Burgo Viejo Palacio del Burgo Rioja Reserva 2010

W Burgo 2010Red Blend from Alfaro, Rioja Baja, La Rioja, Rioja, Spain

90% tempranillo

10% graciano

13.5% alcohol

Purchased: 12 July 2017 – $18.99

Opened: 20 Feb 2018

els: 9.0/10

Wine Spectator: 93

Stephan Tanzer: 90

Cellar Tracker: 90

Wine and Spirits: 90

Wine Enthusiast: 89

La Rioja, likely the most recognizable, if not the most famous wine region in all of Spain, is located 55-95 miles south of the Spanish-Atlantic coastline in the Ebro River valley, sandwiched between the Pyrenees and Cantabrian Mountains to the north and the Iberian Mountains to the southwest. The history of this area travels back to the time of the Phoenicians, followed by the Romans then the Christian Monks, all intent on producing ever better wines.  Then the French came and the rest is even more history, wine history that is. As phylloxera laid waste to the Bordeaux region in the 1870’s, the unemployed French wine makers migrated into the area and shared their expertise with the local population.

Rioja is divided into three regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja. The higher altitude Rioja Alta has alluvial soils of iron and lime, infused clays. Rioja Alavesa, at altitudes lower than Rioja Alta, consists of terraced vineyards growing in a mix of limestone and clays.  Rioja Alta and Alavesa enjoy a continental climate with 4 distinct seasons. Rioja Baja, at the lowest altitude,  has clay soils high in lime and iron growing grapes in a fairly mild Mediterranean climate.  The 3 areas have about 150,000 acres of vineyards producing 4 distinct classifications or categories of Rioja red wines: 1). Rioja wine aged less than a year in oak barrels; 2). Crianza is aged for at least two years, at least one-year of which is in oak; 3). Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years with at least one-year in oak barrels; 4). Rioja Gran Reserva is aged for at least two-years in oak and three years in bottle. Garnacha, Tempranillo, Viura and Graciano are the main grapes grown in this region of 600 bodegas.

Tempranillo grapes are grown worldwide but Spain grows the lions share, approaching 90% of all acres planted across this blue planet.  Portugal comes in second with less than 10% of the grape’s plantings. The rest of the world occupies a position best described as rounding errors in total acres planted.  Tempranillo is an early ripening black grape with a thick skin, preferring high altitudes that provide hot days and cool nights. The cool nights provide the body and acidity while the hot days stimulate sugar production to higher levels while creating thicker, darker skins. The wines are ruby-red in color, redolent of berries, plum, tobacco, and vanilla.

Carignan, aka Mazuelo, is a red grape, common to southern France and Spain. The grape exhibits aromas of red fruit and spice with high acidity and tannins. It ripens late and produces high yields. The grape is used mostly to add a very deep red color to blends.

Later vintages of this Bodega’s wine have added the Graciano grape to the blend. It is almost exclusively a Spanish red wine grape grown primarily in Rioja. Graciano wine is purple to ruby-red exhibiting aromas of black fruits, cherries and plums.  The grapes love hot dry days.  The wine is generally blended with Tempranillo to add ageing potential and greater structure.

Bodegas Burgo Viejo was founded in 1987 by six Spanish families of La Rioja winemakers which today has grown today to 16 families. The winery is located in Alfaro, a small town of less than 10,000 people situated in the far southeastern edge of the La Rioja region. The town is on the eastern bank of the Ebro River and west of the Yerga Mountain. The Bodegas’ vineyards produce red and white wines in all 4 categories: Rioja, Crianza, Rioja Reserva, and Rioja Gran Reserva.

The almost 500 acres of family vineyards are scattered around the town of Alfaro and the Ebro River growing 90% red, along with 10% combined total of rose and white grapes; including Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Graciano and Viura. The vines are mainly 30 years old but some Garnacha vines exceed 90 years in age. The vines grow in the Rioja Baja terroir; soils of clay and lime at an elevation of approximately 1000′ above sea level. The average growing season temperatures have a range of 45-90ºF with rainfall averaging 2-3″ per month.

