A Pair of Killer Spanish Reds! October 2021
2008 Bodegas Raul Perez, Ribera Sacra DO, El Pecado (RT94) Here Raul’s magical practice of the craft is shown with this 100% Mencia bottling made from nearly 100-year-old vines. This wine is hand harvested and foot pressed with indigenous yeasts and aged for one year in oak. Profiling a bouquet of thunderous bass notes built on blackberries, mentholated black cherries, wet rocks and loam, the palate is equally mesmerizing showing its smooth, elegantly sumptuous fruit interwoven with bright acidity and elegant, refined tannins. At age 13 this wine is now in its peak drinking window and should be enjoyed soon to catch it at its best. Drink now-2025
2006 Bodegas Viña Magaña, Navara DO, Calchetas (RT95) A magnificent red blend from the Magaña estate, located a short distance northeast of the Rioja DO, where the grapes are entirely estate grown. This is a tiny production wine – a blend of 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Malbec – with a mere 350 six packs produced annually. The Merlot for this wine is from smuggled cuttings sourced from Chateau Petrus in 1975, while the Cabernet was planted in 1976. Here the vines have prospered in the limestone/river rock soils at 400 meters elevation. Showing a dark, dense russet hue, Bordeaux-ish notes of blueberry compote, dried red cherries, brown tobacco, hints of earthiness and a smattering of minerality. The palate is exceptional refined with clean, smooth fruit, soft acidity, and velvety tannins. Utterly beautiful in every measure. Drink now-2031+
SMALL PRODUCTION GRAND RESERVA RIBERA del DUERO May 2021
2010 Viña Pedrosa, Ribera del Duero, Gran Reserva (RT94+) A modernly styled blend of 90% Tempranillo & 10% Cabernet Sauvignon that is deeply endowed, elegant and refined. Extremely limited production, just under 6,000 bottles produced. The Cabernet adds a nice punctuation mark. Black and dense, almost impenetrable, revealing blackberry, dark florals, brown tobacco, and cedar. The palate is magnificently balanced with sumptuous ripe fruit, soft acidity and sweet ripe tannin, creating a luxurious mouth texture. This wine shows off this benchmark vintage very well, but there is much more to emerge with additional cellaring. Drink now-2035
GEMS FROM FAMILIA NIN-ORTIZ October 2020
This up and coming winery is the work of Ester Nin and Carles Ortiz. Ester is no newcomer to the world of wine, working in the past as Daphne Glorian’s (of Clos Erasmus) viticulturist and prior to that at Mas Martinet. The winery was launched in 2004 and soon she partnered with Carles Ortiz fortifying a solid business arrangement. This winery is Certified organic (CCPAE) and biodynamic (La Renaissance des Appellations) and produces wines to keep an eye on! They employ long macerations and use a combination of large French oak foudre and amphora for aging their wines. The results are highly impressive. But these are classic power-based wines, so don’t look for lighter elegance here. This winery is on fire!
2013 Nin-Ortiz, Priorat, Planetes di Nin (RT92) Crafted from biodynamically grown fruit, using only indigenous yeast, this is a blend of Garnatxa Negre (grenache) and Carinyena (carignan). Grown from younger vines ranging from 10-20 years old, these vines are raised in schist soils. This powerful wine leans toward a dark ruby, as its expression of Priorat terroir rises tall with black cherry, black berry, schist minerality and an alluring spiciness wafting from the stem. With time in the glass dried leaves, bark and other fall notes emerge. The palate is silky and soft while still delivering young, unevolved fruit. The balance is artful with a fine balance of fruit, soft acidity and seductively ripe tannins. A wonderful combination of all things Priorat. Drink now-2033+
2011 Nit de Nin, Priorat, Mas d’En CaÇador (RT96+) This is a real gem! An old vine (80-110 yrs) blend of Garnatxa Negre, Garnatxa Peluda and Carinyena that’s hand harvested, whole cluster fermentation and sees a 4 week maceration then aged for 16 months in 2700 liter French oak foudre. The grapes are sourced from a 1.5 hectare plot (more adjacent land has been recently added). Dark, deep and almost impenetrable looking, this delivers a masculine, powerful bouquet of black fruits, soaring spices and stark minerality. I couldn’t stop appreciating the grandeur of its bouquet. The palate is full monte magnificence with mouth coating fruit, fresh bright acidity and gorgeously ripe tannins. A thing of utter beauty! Just now coming into its prime drinking window. Drink now-2041+
AMAZING GARNACHA FROM COMMANDO G July 2020
Stellar wines from Commando G
The founders and owners of Comando G – Dani Landi and Fernando Garcia – have been friends since their college days. With their family backgrounds in winemaking, starting a winery was a natural fit and thus, Comando G was launched in 2008. Their style of winemaking is unique, rebranding the Garnacha grape in a style that defies the imagination. In contrast to the majority of Spanish Garnacha which tends toward the heavy, dark, powerful side, their wines are as light as the imagination floating high among the clouds. They are redefining the grape with their carefully selected, single vineyard vineyards, each displaying a certain magic that is impossible to deny.
