New recipes

Emilio Moro and the Versatility of Tinto Fino

Emilio Moro and the Versatility of Tinto Fino

Tinto fino is a specific clone of tempranillo. Emilio Moro has plantings that are relatively new, and others that are close to 100 years in age. Their goal is to showcase what tinto fino can achieve in their vineyards in Ribera del Duero.

Each wine in their portfolio is a carefully considered expression that is site-specific in its intent. As a winery, Emilio Moro employs a combination of tradition and innovation. At their heart, they are traditionalists, and their winemaking methodologies are time-tested and pure. However, they have the foresight to use modern technology and technical innovations to provide the information and support they need so that they can employ those traditional techniques in the optimal manner.

Tasting through the wines below, first by themselves, then with some tapas, I was struck by a few things. First and foremost was the quality and purity of the wines. Second was the real difference between each expression. In every case it was the grapes, the vines, and the place they came from that screamed to the forefront. The wines are wildly different because the places they grew, the age of the vines, and the different conditions. Additionally, each wine is more than fairly priced for the quality and value it represents. In each case, these wines are 100 percent tinto fino; newer vines are planted from cuttings from their older vines.

Emilio Moro 2014 Finca Resalso ($15)

After harvest and fermentation, this offering spent four months aging in a combination of French and American oak. Super fresh black and red fruit aromas fill the nose. Blackberry and raspberry flavors dominate the palate along with hints of spice. Leather and earth characteristics emerge on the finish. At $15, this wine is aimed at everyday drinking. It’s perfectly suited for just that. Drink it in its fresh, glorious youth for optimal satisfaction.

Emilio Moro 2012 Emilio Moro ($25)

The fruit was sourced from vines with between 12 and 25 years of age. Barrel aging was accomplished over 12 months in French and American oak. Cherry aromas dominate the nose here along with a copious amount of spice. Continued red and black cherry characteristics fill the well-proportioned palate. Graphite, cinnamon, cloves, raspberry earth, and references to cherries jubilee are all in evidence on the above average finish.

Emilio Moro 2011 Malleolus ($45)

Fruit for this offering comes exclusively from vines with 25 to 75 years of age on them. Aging was accomplished over 18 months in new French oak barrels. A plethora of spices light up the welcoming and intriguing nose. Red fruits tinged with black and hints of purple dominate the dense and layered palate. Earth, continued spice, and dried red fruits are all present on the long finish. Firm tannins and racy acid mark the structure. At around $50, this wine is a steal. It has the layers of depth and complexity that bring to mind wines with $100-plus price tags.

Emilio Moro 2010 Malleolus de Valderramiro ($140)

The fruit for this wine comes from a combination of three specific vineyards that were planted in 1924. It was aged for 18 months in new French oak. Black cherry and plum aromas dot the nose. The palate is full-bodied and dense, with layers of fruit and spice flavors in evidence. Black tea, earth, and lingering fruit flavors emerge on the impressive finish. Firm, gripping tannins and solid acidity come together to inform the lovely structure. Most impressive about this offering is a measured intensity from the first whiff to the last sip that demands attention but never strays out of control.

Emilio Moro 2010 Malleolus de Sanchomartin ($165)

This is a single-vineyard offering from a site that was planted in 1964. Barrel aging was accomplished over 18 months in French oak. The moment you pour this wine, the brick red color shimmers in the glass. Hints of violets and leather accompany tons of red fruit on the somewhat gentle nose. The palate is loaded with red fruit flavors, but it’s softer and a bit more refined than the valderramiro, which showed more heft. The extraordinary finish goes on seemingly forever, with bits of earth, leather, and spice all making their mark. Somewhat firm tannins yield easily with air. I enjoyed each of these wines in very different ways and for a multitude of reasons; however, this particular one simply blew me away.

Emilio Moro 2010 Clon de la Familia ($450* Only auctioned for charitable causes)

Fruit for this wine is sourced in spots in the vineyards that represent each of the three soil types on their properties. Aging took place over two years in hand-selected, limited-edition French oak. The only fair way to describe the color of this wine in the glass is “darker than night.” Violets, black plum, and blackberry aromas each present on the dark and somewhat brooding nose of this wine. The intense and dense palate is marked by boysenberry, black raspberry, spices, and droves of minerals. Roasted espresso, chicory, and continued dark fruit characteristics mark the long, lusty finish. Big chewy tannins and rock-solid acid keep things in check.

It’s always a pleasure to be around true artists in any discipline. When it comes to winemakers, Jose Moro is certainly that. What he is doing at his family’s winery in Ribera del Duero is remarkably impressive. Equally noteworthy and absolutely palpable if you spend more than 10 seconds with the man is his passion. He delights in showing off his wines, his region, his country, and his beloved tinto fino. If you want to sample some awesome Spanish wines, I heartily recommend Emilio Moro.

