2003 Bollig-Lehnert Riesling ist zurück!

Summer rerun? Well maybe, but in the best way.  We actually ran this aged Bollig-Lehnert Riesling in an email nearly two years ago.  The importer apparently got another shot at this lovely aged Riesling recently and asked us if we were interested in more.  We said ‘jah’!  It would have been the subject of another email, but we simply don’t have enough for that.  We thought we’d leave a little note here for Riesling fans, along with the context of that piece we did before.

“Recently, there’s been a big push among German producers towards drier styles, presumably at the behest of the restaurant scene in Germany.  We could rail on about our opinion regarding the new dry ‘trocken’ Riesling movement, but suffice it to say we are not impressed with the direction things are taking.  German wines have been made a certain way for a long time for a reason.  The wines we are presenting today are perfect examples of why.

”Classic Rieslings with their zingy acidity beg for a little residual sugar to round things out, but they age beautifully.  As they age, they dry out a bit and take on more minerality and nuance as they reflect the site from which they were sourced.  The resulting wines have a charm, delicacy, and complexity that is unlike anything else.  We don’t run across fine aged Riesling in the marketplace all that often (remember that Schloss Schonborn Marcobrunn deal from a little ways back?).  But when we do, we pay attention.

“The Bollig-Lehnert Riesling Spatlese Dhroner Hofberger 2003 is a stunning example from what was one of the most controversial vintages in Germany in the last couple of decades.   A lot of people decided that 2003 was way too hot for Riesling.  They reputedly possessed lower acids that made them of questionable aging potential.  People in the know suggested that these wines would develop beautifully because of their high extract and concentration, supported by elevated tartaric acidity and fruit density.  In this case (and most of the others we have had the opportunity to taste) the latter folks were right.  This spätlese has hardly changed from its initial bottling with palate coating extract, high spätlese richness, brilliant clarity and palate freshness.  The fruit has settled down a bit as has the urgent sweetness, though this is still a classic spat.  This Hofberger doesn’t seem even 5 years old let alone 12 and the peach, citrus, cinnamon and slate nuances are delightful!”

At $14.98, it’s also a steal…

‘FRESH & EASY’ PORTUGUESE WHITES

We have followed Portuguese whites for some time.  Frankly for much of that period, they were little more than utilitarian.  They weren’t necessarily intended for great heights, so comparing them to ‘grand vin’ is kind of pointless.  They were, for the most part, simply ‘white and wet’.

Over the last half-dozen years or so, however, we have started to see some new faces that take their business more seriously.  They keep the wines clean and fresh.  They don’t over crop.  And the wines have fruit along with their brisk acidity.  Lately we find ourselves reaching for these a lot more often, and the newest versions of two of our favorites have hit the floor just in time.

The ‘official’ drink me by-the-sea wine of Portugal is called Vinho Verde, which translates into ‘green wine’.  These are intended to be consumed young and bright, but for the most part are not necessarily compelling.  A couple of years ago we discovered this producer, and have looked for this bottling every year since.  The Arca Nova Vinho Verde 2016  is a compelling go-to again, all of that crisp quaffability but also corresponding fruit and flavor interest that you don’t find in too many Vinho Verdes.

Dubbed one of the official Winex ‘house whites’, there’s texture to the lime/apple fruit and a feeling of substance to go along with the expected zing and delicate mineral notes.   Fermentation occurs at low temperatures in stainless steel vats, preserving the wine’s jump-out-of-the-glass verve and keeping a little CO2 in the mix to give it a little hint of spritz taking the whole experience up a couple of notches!  It’s a steal at this price so ‘don’t fear the deal’ and it zips nicely with the lighter fare of summer.  You may not know the grapes (Loureiro 50%, Arinto 40%, and Treixadura 10%), but this one performs in the glass where it matters.