Comando G’s vineyards are farmed organically and biodynamically and range from 50 to 80 years of age. They are planted on a variety of soil types ranging from granite, slate and quartz to sandy weathered dirt. Each site is harvested by hand and then fermented using only indigenous yeasts in open top French oak casks. Finally, they’re aged in a variety of different vessel styles, types and sizes, from larger format French oak casks to foudre and clay amphorae. The result is amazingly unique and refreshing in style, setting a new standard for Garnacha and more broadly for Spanish winemaking.
While production remains small, the results are impressively convincing. If your preferred style is lighter and leaning toward elegant fruitiness, this is a winery not to be missed!
2014 Comando G, Vinos de Madid, Rozas 1er Cru (RT 94) Rozas 1er Cru comes from small plots of Garnacha in the foothills of the mountainous Vinos de Madrid DO of the Sierra de Gredos range. This is a gorgeous example of mountain grown Garnacha from old vines at 900-1200 meters. Fermented with natural yeast in open top vessels, then aged for 12 months in 30-40 hl casks, the result is a high elevation Grenache that sets the bar for transparency in style, both aromatically and gustatorily. The wine is as light and translucent as Grenache gets wafting-up notes of sweet, ripe red raspberry, serious minerality and hints of delicate smoke and burnt underbrush. The mouthfeel is light, elegant and beautifully balanced, with brilliant fresh fruit, wonderful bright acidity and sweet tannin that remains mostly hidden under the fruit. This is a magnificent, trend-setting wine crafted in a style that Comando G is leading the charge on, if you’re looking for a fresh snapshot of what Garnacha can be, look no further! Drink now-2026+
IMPRESSIVE 2000 VALL LLACH July 2020
2000 Cellar Vall Lach, Priorat, Vall Lach (RT96) A blend of 50% Carinyena, 35% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, from the steep slate slopes that are hand farmed and harvested. 19 years of cellaring has done this once oak-dominated wine stunning justice. Yes, bought on release and stored in my cellar since. This was my last bottle, but it was worth the wait. Showing a dense, dark crimson hue, the aromatics soar from the glass as notes of spicy red fruit interwoven with minerals, bright purple blossoms, crushed rock and hints of fennel emerge. In the mouth it delivers a magical, elegant palate feel packed with fresh fruit and endless dimension. world class in every way. Drink now-2030+
TERRIFIC RIOJA VALUES FROM GOMEZ CRUZADO July 2020
2016 Gomez Cruzado, Rioja, Blanco (RT 91) A tasty blend of mostly Viura with the remainder being Tempranillo Blanco, this classic pale straw hued Rioja soars from the glass with notes of white peach, hints of almond and wet rocks. The palate is packed with delicious fruit and soft acidity. An excellent value that maximizes your wine dollars. Drink now-2024+
2018 Gomez Cruzado, Rioja, Blanco (RT92) The 2018 vintage is showing wonderfully with this classic blend of 80% Viura and 20% Tempranillo Blanco. Archetypal Rioja notes waft from this pale-yellow hued wine as elements of white stone fruits, dried white flowers, hints of hazel nuts and crushed limestone emerge. The palate is fresh, bright and loaded with ripe fruit and soft acidity. This continues to be an excellent value that gives you ample bang for your buck. Drink now-2026+
2016 Gomez Cruzado, Rioja, Crianza (RT 92) With its medium ruby hue, this delicious Crianza shows bright, fresh fruit layered with cherry liqueur, cedar, hints of tobacco and a dusting of cocoa. Dried leaves and fall florals lead to a firm palate with fashionable elegance and finesse for such a young wine. This is another tasty wine from Cruzado that overdelivers. Drink now-2028+
RIOJA’s BARON DE LEY March 2020
2017 Baron de Ley, Rioja, Tempranillo (RT88) An introductory “varietal” bottling of 100% young vine Tempranillo that shows a medium ruby hue and a soft bouquet of red cherry, blackberry, rosemary and hints of soft chocolate in the background. The palate is fruit-driven with mouth coating tannin, some serious chewy texture and soft acidity. Drink now