How To Enjoy Ribera del Duero Tempranillo, AKA The Amazing Wine You Need To Try

If you live in the United States, there’s a chance you’ve never heard of an amazing Spanish red wine varietal called Tempranillo. But just because it’s not on your radar doesn’t mean it isn’t noteworthy. Believe it or not, Tempranillo is actually one of the top 5 most popular grapes grown in the world and the MOST popular in Spain. If you are a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, you need to try a bottle of Tempranillo from the beautiful Spanish wine region of Ribera del Duero.

Ribera del Duero Tempranillo, known locally as Tinto Fino, comes in different varieties ranging from deep and complex to more fresh and fruity, depending on the aging process. Despite these differences, you can expect flavor characteristics similar to jam, dark fruit, cedar,tobacco and/or oakiness no matter which bottle you’re trying. Another thing they have in common: they’re all delicious.

The region of Ribera del Duero has definitely made a name for itself around the world by producing some of Spain’s most sought after, elegant wines. It was actually from here that the first TempranilloI ever tried came.


When it comes to Spanish wines, Ribera Del Duero is probably most iconic and best-known region worldwide – I know some will say it should be Priorat or Rioja, but let’s leave this argument for another time. Hold on, here is a bit of stats to support my statement. If you will look at the Wine Spectator Classic ratings (95-100, best of the best), you will find 38 wines from Ribera Del Duero, 24 from Rioja and only 11 from Priorat rated in that category. And while in Ribera Del Duero, do you know which wine has the top Wine Spectator rating of all times? 2004 Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero Malleolus de Sanchomartin.

No, this is not the wine we will be talking about here, but – it is perfectly connected to our story. First commercial wine under Bodegas Emilio Moro name was released in 1989 – however, Moro family’s viticultural traditions and experience go all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century, starting with Don Emilio Moro, a first generation vigneron. Today, in its third generation, Bodegas Emilio Moro continues to build upon a century of traditions and tried and true techniques. And now we are getting to the actual subject of this post – the latest venture of the Moro family – Bodegas Cepa 21.

Photo Source: Bodegas CEPA 21

Bodegas Cepa 21 was created by brothers José and Javier Moro, the third generation vignerons. It is located in the heart of Ribero del Duero region, in the area known as “The Golden Mile”. It is worth noting the Ribera Del Duero comprise highest altitude vineyards in Spain, located at 2,400 – 3,300 feet above sea level. Bodegas Cepa 21 farms 125 acres of estate vineyards, and has another 125 acres under direct control through the agreements with wine growers. All 4 wines produced at Bodegas Cepa 21 are made out of one and the same grape – Tempranillo, albeit it is their own “Moro clone”, cultivated for more than a century.

Instead of inundating you with more information which you can easily find at Bodegas Cepa 21 website, I had an opportunity to [virtually] sit down with José Moro, an owner and winemaker at Bodegas Cepa 21, and inundate him with the barrage of questions – and now I can share that conversation with you:

[TaV]: Cepa 21 name implies that this is the winery for the 21st century. By the time when Cepa 21 was created, Emilio Moro was well known and very successful business. What was the motivation for the creation of the Cepa 21 winery and the brand overall? What sets Cepa 21 apart from the Emilio Moro?

[JM]: Cepa 21 is the project of the third generation of the Moro Family. We were eager to experiment with a different terroir and a diverse expression of the Tempranillo variety. Our goal was to find the maximum expression of the Tempranillo variety, respecting the finesse and elegance of the grape.
In that sense, Emilio Moro and Cepa 21 have several differences. For starters, Cepa 21 vineyards are orientated to the north whereas Emilio Moro vineyards have a southern orientation. The climate is another differentiating factor (colder in Cepa 21) and the way we classify our wines also differs. In Emilio Moro we classify attending to the age of the vineyard and its vines, whereas in Cepa 21 we classify according to the altitude of the vineyards.
The result: Cepa 21 wines are subtle but structured, fresh and yet complex, elegant and full of personality and they have an interesting aromatic palate.

Cepa 21 Winery. Source: Bodegas CEPA 21

[TaV]: What is 21st century winery and how Cepa 21 fits into that image? Are you also trying to appeal to millennials with this wine?

[JM]: From the moment people see the building in Cepa 21, a black and white minimalist structure with an air of “chateaux française” raising among vineyards, they realize they are about to discover something made for this century. Innovation has also been one of the key values throughout the winemaking process. It’s this union of modernity and our unique Tinto Fino clone that turn Cepa 21 wines into a traditional and yet modern wines made for today’s consumers. I believe it is them who define modern winemaking, and not the other way around… And in Cepa 21 we make a continuous effort so our wines exceed the expectations of these new consumers.