Another of our old favorites, and arguably a wine whose earlier versions sent us the message that there was something going on in Portugal, is the Soalheiro Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2016The grape here is a bit more familiar (Alvarinho is what the Portuguese call Albariño), and Soalheiro can compete with Spain’s best versions. Yellow melon, lime, kiwi, a wisp of salinity, this is another superb performer with a bit more power and substance and, of course, plenty of sizzle.

A Wine Advocate 92 for Soalheiro (not bad for a ‘little’ Portuguese white), the descriptive notes ring true, “This shows all the hallmarks of Soalheiro, fresh, clean and lively. It is a pointed wine that seems a bit on the lean side, but it is very tightly wound, utterly gripping on the juicy finish and perfectly focused…Don’t drink it too cold—if you do, the power just takes over. If you like them crisp and dry, with that laser-like burst of acidity, this is an easy choice at a nice price.”

The Iberian Peninsula is rocking this summer with whites…

“Too sexy” Guidalberto 2015

On any given day.  That’s typically a sports related saying about how a game can have a decidedly different outcome from one day to the next.  The saying does have applications to wine, too, however.  In this era of the critic, a wine’s evaluation can have a lasting effect on the particular wine’s following.  We have made the point many times that critics are people, too.  They have good days and bad days, happy days and angry days.  Wines go through a constant evolution as well and last week’s so-so can be next week’s knockout.  Given people, wines, biodynamic calendars, barometric pressure, bottle variation, relativity, etc., etc., the whole process is pretty fluid.  Yet the score lives indefinitely.

That is our only explanation for this wine, the sexiest version of Sassicaisa’s Guidalberto we can recall, getting only 91 points.  The Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto Toscana 2015 is a fruit bomb with layered flavors of dark red fruits tinged with leather, anise, earth and spice.  It is big, broad and generous in thee mouth with an almost sappy palate feel and more richness on the palate than any Guidalberto we can recall.  Lush, layered, downright hedonistic for a Cabernet-based Italian red (it’s 60 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 % Merlot), this one impressed us right out of the gate.

Even more curious is that this one only garnered a couple of points better than the rather uninspiring 2014 (a difficult vintage in all fairness).  The words are encouraging enough from Wine Advocate, “The 2015 Guidalberto opens to a darkly saturated garnet hue. It shows similar concentration and power in terms of its aromatic delivery. Aromas are shapely and round with dark fruit nuances followed by leather, spice and dark tar…You feel the lush softness of the second grape as the wine glides smoothly over the palate. It takes on more weight in the glass.”  The conclusion? A little baffling.

Maybe this wine is too sexy for Bolgheri, but we certainly don’t see that as a flaw.  This is a pretty flashy, rather accessible, very delicious effort.  Sometimes we don’t agree with the critics.  This is one of those times.  We like this a lot.

There was another point in the Advocate article, “The 2015 vintage promises good things in Tuscany and this wine offers an informal sneak peek at what we can expect from the celebrated Tenuta San Guido vineyards in Bolgheri.”  No argument there, but this offers more than just a ‘sneak peek’….$39.98

SANCERRE’S ‘NEXT BIG THING’

Actually, the title may not be entirely ‘on point’.  In all fairness, Claude Riffault is already a big deal to fans of Sancerre.  The estate has been a consistent player producing captivating, true to type examples of the genre and getting big reviews.  What he hasn’t quite done yet is get to the upper tier price levels that it currently takes to buy labels like Vatan, Alphonse Mellot, and Paul Cotat.  However, there is little doubt that he can get there.  It wasn’t that long ago that Mellot’s wines sold for these kinds of prices (mid-$20 as opposed to around twice that now).   For now, these are still some of the best deals on elite quality Sancerre.

Riffault’s style focuses on purity, intense flavors, balance, and vineyard expression.  His last 2013s and 2015s pulled down tremendous reviews from Wine Advocate (among others) and, having tasted those two vintages ourselves, we can say without hesitation that the 2016s are right at that upper performance level.  Young Stephane Riffault has kicked up the quality here since taking the helm and has focused on more organic farming, an important point with regard to a genre like Sancerre where the wines rely on transparency.

