Dominio del Pidio Albillo: Tasting an Unusual Spanish White Wine in Miami (#worldwinetravel)

Homemade guacamole at Cantina La Veinte

Imagining a trip to Spain is something I do often. I get to revisit my favorite cities, taste incredible wines, and remember the taste of fresh-grilled sardines at a beachfront chiringuito. Joining the World Wine Travel group each month takes my indulgence to a whole new level: I can bask in the revelries of my wine-loving friends, using their stories as a launchpad for new virtual adventures.

Would you like to come along? This Saturday, March 27th at 11 am ET, Lynn of Savor the Harvest and Allison of ADVineTURES will lead us in an exploration of Castilla y León, the region that includes famous denominations like Ribera del Duero, Toro, and Rueda. (You can read the invitation post here.) Everyone is welcome, so please follow the conversation on Twitter, using #worldwinetravel. And feel free to share your wine stories, too!

Here’s a sample of what we’ll be chatting about:

Scenario: You’re Out to Dinner with a Group and the Server Brings the Wine List

If it’s a gathering of Wine People, the dropping of the wine list/book will engender a lively discussion about what to order. Usually that amounts to several bottles – either in succession or all at once – being ordered, followed by full-on wine geekery (comparing our impressions of the wine, sharing stories of vineyard visits, and listening to the one person who doesn’t like the wine in question.)

I’m joking, sort of. Wine People like to talk about wine; we like to argue about it; we like to agree to disagree. And it’s all good because that’s what Wine People do. Then we open the next bottle and start all over again. The group dynamic is fun and easy-going, and we all learn more about our favorite subject.

Ensalada de Berros (goat cheese, beets, watercress, and soy vinaigrette) at Cantina La Veinte

It’s much easier than being the designated Wine Person at a table with wine civilians. Ugh. The saying “You can’t win for losing” comes to mind, as does “No good deed goes unpunished.” Your dilemma is to attempt to please everyone on every level: do they prefer red or white? Which style appeals? How to match it with multiple dishes? What is the price range?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to please everyone. Accommodate the greatest number of requests and choose a wine that you, yourself, will ultimately enjoy. Invariably, complaints will come (there’s always at least one contrarian at the table who will hate the wine on principle) but most folks will be cool with it. And at least you will not be drinking something unpalatable.

Searching for a White Wine in Miami

Gabe and I have friends who visit us regularly here in the Magic City (or rather, they used to, in the Before Times) and who love our restaurant scene. They arrive with a list of places – and even specific dishes – that they’re eager to try. We do our best not to disappoint!

When we’re dining together, and I’m the designated WP at the table, my only restriction in ordering the wine is that it be white. Not sure why, but it’s something I can work with. Plenty of lovely white wines to choose from, right?

Sometimes that’s easier said than done in Miami, which is an unapologetically red wine town. Back in the day when I was selling wine here, red wines were much easier to unload than white wines – even at restaurants whose cuisine would call out for a bottle of crisp Albariño or Chablis. It’s a little better now, but I’m still surprised at how many lists offer a paltry selection of white wine yet have pages of red wines from every major region.

Tuna tataki at Cantina La Veinte

Dinner at Cantina La Veinte

I love this place! La Veinte features Mexican-inspired dishes that are as lovely to look at as they are delicious. It gets rave reviews from our family and friends alike. If you find yourself in Brickell in downtown Miami, please check it out (or have coffee at the open-air café downstairs, which is great for people-watching.)

A couple of years ago, while dining out at La Veinte with our white-wine-loving friends, I gazed at the list with ennui, wondering if I’d be forced to choose a big-brand bottle available at the supermarket. But then, something caught my attention: a Spanish white that I’d never heard of, made from a grape called Albillo. It came from north-central Spain and was priced – well, definitely not like a supermarket wine!

Tacos Gobernador (shrimp, Mexican cheese, citrus tomatillo salsa with spicy arbol sauce)

I ordered it, briefly wondering if I’d made a mistake when the server had no idea what I was talking about. Feeling brave, I pointed to it on the list and waited. A few minutes later, a young man in a suit arrived, carrying the wine and looking curiously around the table, asking, “Who ordered this wine?” As I raised my hand, he came over and said, “You must be a wine person. No one ever orders this bottle.” He smiled and confided that, as the wine manager, it was one of his personal choices.