[TaV]: It seems that previous vintage for Cepa 21 was 2011, and now the current vintage is 2014. Does it mean that Cepa 21 wines are only produced in the best years?

[JM]: We have maximum quality standards for our wines, so if a vintage doesn’t have enough quality, we simply don’t bottle it. This is a way of guaranteeing consumers that if they buy a bottle of our wine, it will meet their expectations, whatever the vintage they choose to purchase.

[TaV]: Ever since the inception of Cepa 21, what were your most favorite and most difficult vintages and why?

[JM]: 2011 was an excellent vintage, one of the best in the Ribera del Duero. The climatology was perfect for our variety, with sequential rainfall that resulted in a powerful vintage of great quality wines. 2015 was also an outstanding vintage hot temperatures and hard work resulted in very promising wines.
2009 was a really difficult vintage. It was extremely rainy and cold, with frequent hails that stopped the vegetative cycle of the plant. It was a vintage to forget.

[TaV]: What are your biggest/most important markets for Cepa 21?
[JM]: Cepa 21 is a young winery, but its growing at a fast pace. We export our wine all over the world, from Asia to the United States, and we continue to grow internationally. The US is one of our key markets this year, but we also focus in European countries and in our own, Spain.

[TaV]: Along the same lines, do you sell in China, Cepa 21 or Emilio Moro wines? Even broader, are Ribera del Duero wines known/popular in China?

[JM]: Yes, we do sell in China and we are proud to say our wines are very well regarded in this market, although we recognize there is still a lot of work to be done. I often visit China and talk about the potential of our DO, which is popular in China but still has a lot of potential.

[TaV]: Do you grow any other grapes than Tinto Fino at any of the Emilio Moro/Cepa 21 properties? If you don’t, do you have any plans to start growing any other grapes?

[JM]: We recently announced in Spain that we are starting a project in El Bierzo. We are looking into producing a white wine that’s 100% Godello, a grape that stands out for its elegance and finesse. We are only in the initial phase, but we are sure of the potential of this relatively unknown grape.

[TaV]: It seems that Tinto Fino is one and only grape used at Cepa 21 (and also at the Emilio Moro too). Do you ever find it limiting (the fact that you only have one grape to work with)?

[JM]: Tempranillo is king in Spain, it is the national grape, and our Tinto Fino clone we use to graft each and every one of our vines is what moves us, our reason of being. No, we don’t find it limiting at all.

A New Taste From Old Favorites

The Ribera del Duero valley, long known for producing superior quality red wines, mainly derived from the Tempranillo grape, is experiencing a true evolution. The area’s beloved vintners are branching out, moving beyond tradition to experiment and innovate with sister brands and new wineries. These projects maintain the same level of quality but feature different terroirs, capture different markets, and often serve as labors of love, channeling the inspiration of their famous winemakers. The new additions also provide visitors with a fresh way to experience, taste, and journey through this celebrated wine region.

In 1972, before the wineries of Ribera del Duero established their Denomination of Origin (D.O.), Alejandro Fernández and his wife Esperanza founded Pesquera, a first-in-class vineyard with a 16th-century lagar, or ancient wine press. Through the use of innovative techniques, such as expanding the area’s first wire-trained vineyard, Pesquera flourished. Today, the winery produces iconic estate wines from over 500 acres of vineyard spread over a variety of terroirs. In the mid-80s, Grupo Tinto Pesquera, currently Familia Fernández Rivera, launched Condado de Haza, a vineyard overlooking the River Duero. Here, they have experimented with novel techniques including malolactic fermentation, and long-aging new wines in oak for over 30 months. The winery also utilizes Tinta del País, Ribera’s local thick-skinned mutation of Tempranillo. Today, Condado de Haza is a favorite of global wine lovers for its superior vintages, and one of a handful of vineyards to practice traditional whole-cluster fermentation.

The legendary winery Bodegas Emilio Moro, is a third-generation family estate founded in 1932 by Don Emilio Moro. In 2007, José Moro and his siblings launched an ambitious project, Cepa 21, focusing on modern expressions and crafting bolder reds, often from a local clone of Tempranillo, Tinto Fino. Since the launch of Cepa 21, José Moro has been cited by Forbes for launching the Sensing4Farming project, which utilizes technology to help develop sustainable, digital-managed vineyards. He has also achieved an ambitious range that includes a rosé made from 100% Tinto Fino, a flagship red, and several “youthful” varietal wines. Much of the wine, harvested and fermented in the villages of Castrillo de Duero, Pesquera de Duero, and Nava de Duero, is made from grapes grown in rocky, chalky, clay soil, which give Cepa 21 ripe, dark fruit and nutty notes. Emilio Moro has also brought new tourism to the region with its gourmet restaurant, curated by chef Alberto Soto, year-round tastings, and tailored harvest activities, including guided visits to a nearby wine museum and the grand Peñafiel castle. The winery’s high-elevation vineyards are a wine geeks’ delight, demonstrating a study in diversity of soil types, some within just a few feet of each other.