The family owns 33 different (and quite small) plots on steep hillsides in four
different villages. Some are limestone while others are classic flint.  Everything is hand harvested and vinified by plot.  The results speak for themselves.  The Claude Riffault Sancerre Les Boucauds 2016 comes from steep slopes of Terres Blanches soils – marls and clays over Kimmeridgian limestone. Half Steel-aged, half neutral barrels, this one is broad in the mouth with a rounded profile of ripe grapefruit, yellow stone fruits, bright flavors and a tantalizing zing of acidity to the long finish.  The Boucauds has size and power on the attack but everything is perfectly proportioned. The last one (2015) was an Advocate 92, and this one is every bit of that.

The Claude Riffault Sancerre Les Chasseignes 2016 is a subtly-but-distinctively different take on the subject.  From shallow limestone soil and subsoil containing overlapping stones, also done in half steel and half neutral oak, this one is very Sancerre but more layered and nuanced with the flavors leaning more mineral.  A little less ‘pop’, a little more complexity, sort of the white wine version of the ‘iron fist in the velvet glove’.  Last year’s effort was a glowing 93 from Advocate and this little gem is a bit better in our minds.

To us this estate is importer John David Headrick’s ‘greatest hit and this young man is putting out some serious juice.  It’s only a matter of time before these command more serious d’argent (money).  If you love Sancerre (we do!), these are a must.

MORE PINK

There’s still plenty of summer left, not even counting the summer we have here in SoCal that can sometimes hang around until early November.  Thus, by virtually any definition, we are still in the throes of rosé season.  A brief word on that.  Our rosé section is pretty much set unless something amazing comes along.  Yet even being very selective about what we have brought in, and buying the smallest percentage of offerings since we got serious about pink wine some fifteen years back, we still have our largest and most varied selection ever.

In part, it’s because we like the 2016s a lot.  But it is largely because we were presented more pink wine than ever!  That is both good and bad.  It’s ‘good’ because the more great options you have, the better selection you can offer.  But, as we have lamented in the past, there are way too many people making rosé, and a lot of it is pretty ordinary and overpriced.  Sorting through all of that is our job.  Here are a couple of things we haven’t talked about before.

The La Bastide Blanche Rose Bandol 2016 is definitely a candidate for pink of the season.  Beyond the fact that it is an extremely well-priced for a Bandol and has a pretty glowing review from Vinous Media (92 points and some nice words), it is a textbook example of what makes Bandol unique and special.  You’ve got the inviting deeper salmon hue, a lovely nose of citrus, strawberry, and melon all happening at once with some mineral, and the intriguing muskiness to the nose that speaks the influence of Mourvedre (this is around 70% Mourvedre with the balance Grenache, Cinsault, and a splash of Clairette, a white grape that adds a little lift).

On the palate, the Bastide shows ample weight and refreshing cut, but there’s a coolness and somewhat cerebral nature to the flavors that juxtapose the fruit and florality.  Thinking man’s pink? Sure, it can play that role as well as just being a great drink if you just want that.

We had lots of success with the junior version of Puech Haut Rosé Prestige until the market absorbed it.  A consistent, well reviewed and rather ‘cost effective’ pink, if one couldn’t sell that one to wine drinkers they should consider a career change.  But while we were cruising around a large trade event not long ago, we came upon the Eric Solomon table and had the opportunity to taste their upper cuvee, the Puech-Haut Coteaux du Languedoc Rose Tete de Belier 2016Hello!  This one, side by side with the delicious Prestige showed another couple of gears.  More lifted and layered, even a bit ethereal as pinks go, this is classy juice.

The Mourvedre takes charge here, too, though playing with just Genache the Belier goes a little higher toned and stone fruit driven and has a touch of wild herbs.  Jeb Dunnuck in his Wine Advocate piece called it, “…one of the finest Rosés out there and will drink nicely over the coming year.” We agree with the first part and wouldn’t hesitate to have a little for next summer as Mourvedre based pinks do seem to have a little longevity.  There are those that insist that they aren’t even revved up until 18 months old.

