Featured Tasting:

New Releases from Spain

December 2008

SPANISH SELECTIONS, PART II

In the last issue of the International Wine Review’s Featured Monthly Tastings we reviewed wines from 9 of Spain’s 67 D.O.’s: Campo de Borja, Jumilla, Méntrida, Monterrei, Pla de Bages, Priorat, Rías Baixas, Ribera del Duero, and Rioja. This month we complete our tasting report on Spanish wines by reviewing wines from Cariñena, Finca Elez, La Mancha, Montsant, Navarra, Ribera del Júcar, Rueda, Tierra de Castilla (Castilla-La Mancha), Tierra de Castilla y León, and Toro. The “tierra” classification is relatively new, having been introduced in 2003, and signifies wine produced within a comunidad autónoma [i.e., regional government] but either outside the boundaries of D.O.’s within the comunidad or not fully complying with the regulations of those D.O.’s. While we review some very good quality Spanish wines this month, above all else we’ve found excellent values, and a number of them fall under the “tierra” classification. For Spanish Selections, Part I, click here.

SPANISH SELECTIONS, PART II

Cariñena
Finca Elez
La Mancha
Montsant
Navarra
Ribera del Júcar
Rueda
Tierra de Castilla
Tierra de Castilla y León
Toro

topCariñena

Cariñena is a D.O. in the northern comunidad autónoma of Aragon and is perhaps best known as the origin of the French varietal Carignan [known in Spain as Mazuelo]. The traditional rustic, high alcohol wines of Cariñena have in recent years given way to lighter, more modern wines acceptable to the international palate. Interestingly, while Carignan originated in Cariñena, today the most widely planted grape is Garnacha. We tasted only one wine from Cariñena in this issue of the FMT---the easy drinking, Bodegas Solana 2007 Nuntius.

Bodegas Solana 2007 Nuntius Cariñena ($11) 87

50% Garnacha, 30% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo. Dark ruby with a very fresh, fruit forward bouquet of ripe plum fruit. This is a pleasant, easy drinking wine of fairly simple, fresh flavors. Would make a great party wine.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

topFinca Elez

Finca Elez is one of five Denominaciónes de Origen de Pago estates in all of Spain. The D.O. Origen de Pago is the highest category in Spain’s quality scale; grapes must be estate grown, and wine has to be produced on the estate. Finca Elez is located in the province of Albacete in the comunidad autónoma of Castilla – La Mancha. The vineyards of Finca Elez are 1,080 meters above sea level, which contributes to large temperature variations between day and night.

Manuel Manzaneque 2004 Manuel Manzaneque Finca Elez Crianza Finca Elez ($20) 88

This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Tempranillo, and 15% Merlot aged 11 months in French oak. Medium-dark garnet in color, the bouquet shows dried red berries and minerals. The palate is ripe, rustic, and lean with very firm tannins that still need time to soften. This is a wine to keep a while before drinking. This is a wine not just to drink, but to also talk about.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Manuel Manzaneque 2003 Escena Finca Elez ($49) 87

A blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot aged 12 months in new French oak. Dark garnet in color with balsamic and vanilla aromas overlaying very ripe fruit. The soft, lush attack is followed by a rustic palate of a lean, mineral character. Finishes with dry, ripe tannins. An interesting wine requiring serious contemplation from one of Spain's few Vinos de Pago.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Manuel Manzaneque 2004 Nuestra Selección Finca Elez ($33) 85

A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Tempranillo, and 5% Merlot aged 14 months in oak. Medium dark ruby color with a garnet rim and mixed fruit aromas. Shows a nice, mildly fruity attack and black cherry fruit on the palate. Finishes with very dry tannins.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

topLa Mancha

La Mancha is Spain’s largest D.O. with 190,000 hectares of vineyards and 22,000 growers. A number of varietals are grown, but the most common are Airén for white wine and Cencíbel (Tempranillo) for red. La Mancha has a reputation for producing inexpensive wines of good value, but quality has been increasing rapidly in recent years as shown in our favorite of this tasting, the Finca Antigua 2005 Crianza, a classy blend of Cencíbel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot aged 14 months in new French oak. We rated this under $15 wine at 90 points. The fact that the Martínez Bujanda family made the investment to create Finca Antigua and this lovely wine is indicative of the optimism the wine trade holds for the oenological future of La Mancha.