Celebrated for merging traditional and modern winemaking techniques, Bodega Vega Sicilia has long maintained a superior standard of excellence in the Ribera del Duero. With Alion, launched in 1991, the house began experimenting with its legendary grapes and varietals, using state-of-the-art equipment and offering a Tinto Fino, inspired by a “modern classic” style. Under owner Pablo Alvarez and Gonzalo Iturriaga, head winemaker of Vega Sicilia, Alion’s Tempranillo wine, aged for 14 months in new French oak barrels, offers a modern take on a local treasure.

In 1995, Danish oenologist Peter Sisseck launched the acclaimed Dominio de Pingus winery, quickly gaining fans around the world for Pingus, the estate’s flagship varietal wine. Prioritizing organic methods and heritage Tempranillo vines, Sisseck made it his mission to preserve the flavors of old Ribero del Duero with the Dominio de Pingus and Flor de Pingus labels. Producing the much-beloved wine PSI through another project, Sissek worked to identify the area’s top vineyards and growers, helping them develop healthier vines, better fruit, and biodynamic farming.

The Matarromera Group has long been considered one of the most prestigious vineyard owners in the province of Castilla y Léon (where Ribera del Duero is located). The Bodega Emina Ribera winery opened in 2005 in the Valladolid region of Valbuena del Duero, within the Golden Mile of the Ribera appellation and is the current headquarters of Bodegas Familiares Matarromera. At Emina, visitors can walk the Variety Garden, visit the Emina Wine Museum and taste the Emina Rosado, Emina Pasión and Emina Crianza varieties. Bodega Rento, from legendary winemaker Carlos Moro, and the newest from Matarromera, produces artisanal and organically made wines from Tempranillo that is harvested by hand, and grown in the oldest vineyards owned by Matarromera. It is considered to be Carlos Moro’s most personal project yet.

Though Cillar de Silos winery was officially founded in 1994 by Amalio Aragón, its conception began in 1970 when Amalio’s father began buying small plots from neighboring vine growers, dreaming of one day creating a wine in homage to his village, Quintana del Pidio. Cillar de Silos, named for the monks who historically managed the nearby Silos Monastery, has since become an internationally prized label. Brothers Roberto and Óscar Aragón have now launched Dominio del Pidio, which has been recognized for its excellent single-vineyard reds and its return to traditional winemaking techniques. The winery offers a recently restored museum where visitors can check out an 18 th century wine press and ancient underground cellars.

When vintner José María Ruiz first opened Pago de Carraovejas in 1987 on the hillsides overlooking Peñafiel, the historic hub of the Ribera del Duero winemaking region, he sought to honor his native Segovia with a flagship wine label and heritage restaurant. Pedro Ruiz Aragonés, José María’s son, has been at the helm of the winery since 2007. Under his leadership, Carraovejas thrived and became the first vineyard in Ribera del Duero to craft a wine containing 25 % Cabernet Sauvignon. Carraovejas has also pioneered the use of French oak barrels and drip irrigation–significantly improving the quality of the grapes for Crianzas and Reservas. With Milsetentayseis, the family’s newest offering, the emphasis is on century-old vineyards with a scientific spin. The label champions ancestral vineyards and indigenous varieties, paying tribute to the area’s defining characteristic: its altitude as one of the highest points in the DO Ribera del Duero at 1,076 meters. To preserve the genetic makeup of the plot’s heritage vines, Ruiz has created a comprehensive “recovery project” aimed at producing high-quality grapes able to thrive in extreme weather conditions, drawing on the soil and location to capture the unique character of the vine.

Bodegas Antídoto has long been the heart and hidden gem of Soria, perched on the sandy, rocky hills south of the Duero. Launched by Frenchman Bertrand Sourdais along with David Hernández, Antidoto’s wines are harvested from pure Tinto Fino, representing heritage Tempranillo with a fresh style that prizes purity of fruit and taste. According to Sourdais, the area’s Tempranillo has a unique genetic makeup owed to the high elevations and extreme climates of Soria, producing varietals with pronounced acidity. Dominio de Es, set in the traditional wine-producing village of Atauta, is Sourdais’ newest and most personal project. Led by he and his wife Olga Escudero, the winery emphasizes craft, innovation, and slow cultivation–occupying just 25 plots and 3.5 hectares and specializing in small yields blending Albillo with Tempranillo. Dominio de Es’ unique varietals are enhanced by the landscape’s clayey, porous terrain, combined with the calcareous and sandy influences of the nearby Duero–creating a unique blend ideal for any season or dinner table.

