Incredible Quality Just Outside Ribera del Duero

Today’s Story: Galia

Galia was established in 2009 as a personal project of vigneron Jérôme Bougnaud with the partnership of Daniel García-Pita of El Regajal. Though Jérôme comes from a lineage of winemakers in Cognac, France, he works extensively in Spain and particularly along the Duero River and just outside the official borders of Ribera del Duero in Castilla y León. Galia’s vineyards consist of relatively small parcels and are scattered along the river within the provinces of Soria, Burgos, and Valladolid. Most of these vineyards sit at 795-1,000m above sea level and consist of old vines aging 50-100+ years old. Jérôme practices organic viticulture and all fruit is harvested manually before going through whole cluster or partial whole cluster natural fermentation. The wines age in 15% new French oak barrels before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Since many of these wines are bottled as Vino de Mesa because the vineyards lay outside established D.O.s, they can be an outstanding play for value given the incredible yet “under the radar” quality of land.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Le Dean

99% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), 1% Albillo; 15% ABV

The 2015 Galia Le Dean is opaque medium to deep ruby in color with deep purple hues. Once this opens up (I gave it 3 hours in the decanter), the nose showcases aromas of dusty cherry, plum, dried fig, leather, pipe tobacco, forest floor, dried herbs, and cedar. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of black cherry, brambleberry, licorice, tobacco, loamy earth, chunky crushed rock and clay, underbrush, and chocolate. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. 758 bottles produced.

Price: $55. Very high quality and well-made for the price, with the depth and balance (you can’t even tell this is 15% ABV) pushing this into the good value category. Pair with roasted lamb, suckling pig, or charcuterie.

Rioja to Be Cherished for Decades to Come

Today’s Story: La Rioja Alta

La Rioja Alta is a historic winery established in 1890 by five Riojan and Basque families in Haro’s Station Quarter. The endeavor was named Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta, and in 1904 La Rioja Alta merged with Ardanza Winery. The two years, 1890 and 1904, are important for La Rioja Alta and today’s Gran Reservas 890 and 904 allude directly to those milestones. Today, La Rioja Alta practices sustainable viticulture with 16 hectares dedicated to organic viticulture, limiting treatments in the vineyards and utilizing renewable energy to support many of their operations. La Rioja Alta produces their wines from estate vineyards, with yields kept to under 5,000 kilos per hectare in order to yield higher quality fruit. All of the barrels are produced onsite by the Rioja Alta cooperage, and they use oak imported from the United States which they dry in open air for 2 years before use. All barrels are racked individually by candlelight and the wines go through long aging to preserve harmony and balance before release.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Rioja Gran Reserva 904

90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano; 13.5% ABV

The 2010 Gran Reserva 904 is translucent deep garnet in color with ruby hues. I decanted this for 7 hours and drank it over 2 hours, though in honesty this could’ve opened up longer. The nose showcases aromas of blackberry jam, blueberry, raspberry, blue/purple/red floral bouquet, dried tobacco leaf, savory herbs, coconut, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. On the palate, I get notes of spiced plum, juicy blueberry, raspberry, violet and lavender, licorice, tobacco, pebbles, thyme, baking spice, and cedar. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, velvety medium tannins, and an incredibly silky mouthfeel into a long finish. Give this 5-7 years in the cellar and drink over the following 2-3 decades.

Price: $58 (typically averages $66). This is absolutely worth the price, being undoubtably the best young Rioja I’ve enjoyed to date. The wine drinks with pure elegance and finesse after a long decant, but has the structure to age effortlessly for decades to come. Pair with roasted lamb, roasted game bird, or chorizo and Manchego cheese.

