Mauro’s Very Special V.S.

As has been obvious over the years, we are huge fans of Spanish wines.  We love the dusty plum fruit of an old Rioja and the opulence of an old vine Garnacha that tastes like a new twist on Chateauneuf.  But we also understand that these are unique flavor profiles that might take a little getting used to for someone accustomed to the straightforward, in-your-face blast of fruit from a top flight Napa Cabernet.  Well here we are going to present an immensely impressive wine that not only will pander to the hedonists who like a lot of engaging flavor up front, and purists who don’t mind modern styling provided the wine still has the trappings of classic Spanish reds, but save folks money who think you have to pay $150+ to get something truly special.

Mariano Garcia, winemaker at Vega Sicilia for about a couple of decades, is the force behind Bodegas Mauro.  This is an exceptional performer in the somewhat less defined Tierra de Castillo y Leon, sort of the outskirts of Ribera del Duero.  His ‘regular’ bottling were one of the eye opening efforts that really got us into Spanish wines back in the early 90s, and some of his reserve bottlings have been epic for their genre in the same way that certain producers have become iconic for Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Napa Valley.

This particular wine is a ‘modern’ reserve, meaning that the eye here is on making the best wine possible while no being confined to the guidelines of traditional nomenclature which carry certain rules that winemakers might find a little confining.  This wine is not made every year and comes mainly from two plots of older vineyards.  The wine was bottled in March, 2017 after spending 26 months in a combination of French and American oak.

The scents of smoke, vanilla, and chocolate harmonize beautifully with the classic cassis and plum fruit character of this 100% Tempranillo.  The entry is cool and authoritative with the intensity and dimension of the oak fused with the sleek, polished palate.  This is on par with any Classified Growth Bordeaux and we’d make the comparison with a ‘trophy’ Napa Cabernet except that the Mauro Tierra de Castillo y Leon V.S. 2014 is more harmonious and refined than most New World reds we can think of.  Packed with flavor, this plays on many levels.  You can delve into the wine’s sweet and savory complexity for an engaging intellectual exercise, or you can just sit back and let the intense, layered, toasty, chocolaty flavors roll across the palate.

This is very serious wine that, while it is true to its genre, doesn’t expect you to cross the line to appreciate the context.  There’s plenty of well-heeled but intense flavor to make quite an impression.  Yeah, 2014 was a problematic vintage in some parts of Europe.  But clearly not in the Ribera/Castillo y Leon or a wine of this magnitude would not have been possible.  This to us is that ‘crossover wine’ that will give Bordeaux and Cabernet drinkers a whole new perspective.  Killer juice here, this wine just arrived and, while this has not been reviewed, this series has averaged 95 in Wine Advocate over the last several vintages.  This is definitely one of the best versions of the V.S..

Spanish Immersion, Part Three: Jumilla Value ‘Home Run’

When we first started getting serious with Spanish wines in the mid-’90s, we learned a lot about the areas that previously had little presence in the U.S. market.  These places in the warm climes of southeastern Spain were new to us, and Casa Castillo was one of the definitive wines from the then-unknown (to us) region of Jumilla.  Their property looked a lot like the southern Rhône, with gnarly old vines sitting in a chalky soil, the vineyard covered in stones. Like most of the Jumilla producers we tasted back then and have come to know since, this bodega (what the Spaniards call a winery) had a gutsy, well-priced value wine that was impressive for its substance.  Casa Castillo has impressed ever since.  Even in Spain, it is hard to find something this compelling for this kind of price.

While their “Las Gravas” reserve offering gets plenty of media attention these days, it is the Casa Castillo Monastrell Jumilla 2016, essentially their everyday red, that moved us to write this piece.  There are two factors in play here.  Casa Castillo, the amazing little estate, is one of them.  They have been for a while.   But the 2016 vintage touched this part of the world in a way that made this wine even more impressive than usual (see also Piedmont, the Southern Rhone, etc.).

