Spain (click on each name for more information)
Vinas del Jaro (Region: Ribera del Duero): From my research I knew that this estate was "very near" a "very prestigious" producer in the Ribera del Duero but, as it turns out, vineyards of the "other" producer are actually adjoining the Vinas del Jaro vineyards. These vineyards are of course in the "golden mile" of Ribera del Duero vineyards on a perfectly situated south facing hill which adds a huge amount of depth and complexity to their wines. While on one hand this estate does produce the traditional range of Spanish wines (Joven, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva), effectively all of the wines benefit from the overall "Grand Cru" location of where the estate is located. Within the estate, there is also a "single vineyard" site (Chafandin) that has quite a history as the 2003 "Reserva" wine sourced entirely from this parcel was awarded the "Champion Red Wine" prize in 2006 during the very prestigious London International Wine Challenge. The estate's Gran Reserva wine, Sed de Cana, is only made in truly exceptional years from a special selection of grapes from the same Chafandin parcel.
Cal Grau (Region: Priorat): Anyone who has ever visited the Priorat would wonder why anyone would be crazy enough to attempt to grow grapes there given the crazy quilt topography of almost vertical canyons between randomly occurring hills and rock outcroppings. But, when you taste the amazing Garnarcha and Carinena blends that are produced from the broken slate "licorella" terroir and have your taste buds filled with refreshing flavors and minerality, you will understand why wine is produced here. The Cal Grau vineyards also occupy a prime south facing site high in the hills just below the northern ridge which is the boundary between the Priorat and Monsant. Across the vineyard site are 26 parcels that are all vinified separately and then masterfully blended into the estate's two wines, Le Petite Agnes and Clos Badaceli.
Cingles Blaus (Region: Montsant): Cingles Blaus means "blue cliffs" in Catalan and describes the sheer cliffs of blue slate in the area which are a significant contributor to the full flavors of Montsant wines. The Cingles Blaus wines, of which I selected a white, a rose, a Joven, and a Reserva, show the talents of the winemaker in fully understanding the potential of the wonderful grapes grown in this terrain. The Cingles Blaus wines also share more of the characteristics of Priorat wines as they are from the north side of Montsant which is much more similar to the broken slate of the Priorat than the alluvial river valley that is on the south side of Montsant.
Las Moradas de San Martin (Region: Sierra de Gredos/DO Madrid): The vineyards of Las Moradas may be the largest single contiguous estate of old vine Garnacha vineyards in the Sierra de Gredos as the estate was assembled in the mid-1990s from 26 small parcels that had previously been abandoned. The estate is about two miles from San Martin de Valdeiglesias on the top of a "hill" (at an elevation of around 3,000 feet) with perfect sun exposure all day long (most Sierra de Gredos vineyards face east and only get morning sun). Across the estate there are vines ranging in age from 40 years to over 100 years old.
Garganta de Aguila (Region: Sierra de Gredos/DO Cebreros): In my search for authentic wines that express the heritage of a region, I have added a second Sierra de Gredos producer that is near Cebreros at the northern end of the Sierra de Gredos. This is even more wild and difficult to farm terrain that is also at around 3,000 feet of elevation and which consists of small parcels of 100 year old Garnacha vines. As with the central part of the Sierra de Gredos, the soils are decomposed granite which provide an exceptional depth and expression to old vine Garnacha.
Vinedos de Yaso (Region: Toro): The Toro region of Spain is part of Castilla y Leon, the vast part of Spain northwest of Madrid and which is bisected by the Duero River. Toro is also along the Duero River and is about 80 miles west of the heart of the Ribera del Duero and about 40 miles west of Valladolid. Aside from the waters of the Duero, this is also a very dry and harsh part of Spain with hot summers and cold winters. Those conditions have resulted in the reputation of Toro as being a producer of "big and bold" wines given the heat during the growing season. In my own search for interesting and expressive wines, however, I have found a very interesting producer in Yaso. Their skilled farming on over 20 parcels in the region with vines ranging from 15 years of age to over 120 years of age on a wide range of local soil types, results in wines of more nuance, balance, and expressiveness than the typical big and bold wines of the region.
Estevez Bodegas (Region: Bierzo): Although my main focus is to find the most authentic and expressive producers of native varietals all around Europe, I also have a strong respect for the heritage of each region and the commitment of families who have persevered to continue their viticultural activities. A supreme example of the latter is the mere existence of Bodegas Estevez over what is now four generations of twists and turns, along with unfortunately a long period of turmoil in Spain. Their full story is on their separate page but their great-grandfather Ramon had to immigrate to Brazil to find work but sent home his savings to maintain the family's vineyards. His son Antonio was forced to escape from Bierzo during the Spanish Civil War shortly before he would have been arrested and he then immigrated to Mexico. Antonio's son Helios, who even after also immigrating to Mexico to meet his exiled father, continued the family's ownership of its vineyards and he was also a prolific poet. The fourth generation which is led by Helios's son, Helio, along with his siblings Carlos, Nandy, and Laura, then made the decision around 20 years ago to transition from selling the grapes from their vineyards each year into making wine.