Inspired by the diversity in soils and climates, and the various expressions of Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero winemakers are able to express their creativity and employ other techniques, while exploring vineyards and conditions that make each area of the appellation unique. These projects of passion let the winemakers of Ribera del Duero speak to the world through every glass.

Related Articles

A Little About Us

Try our vibrant wines with tartare, tacos, board games or bocce. Sip them from a snazzy goblet or a plastic cup in your backyard — we trust that when you do, you’ll be relishing the moment. Oh, and the mouthfeel, of course.

All About Ribera del Duero

Sometimes the best stuff comes from conditions that are, well, not the most pleasant. Adversity produces great actors, great fighters, great music – and in the case of Ribera del Duero, killer wines.

All About Rueda

Spain’s most popular white grape is Verdejo, and it is native to the region of Rueda in Castilla y Leon.

Meet Your Makers: Emilio Moro

What does it take to set yourself apart in the wine world?

Centuries-old experience and pedigree are great, but in Ribera del Duero, that’s not entirely unheard of. Innovation through technology is key, but anyone with enough cashflow can buy some fancy equipment and newfangled gizmos. After that comes the intangibles — and for the legendary Emilio Moro winery, one such intangible actually has absolutely nothing to do with how their wine tastes.

Instead, they’re making a social statement through their wine labels, which President Jose Moro tells us fits directly into their goals of “ kindness through social awareness, personality, and persistence.”

How so? After hosting an event for a local charity for the blind, the Moro family connected on an emotional level to those in attendance and sought out to do something about it with his wines. Cut to 2015, when now you can run your fingers across any Emilio Moro label and feel how serious they are about the cause — in 2014, Emilio Moro became the only winery in the world to include Braille lettering on all of their labels. It’s innovation, but not in the Silicon Valley form of the word: It’s innovation in the human form.

Braille can be found on the label of this (and all) Emilio Moro bottles.

Moro, who oversees both the world-renowned Emilio Moro and Cepa 21 wineries in Ribera del Duero, knows that the Emilio Moro brand needs to push forward and continue to innovate despite his family’s hundreds of years in the vineyards of Ribera del Duero. He knows they’re not bringing in state-of-the-art technology simply to seem cool or hip. All they’re interested in is making the best product possible.

The humidity-controlled jets in full swing at the Emilio Moro winery.

“Innovation is not a way of inventing something ‘fashionable’ or ‘cosmopolitan,’ but rather, a way of looking into the identity of the soils and obtain the best out of the Pesquera del Duero land, using the most modern advancements,” he says.

Those lands in the town of Pesquera del Duero offer up some of the most unique wines, thanks in part to its landscape. Head in a 4ࡪ up a road, and you’ll be 900 meters above sea level in one of the highest altitude vineyards that all of Ribera del Duero has to offer. In that exact place, you’ll also see vineyards that slope downhill and then plateau out at the bottom — each area with its own unique soil and characteristics that ultimately end up in the grapes that are grown there. See for yourself as Emilio Moro viticulturist Vincente Abete shows off the vineyards that make Emilio Moro’s prized wines:

“Our terroir is born from a combination of weather, soil and the vines. In the Ribera del Duero temperatures vary greatly from day to night, we have different kind of soils that bring different attributes to our wines, and last but not least, the Tempranillo variety, Tinto Fino and our Emilio Moro clone,” Jose tells us.

Jose is also a big proponent of social media as a way of connecting emotionally with fans of Emilio Moro and Cepa 21.

“Every day we give our followers all of the information of what we are doing and who we are,” Moro says. “We want to give our followers information about the wine world in general, in addition to promotional initiatives and events. We want our followers to be able to keep up to date with who we are, everything we do and who we are becoming.”

A hilltop view of the rolling Emilio Moro vineyards.

There’s a passion and a seriousness to Jose that translates over to his wines — no matter which one you choose to dance with. Be it the $15 Finca Resalso, the $50-ish Malleolus or the aforementioned $200-plus Clon de Familia, the attention to detail has been handed down from generation to generation.

“I get my passion and inspiration from my father, and the education he has given me since I was a kid. I learned everything I know by helping him … I was born in a family of winemakers, so, from a very early age wine became a part of who I am. I never even considered doing anything else. It is my passion.”

The combination of conviction, pride and confidence is apparent within Emilio Moro … we’re talking 007-level seriousness. When asked what celebrity he’d compare his wines to, Moro told us: “Sean Connery, for he is a man with character and a strong personality.”

Emilio Moro — poured, not stirred.