2014 Baron de Ley, Rioja Riserva (RT91+) Crafted from Estate grown fruit and aged for 20 months in medium sized, used American oak casks, then aged for 24 months in bottle prior to release. This is ready to drink now but can also be laid down for mid-term cellaring. This wine hits a sweet spot in the portfolio hitting a terrific price point and quality. Medium ruby with an attractive, focused bouquet of blackberry, fresh sugar plum, crushed stone, hints of tobacco and sous bois. Tasty palate texture, light and supple with a nice balance of medium weight fruit, bright acidity and soft tannin. Artful tannin management makes this particularly attractive, with little signs of the American oak used in aging. Drink 2021-2028+
2017 Baron de Ley, Finca Monasterio (RT92) Blended from a combination of estate grown, 30+ year old Tempranillo (90%) with the balance being other varietals (based on what works best given the vintage), the juice is aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels followed by 6 month 10,000 liter French oak foudre. Crafted in a distinctly modernist style after hand selecting the grapes, this deep crimson expression shows a soft, alluring, deeply ripe style of red cherry, plum compote, menthol, cedar and notes of mineral and wet rocks polished on the palate with soft, round fruit and succulent acid finishing with ripe tannin. Tasty stuff, but I found myself being more attracted to the Riserva. Drink 2022-2032+
PAIR OF SUPERSTARS FROM CLOS I TERRASSES November 2019
Owned and crafted by one of the three winemakers credited with putting Priorat DO (now a DOQ) on the map back in 1989, Daphne Glorian is today making wines as fine as any produced in Spain. Her style has been a work in progress over the years and today blends a variety of aging vessels including barrique, amphorae and concrete eggs. The planting on the estate consist of 75% Garnatxa (Garnacha), 20% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon of a variety of age. Both wines – Clos Erasmus & Laurel – are certified organic with biodynamic practices also employed. Production is miniscule with a mere 3,000 bottle of Clos Erasmus produced, while Laurel is produced in larger volume with roughly 24,000 bottles made. This is a winery to follow closely and to buy and cellar with reckless abandon! Yes, the wines are that stunning!
2014 Clos I Terrasses, Priorat, Laurel (RT 94+) While I’ve had this wine many times in the past, and from numerous vintages, this was the first bottle from a six pack of 2014 that I bought on release. A blend of 80% Garnatxa, 10% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a wine where Daphne’s creative thinking has evolved over the years and this vintage was aged in a combination of used oak barriques, old 20 hl oak tanks, cement eggs and amphorae. The result is mind blowing as this deeply hued, nearly opaque wine delivers astonishingly pure aromatics with notes of blackberry, deep blue fruits and layers of spice and schist minerality emerging from the glass. The mouthfeel is nothing short of superb with its magnificent balance, pure fruit delivery and long, caressing finish punctuated with perfectly ripe tannin. This is one seriously kick ass wine. I suggest buying it in quantity! Drink now (with ample air) – 2034+
2013 Clos I Terrasses, Priorat, Clos Erasmus (RT 97+) Aged for 20 months in a combination of new and used barriques, along with some concrete egg and amphorae, this blend, which varies slightly from vintage to vintage, is 75% Garnatxa and 25% Syrah in this vintage. One of the benchmark wines of Priorat, this dark, dense behemoth reveals aromatics of the Laurel, but amped up and revealing even more finesse. Notes of perfectly ripe, dark rich garnacha fruit built on a frame of slate-minerality, dusty earth and gorgeous Asian spices emerge from the glass. It evolves continuously in the glass, revealing many hidden dimensions. The finesse and balance are extraordinary, the fruit perfectly defined as the finish goes on for an eternity. I have the greatest confidence this will evolve into a perfect wine with proper cellaring. Stunning in every way! Drink 2025 – 2043+
LATEST RELEASES FROM RIBERA DEL DUERO’s ORGANIC TORREMILANOS June, 2019
NV Peñalba López, Cava, Brut Nature (RT 91) A blend of 90% Viura (aka Macebeo) & 10% Chardonnay, this is the only Cava produced in Ribera del Duero, crafted with zero dosage, and was first made in 1979. And what a beauty it is! Pale straw yellow, it reveals high toned notes of white flowers surrounding a core of Granny Smith apple, crunchy, under ripe pear and lemon zest. Light on its feet, it dances elegant steps in the mouth, conveying a weightless mouthfeel. A lovely, fresh styled Cava, drink now and over the next 3-5 years.