Bodegas Tampesta (Region: Leon): With my focus on native varietals in each country and region in Europe, it was fun to add both Prieto Picudo and Albarin to the portfolio from the region of Leon in Spain. The Leon wine region is about 200 miles north-northwest of Madrid within the vast region in Spain that is named Castilla y Leon. Bodegas Tampesta is also similar to the family run wineries that I work with all over Europe in that they have a strong dedication to maintaining the heritage of viticulture in their area and to produce very high quality and expressive wines from native varietals.
Abadia de Tortoreos (Region: Rias Baixas): The father and son team of Enrique and Jose Felix produce wines on micro-parcels in the Minho Valley that have been family owned for over 100 years. Their respect for their land also results in respecting the natural expression of their grapes in producing what is known and respected in the region as an Albarino de Autor - a pure and natural expression of Albarino. In addition to a 100 percent Albarino, I also selected a fun and authentic blend that includes Albarino and other native grapes of the area which are Treixadura and Loureiro. The vineyards are in Setados, a small area near As Neves in what is known as the Condado de Tea subzone, which is known for very minerally and precise wines.
Adegas Sameiras (Region: Ribeiro): The Romans first introduced viticulture in Ribeiro when they recognized the great conditions for growing wine grapes. The region's traditions then evolved with a wine industry based on small plots around each village and most of the wine being consumed locally. Antonio Cajide, the proprietor of Adegas Sameiras, is a superb example of such traditions and his skills and artistry are another example of why we focus only on producers with estate grown fruit. Antonio farms around 14 acres in total in seven parcels where the minerality is a mixture of granite and schist along with some amount of quartz.
Celler Arrufi (Region: Terra Alta):Terra Alta is an interesting region in the northeast of Spain in Catalonia. The region is not as well known as the adjacent regions of the Priorat or Montsant but for those in the know, the combination of its higher elevation (Terra Alta!) and its mix of clay, sandy soils, and limestone can result in very expressive wines. In my search for wines that the locals love to drink in each region, that led me to Celler Arrufi in Batea. Celler Arrufi is a family project of Esteve Arrufi (whose family has long had vineyards in the area), his wife Sol, and their two sons, Francesc and Esteve Jr. The project was founded on the principles organically certified vineyards, naturally fermented and minimal intervention wines, and also vegan wines and some wines with no added sulfites.
Ca N'Estruc (Region: Penedes): This estate has a very long history as it is still owned by the descendants of the original founder (who had the last name of Estruch) who first farmed on the property in 1574. Ca N'Estruc also has a spectacular setting for vineyards with a perfect south facing orientation and the dramatic mountain of Montserrat to the north which creates a great microclimate for sheltering the vineyards. The mountain protects the vineyards from cold winds from the north and moderates the overall temperatures throughout the growing season. The result is very fresh tasting and expressive wines that also benefit from the high minerality in the soils from limestone and gravel.
Enate (Region: Somontano): The Enate wines from Somontano in Aragon may appear to be a bit of an exception for me given the overall focus on native varietals in each region all through Europe but Somontano has an interesting history. Although there are still very small amounts of native varietals such as Moristel and Parraleta grown in the region, "French" varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay were introduced to the region by French vignerons in the late 18th century after their vineyards in France had been devastated by phylloxera. And so, with a long history of such varietals in the region, and their very interesting expressiveness in the foothills of the Pyrenees and the additional minerality added by such a location, I have added what my appear to be some "non-native" varietals from Somontano to the portfolio in addition to a delightful Tempranillo as well.
Ramon Reula (Region: Aragon): In my ongoing search to find interesting and different expressions of each grape varietal based on the terroir of each region I had an interesting "unexpected" find in the Unexpected Garnacha produced by the Ramon Reula family in Aragon. The Unexpected part of the name is based on their family's project to find very old abandoned parcels of vines throughout the region and each find is pretty much unexpected in the vast landscape of Aragon. In my initial tastings of wines from their family's project, all the wines I tasted were very expressive and well made but I decided to start with the Garnacha first and hopefully add more of their wines in the future.
Cuatro Rayas (Region: Rueda): Cuatro Rayas has been a long-time leader in improving viticulture and producing top quality wines in the Spanish region of Rueda. Although Spain in general is much better known for red wines, the traditional varietal in Rueda is the expressive and aromatic white grape Verdejo. Adding to the expressive characteristics of Verdejo is the geology in the region where there are significant deposits of both limestone and iron in the very stony and otherwise nutrient poor soils.
La Purisima (Region: Yecla): In my search for Monastrell, I found La Purisima. Is this an allegory, or a badly written sentence, or just another of my wUst jokes ever? But the wines from here are no joke as Yecla, in southeast Spain just slightly inland from Valencia, is known for its very expressive Monastrell grapes. For those not familiar with Monastrell, that is the Spanish name for Mourvedre that is better known as part of the "GSM" blends from the Southern Rhone. The Yecla Monastrells, however, have even more deeper flavors from the rocky soils and harsh growing conditions of the region (if there was a PETA-like organization focusing on grape vines, they would head first to Yecla!). La Purisima is also the "good guy" in town given that 60 percent of Yecla wine production is controlled by just two other producers. I've selected a very interesting range of five Monastrells from La Purisima to show the range of wines that can be made from this very wonderful grape.