Vall Llach Embruix 2001 (Priorat).  This wine's nose exhibited scents of bubble gum, cola, green pepper, rubber band, rotting fruit, and raw onion.  David was reminded of "Turkish spices".  Tasters found cinnamon and smoke on the palate.  Ali described a "Mexican food hot" quality.  Alcoholic finish was slightly out of balance.  Made from 50% Grenache, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, and small quantities of Merlot, Syrah, and Carignan.  14.5% alcohol.  Received 13 points.  David's bottle.  About $35.

The rest:

Vinicola del Priorat Onix 2006 (Priorat).  Aromas of caramel, campfire, socks, wet wool, metal, smoke, ham, and acetone.  Andy described "burning stick".  Simple flavors of plums and coffee, with a tart finish.  15% alcohol.  Received 12 points.  Megan's bottle.  About $15.

Mas Chirlin 2004 (Priorat).  Funky barnyard smells, along with bathroom cleanser, aerosol spray, and "childhood toy" (Ali).  Green pepper, orange rind, and apple flavors.  Ali said that it "tastes like fish".  Flat on the finish.  Made from 40% Grenache, 40 % Carignan, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Received 3 points.  Kristin's bottle.  About $20.
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