At a recent wine dinner I had the pleasure of meeting Juan Antonio Ponce, the wine maker and owner of Bodegas Ponce, located in the D.O. (Denominación de Origen) of Manchuela. In this tiny appellation, located inland from Valencia, the Bobal varietal reigns supreme, although other grapes, including Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouchet), Syrah and Malbec, are also grown. Producers such as Finca Sandoval, Alto Landon, Cien Y Pico and Bodegas Ponce have set the standards for what can be expected from this region.
For me, meeting Juan Antonio has been one of the highlights of the year. His story is inspiring. In 2005 when he was just 23, Juan Antonio set out to establish his own winery, adopting Biodynamic agricultural practices in his vineyards and purposely going the “natural” route in his winery. His philosophy is to make wines with wild yeast fermentation, to respect the local varietal Bobal and to express the region’s unique terroir. Just nine years later, he stands alone as the leader of the pack in Manchuela and the master of the Bobal grape.
Clos Lojen is a pure joy to drink—and gives those of us always searching for new wines the opportunity to get to know a varietal not found outside of Spain. Made with 100 percent Bobal from organically farmed vines ranging in age from 35 to 50 years old, the wine is aged 7 months in old barrel French oak to help preserve the freshness and lively characteristics of the grape. Bright purple hues excite the senses; aromas of blackberry and sour cherry jump out of the glass. A subtle smokiness with mineral undertones easily coats your palate. Earthy youthfulness and perfect maturity are juxtaposed to create a delightful red. Juan Antonio hits a home run with this humble yet gutsy tinto.
Lojen is the perfect summer red. Pair it with grilled short ribs dusted
with the smoky Spanish paprika known as pimentón or juicy lamb sliders
topped with chipotle ketchup. Start drinking more Bobal and have fun all