More Spanish Table Wines
The Lay of the
land...Backgrounder on Spain's Wine Regions
- MARQUÉS DE MURRIETA
- This old, amazing property came up for sale some years ago and it was
purchased by Vicente Cebrián-Sagarriga, who ended up selling his holdings in radio
stations to be able to buy this historic winery. Cebrián-Sagarriga died a few years ago and
the winery is run by his son, Vicente Jr.
Located just on the outskirts of Logroño, the have something like 300 hectares of vineyards which supply all their needs.
The cellar is full of barrels, some 13,000 of them. The winery has produced
wines under an old label called "Castillo Ygay," which are "Gran
We met an old cellar man who was skeptical of the new owner's
commitment to continue producing grand and glorious wines. He seemed to be won over,
however, after a few years under the new owners.
wines used to be imported by a national liquor company. When that firm
lost interest in selling wine, Murrieta disappeared from the market.
It had been probably 5 years since we've seen a new vintage.
They're back in the market, finally and we bought some bottles of their new
vintages. The 2000 Castillo Ygay is good, but I felt the 2004
"Reserva" was more compelling, as well as being more modestly
priced. Now we're on to the next vintage and it's showing well.
The 2005 vintage is very good. The blend is 84% Tempranillo, 13% Garnacha and 3% Mazuelo. It was matured in new and seasoned
American oak barrels. The wood is noticeable, but it doesn't dominate
the wine. It's about as good a $25 bottle as you'll find
We also have a remarkable 1978 Gran Reserva Especial under the Castillo
Only ten vintages have been bottled (so far) from the 20th
Century, the 1978 being the most recent offering. The blend is 75%
Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, 12% Mazuelo and 3% Graciano. This was matured for 216
MONTHS(!) in in American oak barrels. Yes...18 years in
We brought a bottle of this to share with wine drinking friends in Milano and it
was the wine of the night. Totally amazing. We recently shared the
bottle pictured above with a friend at a Spanish dinner in San Francisco.
The wine was older than our waiter and he was delighted to taste such a
remarkably complex wine.
We set up the wine with a dry Cava (sparkling wine) and a fruity, non-wooded red
from Spain's Priorat. The contrast between those and the 1978 Castillo
Ygay is remarkable. Despite all the time in wood, the wine still retains
an amazing level of fruit. Of course, there's a woodsy aspect to the
bouquet...nicely acidic, too. Suffice it to say this is a rare treat.
2001 Ygay Gran Reserva is exceptional.
It's 93% Tempranillo and 7% Mazuelo, if you're trying to impress your friends
and show off your incredible wine knowledge.
The wine spent 31 months in small American oak barrels and it displays the
woodsiness we love in traditionally-styled Rioja. It's one of the few $50
bottles one can buy which is actually well worth the price.
- Currently available: Marqués de Murrieta
2005 Rioja Reserva $24.99
- 1978 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva
Especial Sale $219.99
2001 CASTILLO YGAY Gran Reserva $54.99
TELMO RODRIGUEZ WINES
known Telmo Rodriguez since he was affiliated with his family's winery in Rioja
ages ago. This was before global warming, for example.
Telmo motors throughout Spain and has wines all around the
He's a brilliant winemaker and quite passionate about wine quality.
We have a couple of his wines in stock presently...they're quite good and
reasonably priced, unlike some of his wines which are quite good and priced for
folks with fat wallets.
We've been fans of his Toro wine called Gago. You'll notice the
letter "g" on the bottle has a bull-like horn. Very clever.
Telmo is a big fan of the old Tinta de Toro vines in the Toro region of western
Spain. He makes a terrific wine, capturing plenty of fruit and seasoning
it with just the right amount of oak. Part of the vintage is matured in
small oak and part in large wood.
The 2005 was in stock...medium-full bodied and quite nice to drink now...but
sold out. We've tasted the 2006 a few times and it strikes us as a bit
jammy and over-ripe. Oh well, better luck next time.