Featured Wineries

Emilio Moro

Located in the town of Pesquera in the Valladolid district, Emilio Moro is a family-owned winery with over 120 years of winemaking history in Ribera del Duero. The family owns 173 acres of vineyards located in several parcels in Pesquera del Duero. The average age of the vines is 10 to 25 years, and the vineyards are located at high altitude -1,950 feet - on the banks of the Duero River. The first vineyards were planted in 1932 in the year of the founder, Emilio Moro's birth and the winery works with a pure clone of the Tinto Fino transplanted from their earliest vines. Soils are clay with gravel and chalk, and the area is endowed with the harsh, continental climate that defines the unique character of Ribera wines.

Emilio Moro 2011 Ribera del Duero

You now have FREE access to nearly 300,000 wine, beer and spirit reviews. Cheers!

Dark aromas of molasses, maple syrup, toast, char and blackberry are rich and ripe. This is intense and firm on the palate, with hard-pounding tannins absorbed by a full, receptive body. Baked blackberry, cassis and loamy flavors finish ripe, tannic, pure and typical of excellent Tinto Fino from Ribera del Duero. Drink through 2021. Michael Schachner

How We Blind Taste

All tastings reported in the Buying Guide are performed blind. Typically, products are tasted in peer-group flights of from 5-8 samples. Reviewers may know general information about a flight to provide context&mdashvintage, variety or appellation&mdashbut never the producer or retail price of any given selection. When possible, products considered flawed or uncustomary are retasted.

Ratings reflect what our editors felt about a particular product. Beyond the rating, we encourage you to read the accompanying tasting note to learn about a product’s special characteristics.

Emilio Moro 2012 Finca Resalso (Ribera del Duero)

You now have FREE access to nearly 300,000 wine, beer and spirit reviews. Cheers!

Concentrated, grapy aromas announce a young, fruity and cleanly made wine. In the mouth, this offers a lot of pulp and weight. Flavors of blackberry and plum are well presented and come with notes of toast and chocolate. A simple but long finish fits the bill. Michael Schachner

How We Blind Taste

All tastings reported in the Buying Guide are performed blind. Typically, products are tasted in peer-group flights of from 5-8 samples. Reviewers may know general information about a flight to provide context&mdashvintage, variety or appellation&mdashbut never the producer or retail price of any given selection. When possible, products considered flawed or uncustomary are retasted.

Ratings reflect what our editors felt about a particular product. Beyond the rating, we encourage you to read the accompanying tasting note to learn about a product’s special characteristics.


Boqueria in Soho (there are locations in Washington, D.C. and Hong Kong, too) has an expansive — but not expensive — wine list. The vast majority of their wines are under $100. Emilio Moro Tinto Fino, Ribera del Duero, sells for $65 at this tapas bar. The wine pairs seamlessly with their albondigas: lamb meatballs served with a tomato sauce and sheep’s milk cheese. It’s a classic pairing.

The Spanish Table, both the Seattle Pike Place Market location and the Berkeley, Calif., store, are reliable sources for anything Spanish. The Basque Market in downtown Boise, Idaho, is also a boutique store specializing in Spanish imports.

Nell’s Restaurant, on the shores of Seattle’s Greenlake, has one of the best Burgundy lists in Washington, second only to the world-famous Canlis wine list. Nell’s chef and owner, Philip Mihalski, a native New Yorker, peacefully perfects his crafts. He’s really involved in the wine program, too, along with GM Shayla Miles.

That level of investment in the wine program from a chef translates to natural pairings between the food and wine programs. The 2010 Domaine François Raveneau Valmur Grand Cru ($375 on the Nell’s list) pairs nicely with chanterelle mushroom risotto. Chanterelles are available during the summer and fall. Alternately, order the tasting menu, which consists of five courses made with what’s in season. It’s only $48 per person, so you can splurge on wine.

A couple of New York retailers, Sokolin on Long Island, and Morrell & Company, are my go-to places for allocated wines. If a wine exists, they will sell it to you.

If cost was no consideration, tell us the one bottle you would add to your personal collection. A 1985 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche. The first time I had it, it changed my appreciation of wine. It crystallized for me how location and growing conditions create unique wines. Only Domaine de la Romanée-Conti can make that wine. There are qualities that cannot be reproduced. It’s a masterpiece. It is also magical how the wine evolves over decades.

What is your favorite grape, and why?
I love Merlot. I have to admit that I also like to pull for the underdog. The movie Sideways beating up on Merlot made me more enthusiastic about Merlot. Coincidentally, it’s abundant in Washington. Long Shadows Pedestal, Pepper Bridge, Cadence, Woodward Canyon, Abeja and Walla Walla Vintners are some of my favorite Washington Merlot producers. The range in styles, the pliability of the varietal, the difference in expressions by winemakers is fascinating. It’s a versatile varietal. It can be soft and feminine, or firm, tannic and masculine. I love the plush, silky texture of quality Merlot.