The grapes are fermented in controlled temperature, stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation, after the primary fermentation, occurs in temperature stabilized concrete tanks. Once the malolactic fermentation process is over the wine is transferred to stainless tanks or oak barrels depending on the initial quality of the grapes. The Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are transferred to 60 gallon oak barrels; 80-90% American and 10-20% French oak. This wine spent 18 months in the oak barrels.

A clear ruby-red wine with a tawny rim. Aromas of cherries and red berries with vanilla in the background. Medium to full-bodied, very balanced and structured.  The tannins and acidity are working very well together producing a pleasant medium finish.

Enjoy with a Basque Tapas dish such as the very easy to make: Chorizo a la Sidra, or in English, Chorizo with cider.  You only need a couple of uncooked chorizo sausages and a little more than a cup of Spanish cider. Cut up the sausages into bite sized bits and add to a small cooking pan along with the cider. Cook over a medium high heat until the cider begins to exhibit a syrup like consistency. Remove from heat before the sauce gets too thick and arrange on a serving dish.  Dribble some more cider and Spanish spices, such as a crushed Bay leaf and saffron, on the sausages if you wish.  Serve with sour dough to soak up the sauce and Basque country Idiazabal cheese.

An outstanding wine at an OK price. The wine is getting scarce, as such, the price is increasing. Drink now, but should last until 2022-2025. Decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

$20.99 wine.com

Bodegas Castano Solanera 2013

W Solanera 2013Other Red Blends from Yecla Region, Southern Spain

An Eric Solomon Selection

70% monastrell (mourvedre)

15% cabernet sauvignon

15% garnacha tintorera

14.5% alcohol

Opened 20 Jan 2018

els: 9.0/10

Wine Advocate: 92

Guia Penin: 89

Cellar Tracker: 88

Ramon Castano Santa and his 3 sons have nourished their Yecla vineyards since the 1950s and today they extend over almost 1500 acres, growing a wide assortment of grapes from the ancestral Monastrell, also known as Mourvedre, to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Garnacha Tinta, Macabeo, Merlot, Moscatel, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Tempranillo. Some of the vines are in excess of 100 years old.  The vines for this wine are 40-100 years old, thus “vinas viejas” or old vines.

The family’s vineyards are located in the northern reaches of the Yecla region, near the foot of Monte Arabi, and are approximately 50 miles northwest of the Mediterranean coast, ranging from 1300-3000 feet above sea level.  The vineyards for this wine are from their Campo Arriba (high land) area and are just shy of 3000′ above sea level, growing in a low organic, clayey limestone with good drainage. The climate is a cross between Mediterranean and a continental weather conditions. Daytime temperatures during the growing season reach into the mid-80s and the night-time lows dip into the mid-50s°F. The summer rains are infrequent and sparse, delivering anywhere from 0.25-2.0 inches per month, perfect for the thick-skinned Monastrell grapes.

The Castano family grapes are used in this Eric Solomon selection and the wine making is supervised by Solomon and Jean-Marc Lafage.  The grapes are hand harvested and fermented separately in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then aged in French and American oak barrels for 10 months.

Dark ruby-red to purple in color with a light purple rim. Elegantly redolent of dark fruits and berries. A rich, thick taste of berries and chewy tannins. Balanced and delicious.