We've had a number of
vintages of Telmo's Rueda wine called Basa. The 2007 was marvelous, showing
some citrusy tones, but with an underlying minerality which reminds us of some
good Sancerre wines.
It's predominantly Verdejo, with a small addition of 10% Viura and 5% of
Sauvignon Blanc. No oak...nice and dry...perfect as a cocktail white (it
'sets up' good reds magnificently, as the contrast makes the reds taste
"like a million bucks") and it's delicious with seafood.
- Currently in stock: 2005 GAGO Toro Sold Out
2007 BASA Rueda Blanco Sold Out
- Beronia is a
winery founded in the 1970s and sold to a large Sherry company, Gonzalez
Byass, makers of Tio Pepe and some fantastically good Sherries...
The original plan was to produce Reserva and Gran Reserva wines. Under
Gonzalez Byass' ownership, though, the Beronia brand makes the entire range
of Rioja wines.
found the 2004 Reserva to be quite good and now the 2006 has arrived and it
continues their small string of good wines.
The wine is matured in a curious barrel. The staves are made of the
typical American oak used in many cellars in Spain. But the barrel
'heads' are actually French wood!
We like the woodsy aspect of the 2006 Reserva. It shows nice fruit and
the oak we like in typical Rioja reds. It's 90% Tempranillo, 5%
Graciano and 5% Mazuelo. It really is showy if you set it up with a
glass of Cava or a non-oaked white...
Currently in stock: 2006 BERONIA Rioja Reserva $17.99
- BODEGAS MONTECILLO
- Purchased some years ago by the large Sherry and brandy producer
Osborne, Montecillo wines are well thought of in Spain. Their Rioja winery is
located in Fuenmayor in a cellar constructed around 1975. While many properties in
Spain use American oak, Montecillo uses a high percentage of French oak. Their basic
red is called Viña Cumbrero. It is a moderately spicy red with the oak being not
especially noticeable. The Reserva is called Via Monty and this is matured in
We have some wonderful old Gran Reservas from
Montecillo and these are excellent wines which I bring out for special occasions.
We recently acquired a few bottles from their new importer, each bottle
being rather recently labeled by the winery and shipped, I guess, sometime
in 2005 or 2006.
Montecillo makes a standard dry white and an ordinary rosado. The current 1991
Reserva and 1989 Gran Reserva wines were both disappointments. Now I can add the
1995 Reserva to this list, too.
- Currently available:
- Special order for the new releases...odd bottles of old Gran
Reservas are in stock.
- MARQUÉS DE RISCAL
- Still owned, apparently, by the heirs of the founder, Camilo
Hurtado de Amzaga, this old-time property experienced a period of decline during the
mid-1970s until the mid-1980s. We'd been disappointed for many years. I
suppose the stinging criticism of their wines caused some soul searching and investment in
the cellar, when they purchased a slew of new cooperage. We had a wonderful visit
to the cellar in 1995, tasting their Sauvignon Blanc from nearby Rueda, along with a lovely
red Reserva. Not to mention an ancient, well-stored vintage from the
Over the past decade they've built a fancy hotel and restaurant facility on
the property. It's one of those 'luxury' hotels where a low-end room
will set you back about $450-$550 a night!
Riscal has launched a
special, old-vines cuvee called Baron de Chirel. As the original vineyards were
planted with some Cabernet Sauvignon, Riscal is allowed to incorporate Cabernet into its
wines and still label them as "Rioja." This is not the case for wineries
wishing to plant Cabernet today. This situation will probably change in the coming
- We taste each and every vintage of their 'regular' bottling and these are
usually nice, but we don't stock them presently...no problem to order them
for you, though.
Gran Reserva, on the other hand, was a magnificent bottle. The wine is
85% Tempranillo (from vines older than 30 years), 10% Graciano and 5%
"other." It's been matured in American oak barrels for
2-and-a-half years, or so, before being bottle-aged prior to its release.