2014 Peñalba López, Pinot Noir (RT 90) Pinot Noir from the hot microclimate of Ribera del Duero – who would have imagined? Showing the darker, more masculine side of Pinot, here the wine is deeply nuanced with notes of black cherry, super ripe strawberry, bark and hints of mushroom and minerality. The mouthfeel is round, soft and generous on the fruit. This is a limited production wine crafted for the robust Pinot lover. Well crafted, this wine has its audience. Drink now – 2023+.
2018 Torremilanos, Montecrastillo Tinto (RT 90) A work horse expression that’s almost always 100% Tempranillo from 20 to 35-year-old vines, however, in this vintage a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon was blended in. Aged 4 months in used French and American oak barrels. This wine is crafted in a delicious, easy drinking style that’s forgiving and round, layered with terroir driven fruit and a splash of minerality. It’s curb appeal and terrific price make it a Top Value! Drink now – 2021+.
2016 Torremilanos, Ribera del Duero, Los Cantos (RT 91+) This wine takes a significant step up from the Montecrastillo. A blend of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Merlot that’s aged for 14-16 months in used French and American oak. Here the level of both structure and elegance reveals a finessed wine with its ripe, lush fruit buttressed by fresh acidity and a soft, tannic finish. Pure red berries and a hint of minerality are the core of this tasty treat! Downright delicious stuff! Drink now – 2024+
2017 Torremilanos, Ribera del Duero, Los Cantos (RT 92) Another impressive vintage for Los Cantos, a blend of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Merlot that’s aged for 14-16 months in used French and American oak. The level of sophistication in the 2017 is up from the previous vintage a notch, as it reveals beautiful, perfectly ripe Tempranillo, buttressed by fresh acidity and a sumptuous tannic finish that adds punctuation to a great presentation, while the doppel of Merlot adds a hint of Bordeaux-like character. This is a tasty vintage for Los Cantos! Drink now-2027
2014 Torremilanos, Ribera del Duero, Crianza (RT 92) 95% Tempranillo with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 20 months in French and American oak, mostly used. This is a gorgeous expression of the region and shows far more character than most Crianza’s with it deeply nuanced, penetration notes of black berry, plum and well-integrated oak. A soft and sexy finish revisits the fruit in spades! Lush and delicious, drink now – 2025+
2015 Torremilanos, Ribera del Duero, Crianza (RT92+) Even better than the 2014 vintage of this excellent wine, which was no slouch, the 2015 sets a high-quality quality level with its 95% Tempranillo and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 20 months in used French & American oak. Expressive and wonderfully nuanced with ripe notes of spiced black berry, black cherry, plum and scorched earth. The mouthfeel is packed with delicious fruit, tasty acidity and soft tannins, but make no mistake, this is built for aging. Like its predecessor, it shows far more character than the typical Crianza and should cellar for the mid-term in a beautiful way. Drink now-2029+
2015 Torremilanos, Ribera del Duero, Cyclo (RT 94) This is a bruising, massive wine with broad shoulders and a masculine frame! Crafted from 95% Tempranillo, 3% Garnacha and 2% Tempranillo Blanco that first is fermented in concrete, then is aged for 21 months in French and American oak with final aging in 7800-liter concrete tanks. Cyclo presents a serious profile with aromatically lifted, deeply ripe black fruit and a magnificent floral aspect that comes from the Tempranillo Blanco. Think Cote Rote comes to Ribera del Duero! Smooth and long in the finish, this is a gorgeous wine crafted for the serious connoisseur. Drink 2020 – 2030+
2009 Torremilanos, Ribera del Duero, Colección (RT 95+) The flagship wine of the Torremilanos Estate, this is the current vintage being release 10 years post-harvest. 100% Tempranillo from 100-year-old vines that’s aged for 30 months in French oak and then aged for 7 years in bottle before release. This prolific wine displays the heart and soul of Ribera del Duero! Thunderous base notes of luxurious blackberry, black cherry and massive minerality dominate the bouquet and are echoed on the palate. The wrap-up is long and enduring, as wonderfully integrated ripe tannins punctuate the finish. Although there is ample fruit in the foreground, the structure is there to allow long aging that will pay off! In a word – exquisite! Drink 2022 – 2035+
A LOVELY LINEUP OF SPANISH WHITES & REDS JUNE 2019