Finally, Chidane rosé?  That was our reaction when we saw this pink from one of the Loire’s great Chenin masters, but this sneaky little charmer won the day.  A definite ‘all-geek’ selection, the Francois Chidaine Touraine Rose 2016 is a quirky blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Grolleau (a relatively arcane local grape) that comes off like a Sancerre rose.  Delicate cherry, a little tea, a definite tactile impression, high-toned minerality, and a nice cut to the finish, it is sedate and quite tasty.  In difficult vintages this wine probably wouldn’t work, but it’s a cool change-of-pace in this instance.

All three of these were farmed biodynamically.  Á votre santé.

 

ALLOCATIONS: A CONTINUATION

In our last ‘dribblings’ piece we talked about why allocations as a marketing strategy were created.  Essentially it started as a way to apportion in demand goods to a wide range of customers, as well as a way for the seller to control the distribution patterns of his wines.  Admittedly, the fact that wine is a unique product that cannot be replicated or reproduced creates some scenarios that most businesses do not face, though the wine industry (mostly wineries themselves) have gone beyond what would be enough to effectively deal with the problem of limited stock to supply overwhelming demand.

Many wineries have taken the position that they not only want to sell their juice, but also micro-manage who gets the opportunity to purchase said juice.  Why would someone care about that as long as the wine gets bought and paid for?  We are not the people to ask, and can generate volumes with stories of wineries going out of their way to control where every bottle goes.  But it is a fact of life in the wine business and has been for a long time, both among those who have those high-demand, limited items, and those who’d like to think they do.

We regularly see special offers from wineries that have been so effective in ‘allocating’ that they haven’t sold much of anything.  But that is a story for another time.

At the end of our last piece, we made reference to some of the new techniques wineries are using in their ‘allocations’.  Another term for it would be ‘bundling’.  Wineries that have a successful item or two that people clamor for every year on their mailing list are now adding other products to peoples ‘allocations’ with the tacit understanding that the consumer is expected to take the entire offering.  If they don’t, it may adversely alter the amounts they are offered on the future.

We’re sure some of you have been in situations where your allotment letter of a particular in-demand, high dollar Cabernet comes and you note that the winery has also blessed you with a few bottles of their new $45 Sauvignon Blanc that they will tell you is very special, too.  You may not even like Sauvignon Blanc, but if you care about the Cabernet, the winery figures you’ll pony up for the Sauv. Blanc as well.  This is an aggressive tactic that takes FOMO (fear of missing out) and uses it to shoehorn more items into the consumers ‘cart’.

Hey, it happens out in the trade to some extent as well, though it is on the wane because, these days, there is simply too much great wine out there for a single winery to get away with it for very long.  We hear from a lot of consumers who want to sell their multi-year verticals of the ‘other wines they had to buy’ in order to get the wines they really wanted.  We stopped playing those games with suppliers decades ago but understand that people get super passionate about certain wines and will put up with a lot of silliness to get them.

The winery knows that, too.   If the winery is hot enough, they’ll just figure if you don’t want to play, someone else will.  It seems to be accepted practice these days, particularly among some of the direct-to-consumer wine programs.  We think the days of such things might be numbered.  The power of the single critic to create an instant icon isn’t what it used to be in the ‘print’ days, prices have soared on such wines to greatly reduce the potential demand, and we seriously doubt the next generation would respond to this kind of nonsense anyway.

Still, for whatever reason, people who make wine seem to believe it is their birthright to decide who can buy their wine.  We’ll go out on a limb and say that as much as vintners will try and tell you they allocate because they want to ‘protect their brand’ and ‘insure the widest possible distribution’, there’s more than a little ego involved.  Plus vintners would be indignant if you suggested to them that this process might create some of the problems they seek to resolve.

A number of ‘cult’ California wines turn up at auction every year because people on the mailing list have created a nice little income supplement by reselling their allocations.  The wines have become too expensive for normal people to drink, but there are some people out there willing to pay ‘mad money’ to get some of these items.  So people on the ‘mailing list’ will continue to take their allocations because they don’t want to lose them, and simply resell some or all of it.  Allocating didn’t solve that problem, it prolongs it.