Finca Antigua 2005 Crianza La Mancha ($14) 90

A blend of 65% Tempranillo, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot aged 14 months in new French oak. Opaque ruby color showing fresh black cherry aromas with hints of dark chocolate. Reveals a very flavorful, juicy palate with ripe, round tannins.

Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

Finca Antigua 2006 Garnacha La Mancha ($12) 86

100% Garnacha aged 3 months in French oak. Medium dark ruby color with fruit rich aromas of plum, blueberry, and brambly blackberry. Very soft and round on the moderately concentrated palate with flavors of berry fruit and green herbs. Pleasant drinking now, but don’t lay this one down in hopes of improvement.

Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

Finca Antigua 2003 Reserva La Mancha ($19) 87

Dark ruby in color, this Reserva aged in French oak offers aromas of black cherry fruit and sandalwood. On the palate it shows ripe lush black fruit flavors with a touch of earth and leather in the background. Well balanced with tannic grip and a short finish.

Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

Finca Antigua 2005 Tempranillo La Mancha ($12) 89

100% Tempranillo aged 6 months in new American oak. Dark ruby in color, showing aromas of rich black cherry and blackberry fruit and herbs. The medium weight palate has a very soft, round mouth-feel and black fruit flavors with touches of pepper, leather, and chocolate. Nicely balanced with a persistent finish. This is a very good wine!

Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

topMontsant

In 2001 the Montsant D.O. was carved out of the much larger Tarragona D.O. Today, it almost completely surrounds the higher altitude Priorat. It has a Mediterranean climate and has benefited from its proximity to Priorat as producers there have been attracted by the lower prices for premium land in Montsant. For this issue we had only one wine from Montsant—a Garnacha, Carignane, Cabernet blend from Cellers Sant Rafel, but if the quality and value of this wine can be more widely replicated, Montsant’s future is bright indeed.

Cellers Sant Rafel 2004 Solpost Montsant ($24) 89

Dark ruby blend of 50% Garnacha, 35% Cariñena and 15% Cabernet. Ripe plum fruit on the palate with notes of cedar. Soft lush attack with round mouth feel and beautifully concentrated juicy black fruit flavors on the palate. Nicely balanced with round tannins and a long lasting finish.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Cellers Sant Rafel 2005 Solpost Montsant ($24) 88

A blend of 50% Garnacha, 35% Cariñena, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Nicely balanced on the dry palate with plum and dark berry flavors. Pleasant and easy drinking with a long lasting finish.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

topNavarra

Navarra is the place where religion and wine came together as pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago passed through Navarra, consumed its wines, and carried its reputation to foreign lands. Its reputation and production gained further with the advent of odium and phylloxera in Bordeaux in the 19th century. But these villains finally arrived in Navarra, and it never regained its prior level of wine production. Indeed, today total vineyard area is only about one-third what it was at the turn of the century. The most popular varieties in Navarra are Garnacha with 54 percent of red wine plantings and Tempranillo with 23 percent. Also, while Navarra is still associated with rose wine, today it comprises only 25 percent of total production, with reds accounting for 70 percent. We are especially fond of the Companía Vitivinícola Tandem 2004 Ars Nova, which earned 89 points and is a good value at $22.

Camino Real 2006 Oreades Navarra ($9) 86

Medium dark ruby color with a candied red fruit nose. Shows some light oak aging and a nice flavorful attack of cherry with a touch of cinnamon and a medium finish. A straightforward, very drinkable wine.

Importer: The Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY.

Companía Vitivinícola Tandem 2004 Ars Nova Navarra ($22) 89

Compania Vitivinícola Tandem is a new winery, established in 2003. This wine is a blend of 56% Tempranillo, 27% Merlot, and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 6 months in 300 liter new French oak barrels. Dark ruby color with aromas of red and black fruits. The attack is soft, but the palate is complex and flavorful, with ripe plum, loam, and bacon all present. Finishes nicely, too.

Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

Companía Vitivíncola Tandem 2004 Palacio de Eza Navarra ($14) 87

An opaque, garnet blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Garnacha showing licorice, earth, forest floor, and black fruit aromas. Exhibits a soft attack with a very ripe and round, mouth-filling palate of juicy black and red fruits with assertive earth notes.

Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

Companía Vitivinícola Tandem 2003 Tandem Ars Mácula Navarra ($30) 87
A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot aged 13 months in new French oak. Dark ruby with ripe cherry and cassis aromas. Bitter chocolate, black cherry and earth flavors are present on the palate. Finishes sweet and long.
Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

topRibera del Júcar

The Ribera del Júcar D.O. is the youngest in Spain, having gained its status in 2003. It’s located in the province of Cuenca within the Castile-La Mancha comunidad autónoma. Ribera del Júcar has a Mediterranean climate and a terroir of pebbly soil on a high altitude (750 m.) plateau. The most common red grape vines are Cencíbel (Tempranillo) and Bobal, a grape indigenous to the area. Bobal is typically grown in bush form (en vaso). As a blending grape, Bobal is high in both color and tannin. Also, it’s unusually high in resveratrol, the substance linked to healthy hearts by medical research. Experimentation with Bobal shows that it has promise as a wine with excellent potential for aging. For something different, try the Bodegas Illana 2006 Casa de Illana Tradición, which is 45 percent Bobal.

Bodegas Illana 2006 Casa de Illana Joven Ribera Del Júcar ($10) 85

This medium ruby 85% Tempranillo, 15% Syrah blend displays aromas of mushroom, earth, and underlying red plum fruit. There's light fruit and sweet vanilla oak on the palate.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Bodegas Illana 2006 Casa de Illana Tradición Ribera del Júcar ($12) 87

This is a medium ruby blend of 45% Bobal, 30% Tempranillo, and 25% Syrah with vanilla and light raspberry aromas. It provides a soft, round attack of medium weight, ripe red berry fruit, and vanilla oak. The finish is fruity and pleasant.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

topRueda

The Rueda D.O. is located within the comunidad autónoma of Castilla y León. It is mainly famous for white wines produced from Verdejo. In the 18th century Rueda became famous for its Verdejo, in part because local clay was used to clarify the wine. After phylloxera destroyed many vineyards in the early 20th century, Rueda only slowly regained its reputation. Rueda’s climate is continental with a strong Atlantic influence. While Verdejo is Rueda’s principal grape, other white varieties permitted are Viura and Sauvignon Blanc. Several red varieties are also allowed. An excellent example of a Verdejo that is focused and crisp with good fruit is the Agricola Castellana 2007 Cuatro Rayas, and at $15 it’s a good price, too.

Agrícola Castellana 2007 Cuatro Rayas Rueda ($15) 89

Medium lemon color with slightly pungent passion fruit and mineral aromas. Focused and round in the mouth with a dry, crisp palate. Has a very pleasing, persistent finish.

Importer: The Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Agrícola Castellana 2007 Inspiración Pámpano Rueda ($11) 87

Grown on pure limestone, gravelly soil, native yeasts are used in the fermentation. The wine is pale gold with racy scents of honeysuckle, fresh hay, lemon and white pepper. Juicy citrus and apple flavors are complemented by notes of spice and minerals.

Importer: The Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Bodegas José Pariente 2006 Barrel Fermented Rueda Superior ($40) 90

Dark gold with rich, somewhat oxidized aromas of roasted hazelnuts and clover honey. Shows a nice soft, rich attack and complex, rich flavors of honey, roasted nuts, and toasted oak very nicely set off by crisp acidity and a long lasting finish. A gorgeous wine. Serve with rich fowl.

Importer: Grapes of Spain

Solar de la Vega 2007 Verdejo White Rueda ($9) 87

A 100% Verdejo of bright, light lemon color with spritz and a grapefruit nose. Dry and light on the palate with lemon citrus flavors. Slightly tart on the finish. Overall, very pleasant. Would make an excellent fish wine!

Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

topTierra de Castilla

Wines denominated Vino de la Tierra Castilla signify a wine grown in the comunidad autónoma of Castilla-La Mancha. These may be wines produced outside the boundaries of the 13 Denominaciones de Origen (DO) located within Castilla-La Mancha or wines produced within those DO’s that do not comply with all the rules and regulations and thus cannot be labeled as a wine from that DO. Most of the wines we tasted denominated Vino de la Tierra Castilla are good value and medium quality. However, there are always exceptions, and one we especially recommend is the Finca La Estacada 2007 Vinansar Roble which garnered a very respectable 88 points--for a wine that costs only $9!