2013 Terroir al Límit Soc. Lda., Priorat, Terra de Cuques (RT 93) This beautifully unique white is blended from Pedro Ximénez & Muscat d’Alexandria layed in whole cluster using native yeasts with spontaneous fermentation. It is aged for 12-16 months in concrete vat. It reveals a deeply honey golden hue with a relatively brooding aromatic profile showing notes of ripe Meyer lemon, honied jasmine, yellow stone fruits and chamomile. The mouthfeel is rich, round and quite broad-shouldered with ample fruit, soft acidity and very faint tannin. A very pretty white that steps outside expected boundaries showing a very unique style. I find this highly attractive and alluring with ample charm. Drink now-2023+
2016 Raúl Pérez, Bierzo, La Vizcaína de Vinos, La Vitoriana (RT 93+) La Vizcaína is a newer project that is sourced from the hillside vineyards near Pérez’ hometown of Vatuille de Abajo. The vines for this project are all over 50 years old. Though the red wines for this project are labelled 100% Mencía, they in fact contain a significant quantity of other local varieties. This wine is crafted with whole cluster fermentation of 60-90 days in large oak casks and is then aged for a year in used barrique and tonneaux. Showing a very young, purplish ruby hue it wafts up notes of deep, dark stone fruits, black berry, gun smoke and violets. It shows lovely balance in the mouthfeel, with ripe delicious fruit, fresh acidity and soft ripe tannin that will integrate wonderfully with a few years in the cellar. Drink 2020-2032+
2010 Bodegas Mas Alta, Priorat, La Basseta (RT 92) From 100% Grenache aged in French oak casks which were 60% new and 40% older casks. Aged for 16 months. Even after eight years of age this wine still shows its modernist roots with a decided toasted oak note on the bouquet. But the mouthfeel is beautiful, soft and caressing. Notes of dark dried strawberry, garrigue, rosemary and leather establish the core of the bouquet. Oak continues to show through, I had hoped by now it would have integrated more cleanly. The palate is clean and polished, showing delicious fruit, bright acidity and a soft, long tannic finish. Clearly a modernist expression of the Priorat appellation, this has the stuffing to last another 10-15+ years and eventually the oak will fade into a less present state. Drink now-2030+
2001 Remírez de Ganuza, Rioja, Old Vines (RT 96) From one of the modernist masters of Rioja comes this wonderful Old Vine Tempranillo. In a word this winery is as meticulous as any in the business! The most minute detail is addressed and fine-tuned, which shows in every aspect of the wines. Hand-picking and manual selection from vineyards over 60 years old, then a second selection of grapes on tables separating shoulders from tips and finally destemmed the shoulders. Berry by berry! Fermented in stainless, then aged 22+ months (Gran Reserva level aging) in 80% French and 20% American oak. This wine has the capability of showing well for 30-40+ years. As it approaches 18 years of age its youthful edges have softened and rounded out, its hue a faded deep ruby-garnet. The bouquet reveals tranquility in spades as notes of dried cherry, sous bois, wet gravel and notes of dried herbs and rosemary rise from the glass. The mouthfeel is gloriously balanced showing the finesse and elegance of a world class wine with silky fruit, soft acidity and wonderfully integrated mellifluous tannin. Awesome stuff, buy it, cellar it, savor it! Drink now-2036+
A PAIR OF GEMS FROM BODEGAS PINEA DEL DUERO June 2019
2015 “17” by Pinea, Ribera del Duero (RT 92+) From a new Ribero del Duero winery, 17 is 100% Tempranillo aged for 20 months in a combination of new French and American oak. Fermentation is spontaneous with native yeasts and approximately 1,000 cases are produced. The house style is polished and modern revealing beautiful ripe fruit, excellent finesse and firm structure. Showing a dark ruby hue, notes of plum, blackberry, cocoa powder and wet stone emerge. With time in the glass hints of minerality and a splash of oak show up. The palate is well balanced with ripe fruit, excellent acidity and ripe tannin that brings the wine to a lovely conclusion. This is a great candidate for mid-term cellaring and should blossom over the next 3-5 years. Drink 2020-2030
2014 Pinea, Ribero del Duero (RT 94+) The flagship wine of Pinea del Duero, this 100% Tempranillo is crafted from 30-year-old vines and allowed to undergo spontaneous fermentation from indigenous yeasts. The grapes are sorted by hand using only the best bunches and the wine is aged in a combination of French oak foudre with some of the juice aged in new French oak barrels, depending on vintage. Total aging is 30 months. More deeply hued than its “17” brethren, here the depth and dimension are ramped up showing an alluring bouquet of black cherrys, blackberries, currants and mentholated ripe plums. The brooding nose opens with time showing a charismatic character of great personality and elegance. The oak is neatly integrated yet defines the style. The mouthfeel is wonderful with bright fruit, vibrant acidity, and a firm finish built on ripe tannin that brings things to nice closure. This is a wine built for aging and perfect for long term cellaring. It should drink well for coming decades. Drink 2024-2040+