Beautiful Expression of Priorat

Today’s Story: Terroir al Límit

Terroir al Límit was established in 2001 by Dominik Huber and Eben Sadie when the duo purchased fruit from the Perez family of the Mas Martinet winery and vinified their first Dits del Terra. In 2003, they acquired their own wine cellar in the village of Torroja del Priorat and quickly set about purchasing more fruit and releasing new wines. Since the beginning, Dominik’s goal is to produce terroir-driven wines utilizing ancient Burgundian winemaking traditions and he took this a step further by practicing organic and biodynamic viticulture, minimal intervention, whole cluster fermentation, and concrete or amphora aging. The painstaking manual process in the vineyards (save for assistance from a mule named Frida) coupled with Dominik’s winemaking philosophy yields wines of beautiful elegance meant for “enjoying in the company of family and friends.” To explore this incredible winery further, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Dits del Terra

100% Carignan (85-year-old vines at 400m elevation); 13.5% ABV

The 2011 Dits del Terra is mostly opaque and medium ruby in color. This requires an hour in the decanter which allows the nose to blossom with aromas of dried cranberry, raspberry, black cherry, rose, cured meat, tobacco, earthy mushroom, forest floor, and crushed rock. Once this hits the palate, it displays notes of cranberry, strawberry, raspberry, licorice, dried tobacco leaf, dried loamy earth, baking spice, ground green herbs, and slate. The 2011 Dits del Terra is beautifully balanced and medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. 4,458 bottles produced.

Price: $80. Terroir al Límit produces my favorite wines that I’ve had from Priorat and, while not inexpensive, provide the quality and elegance to justify it. Pair this with turkey and cranberry sauce, venison, or herb-roasted lamb.

Remarkable Value from Toro

Today’s Story: Bodega Numanthia

Numanthia is a somewhat young winery, founded in 1998 and located in Valdefinjas in the region of Castile and León in northwestern Spain. The winery is named for the ancient city of Numancia, one whose residents resisted Roman rule for 20 years before ultimately sacrificing their lives instead of surrendering to the invading army. Though Numanthia is slightly over two decades old, their vineyards were first planted centuries ago and have weathered the passing of time and even survived the phylloxera crisis throughout Europe during the 19th century. These vines are planted in sandy and rocky soil, causing them to struggle and stretch their roots up to five meters below the earth’s surface to reach water and nutrition. The vineyards are planted 100% to Tinta de Toro and are made up of more than 100 plots, with some vines dating over 120 years old, and all farming is manual and organic while removing the use of pesticides. There are three expressions of Tinta de Toro in the Numanthia portfolio, which includes the Termes, Numanthia, and Termanthia bottlings.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Termes

100% Tinta de Toro (aka Tempranillo); 15% ABV

The 2012 Termes is opaque medium to deep purple/ruby in color. This requires about 45 minutes to open up, but once it does the nose emits aromas of blackberry, cassis, spiced plum, black raspberry, anise, smoked game, tilled rocky soil, wet granite, dark chocolate, nail polish remover, and oak. On the palate, this wine showcases notes of black plum, blackberry jam, blueberry, black cherry, cola, licorice, sweet tobacco, leather, cracked pepper, loamy earth, and light vanilla. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $25. This is a really good value wine, especially since I’ve been able to find it multiple times on sale around $15! Even at $25 per bottle this drinks incredibly well with some bottle age and the high ABV actually goes mostly unnoticed. Pair this with pizza, barbecue pork ribs, steak tacos, or tomato sauce pasta.

Promising Toro that Barely Misses the Mark Today

Today’s Story: Bodega Teso la Monja

Teso la Monja was founded in 2007 by Marcos and Miguel Angel Eguren, however the history of their family in Spanish winemaking stretches much deeper. The Eguren family has been cultivating vines and producing wine in Rioja Alavesa since 1870 and today carries their culminated knowledge down five generations. The Eguren family, alongside Jorge Ordóñez, have been instrumental in the revitalization of the Toro DO and were the original founders of Bodegas Numanthia in the region. When the family sold Numanthia in 2007, they did not want to abandon their projects in Toro and Teso la Monja was born. With Marcos as winemaker and his son Eduardo assisting, we have the fourth and fifth generations of this family once again continuing their tradition of passing along knowledge of crafting exquisite wines.

