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

Arzuaga Pago Florentino 2007

W Florentino 2007Tempranillo from Malagon, Ciudad Real, Castile-La Mancha, Spain

100% cencibel (tempranillo)

14.5% alcohol

Purchased: 18 Aug 2014 $13.98

Opened: 7 Feb 2018

els: 9.2/10

Cellar Tracker: 93

Decantalo: 89

Penin: 89

In the early 1990s the Arzuaga Group established themselves in the small hamlet of Quintanilla de Onésimo, Spain, north of Madrid about 90 miles and 125 miles south of the northern Spanish Atlantic coast.  The hamlet of little more than 1000 souls occupies the flat agricultural plains adjacent and immediately south of the Duero River. The companies vineyards in the area grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Chardonnay grapes.

In 1997 the company, looking for additional olive groves for their olive oil business, instead found and purchased the existing 143 acre vineyard: La Solana. The vineyard is near the small town of Malagon, Spain, located between the Toledo Mountains to the north and the Sierra Madrones to the south. The vineyards and winery did not begin producing wines until 5 years later in 2002.  In 2009 the vineyard was granted Vino de Pago status; the highest quality category of Spanish wine.  To obtain this designation the wines have to not only meet the DOCa requirements, but must also have a proven track record of consistently high quality and the grapes have to be grown, processed and aged on the estate.

Tempranillo grapes, called cencibel in the Ciudad Real area, are thick-skinned and love sunny, long hot days and cool nights, all of which brings forth a deep red wine with mild to moderate tannins and low to medium acidity. These qualities help generate a deep-colored medium-bodied wine with a wide range of aromas and tastes, including strawberries, blackcurrants, cherries, leather and tobacco.

The La Solana vineyard is on the north side of a series of low hills, with the vines growing in a rocky, pebbly top soil with an impermeable clay layer below. The vineyard grows, in addition to Tempranillo; Syrah, and Petit Verdot grapes. The growing season temperatures range from about 50-92ºF with rainfall ranging from as little as 0.25 inches to as much as 2.25 inches per month.

The grapes are hand-picked, sorted, de-stemmed and then gravity fed into casks or barrels. The grapes undergo approximately a 5 day cold maceration and a 7 day hot fermentation at roughly 82ºF. Only some of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in new oak barrels. The wine is aged for about 12 months in French and American oak barrels.

The wine has ruby-red to purple color with a garnet rim. A bouquet of fresh cherries, leather, and earthy mushrooms. On the palate the wine is well-balanced, medium to full-bodied with a medium finish. Wonderful.

An outstanding wine at a  good price, if you can find it, but later vintages should be similar. The 2012 vintage was a good year with similar ratings. Serve with traditional La-Mancha dishes; such as pisto soup, cuchifritos and paella. If you wish lighter fair try with crab stuffed mushrooms and soft cheese. Drink now, but should last until 2020.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$18.99 wine-searcher.com


Vetus Flor de Vetus 2012

W Flor Vetus 2012Tempranillo from Toro, Spain

An Eric Solomon Selection

100% tinta de toro (tempranillo)

14.0% alcohol

Opened 29 Jan 2018

els: 9.0/10

Wine Advocate: 92

Decantalo: 92

Guia Penin: 91

Cellar Tracker: 88

The Spanish Northern Plateau Toro Region is 40-50 miles east of the Portuguese border and 125-150 miles south of the Northern Spanish-Atlantic Ocean coast. Wine has been produced in the Toro region for more than 2000 years ever since the Greeks taught the Celts the art of the vine and grape.  During the Middle Ages, Catholic religious orders obtained land in the region from the king under the expressed agreement that they would expand the vineyards. In the 1800s the area’s vineyards escaped the phylloxera crisis resulting, today, in some very old vines.

The Artevino company, under the tutelage of Gonzalo Anton, began its wine making endeavors in Rioja Alavesa, one of the 3 sub-regions of the La Rioja DOC, in 1987, focusing on the hospitality industry with their IZADI labeled wines. In 2000, Gonzalo’s son began to expand the winery’s footprint and soon established, in the Toro Region, Bodegas Vetus in 2003. He initially concentrated on developing their vineyards until they were assured of success before building their winery there, which they eventually opened in 2008.

The 50 acres of 25 year-old vines of the Vetus vineyards surround the winery, and are located less than 10 miles to the south, southwest of the city, Toro, and about 2/3 of a mile west of the Guarena River, a north flowing tributary of the Douro River.  They are at an altitude of approximately 2300′ above sea level, growing in a loose conglomeratic soil, which consists of a dark sandy matrix, some clay, and limestone pebbles; locally known as a puddingstone.  The area experiences a continental climate with growing season temperatures ranging from daytime highs in the mid-80°s to night time lows in the high 50°s F.  Growing season rains range from 0.75 to 2.25″ per month.

The grapes are hand harvested, de-stemmed, partially crushed, and fermented in stainless steel vats. They are aged for 9 months in half new, half second year, half American and half French, oak barrels with the resulting wine falling into the Spanish Crianza aging label category: aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.