Moral of the story: it always pays to read through a wine list, looking for off-beat selections from under-the-radar regions, or small-volume producers. You never know what you’ll find. Maybe a wonderful white wine in Miami!

Sea bass Veracruzana with tomatoes, jalapenos, olives, and capers at Cantina La Veinte

2015 Dominio del Pidio Albillo (about $100 on the restaurant list)

Located in Burgos and run by brothers Roberto and Óscar Aragón of nearby Cillar de Silos, Dominio del Pidio is a project meant to honor traditional winemaking in the northern reaches of Ribera del Duero. The site was once a monastery (Santo Domingo de Silos) and dates to the 1300s. The brothers have recently restored the massive cellars that underlie the winery and have repaired some of the ancient presses they found.

Red winemaking, which is the bulk of their enterprise, is done by fermenting Tempranillo (mixed with a tiny bit of white Albillo) in concrete vats, then aging the wine in 500-litre barrels.

Cellars at Dominio del Pidio (winery photo)
Restoring the ancient cellars at Dominio del Pidio (winery photo)
Restoring the winery at Dominio del Pidio (winery photo)

Two white wines are made, each from 100% Albillo Mayor: La Casa de los Quesos, intended for early drinking, is fermented in stainless steel, with 15% aged for six months in 500-litre barrels. Dominio del Pidio, the premium white wine, is fermented in concrete, with the wine aged in a mix of 280- and 500-litre barrels, resting on the lees for eight months.

The holy grail for Miami wine lovers: an interesting white wine on a restaurant wine list!

Our wine was full of citrus fruit and hay aromas, with white flower notes and a touch of roasted almond. On the palate the acidity was medium+, and the flavors were more earthy rather than fruity – orchard fruit with a salty/umami quality that was quite intriguing. It was delicious with our array of dishes, which included shrimp tacos, sea bass, and octopus ceviche. It even held its own with the spicy steak fajitas.

Steak fajitas at Cantina La Veinte

And, much to my delight, everyone at the table found it delicious. A good night to be the designated Wine Person!

29 comments

  1. Sounds like you picked a winner and now need to add “with great risk comes great reward” to those sayings! We’re definitely inviting you out whenever we get back to your city ;).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, wow, wow! Yes, I am usually designated Wine Person…at least in the Before Times. I love that characterization, by the way. But, hopefully, the world will open back up and we’ll be able to visit our favorite restaurants with friends again soon enough. I have never heard of the Albillo grape either. You can bet I’ll be looking for it. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How funny that Miami, that I think of a hot and filled with seafood, reaches for white wine! I like you always scan a wine list to find the “interesting wines”.
    This region looks stunning. I don’t speak Spanish, but the video…how enchanting, how could you not want to pick up and go there right now!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was really fun post! I felt so with you all down the line from wanting to eat grilled sardines on the beach, to the trials and tribulations of being the person that gets handed the list, to the raised eyebrow at Miami’s devotion to red wine –– seriously, how does it make sense with the heat and humidity?! I’m so interested by the Albillo – I’ve read about it’s existence but have never tried it. Perhaps I’ll have to visit La Veinte next time I get to come to town to see my family and see if ordering that bottle draws out the wine manager again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope you’ll let me know if you head this way. Would be fun to clink glasses and make an IRL toast! These days premium spirits seem to rule the roost; guess that’s the case in many cities.

      Like

  5. Hey designated wine person! On how I can relate- impossible to please everyone, especially when the pull of table companions is towards reds. I would have never thought that in Miami. Albillo- on my radar even more now. You are a fabulous story teller Lauren!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lynn! The wine list thing was an even bigger challenge at work dinners (with lots of dueling egos involved!) Don’t miss that. Miami restaurants are upping their game; those with good wine programs always have nice options. It continues to surprise me that some big-name spots pay so little attention to their wine lists, though.

      Like

  6. Lauren, Great post, lovely photos and can’t wait for an occasion to try that wine. Albillo is such an interesting grape variety and one getting more traction in Spain if not yet on American wine lists. Things to look forward to. Cheers, Susannah

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Had no idea that Miami’s a red wine town. Cuban influence, do you think? As someone who’s also been the designated Wine Person, I’m grateful for the permission not to please everyone. Great storytelling and photos, Lauren!

    Liked by 1 person

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