Bodega Los Aljibes 2004 Aljibes Tierra de Castilla ($19) 86

This blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc gives an opaque ruby color with aromas of black cherry, plum and notes of leather. It's soft on the attack with a somewhat rustic palate showing tart black fruit, spice and earthy notes and finishes with somewhat chunky tannins.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Bodega Los Aljibes 2007 Viña Aljibes Blanco Tierra de Castilla ($11) 88

A 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay partially fermented in wood. Medium lemon color with a tropical, spicy nose. Very ripe, round mouth feel and a fruit rich palate of honeyed flavors of ripe tropical fruits.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Bodega Los Aljibes 2007 Viña Aljibes Rosado Tierra de Castilla ($11) 87

A Syrah-based dark rose displaying a warm, buttery nose of plum. There's a pleasant, soft attack of moderate red berry fruit. All in all, a very easy drinking, tasty wine that would both go well with food and be a nice aperitif.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Bodegas Eguren 2006 Condado de Eguren Tempranillo Tierra de Castilla ($11) 86

A straightforward, dark ruby with purple rim colored Tempranillo exhibiting a very fruity nose of dense black cherry with leather notes. The attack is soft and fruity with very sweet, rustic black cherry flavors. Finishes a tad sharp.

Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas Eguren 2007 Eguren Tempranillo Tierra de Castilla ($) 87

Medium ruby color with fresh cherry fruit aromas. Has a nice soft attack with light to medium weight palate, simple fruit flavors, and soft round tannins. Easy drinking, especially if slightly chilled.

Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas Eguren 2006 Mercedes Eguren Cabernet Sauvignon Tierra de Castilla ($14) 86

Fruit for this ruby opaque wine is source from the Villa Rosario vineyard, planted in 1989. It spends 6 months in American oak and exhibits a complex nose of balsamic, herbal, blackberry, and violets. The attack is soft, but the mid-palate is slightly bitter, and it finishes with dry, hard tannins. This is still a young wine that may soften and become more approachable with more time in bottle.

Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas Eguren 2007 Mercedes Eguren Cabernet Sauvignon Rosado Tierra de Castilla ($14) 87

This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon based rose is dark salmon color with a spicy aroma of red fruit. The attack is very soft and ripe. This is a nicely balanced wine of light acidity with a soft, dry, mineral like finish. Nicely chilled, this would be a great accompaniment to grilled chorizo.

Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas Eguren 2007 Mercedes Eguren Chardonnay Tierra de Castilla ($14) 87

Bright light lemon color with a nose of minerals and chardonnay fruit. Soft attack of pretty, rich tropical fruit with good acidity. Lingers on the palate.

Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas Eguren 2007 Mercedes Eguren Sauvignon Blanc Tierra de Castilla ($14) 88

Gold color with a touch of spritz. Shows intriguing aromas tropical fruit and oak. Offers up a soft, round mouthfeel with a melange of tropical fruit flavors and lingering spice on the finish. All told, a very tasty wine.

Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas Eguren 2006 Mercedes Eguren Shiraz/Tempranillo Tierra de Castilla ($14) 90

A 50% Shiraz, 50% Tempranillo blend that spends 6 months in American oak. Has a deep ruby core and purple rim with aromas of ripe plum and black cherry fruit with earth notes. This is a well-balanced and nicely integrated modern style wine that offers an expressive, soft, sweet attack of bright plum fruit with a nice long, firm tannic finish.

Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas Eguren 2005 Mercedes Eguren Shiraz Tempranillo Tierra de Castilla ($13) 92

What a stunner! The color is dark ruby with a ruby-garnet rim. Aromas of dark fruit with leather notes give way to a soft attack of layered sweet black fruit with chocolate and plum notes on the palate. Oak and fruit are nicely integrated, and the tannins are soft and ripe on the long finish. .

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA
Bodegas Eguren 2007 Reinares Blanco Tierra de Castilla ($8) 87
A 100% Viura wine of pale straw color and displaying faint aromas of pear and apple. Pleasantly tart on the dry, crisp palate with an anise accent and a nice long finish.
Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas Eguren 2007 Reinares Rosado Tierra de Castilla ($8) 89

Made from 50% Tempranillo, 50% Garnacha grapes, this is s first class rose. The color is deep rose with a muted nose of cherries and dried flowers. The attack is very soft but at the same time dry, crisp and with good minerality. The finish is long and refined. Who says rose can't have character?

Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas Eguren 2007 Reinares Tempranillo Tierra de Castilla ($12) 86

Light ruby color with fresh fruit forward aromas of black cherry. The attack is soft with a dry and tart mid-palate, spicy, round tannins, and a firm finish.