There is ample ripeness and a surprising poise to this wine that typifies the kind of work this producer does.  But as we have found with so many of the 2016s, there is a lift to the flavors and a tenderness and polish to the palate.  Simply put, we have been tasting Casa Castillo wines for a long time and this one just seems to have another gear over and above the long line of quality predecessors.  When you consider that this is an $11 wine, it was hard to believe what was in our glass.

The Casa Castillo Monastrell Jumilla 2016, not surprisingly, is predominantly Monastrell (the local name for Mourvedre), which performs in this region like nowhere else, along with an 8% blend of Garnacha and Syrah.  It is fermented with native yeasts and sees 8-9 months in neutral barrels.  The flavors run from dark berry and cassis with flecks of earth, stone, chocolate, wild herbs and a nicely proportioned ‘rotie’ character that is quite subtle in this version.

Luis Gutierrez of Wine Advocate was a fan as well, “…from a more continental, cooler and dry vintage. …Juicy, primary, incredibly fresh and with a vertical palate, longer than wider, like a hypothetical blend of 2013 and 2015, cool but dry. This is always a great value, even more so in 2016….91+ points”.

Amen to that.  Stylish and ample, even as consistently surprising as this little Monastrell has been for the money over the years, the 2016 stands alone.

 

Spanish Immersion, Part Dos: Ravishing Rioja

It is pretty easy to buy Spanish wines ‘by the numbers’ these days.  There seems to be no end to the parade of well-priced, aged reds from places like Rioja that are getting great notes from the media, and deservedly so.  But every once in a while one comes along that is so accommodating and delicious that reviews aren’t really a factor.  Simply put, we have an outstanding selection of Spanish wines that fall into that big score, little price category already.  We didn’t need this one, but bought it anyway with an eye to our own consumption.

The Lealtanza Rioja Gran Reserva 2010, is, by classic Riojano definition, the top traditional bottling from this house.  What impressed here, besides the obvious depth of quality to the fruit as expected from a gran reserva in one of Rioja’s benchmark vintages, was the plush, ample, velvety palate feel that was a cut above the crowd even for this typically crowd-pleasing genre.

The wine is packed with cassis, black raspberry and other dark berry fruit laced with cocoa, spice, a hint of pepper and a whiff of tobacco, all served on a bed of nicely ripe, mellow tannins.  But what really sets it apart is its fleshy sweetness on the palate, engaging roundness, and soft core of fruit as it rolls across your tongue.  Yes, Riojas aim to please.  But this wine simply does it a bit better.  The reviews will likely come.  We haven’t seen any yet.  But in truth, we’re already pretty smitten with this one.  Deliciousness trumps everything.  As Gran Reservas go, it’s pretty attractively priced as well ($22.98).  All the better.

 

Spanish Immersion, Part One: Alluring Albariño

Given how much enthusiasm we have shown for the white wines from this part of the world in 2016, it should not surprise anyone that it is a very good year for Spain’s West Coast and it’s classically styled Albariños.  Palacio de Fefiñanes has been one of the blue chips from the area, as well as a personal favorite, and the 2016 is quite the beauty.

We’ve been working with Albariños in general for probably two decades or more and have seen all kinds of incarnations…aged ones, barrel fermented ones, etc.  To us, Albariño is best served naked with all of the freshness, subtle tropical fruit, pear, tangerine and hint of honey flavor profile, great tension between the high-pitched fruit and the bright acidity, and that whiff of the sea and hint of salinity to the finish.  Any other aspect that man introduces gets in the way of that core personality.  Keeping it simple allows the wine to shine and deliver mouth-watering sip after sip that plays beautifully with seafood or merely as an eminently quaffable beverage on a warm afternoon.