Teso la Monja is one of six wineries the family operates under the Viñedos y Bodegas Sierra Cantabria umbrella. If you have an interest in exploring their other labels, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Almirez Toro

100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo); 14.5% ABV

The 2012 Almirez is opaque deep purple in color. I decanted this for about 30-45 minutes before trying the wine and the nose opens to reveal aromas of cherry, plum, figs, red licorice, tobacco, earth, shoe leather, and oak. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackberry, black cherry, bay leaf, dried fig, chocolate, forest floor, dried herbs, and nutmeg. This Tinta de Toro is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $20. Typically a price-point for some great value Toro wines, however this one is a bit unbalanced and either needs more time in the cellar or I would suggest trying a different wine. Pair this with pizza, barbecue chicken, or tomato sauce pasta.

Magnificent QPR for an Outstanding Albariño

Today’s Story: Coto de Gomariz

Coto de Gomariz is located in Ribeiro, a Spanish DO (Denominación de Origen) in the Avia River Valley in Galicia. Though Coto de Gomariz is proud to say they grow their vines in the oldest documented wine preserve in the Iberian Peninsula (it dates back to the 10th century), it wasn’t until the 1970s that Ricardo Carreiro started restructuring the family vineyards by planting only indigenous varieties. During the 1980s, Coto de Gomariz started bottling and marketing their first wines and by the late 1980s they became some of the most renowned from Galicia. Beginning in 2004, Coto de Gomariz started practicing organic and biodynamic farming under Ricardo’s son (also Ricardo) and their wines are made in a non-interventionist style. Fermentation is accomplished naturally with native yeasts and the wines are bottled without filtration.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Albariño Viño de Encostas de Xistos

95% Albariño, 5% Treixadura; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Viño de Encostas de Xistos is a crystal clear deep straw color with gold variation near the sides of the glass and water white near the rim. The nose showcases aromas of lemon zest, golden apple, peach, honeydew, white florals, white pepper, and saline minerality. Once in the mouth, this refreshing Albariño displays notes of grapefruit, lemon citrus, apricot, stone fruit, honey, elderflower, exotic white spice, slate, and stoney minerality. This wine is medium-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity and a lingering finish that makes you want to take another sip. 500 cases produced.

Price: $25. This offers an outstanding QPR and would make for a fantastic summer wine (yes I know it’s winter). Pair this with white fish, sole, leafy greens, or fish tacos.

One of Spain’s Most Exciting Wines

Today’s Story: Envínate

I previously wrote about Envínate in Vitality from Spain when I reviewed the 2018 Albahra, so today’s post will be short and sweet for your Saturday afternoon reading. If you haven’t read my prior post linked above, I recommend you do to discover the background of this incredible winery who is producing arguably some of the most important wine coming from Spain. Envínate produces terroir-driven wines from coastal, island, and mainland appellations all in traditional styles to showcase place and the vibrant minerality present in these lands. Known as a sommelier’s darling for these reasons and more, Envínate creates small production wines that are shockingly rather easy on your wallet.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Migan

100% Listán Negro; 12% ABV

The 2017 Migan is very transparent pale ruby (almost red cherry) in color with rose petal variation near the rim. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of cherry, pomegranate, raspberry, pronounced barnyard, leather, forest floor, volcanic ash, crushed rock, pepper, and saline minerality. On the palate, I get notes of juicy black raspberry, strawberry rhubarb, tart wild blueberry, damp rocky earth, barnyard, ash, underbrush, ground herbs, black pepper, and mineral. This wine is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $50. Like all of the wines I’ve tried from Envínate, this is a fantastic value. They are producing some of the most profound, terroir-driven, high-quality wines coming from Spain and this bottling comes from the unique Canary Islands. Pair this with antipasti or simply charcuterie and cheese.

Delightful Old Vine Garnacha

Today’s Story: Domaines Lupier

Domaines Lupier is a relatively new wine estate, founded in the 2000s by Enrique Basarte and Elisa Úcar. Enrique comes from a background in wine, having worked in vineyards throughout Spain following degrees in agronomical engineering and oenologist studies. Elisa studied economics and holds an MBA, though she also has more than a dozen years of experience in the wine business. Both equally passionate for winemaking in its entirety (the vines, terroir, and production of wine), Enrique and Elisa started rescuing small plots of Garnacha from very old vines to jumpstart their own project.