The wine exhibits a dark ruby-red to purple hue with a thin garnet rim.  A glorious nose of fresh berries and cherries coupled with a rich, thick taste of berries and chewy tannins. Very balanced acidity and tannins with a very nice finish.

An outstanding wine at a good price.  Serve with lamb and Spanish rice. Drink now, but should last until 2020. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$14.99 wine.com


La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva Tinto 2010

W Alberdi 2010Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain

100% tempranillo

13.5% alcohol

Opened 21 Dec 2017

els: 9.0/10

James Suckling: 95

Robert Parker: 91

Cellar Tracker: 90

Wine Spectator: 89

La Rioja Alta, founded in 1890, within the Station Quarter of Haro, Spain, offers some of the finest  wines coming out of the Rioja producing region. The Vina Alberdi brand was added to the firm’s lineup of great wines in 1978, making its newest label, out of 5, and the only one made with 100% Tempranillo grapes.

The Rioja region’s wine history is tied into the arrival of the Phoenicians, and their wine making skills, 3000 years ago, with their arrival and founding, in the 11th century B.C., of what is now city of Cadiz along the southwestern Spanish-Atlantic coast. They likely continued their migration to the Rioja region via sea routes along the Atlantic-Iberian coast. The Romans continued, and expanded, the wineries in the Rioja area starting around the 2nd century B.C.; credited with the planting many of the vineyards in the area. During the Middle-Ages, Christian pilgrimages through the area provided a continuous market, and free advertising, for these northern Spanish wines.

In the 19th century the French vineyards were devastated and destroyed by the very small critter: Daktulosphaira vitifoliae.  With the resultant collapse of the French wine industry many of the country’s wine artisans migrated south into the Spanish wine growing regions, bringing with them their expertise and customs, especially from the Bordeaux region.  La Rioja Alta’s first winemaker in 1890 was the Frenchman, Monsieur Vigier, coming during the period, in the late 19th century, of the greatest vineyard destruction in France where 65-90% of the vineyards succumbed to the Phylloxera.

La Rioja Alta’s estate owned vineyards: Las Monjas, Bardal and Las Cuevas, which provide the Tempranillo grapes for this wine, grow at 1600 to 2000′ above sea level, a few miles from Haro. The soils are chalky and clayey, nurturing vines that were planted more than 40 years ago. Growing season temperatures range from a the low 50s at night to the low 80s Fahrenheit during the day, with atypical  20 degree, night-to-day, temperature swing. Rarely does the area experience freezing temperatures. The spring and summer months average 1.75 to 3 inches of rain per month.

The Tempranillo grapes are manually harvested and the wine spends 12 months in new American oak barrels and an additional 12 months in 3-year-old, or more, barrels.  Every 6 months the wine is romantically racked (trasegamos) by the light of a candle. The 2010 vintage was bottled in 2013.

This is a brilliant, dark cherry-red wine with a peachy-pink rim. Aromas of red fruits and berries, with a hint of oak and caramel. Very nice tasting, balanced, medium bodied and smooth, with a crisp acidity and just right tannins, producing a long, dry finish. The wine evokes visions of the gently undulating curves of a gypsy dancer in an iridescent, flowing chiffon red dress; her body pulsating and pressing to the slow Bolero beats in a smoky, steamy, waterfront Cadiz club.

An outstanding wine. Serve with cheese or light fare. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$11.00-33.00  wine-searcher.com

Vina Real Crianza 2012

W Vina RealOther Red Blends from Rioja, Spain

90% tempranillo

10% garnacha, graciano and mazuela

13.2% alcohol by volume

els 9.0/10

Guia Penin 93

Wine Advocate 92

Compañía Vinícola del Norte del España, CVNE, a family winery and vineyard, was founded in 1879 in the small town of Haro within the wine growing region of Rioja, Spain. The town is renowned for the annual Haro Wine Festival, celebrated on the 29th of June, in honor of the town’s patron saint, San Pedro.  The event is inaugurated each year, with a possibly, somber and sober mass at the Hermitage of San Felices de Bilibio, followed by wine drinking competitions, and drenching thine neighbor with buckets of red wine, producing a population of lovely, glowing, lavender hued, inebriated participants. Songkran take note.

Today the company includes 4 wineries including Vina Real in Laguardia, established in 1920s, near the provincial seat of the Rioja wine district, Logrono; producing some of first oak barrel aged wine in the region.

The vineyards are grown on calcareous soils in the Rioja Alavesa wine sub-region at a few hundred feet above sea level, south of the Cantabrian Mountains, enjoying a calm, continental climate of moderate days in the low 70s, and nights dipping into the low 60s with 2 to 4 inches of rain during the growing season, although 2012 was very dry.

The wine has a clear to brilliant, garnet to ruby-red coloring; a bouquet of blackberries, cherries, plums, and earth. A wonderfully balanced, medium bodied wine with a very nice finish.

An outstanding wine.

$13.99 wine.com

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