Of course, as we have discussed many times, when a wine is served naked, you have to live with whatever Mother Nature gives you.  Albariño, in a way resembles Viognier, though it is a much crisper beverage.  If it is too ripe, it lacks the zing that makes it such a lively quaff.  Without enough ripeness you’ve basically got a lean, acidic wine.  Fefiñanes is usually one of the consistent stars of the region year in and year out.  But like everyone else, they can only work with what they were given, which is usually pretty good.

In 2016, Nature was very good to them.  The Palacio de Fefinanes Albarino Rias Baixas 2016 strikes the perfect balance with a certain tenderness to the expressive fruit, enough mouthfeel to engage the palate, and then the perfect cut of refined acidity.  Fefiñanes is usually a ‘go-to’ in good vintages but this effort is a cut above and  reminds us fondly of some of those brilliant efforts from this region in the last benchmark vintage, 2010.

RAUL PEREZ ULTREIA 2016-ANOTHER SUPER VALUE EFFORT

We’ve been telling the Raul Perez story for a while now.  If you haven’t heard it, think of it as one of those ‘local guy makes good’ as long as that locale is northwestern Spain.  The Raul Perez ‘legend’ has grown over the years and, thanks to some ‘market changes’, the prices have come down a bit.  Meanwhile Raul is making some of the best wines he has ever made.  If it all sounds like a pretty advantageous situation for consumers, it is!

While his portfolio is chock full of stunning examples made from the native grape of Bierzo, Mencia, some difficult to tell apart because the label nomenclature is so similar, we have chosen to focus on his entry-level bottling called Ultreia.  Why?  Well it might be one of the most amazing red wine values in Spain, if not the world.

Raul has been working at a high level for quite a while now and certainly the raw materials play a part in the wine’s success. The Mencia grapes for this cuvee are grown in clay soils in the village of Valtuille de Abajo and were harvested from vines that were planted between 1900 and 1940. The Raul Perez Bierzo Ultreia St. Jacques 2015, which we sold last year, was the wine that gave Raul a spotlight like none of his previous, brilliant efforts ever had.

The 2015 vintage was perfect for Raul’s style. The flavors ranged from ripe cranberry to dark cherry. Weight-wise this Mencia plays like a hefty Pinot from the Santa Lucia Highlands flavor-wise, but with more florality to the nose, more lift and freshness to the palate, and striking harmony. Sometimes Mencia can be a little inward and unyielding at first, but there is none of that here! This is a beautifully proportioned and surprisingly sophisticated red for the fare.

It got plenty of attention from the critics including 93 points from Luis Gutierrez of Wine Advocate with comments, “…The 2015 Ultreia St Jacques …is amazingly good for the price. Produced from old vines, this is a serious wine, with juicy fruit, a fine palate and good freshness…”.  James Suckling tossed a 91 on that ’15 saying, ” …Cherry and floral accents sing through the finish. Energetic…”

We finished our comments on that at the time by saying, “We are sure there are more reviews to come but we suspect they will arrive a little late.”  Sure enough, the Wine Spectator came along and not only gave it a 91 point score but included it in the Wine Spectator Top 100 (#51) for 2017.

We’re reminding you of all of that to tell you this.  The Raul Perez Bierzo Ultreia St. Jacques 2016 just hit the floor and it is another striking effort.  Plenty of explosive red and black fruits in the mid-palate, maybe a touch less fleshy at the moment but with tremendous drive through the back palate, this is quite aristocratic for something in this price range.    We’re finding that 2016 is making its own mark in Spain as a vintage.

Once again the wine features mostly Mencia, with touches of other indigenous varietals Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet).  This wine was done via 80% whole cluster fermentation in large oak vats then aged in a variety of vessels from 225L and 500L barrels to upright vats to cement. It is bottled unfiltered and unfined.  Expressive and attention-getting, with a slightly cooler edge, it is once again an incredibly impressive beverage for a modest fare comfortably under $20 ($17.98).