As much as I enjoy Washington Merlot, however, my favorite expressions of Merlot are imports from the Old World: Petrus from the Pomerol appellation in the Bordeaux region and Masseto from the Bolgheri region in Tuscany.

How about a bottle one should buy now to cellar for 10 years to celebrate a birth, anniversary or other red-letter day?
Generally, quality and ageable wines are aged before release. So currently (2015), realistically, you are looking at wines from the 2012 or 2013 vintage at the earliest. Quilceda Creek crafts some of the most ageable wines in Washington. Their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is spectacular. The fruit comes from some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the state: Champoux, Wallula, Klipsun, and their estate vineyard on Red Mountain.

What is your go-to place when you want to have a glass or bottle?
Le Caviste, a French-style wine bar at the north edge of downtown Seattle, is the ideal wine bar. Their chalkboard wine list is dotted by about a dozen white wines, a dozen red wines and a few rosés and sparkling wines to boot, all by the glass. It’s a carefully curated selection of small French producers not readily available. Primarily food-friendly wines. Their food is a wide range of cheeses and cold cuts. They also have a daily fish en papillote (cooked with vegetables and herbs in parchment paper). If you want to splurge, all the wines by the glass, plus some from more traditional producers, are available by the bottle for dining in or retail to take home.

What’s the one thing you wish everyone would keep in mind when buying and drinking wine?
Trust your local specialty retailer. Tell them your budget. They won’t judge about how little or how much you spend. All of the speciality retailers I’ve met take a lot of pride in finding that bottle of wine that a customer will love. They are not interested in gouging you. Once you build a relationship with your retailer, they will get to know your tastes, and they will set aside wines for you that they think you will enjoy.

What is your “wine eureka moment” — the incident/taste/encounter that put you and wine on an intimate plane forever?
I was on a first date over brunch at Sazerac at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Seattle, before heading to the Seattle Art Museum. I recall Kevin Davis was the head chef at the time. I paired brunch — rotisserie chicken chilaquiles — with a bottle of 1997 Ken Wright Pinot Noir Guadalupe Vineyard. It had that pleasant earthiness and rose petal aromas, reminding me of my mom’s rose garden. Then I took the first sip, and tasting the layers of fruit (Rainier cherries, black cherries, raspberries), one after the other dovetailing, lifted me off my seat.

The bright acidity extended to the flavors on the finish and rounded out the wine nicely, made it so food-friendly. I knew at that time that it was over, that I was cast under the spell of wine. About my date, the relationship with her didn’t last very long, but my affair with wine has only grown stronger.

Taste and Flavor Profile

The tempranillo grape can result in red wine with a range of characteristics depending on how it is handled by winemakers. Ranging from medium to full-bodied with medium tannins and medium-low acidity, the dry red wine often carries a heady mix of red and black fruit on the nose and palate like sweet cherry and plum. Savory herbal and earthy notes like tobacco and dill mix with citrus peel for a balanced flavor profile. Oak aging adds touches of vanilla and cocoa. Aging can also greatly affect the flavor of tempranillo, adding depth and dimension to quality bottles.

How to Taste Wine

Follow a few easy steps when tasting wine to ensure you have the best experience:

  1. Look: Look at the wine, examining the color and opacity through the glass.
  2. Smell: Swirl your glass for about 10 seconds and take a quick whiff. Stick your nose into the glass for a deep inhale, getting your first impressions of the wine.
  3. Taste: Take a sip and let it roll around your mouth. Note the tannins, acidity, sugar, and alcohol content, then move on to tasting notes (fruit, spice, wood) and the finish.

Spanish Wine Recommendations, Part 2 – Wines under $50

Here we are again, talking about Spanish wines recommendations. My previous post was dedicated to the wines under $20, and now we are moving up and will look at what few extra dollars can buy you. And I actually mean it – despite the fact that our prices can go to the $50, there are still plenty of amazing Spanish wines at the lower end of the price range, mostly under $30.

Another interesting note is that in this price category transition we will mostly see all the new producer names – this will not be so much the case when we will jump the $50 limit, but – you will have to wait until we get there. I also want to remind you of the same basic concepts we discussed last time – 1) this list is mostly based on my experience with particular producers throughout the years 2) I’m recommending producers and some specific wines, but not the vintages – with these producers, you stand an excellent chance of been happy no matter what the vintage rating was 3) The list will include mostly red wines – there are really very few Spanish white wines in that price category which I have the long-term experience with and feel comfortable to recommend.

Ahh, before I will forget – note that absolute majority wines in this list (with the exception of the first white wine), will age extremely well. If you will age these wines, you might want to pay some attention to the vintage charts, but you will be fine even without it.