The color is medium-dark ruby and it offers a lovely bouquet of sweet,
woodsy oak. On the palate the wine is fairly full without being
heavy. The tannins are balanced with the fruit, so it's fairly supple,
especially with food. I opened a bottle with friends and heard a lot
of "oohs" and "aahs".
- Currently available: 1999 RISCAL Rioja Gran
Reserva Sold Out
- The Eguren
family has several wineries around Spain, making quite a range of
If you want stupidly-priced, highly-scoring wines, they make some. All
the wine geeks have their credit cards ready to pay several hundred dollars
for a bottle of the latest, inky, lavishly-oaked wine because it 'scored'
well in a beauty contest.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a bottle of wine to drink, the new
vintage of Protocolo is rather nice. It's a Tempranillo without a
forest full of oak. It's not inky dark in color and it doesn't have
ten years' worth of tannin.
We have this sale-priced and even with the weak dollar, it's a remarkably
- Currently in stock: 2007 PROTOCOLO (list $9) SALE
EL COTO DE
winery was founded in 1970 and it was run by a bank for many years.
A fellow who headed the firm for the bank, eventually began his own winery
and today El Coto is still aligned with the Baron de Ley brand.
At one point this brand was owned by Bass, a beer company which ended up
investing in hotels. In fact, they sold the winery to come up with
the money to buy the Holiday Inn chain. Well, all through the
various ownership changes, most of the same management has been running
We gather they're owned by an investment group which owns vineyards,
wineries and a company producing ham.
From time to time we've found a wine of interest and recently their 2004
Reserva caught our attention and for two good reasons: It's a high
quality bottling and the price is right.
The 2004 vintage is one where if you didn't make a good wine in
Rioja, perhaps you might consider looking for other lines of work. The
Coto de Imaz rises to the quality of the vintage...too bad this brand isn't a
bit more reliable in the less-than-perfect years.
The wine is entirely Tempranillo and the fruit comes from the Rioja Alta
region. They matured this for 16 months in small American oak and then
bottled it. Another three years' aging in bottle took place before they
put it on the market. The official wine-speak term for that momentous
occasion is "released."
We like the nice dark fruit aromas of the Tempranillo. And there's a
lovely woodsy character from the oak, as it shows notes of dill and cedar.
It's medium-bodied and smooth enough to enjoy tonight, if you like.
Currently in stock: 2004 COTO DE IMAZ Rioja Reserva
winery was founded in 1890 and it has long been a traditional Rioja
producer, making wines of classic style and they've not changed to meet
the demands of today's wine critics.
We had not seen their wines in a number of years and were curious to see
how they tasted today when a sales rep brought in a bottle to taste.
It was/is their 2004 Viña Albina Reserva.
Oh my! It was like meeting a dear old friend you've not seen for a
number of years!!
Yes, it's the same style we remember, with medium ruby color, not inky
black as is so fashionable today. The fragrances were
striking: woodsy notes with hints of dill, lumber-yard fragrances
from the extended aging in American oak, notes of red fruits...
On the palate the wine is medium-bodied, not heavy. It's dry, not
sweet and it's nicely acidic, not flabby and flat as are so many of
today's high-scoring New World bottlings.
The winery, though, is proud of their technological advances and they
point out that simply because they make traditional wine does not mean
they don't employ modern technology. Yes, apparently they have
electricity and indoor plumbing at the winery.
Like our other favorite Rioja wineries, La Rioja Alta, Lopez Heredia and
CUNE, this vintner makes wines for the table. You may not find these
to be the belle of the ball in a blind tasting, but paired with some good
friends and good food, this is a delightful bottle of wine. And the
2004 can be set aside for several more years, if you like, but it's
exceptional right now.
Currently in stock: BODEGAS RIOJANAS 2004 Viña