We haven’t seen any press yet (3/12/2018) but given the performance here, and Raul’s recent track record, we are pretty confident there will be plenty.  We love the stuff.  Meanwhile we have ours, get yours.

The Ribera’s Ravishing ‘Rogue’

One thinks typically of the Ribera del Duero as a more ‘serious’, what with the neighborhood harboring such heavyweights as Vega Sicilia, Hacienda del Monasterio, Pingus, and Pesquera.   The term ‘Picaro’, the brainchild of Dominio di Aguila, refers to someone who is a rascal, or a rogue.  The question posed by Picaro is, can a Ribera be, well, fun?  The answer apparently is…yes!

Dominio del Aguila Picaro Ribera del Duero 2015 definitely operates outside the box for an area like the Ribera.  Sure you’ve got your Tempranillo here, the backbone grape of the region, but Aguila co-ferments it with an unusual mixture of Garnacha, Bobal (a grape we associate with climes further south), and Albillo (the rare, indigenous white of the Ribera).  So what do you get?  Well, let’s call it a rogue within the typical confines of the region, but more accurately it is Ribera with its ‘party hat’ on.

There’s plenty of richness here, but there is also a lift to the flavors that is unlike anything else we have tasted from the area.  Gushing berry and cassis flavors but also a streak that is like a marinated black cherry to let you know that this is no ordinary Ribera.

The winemaking is more than serious with the vine age here somewhere north of 50-years-old, farmed organically/biodynamically, trodden by foot before being put in French oak for malo-lactic fermentation and a sojourn of 12-20 months in wood (though there is no obvious wood in the flavors).  The vineyards here are north-facing, which give the wine a little cooler profile to begin with.  It all sounds formal enough yet the wine’s wild fruit notes, more lifted personality, and outgoing spiciness can only be described as tasty and, yes, fun.

Jorge Monzon and Elizabeth Rodero founded the winery only in 2010 after Jorge spent years selling his produce to ‘several high profile neighbors’.  They have definitely separated themselves from the pack in a very good way and we can only marvel at their successful new approach and how Aguila takes such a stylistic diversion and makes you wonder why more people haven’t done this.

We aren’t the only fans either.  This juicy, unique red got high marks from two very different palates, James Suckling (95 points) and Advocate’s Luis Gutierrez (92+ points).  Suckling’s words were concise, if jubilant, “This has impressive fragrance and aromatic detailing with bright cherry and red plum fruits, cinnamon and sappy notes. The palate has vivid fleshy fruit that floats amid filigree tannins, anchoring it precisely in place. A great wine.”

Among Luis’ extensive comments, “…This is a fresh interpretation of 2015. I wish more Crianzas from Ribera del Duero had this joviality and approachability while keeping the balance and the serious quality profile.”   Sadly, there isn’t enough of the  2015 to have too much market impact as yet.  Get yours while you can.

They make a very cool ‘rogue’ rosé as well called Dominio di Aguila Picaro Clarete 2014 as well, intended to be released with bottle age.  A blend of red and white wine (rather than a saignee), this is an attention getter.

 

THE NEXT RIOJA ‘LEGEND’

How do you follow up a legend?  The Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001 was one of the highest volume wines in our 35-year history, it got a 97-point score from Decanter Magazine as well as being named their Wine-of-the-Year for 2013.   What the press did was create a scenario where exponentially more people tried the wine and, subsequently, bought It on a regular basis.  On top of that, we had been selling Faustino’s Gran Reserva consistently since the 1994 vintage, pretty much when no one heard of it.  The 2001 vintage was an outstanding one in Rioja, and the wine already had more than a decade of bottle age on it when we started to sell it.  It was the perfect storm.

The funny thing is that it almost seemed like we were the only ones buying it (as well as a cadre of older library vintages) as we were able to continually restock the wine for nearly four years!  Given the accolades, bottle age, price, etc., how were there not others involved?  In any case, as happens with wine, all good things come to an end.  We are well aware that any time a current wine has to compete for attention with a ‘memory’, it is at a disadvantage.  Still, knowing that, we’re going to tell all of the folks that have been buying Faustino over the years from us, and all of you who just discovered this stylish Rioja with the 2001, the new release 2005 Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva is the next up in this series.