Importer: EU Imports Sonoma, CA

Bodegas EHD 2006 Macatela Roble Tierra de Castilla ($11) 87

A dark ruby blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon. Reveals ripe and spicy red and black berry fruit aromas with notes of balsamic. Soft on the palate with moderate fruit flavors and round tannins on the finish.

Importer: Las Arribes LLC/Manolo's Wines Bloomington, IN

Bodegas Finca la Estacada 2006 Finca la Estacada Tempranillo Tierra de Castilla ($13) 85

This medium ruby Tempranillo-Syrah blend shows mushroom and earth aromas with underlying red plum fruit. Light fruit and sweet vanilla oak show on the palate.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Bodegas Finca la Estacada 2007 Viñansar Roble Tierra de Castilla ($9) 88

This blend of half Tempranillo and half Cabernet Sauvignon offers ripe plum aromas with a touch of oak. It is soft and fruity on the palate with clean flavors, good balance and round tannins on the finish.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Bodegas y Viñedos Pinuaga 2006 Pinuaga Nature Tierra de Castilla ($15) 86

This 100% Tempranillo wine made from the Bodegas Pinuaga 35+ year old vines displays a rustic style. Bright ruby in color with aromas of tobacco, earth and leather. On the palate it offers medium red fruit flavors, charred oak notes, and chewy tannins on the finish.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Bodegas y Viñedos Pinuaga 2004 Pinuaga Tempranillo Tierra de Castilla La Mancha ($25) 86

Made from the fruit of 35+ year old vines and aged in mostly French oak for nine months, this wine is dark ruby in color and exhibits aromas of dark fruit, spice and vanilla. It is soft on the attack but reveals tart dark fruit on the mid-palate and a slightly astringent finish.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Hacienda Casa del Valle 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Tierra de Castilla ($20) 88

This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon spends six months in new oak casks. It exhibits clean plum fruit and cassis aromas with notes of cedar and herbs and reveals a soft texture on the palate with ripe cassis fruit flavors, notes of chocolate and cacao. There are ripe, round tannins on a long finish. Well done!

Importer: Atlanta Improvement Company Atlanta, GA

Hacienda Casa del Valle 2004 Shiraz Tierra de Castilla ($20) 86

This is a youthful appearing, medium ruby, very ripe Shiraz with earthy red and black fruit and light cedar aromas. On the palate it offers soft spicy fruit and round tannins but finishes somewhat short.

Importer: Atlanta Improvement Company Atlanta, GA

López Panach 2003 Coupage Tierra de Castilla ($14) 88

A blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon aged 12 months in American and French oak. Medium ruby in color with attractive, fresh ripe red berry fruit and toasted oak aromas. There's abundant, soft, spicy raspberry fruit on the palate with good mouth feel and excellent balance. Finishes firmly with round tannins. Nicely done!

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

López Panach 2007 Lopez Panach Verdejo Tierra de Castilla ($11) 85

A light lemon colored Verdejo, with light aromas reminiscent of hay and a very drinkable but uninspiring palate isn't really what one would expect from Verdejo.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

López Panach 2006 Roble Tierra de Castilla ($12) 88

A 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby in color with a ripe, jammy black fruit and balsamic nose followed by a soft, lush attack. Soft on the palate with spicy black and red fruit, round tannins, and a lasting finish.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

López Panach 2006 Tempranillo Tierra de Castilla ($9) 85

This is a pleasant enough wine of light purple ruby color and racy aromas of raspberry and cherry. Uncomplicated and straightforward on the palate with a touch of sweetness on the finish.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Tapeña 2007 Verdejo Tierra de Castilla La Mancha ($9) 86

Very pale lemon. Sweet, fragrant nose of white flowers, passion fruit, and mineral notes. Soft and clean on the palate with light stone fruit flavors. 100% Verdejo for easy drinking.

Importer: Freixenet USA.

Viñedos y Bodegas Muñoz 2006 Merlot Tierra de Castilla ($10) 86

100% Merlot aged 4 months in American oak. Ruby color with blueberry, plum and cocoa aromas that don’t follow through to the flavors. Very soft attack and somewhat light on the palate. Finishes with dry tannins.