And the last (I promise!) generic note. Rioja wines are a very big part of my love of Spanish wines. When it comes to Rioja, I’m somewhat conservative, and I might be missing on some of the modern experimental concoctions. By “conservative” I also mean that there are some producers I trust completely, which means that I will gladly drink any wines from those producers, whatever I can acquire or be offered to drink. There are only 3 producers like that – La Rioja Alta, La Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE) and R. López de Heredia. While it is only 3 producers, all started in the late 1800s (if you are interested in a bit of a history, here is one of my older posts on the subject), each of the producers offers multiple lines of wines – 4 or 5 different lines. The reason I bring it up? While I’m familiar with many of their wines, I obviously didn’t taste each and every one of them. But – and this is why I wanted to mention them before we get to the exact recommendations – if you see the name of any one of these 3 producers on the bottle – go for it. There are a few reasons for such a blunt recommendation. First, a lot of their wines are produced only in a good years – for instance, you would never see a Gran Reserva from La Rioja Alta from the average vintage. Another good thing is that generally these producers release their wines when they are ready to drink, which is not based on the minimum aging requirements, so you will always stand a good chance to enjoy their wines once they get in your glass.

Finally, done with introductions – let’s talk wine now.

NV Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad – one of my favorite Sparkling wines, has medium body with a good weight for the Sparkling wine, and lots of complexity on the palate. As an added bonus, beautiful bottle makes it a nice conversation piece. Around $22.

R. López de Heredia – as I already mentioned, one of my absolute favorites. Here are two white wines from López de Heredia:

R. López de Heredia Viña Gravonia Rioja – an interestingly complex white wine. Around $25.
R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva Rioja – usually has very nice age on it by the time of the release. Combination of incredible complexity and freshness. Around $40 (I put is at $35 initially, but it seems that $40 is more realistic).

Tempranillo and Tempranillo-based:

Multiple wines under CVNE brand:
CVNE Viña Real Reserva Rioja – usually bright with a good fruit presence. Around $25
CVNE Viña Real Gran Reserva Rioja – usually has more powerful structure compare to the regular Reserva. Around $35
CVNE Cune Reserva Rioja – similar to Viña Real Reserva in style. Actually, in price as well – around $25
CVNE Imperial Reserva Rioja – in the old days, this wine was specifically created for the England markets to compete with Claret. Good structure and complexity. Around $40

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Rioja – very complex, earthy, usually more restrained than the others in the similar category. Around $40
R. López de Heredia Viña Bosconia Reserva Rioja – nice and classic. Around $32

La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Rioja – bright and dangerous – once you open a bottle, you can’t stop. Around $30
La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Reserva Rioja – a bit more restrained than the Viña Ardanza, but typically round and polished. Around $30
La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi Reserva Rioja – Most structured out of 3 Reservas. Typically 100% Tempranillo. Around $25

Ribera del Duero:

I’m sure there are many worthy wines from Ribera del Duero in this price range – but I don’t have lots of consistent experiences there, hence only two recommendations:

Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez Tinto Pesquera Crianza Ribera Del Duero – soft and approachable, very round Tempranillo rendering with herbal undertones. Generally under $30.

Bodegas Emilio Moro Malleolus Ribera Del Duero – this is an “introductory” wine from the magnificent Malleolus wines. A beautiful expression of Tempranillo, full of fragrant power. Around $45.

I probably should’ve mentioned Toro in the previous post. This is the third Tempranillo-based region in Spain, after Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Tempranillo is known here under the name of “Ink of Toro”, and typically has the most powerful expression compare to any other wines. I don’t have a consistent experience with any of the Toro wines in “under $20” range, but there is one I can recommend here:

Teso La Monja Almirez Toro – dark and dense, very powerful wine. Around $25

Garnacha and Garnacha-based (yep, a.k.a Grenache):

Again, I have a limited experience with the Garnacha wines in this price range, unfortunately. I’m sure there should be some excellent Garnacha wines from Priorat, but most of the Priorat wines I know of are in the next price range up. Therefore, just two recommendations from the same producer – Alto Moncayo:

Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton Campo de Borja – fruit forward, with excellent balance. Around $25
Bodegas Alto Moncayo Alto Moncayo Grenache Campo de Borja– shows more power than Veraton, but still has an excellent balance. Around $40

Monastrell and Monastrell-based (a.k.a. Mourvedre)

Again, not the whole lot to present to you here – but this wine is typically big and delicious:

Bodegas Juan Gil Clio D.O. Jumilla – 70% Monastrell, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Bodegas Juan Gil produces a lot of wines in a lot of different regions in Spain. However, I’m only including one wine here, which I happened to like more often than not. Bright, fresh and lip smacking. Around $40

And that concludes our list. If you had any of these wines, I would be curious to know what do you think of them. In any case, stay tuned for the part 3, as it will include a lot of drool-worthy wines.

Watch the video: Videocata La Revelía 2018