The story is relatively straightforward.  After selling so many of the prior vintages, and silly amounts of the 2001, we were presented with the option of buying either the 2004 or 2005 (both outstanding vintages) as the follow-up to the 2001 campaign.  We’ll tell you up front that the 2004 got a 94 from James Suckling and a 90 from Luis Gutierrez, and the 2005 got 93s from both Wine Spectator and Decanter Magazine.  Side by side it was an easy call for us.  The Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 had more structure and power, plenty of palate authority as 10+-year-old reds go, and a classic Rioja profile of cassis, red fruits, spice, earth, vanilla and some fresh herb undercurrents.

The Spectator verbiage paints a pretty clear picture as well, “Fresh and lively, this red shows bright fruit and spice flavors, with cherry, berry, vanilla and anise notes that mingle over light tannins and orange peel acidity. Harmonious and graceful, expressive and alluring…93 points.”

That whole ‘graceful, expressive, and alluring’ thing is what Rioja is about, and has been a big part of our love affair with Faustino over the years.  We aren’t going to tell you that this wine is just like the 2001.  The vintages are different, the profiles accordingly different, but the 2005 is the next delicious episode of a Faustino saga that has had more versions here than there have been Star Wars films.  Some of you will like the 2005 better, some of you equally as much and a few of you less so, but it is indeed at the same incredible level of quality as that legend 2001.

An aged, polished, complex, pop-and-serve-or-hold Rioja for under $30 never goes out of style and this lovely 2005 is simply the next up in a series that has provided a lot of pleasure over the last two decades.  Thanks to that 2001, a lot more folks have ‘seen the light’.  But for those of us that have had more than a dozen vintages, this classy 2005 simply steps into the program without a ripple.  It’s another example of what Faustino does on a regular basis.  Simply put, a wine with this kind of quality, bottle age, and at this kind of price, would seem an imperative for any cellar.  Great Rioja ages, but it never ‘gets old’.  You need some of this.

 

BRIEFS (OK, maybe not quite so brief this time)

*If you’ll recall some of our ranting a few months back about how spectacular the 2016 vintage was in the southern Rhone, and our subsequent sellout of one of the first examples to hits the market in the Pere Caboche Cotes du Rhone, here’s another early warning release.  The Delas Cotes du Rhone Saint Esprit has been a reliable go-to in solid vintage for a long time, but the 2016 version just pulled a 95 from Decanter Magazine and some rather enthusiastic prose for a wine that will set you back a mere $10 a bottle.  They said, “95 Points!  60% Syrah, 40% Grenache. Lovely rich opulent and floral, black berry and plum nose, the palate is big with well layered fruit, attractively firm but soft tannin and hints of oak, a big wine with a lovely finish.” (July, 2017) We say that’s a lot of Rhone for the d’argent.

One would be well advised to start stocking up on the ‘little’ wines as those will be the first to come and go from this very special vintage. Also in-house, as well as later restocks of the afore-mentioned Pere Caboche and Saint Prefert Cotes Du Rhone Clos Beatus Ille 2016, are notable efforts from serious ‘players’ like  Domaine de MarcouxDomaine Giraud Cotes du Rhone Les Sables d’Arene 2016and Mordoree Cotes Du Rhone La Dame Rousse 2016, all under $20.  The press hasn’t hit most of these yet, but they will.  Early bird and all of that…