Importer: The Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY ,

topTierra de Castilla y León

The very large comunidad autónoma Castilla y León is home to some of Spain’s most famous wine D.O.’s, including Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, Bierzo, and Cigales. Wines produced outside designated D.O.’s or produced within the D.O.’s but not according to the rules and regulations of the D.O. can instead take the name Tierra de Castilla y León so long as they comply with the its quite liberal regulations concerning permissible varietals, cultivation, and vinification. Having Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León on a wine’s label does not necessarily imply a high quality wine. Indeed, most the wines we’ve tasted with this label are of medium quality, but most are also good value. However, there are always exceptions, and we found a big one here. The Bodegas Eguren 2005 Mercedes Eguren Shiraz Tempranillo is a lovely big, layered wine that we scored 90 points, yet is costs just $13. This is the best value wine we’ve tasted in a long time.

Bodegas Monte La Reina 2007 Naire (Tinto) Tierra de Castilla y León ($9) 86

Medium ruby in color with fruity black cherry aromas on the nose. Soft and fruity on the palate with pure and uncomplicated dark fruit flavors. Nicely balanced and easy to drink. A good tapas wine.

Importer: Las Arribes LLC/Manolo's Wines Bloomington, IN

Bodegas Monte La Reina 2007 Naire Blanco Tierra de Castilla y León ($9) 88

Medium straw with a peach tinge and a bouquet of nicely aromatic citrus lemon and tangerine. Has a soft attack and nice round mouthfeel with pear fruit. Finishes briskly.

Importer: Las Arribes LLC/Manolo's Wines Bloomington, IN

Dehesa de Cadozos 2005 Tinta de Toro y Pinot Noir Tierra de Castilla y León ($55) 89

The Dehesa de Cadozos single vineyard lies at an altitude of 2500’ in Zamora, close to the Duero River and Portugal. The Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) and Pinot Noir juice is aged 14 months in new French Oak. The result is a medium dark ruby wine with a fragrant nose of dark cherry. This is a big, mouthfilling wine of rich, fruit flavors and nice, round tannins.

topToro

The Toro DO is in the province of Zamora in the Castilla y León comunidad autónoma. The Toro climate is continental with hot summers, cold winters, and sparse rainfall. The principal red grape varieties grown are Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) and Garnacha and for whites, Verdejo and Malvasía. Quality and value wise, Toro produces a bit of everything, from world quality wines to superb values. We tasted some of each this month. Just to pick out one, the Tardencuba 2006 Crianza is great value, garnering 90 points for a price under $25.

Bodega Carmen Rodríguez 2005 Cardo Dorum Crianza Toro ($35) 91

It’s hard to believe that 2003 was Guiller Diez’ first vintage. This 100% Tinta de Toro from 40 year old vines ages 14 months in French oak. Deep ruby in color with black fruit, loam, and vanilla aromas. The lush palate of very ripe black fruit is highly concentrated with cocoa and chocolate notes. This is quintessential Toro. Very highly recommended!

Importer: The Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Bodega Carmen Rodríguez 2005 Cardo Dorum Selección Especial Toro ($66) 94

100% ungrafted, 100 year old Tempranillo aged 18 months in new French oak casks. Opaque ruby color with classy, nuanced aromas of toasty French oak and black plum fruit. Shows a soft, dark attack and an elegant, silky textured palate of black fruit and pepper. Beautifully balanced, with soft, round tannins and a long, lingering finish. A stunner! And not shy when it comes to alcohol either (15%).

Importer: The Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Bodega Rejadorada 2003 Rejadorada Sango Reserva Toro ($44) 88

Deep ruby with aromas of ripe black currants and black cherry fruit. Attacks softly with spicy black fruit, good acidity and balance, round tannins and grip on the finish. Well done!

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Bodega Rejadorada 2004 Rejadorada Temple Toro ($24) 87

Deep ruby with pure, ultra ripe blackberry fruit aromas and notes of espresso, chocolate and hints of saddle leather. The palate shows ripe, spicy blackberry fruit, a soft lush mouth feel, and round gripping tannins on the finish.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Tardencuba 2006 Crianza Toro ($24) 90

100% Tinta de Toro from 40 year old vines and aged 12 months in American and French oak. Opaque ruby color with enticing aromas of blackberry, cassis, and toasted oak. A soft, lush attack leads to a rich and flavorful, silky palate of highly concentrated black fruit with just the right level of astringency. Beautiful, and highly recommended!

Importer: The Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain New York, NY

Tardencuba 2006 Roble Toro ($20) 88

100% Tinta de Toro aged 6 months in French oak. Dark ruby to the rim with black cherry and red fruit aromas and a touch of cinnamon spice. Shows a soft attack of rich, nicely concentrated fruit, spice, and pepper and finishes with lovely, ripe tannins.

Importer: The Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain New York, NY


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