“Wine, like water, will often flow to the place it is destined to be.” 

You have likely heard about the ‘grey market’ in certain higher end European wines.  This market exists because of the allocation process.  We’ll illustrate how it works with a curious American example that happened years ago.  A certain sales manager of a famous California winery was bragging that he exported wines to 25 countries and was about to add a 26th.  He was going to send 3 cases of his highest demand reserve Cabernet to Lichtenstein.   Could he have sold them here in a nano-second?  Clearly.  Does anyone in Lichtenstein care about this wines?  He couldn’t answer, but was going to do it anyway so he could add another pin to his map.

Now to illustrate how the ‘grey market’ works, let’s use our Cabernet in Lichtenstein.  Obviously the three cases are not enough to stimulate international trade, but it is the reason and mechanics we want to show.  So let’s say the buyer in Lichtenstein has no idea what he is going to do with this big time California Cab, nor does he think he can sell it for enough to make it worth the effort.  He will look around the world and see who is willing to pay a premium and perhaps try to sell it all in one shot to some other market, maybe even back to America if the price is right.  The American winery guy still smugly has his 26th pin in the map, but it really didn’t accomplish anything.

Wine, like water, will often flow to the place it is destined to be.  Say some top notch Burgundy house has a relationship with a distributor in Switzerland, developed over the years because the winery felt it needed to be represented in that country among others.  If there is enough profit, or an easier transaction to sell Switzerland’s allocation out the ‘back door’ to another market, it will happen.  The winery intended for this wine to be in Switzerland for lord-knows-what reason, but the mechanics of the marketplace will often prevail.

The winery/domaine decided to allocate its wines in a certain way to various world markets to achieve some perceived marketing strategy and distribution.  Why?  Again, don’t know.  But the point is he isn’t balancing supply and demand appropriately if the wines are being resold to other markets.  So what did this ‘allocation’ do really?  Clearly one or more of those markets didn’t need all they were given…and what were they supposed to do with the wine?

It is one of the great mysteries why the wine industry spends so much time worrying about apportioning wines to entities who may not care at all about them.  But it seems to be ingrained in the system, and we don’t see that changing any time soon.  If you ever wonder why our California section is more moderate these days, far too many wineries make it way more difficult than it needs to be to simply get products we’d be interested in selling.  Thankfully there is enough great wine in the world that such things as ‘allocations,’ and other such gamesmanship, really don’t have the impact they used to because there are simply too many great choices, most of which don’t have some sort of ‘sales prevention’ agenda.

Something ‘old’ is something ‘new’ from CVNE

In today’s world, the search is to find something new and exciting.  This would absolutely qualify on the thrilling part…but it isn’t new.  As a matter of fact, it’s old.  We’ll explain.  A lot of you already know about the Cune Monople Blanco, something of a staple around here for the last few years and a crazy value white that has even graced the Wine Spectator Top 100.  They have been making this wine this way for more than four decades.  But this isn’t what we are talking about, though the 2016 is once again delicious in its own style.

What really got us excited was this new/old release called Cune Monopole Rioja Blanco Clásico 2014, the word ‘clásico’ being of particular importance. This is the reintroduction of a unique, ‘old school’ white produced prior to the 1980s.  Cune’s explanation of the story is pretty clear.

“From the early 20th century to the 70s, Monopole was a staple of homes and restaurants across Spain. It was one of CVNE’s main wines. Sadly, fashion turned against it, sales fell, and production in this style ceased in the 80s.  Fresh, fine, bone dry, this wine had the peculiarity and originality of having some barrel ageing with a percentage of Sherry wine, with written permission from the Rioja appellation. The Sherry added structure to the Rioja white, while they both integrated harmoniously in barrel and later in bottle.