*We had been warned ahead of time that a group of newer producers from the ancient region of Tierra de Castillo y Leon around Madrid were going to be the next big thing.  We’ve tasted several examples from this emerging, highly touted group in the past and had been left a little cold by wines that were perhaps a bit too introspective and frankly at times reduced and standoffish.  We kind of wondered what the fuss was.  But recently, maybe it was a ‘special day’, maybe this band of iconoclasts have turned the corner, or maybe it was just that whole 2015 vintage thing, but we found religion in a number of uniquely expressive Grenache-based wines we tasted.  You will be hearing about Daniel Landi’s Las Iruelas 2014, Commando G’s La Bruja de Rozas 2015, and, in particular, the Bodega Marañones 30.000 Maravedíes 2015.   Like we said, Grenache (Garnacha if you will) plays the starring role in each of these wines but in a way that is unique from anything else we have ever tasted.  The flavors lean a little more mulberry than your traditional kirsch profile of the southern Rhone, but they also have a purity, lift, and freshness that is indescribable within most people’s context of the varietal.  This is exciting, breakthrough stuff!

*Yeah, we know it’s January but the trio of delightful Gosset Champagnes arrived literally at the last minutes of the holiday and they deserve a word.  The  Gosset Grand Reserve Brut NV (WA 90, JS 92) is a ‘biscuity’ charmer when the lines are clean as they are in this cuvee and the Gosset Grand Rose Brut NV (WA 93) is consistent winner and one we usually grab whenever we see it.  The  Gosset Extra Brut Celebris 2002  (WA 95, VM 96) is not only a remarkable example of the top tier ‘extra brut’ genre but one of the few 2002s left in the marketplace.  Champagne ‘season’ lasts 365 days around here.

VALSACRO: RETURN OF AN OLD FRIEND

It seemed appropriate to say a word about how wine gets here.  The answer is, of course, any way we can do it depending on how good it is, which will determine how much trouble we are willing to go  to.  Sometimes we buy direct from the winery here, or on the open market in Europe, and bring it in ourselves.  With wines outside the U.S. there is usually an importer involved.  Some importing companies are large, corporate types, and some are ‘shoestring’ operations, with everything in between.  It is from this vast array of sources that we can put together a significant selection of wines to suit all manner of tastes.

Usually an importer will work through a purveyor within a given state because they like ‘boots on the ground’. In some states, they don’t have another choice.  There are instances where an importer’s portfolio is larger than their chosen purveyor can/will handle.  One of the importer’s options in California is to create their own alternative, more targeted sales format to offer items that his in-state purveyor is not working with.  On the plus side, we get to see a few other things that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to.   On the flip side, there isn’t a local ‘staging area’ for the wines.  So buys come via long range shipments of substantial quantities, or not at all since it isn’t practical to just get a case or two.  Such a system sometimes has huge benefits for us, and therefore you.  But continuity of the product over time often suffers.  Vinsacro Rioja is one of those stories.

It was nearly a decade ago we were first presented with Valsacro wines.  The ‘Valsacro’ Dioro 2001 was a particularly memorable, classy, hedonistic offering.  We saved a few bottles for ourselves and consumed them with gusto over the next couple of years.  It was a hard wine not to like, in an engaging, tender, fruit driven style.

Sadly, after that 2001, we didn’t see it any more. The importer Kysela Pere et Fils, was involved with a number of different purveyors over the next few years, something of a shakeout period in the wholesale market.   Kysela ‘changed horses’ a time or two, a couple of them closed). Valsacro (as we knew it before) never showed up at any of them.  Recently, the importer decided to reintroduce the wine to the marketplace on his own.  The winery had changed the name from ‘Valsacro’ to ‘Vinsacro’ (no idea why), but the beautifully textured blackberry/plum juice, and distinctive dusty spice notes caused the memories to come flooding back as soon as we tasted it.

Not only was the ‘Vinscro’ back, the bottling we were presented was from another spectacular vintage, 2010..  The Vinsacro Rioja Dioro 2010 is clearly a reserve level bottling even though the label doesn’t bear the ‘traditional’ wording.  In the glass it definitely shows its breeding with dense, plush red and black fruit, pronounced spice, tender edges and ripe tannins.  Supple and almost pandering in the mouth, it echoes the philosophy of Vinsacro’s winemaker that ‘wine is to enjoy’.