An outstanding everyday red blend at a good price.  Serve with cheese, lamb, pork; the spicier the food the better. Drink now, but should last for many years.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$14.99  wine.com

Highway 12 Highwayman Proprietary Red 2012

W Highwayman 2012Other Red Blends from Sonoma County, California

Proprietary red blend:

     cabernet sauvignon

     cabernet franc

     merlot

14.8% alcohol

Opened 2 Dec 2017

els 9.1/10

Highway 12 is a North Coast, Sonoma County winery producing 3 brands of differing quality wines from the vineyards of Sonoma and Carneros regions: Highway 12, Carneros Highway, and their flagship wine: Highwayman.  The Highwayman lineup includes 1 white and 4 reds: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and 2 red blends.  Their Proprietary Red was the initial wine in this lineup with the blend of grape types and percentages changing from vintage to vintage.  The 2013 vintage is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot as opposed to this 2012 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

Highwayman, the wine, commemorates the fabled gentlemen robbers of days gone by, who relieved, accessible and unguarded, or guarded, travelers of their possessions on the desolate stretches of road in many a nation’s country-sides. In California, a highwayman was known as a road agent, the most famous of which was probably Charles “Black Bart” Boles, a bandit with a particular affinity to Wells Fargo Coaches and their money boxes. He plied his trade of questionable legitimacy for 8 years during the late 19th century, along the deserted roads of northern California.  Black Bart, always armed with a shotgun but never fired during any of his roadside capers, acquired his name by leaving snippets of rhyming poetry at the scene of his crimes. Below is a sample of his poetry that he left at a robbery in 1877, with a slight, germane, editorial modification:

I’ve labored long and hard for (wine and) bread,
For honor, and for riches,
But on my corns too long you’ve tread,
You fine-haired sons of bitches.
 
— Black Bart, 1877.

Fortunately for all of us, highway robbery is now practiced by a better class of erudite individuals.

This wine has a black ruby-red hue, aromas of sweet black and blue berries, with whiffs of spicy herbs and earth, producing an enjoyable, full-bodied, long finish. It exhibits a powerful but balanced and delightful taste of chewy tannins and fruit. Perhaps a tad heavy by itself, better if served with a medium rare rib-eye.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$19.38  wine-searcher.com

Chateau Bel Air Haut-Medoc 2012

W Bel Air.jpgBordeaux Red Blends from Medoc, Bordeaux, France (Domaines Joel Irigaray)

55% cabernet sauvignon

45% merlot

12.5% alcohol

Opened 7 Oct 2017

els 8.9/10

Hailing from the St. Emilion area on the right bank of the Gironde, Chateau Bel Air, Joel Irigaray Domaines, is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  St. Emilion is blessed with wonderful mix of vine growing soils of gravel, clays and limestone, coupled with an oceanic climate of hot summers, and warm autumns, with just the right amount of rain when needed. The vineyards around St. Emilion and the Bordeaux region date back to at least the Roman plantings in the 2nd century AD; proving that good things do last.

A good, solid, dark, purple to ruby-red wine, redolent of cherry fruits, smooth tannins and acidity.  Serve with a juicy rib-eye and enjoy its balanced and long finish.

A good wine.

$13.99

Chateau Carlmagnus 2014

W Carlmagnus BordeauxBordeaux Red Blend from Fronsac, Bordeaux, France.
Proprietary red blend.
14.5% alcohol by volume

els 9.1/10

Wine Advocate 90-92

Wine Spectator 90

James Suckling 90

Fronsac, a wooded and hilly area, east of the Bordeaux wine region, in southwest France, is located near the northern bank of the Dordogne river, just a few miles west of the small city, Libourne; home of numerous appellations including Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, and of course, Fronsac.

Merlot is the main grape variety harvested here along with a smattering of Cabernet Franc, grown on primarily clayey-limestone soils. The vineyards sit atop a network of limestone caves, serving as the winery’s cellars. The summer climate is mild and sunny with temperatures dipping into the low 50s at night, and the days range from the mid 70s to the low 80s. Rain brings 1 to 2.5 inches of water per month.

Chateau Carlmagnus is a gorgeous dark purple, cherries and plums dance into your nose, slightly acidic but is quickly tamed.  This is a full-bodied, complex but balanced wine.

A outstanding wine.

$17.99 wine.com

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