A bottle of this old Monopole was searched for in the Haro winery’s cemetery. A solitary 1979 bottle appeared. The wine was savory, very fresh, balanced, delicious. On the spot, the decision was made: we would make this wine again, as it had been made historically.  We called Ezequiel Garcia, CVNE winemaker from the 40s until the 70s, to invite him back to help us produce that wine again. Ezequiel, aka ‘the wizard’ and now in his eighties, had no doubts and said ‘Yes’ straight away.

Monopole is the story of a remake, 40 years on; this time, with the original director as guest star. And this time, handmade and in small quantities, to best ignore the whims of fashion.  The wines’ aging contributes to its peculiar organoleptic characteristics, adding aromas of chamomile, dried fruits, and a long and persistent aftertaste. The marked acidity increases Monopole Clásico’s freshness.”

We loved this wine’s panache, with a nose of pear, grain, a whiff of salinity and the subtle, penetrating nuttiness of a fine, dry Sherry.  Plenty of personality up front, a nice cut of acidity in the back, and lots of complexity to contemplate in between, it kind of reminded us of a Lopez de Heredia Tondonia with the wine’s natural vigor playing off the nuttiness in an aged white.  The Monopole Clasico’s unique ‘recipe’ really delivers.

 Wine’s Advocate’s Luis Gutierrez seemed as dazzled by this new ‘old’ gem, and reviewed it before it was even bottled…not the usual practice with Spanish whites.

“I was thinking “I wish this wine went back to the more serious bottlings of 40 and 50 years ago…” when tasting the regular Monopole, and they showed me this 2014 Monopole Clásico, which is a wine to celebrate the centenary of the brand (registered in 1914) and it blew me away. They have produced this wine like it was done in the good old times, adding some Manzanilla Sherry (yes, yes, you read it correctly); they top up the Viura with Manzanilla purchased from the Hidalgo family of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Not only did they add the wine (Sherry), they purchased the wine in bota, so the wine is also aged in Sherry casks. It does have an amazing nose with notes of sea breeze, iodine and esparto grass. The palate is extremely tasty, but at the same time is light and fresh, with the acidity of Viura and the kick and pungency from Manzanilla. Awesome!… This will be bottled in a couple of months, but I couldn’t help reporting on it… Welcome back, Monopole!…91-93 points.

Awesome, indeed!  Luis was obviously stoked.  It is rare for him to have multiple exclamation points in an article.  So are we.  Even though it’s an ‘old’ style, it’s new to us, and very compelling.  One of the most exciting whites we’ve had in a while, and that is saying a lot.

 

 

HIGH VALLEY WHITES-PART ONE

Not a lot of 2016 whites have come across our paths yet, but it’s easy to be optimistic given what we have seen so far.  More specifically, those versatile whites from northeastern Italy are most promising.  One of the real go-tos around here over the last few years have been from Abbazia Di Novacella.  They are both high quality and won’t break the bank.  We have an admitted fondness for Kerner around here and the Abbazia Di Novacella Valle Isarco Kerner 2016 is a beauty.  Tender and pliant in the mid-palate with just the right touch of acidity, the delicate florality, faintly pear and pineapple fruit and refined palate are hard to resist and this one is food friendly with anything from a pasta primavera to a lighter handed fish dish to Vietnamese spring rolls.

Pinot Grigio had sadly become almost a cliché, and that’s unfortunate because the Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Grigio 2016 is an excellent example of what this varietal can be.  It has plenty of pear and apricot fruit, some richness and weight on the palate and the requisite brightness to the flavors.  This Pinot Grigio can play to a more sophisticated audience yet has the quaffability factor to please the casual cocktail crowd.