The vineyard consists of a 120 acre estate on the southern slope of Mount Yerga in the Rioja Baja near the border with Navarra. The Escudero family (who own Vinsacro) has owned this parcel for four generations. The soils here are poor, stony calcerous clay, perfect for grapes.  The vineyard is a century old and the grapes are planted to afield blend that the family refers to as ‘Vidau’.  The grapes are hand harvested  into small crates and  the Dioro goes through four separate steps in the selection process, ending up as a ‘best barrels’ cuvee.  The lead player in this Rioja is Tempranillo (50%), but there’s a good bit of ‘other’ as well (20% Garnacha, 10% Mazuelo, 10% Graciano, 5% Monastrell and 5% Bobal).  Tasting this was déjà vu in the best possible way.

Apparently Wine Advocate’s Luiz Gutierrez was as taken with the Dioro as we were, saying “The 2010 Vinsacro Dioro opens to an explosion of flowers and ripe blueberries that is very perfumed. It feels quite modern and aromatic with well-integrated oak and a luscious palate. This is produced from a field blend they call Vidau, which, in their case it is approximately 50% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo and a myriad of other grapes like Graciano and even Monastrell. The wine aged in brand new French oak barrels for 17 months, and it’s clearly a high-end wine with aspirations92 points.”

Aspirations, indeed!  That is the best part of our little reunion with Vinsacro.  Luis in Advocate shows a list price of $46.  Thanks to some sort of ‘market mechanics,’ we are able to offer this luscious Rioja for $ 17.98.  Given the wine and the price, rest assured we’ve got ours.  Seriously good, deliciously drinkable (surely the bottle age helped as well), you need some of this special juice for yourself .

 

 

Faustino Chronicles, Part Dos: The VII for $10

Over the years we have worked with a variety of wines from Faustino, mostly more than a dozen vintages of the Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva dating back to 1964 and library finds of older bottles of the Faustino V Rioja Reserva. For whatever reason we have had little exposure to their ‘popularly priced’ wines and haven’t been ‘grabbed’ in the few experiences that we have had with them…until now.  It is always dangerous to talk up an inexpensive wine too much because you don’t want to create unreasonable expectations so consider this the appropriate level of enthusiasm.

We aren’t going to tell you that the Faustino VII Rioja Tempranillo 2014 tastes like a $50 wine.  We aren’t going to bury you in superlatives like some sort of cheesy retailer’s email.  But we are going to make what we feel is the honest and salient point, this is darned good juice for what it costs.  If you want something polished, elegant, and appealing for under $10, this wine should be on your radar.

Our philosophy has always been that we wouldn’t recommend something to you we wouldn’t drink ourselves, and we actually have taken bottles of this home to do just that.  We appreciate a deal as much as you do and this wine delivers a lot for its modest tab.

Made from 100% Tempranillo, with a six month sojourn in American oak, it has all of the classic Rioja trappings of spice, damp earth and subtle toast notes wrapped around a plummy core of fruit.  It’s about the weight of a Pinot Noir but with more Old World fruit.  It showcases the surprising versatility of Rioja to not only compliment heartier fish, any fowl, or the ‘other white meat’, but can stand up to steak and lamb as well.  It’s a great house go-to at a ‘go-to’ kind of price.

Wine Spectator had some nice notes, “Cherry, licorice and fresh herb flavors mingle in this polished red. Light tannins and fresh acidity lend focus. Lively, modest and balanced. Drink now through 2019.”  Their ‘score’ was ‘modest’, too, but this isn’t the kind of wine that would stick out in a ‘taste-athon’ nor are numbers the point with a wine like this.  Rather it is something you can get comfortable with for its direct, honest, unmanipulated flavors, and angst-free fare.