Vinas del Jaro
From my research I knew that the vineyards of this estate were "very near" a "very prestigious" producer in the Ribera del Duero but, as it turns out, vineyards of the "other" producer (Vega Sicilia) are actually right next to the Vinas del Jaro vineyards. The rest of the neighborhood is pretty good too as Peter Sisseck's Hacienda Monasterio vineyards are on the other side of the Vinas de Jaro estate.
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.
In an era of "celebrity winemakers" and "designer wines" concocted for the known preferences of "prestigious wine critics" to get inflated rating scores, this estate also prefers to be very private and keep as low a profile as possible. In fact, the estate does not even list an address for its location or is there even a sign identifying the estate on the road where it is located. But, inside the property, it is all business. Alvaro, the estate manager and head winemaker, is my type of favorite wine maker as he walks around with mud and dust encrusted boots indicating how much time he spends in the vineyards.
Outside in the rolling undulations of the vineyards, Alvaro also knows the flavor characteristics of every block on the estate. Inside the cellar, his encyclopedic knowledge and precision are on display. Barrel tasting was a huge treat and very informative as in that setting Alvaro appeared to have the insight of a Grand Master chess player being able to see well into the future about how all the barrels were going to develop and what wines he could then make out of all the barrels.
What I saw in my opinion is winemaking at its finest which is respecting the grapes and understanding their potential. Each wine produced also feels like a natural extension of the vineyards where the grapes were grown without any additional "intervention" to affect flavor profiles. The end result across the range of wines are very delightful food friendly wines with great balance and which will be described in more detail in the wine descriptions below.
A map of the estate
Looking down to the Douro in early-May. Tempranillo buds late but matures early (temprano!)
Chafandin block starting to bud
Looking back up through the vineyards to the ridge
Many different types of fermentation tanks for single block vinification
My hosts, Alberto and Alvaro
Sembro is the "Joven" in their range of wines but it is essentially a rarity in that it is produced from a Grand Cru vineyard site. This is similar to top Burgundy producers who also may produce a "Bourgogne Rouge" but where a lot of the fruit is from the same producer's Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards.
The initial aromas are enticing with ripe cherries, rich dark plums, vanilla, and violets evolving into layers of flavors including tart cherries, red berries, and plums along with hints of cedar and cola. The wine is silky smooth across the palate with a medium to full mouthfeel and perfect balance between refreshing acidity and its smooth and slightly sweet tannins.
Food pairings are extensive and would include lamb chops, rack of lamb, filet mignon, New York steak, veal, venison, elk, duck, ahi tuna, blackened salmon, BBQ ribs, grilled chicken, grilled burgers, cassoulet, rich meat sauces, paella, jambalaya, serrano ham, Mexican food, sausages, bouillabaisse, lasagna, Portobello mushrooms, black beans, lentils, black olives, sheep and goat cheeses, and fruit desserts.
Jaros is essentially the "Crianza" in their range of wines but Vinas del Jaro prefers not to adhere to formulas and will vinifiy and mature every vintage differently. The estate's understanding of their own wines is also remarkable as although the Sembro had amazing complexity for a Joven, the Jaros definitely is more structured and provides more delightful nuances.
Initial aromas of vanilla, cherries, raspberry compote, and violets progress into flavors of vanilla, dark plums, cinnamon, and hints of tobacco. There is a very well balanced medium mouthfeel with an added richness from the silky tannins but by the finish the wine leaves a memory of being much more full-bodied.
Food pairings include filet mignon, short ribs, beef stew, leg of lamb, veal, duck, ahi tuna, grilled pork, any grilled meats with a chimichurri sauce, Mexican food, Indian food with tangy sauces such as with tamarind, and rich cheeses.
Chafandin is their "Reserva" and which is only sourced from a very small portion of the overall vineyards in the individual Chafandin block. The terrain in the block is also notable as it has similar convex contours to many of the Grand Cru parcels in Burgundy.
There is a very complex set of aromas including sweet smoke (from delicious sweetly smoked meats), caramel, violets, mild cherries, and blackberries. There are rich deep flavors of tart cherries, blueberries, blackberries, almonds, and a hint of mocha. The flavors are complemented by sweet silky tannins, perfect balance, and a medium mouthfeel. The entire combination of aromas and flavors is pretty amazing as every sip fills your senses with a delightful perfume along with a memorable finish having some port like hints.
The complex flavors then result in incredible versatility in food pairings which would include filet mignon, veal chops, veal stew, rack of lamb, salmon, swordfish, grilled shrimp and other grilled fish, fish stews, duck, venison, elk, pork shoulder, grilled chicken, sausages, charcuterie, paella, jambalaya, ratatouille, Mexican food, grilled vegetables, Asian vegetable dishes, creamy curries, sautéed mushrooms, and soft cheeses.
Sed de Cana 2014
Sed de Cana is the "Gran Reserva" of the estate and is only made in exceptional years. Grapes are exclusively from older vines in the Chafandin block and only perfect clusters are selected. The wine is matured in oak barrels for at least two years and then further matured in concrete eggs to provide even more concentrated flavors.
Aromas include dark cherries, violets, old roses, blackberries, and hints of tobacco, cedar, and rich balsamic notes. The concentrated deep flavors of dark cherries, plums, and blackberries are accompanied by refreshing minerality from the very deep roots of the older vines. This is another perfectly balanced wine but whose depth and complexity then results in a very long and memorable finish.
The richness and complexity results in impressive food pairings which include filet mignon, New York steak, Rib Eye, Roast Beef, short ribs, veal chops, rack of lamb, lamb chops, swordfish, duck, goose, elk, roast pork, roasted chicken, sausages, charcuterie, paella, jambalaya, grilled vegetables, Asian beef and pork dishes, and aged cheeses.