Bailly-Reverdy Sancerre Chavignol 2015

We have loved the flashy Sancerres and Pouilly Fumes from the 2015 vintage, and the Bailly-Reverdy Sancerre Chavignol 2015 is a fine example of why.  The best examples have a certain density and weight on the palate with both grapefruit and kiwi fruit notes vying for attention underscored by a persistent streak of minerality and a clean, well tucked-in slice of mouth watering acidity.  The Bailly-Reverdy Sancerre Chavignol 2015 is all of that and more.  Bailly-Reverdy has been a fairly recent discovery for us but their pure, clear expression of some of Sancerre’s best dirt (in Chavignol) definitely gets us going.  A combination of different chalk-clay soils (2/3 Marly soils and 1/3 Pebbly limestone). The vines are planted on steep slopes and that makes the work to be done in the vineyards very difficult.  But the results are special.

Yes, it’s another of our ‘we stole some Spanish wine’ stories. 

Just had another bottle of this and felt the need to retell the story…

We first ran across the Tahon de Tobelos Rioja Reserva 2009 at a tasting sponsored by a new importing entity that was establishing a beachhead here in SoCal with a new distributor.  This was one of the standouts in what was an intriguing lineup with a lot of labels we had not seen before, as well as a few we knew well that had been off the market for a while.  A short time later, the representative for the company came by to follow up after the tasting and, to our surprise, this label was already being discontinued.

Introductory closeout!

Hey, things can run a little hot in Spain.  We get that.  Apparently the breaking point was not related to this wine, but another one from the same ownership that was not ‘a fit’ for this importer.  Ties were broken and everyone went their own way.  We have always made a joke of such happenings as being ‘introductory closeouts’.  But, as silly as that sounds, this is exactly that.  Hey, whatever makes the deal possible, and this one’s a beauty.

So who are these guys?  We found a piece from the Wine Advocate’s Luis Gutierrez on Tahon de Tobelos that encapsulates the story nicely, “I was pleasantly surprised by the wines from Tobelos, which are sought after by savvy drinkers in the famous tapas street, Calle Laurel in Logrono, (the capital city of Rioja) as they represent very good value. The winery is a very young operation, only created in 2001, their goal being to blend tradition and modernity. Today they own 10 hectares of vineyards averaging 30 years of age in the villages of San Vicente de la Sonsierra and Brinas…This is a new name to follow.”

That piece was written in December 2013, along with an enthusiastic review of the Tahon de Tobelos Rioja Reserva 2009“The 2009 Tahon de Tobelos is pure Tempranillo from vineyards averaging 60 years of age with malolactic and aging for 14 months in new oak barrels of different origin, which is racked every four months, and is clearly an ambitious wine with the intensity and depth of the old vines. It’s still very young, with a big imprint from the aging in oak with notes of smoke, vanilla and chocolate covering the aromas of ripe blackberries and plums, with a meaty palate and some gritty tannins that should resolve with a couple of years in bottle. A clean, powerful Rioja that requires a bit of patience. Drink 2015-2020. 92 points.”

As we dug some more, we found a more recent review from Wine Spectator, a web-only review from 2016.  They liked it, too, commenting, “This bold red delivers blackberry, currant, cola and chocolate flavors, with light leafy and licorice notes that add a savory element. This is round but not heavy, with well-integrated tannins and balsamic acidity. Drink now through 2019. “ They laid a 93-point score on it and showed a retail of $37.

It was one of the highest-scored Riojas of the vintage, going toe-to-toe with, as you can see, the region’s best wines and the wine had, at the time, one of the lowest prices at that $37 retail vis-à-vis its pricier peers.

Now? Wow…

It is clear from the heavy bottle, long cork and intense flavor that this juice was not intended to sell for this kind of price.  This is big Rioja, with mouthfilling, oak-infused fruit and richness, sort of a modern-styled Senorio de San Vincente meets Muga Reserva.  It has the size, weight, and flashy fruit to play to fans of New World reds but the polish and flair to keep Rioja fans quite happy.

You’ll note we’re in the prime drinking window of both reviews (and we suspect it will live past 2020), so the ‘market’ has done the hard work for you.  Most important, due to this aforementioned disagreement, we have it at a crazy good price.  Looks can be deceiving, and this wine looks and tastes more expensive.  It was supposed to be.  But nobody has to know it only cost you $19.98.  It’ll be our little secret.