The efforts of tracking down and studying existing vines ultimately yielded the couple 27 parcels of Garnacha planted in different soils and microclimates ranging in elevation of 400-750 meters above sea level. Some of the vines they own even date back to 1903. This broad range of terroir and old age of the vines allows Domaines Lupier to showcase a true and brutally honest representation of the Garnacha variety and the land from which it comes.

Still a relatively small winery, Domaines Lupier produces two wines. Their El Terroir annual production sits around 30,000 bottles, while La Dama annual production sits around 4,000 bottles. In order to make and age their wine, Enrique and Elisa purchased and renovated an old manor house near their vineyards. They constructed a cellar to hold 50,000 bottles of wine, outfitted the winery with 3,500 and 5,500 liter vats, and updated the technology to modern standards. All of their wine is aged in French oak barrels under careful watch of both Enrique and Elisa.

Today’s Wine: 2011 La Dama

100% Garnacha; 14.5% ABV

This wine is moderately opaque and medium purple in color. This needed some time in the decanter to blossom, and once it did the nose emits aromas of plum, dried forest floor, mushroom, licorice, smoke, leather, and bitter chocolate. I also get a bit of heat out of the nose thanks to the alcohol content. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of black and blue fruit, dried cranberry, black licorice, slight milk chocolate, loamy soil, crushed rock, and oak. Medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. 353 cases produced.

Price: $60 (United States). I like the price-point on this bottle, it has a certain Old World charm to it that needs to be experienced. This is also one of the most unique Garnacha wines I’ve tried. Pair this with chicken or pork, though you could probably get away with smoked salmon as well.

Vitality from Spain

Today’s Story: Envínate

Founded by four friends who studied Oenology together, Envínate quickly became one of, in my opinion, the most important producers in Spain. These individuals (Roberto Santana, Laura Ramos, Alfonso Torrente, and José Martínez) came together through their mutual passion for growing grapes native to Spain and making wines that demonstrate with full truth and transparency a range of terroir with a coastal focus. Add this to the fact that they produce wine in a very traditional sense (vineyards are hand-picked, grapes are foot-trodden, and the wine is fermented with native yeasts and stored in neutral-oak barrels with sulfer only added in small amounts if needed at bottling) and there’s no surprise Envínate is showing the world what true Spanish wine can be.

On the topic of terroir, Envínate added to vineyard holdings over time with their vines now grown in Ribeira Sacra, Tenerife, and Almansa. Each of the three areas have unique soils ranging from slate to volcanic to chalky with their ultimate intent to demonstrate the different terroir in its most honest sense across grape varieties that they plant.

Discussing Envínate, I think it is quite apparent why they are such an important fixture in the Spanish wine community. The care, dedication, and traditional winemaking style employed elevates their wines onto high-end wine lists and into the inner circles of sommeliers and wine aficionados that may not otherwise learn to appreciate what makes Spanish wine Spanish. While they are a relatively small operation and Envínate wines are somewhat rare and hard to find, if you spot a bottle in your local wine store do not pass up trying it.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Envínate Albahra

100% Garnacha Tintorera; 13% ABV

I’ve tried a couple other wines from Envínate, but this was my first bottle of the Albahra and both my tasting companions and myself were thoroughly impressed. We let this open in the decanter for about 30 minutes before drinking and that seemed to do the trick. In appearance the wine is a very deep, opaque purple with moderate staining on the glass. On the nose, we have aromas of plum, black fruit, asphalt, volcanic soil, and a hint of dark chocolate. Once in the mouth, flavors of blackberry, red fruit, graphite, smoked meat, and charred earth abound. This medium- to full-bodied wine is bold, yet easy drinking, with medium (+) tannins, medium (+) acidity, and a long finish.

Price: $24, an outstanding value that cannot be missed. I think this would go great with game, red meat, and lamb.