Explorer Pack #5: Spain – West of Madrid

This month we begin our tour of Spain by focusing on the regions north and west of the city of Madrid. Beginning near the Atlantic ocean and continuing on to the relatively high elevation zones of Castilla y Leon, this portion of Spain features a variety of well sited vineyard locations which offer a combination of ripeness and freshness, generosity and balance. The ocean influenced D.O.’s of Rias Biaxas and Ribeiro excel at producing bright, aromatic whites while Rueda showcases the local white speciality, Verdejo. Bierzo is known for the perfumed, textured Mencia varietal, Sierra de Gredos is home to some of the wildest examples of Garnacha and Toro boasts its own unique expression of Tempranillo (Tinta de Toro). Our first collection of Spanish selections highlights producers who fashion unique expressions of their respective growing zones on a relatively small scale. As always the Explorer pack consists of a bottle each of the six wines below at $150 per set. 

2019 Raul Perez (Rias Biaxas)

Albarino “Atalier” 

The goal of Atalier is to demonstrate the potential of very old-vine Albarino from the Val do Salnes region. Three vineyards located less than one mile from the Atlantic Ocean are employed to create this work of Albarino art. These vines are roughly 150—160 years of age and appear more like trained trees than the plants we are accustomed to seeing in most wine growing areas. The 2019 Atalier features a round, light gold appearance and a nose of crushed seashell and green fruits (kiwi and pear). The palate shows just-ripe mango and pineapple along with tense acids which stop short of becoming overly aggressive – a positive attribute fostered by the wines ageing in large barrel.

2018 Luis Anxo Rodriguez Vasquez “Viña de Martín” (Ribeiro)

Blanco “Os Pasos”

Located just to the north of Rias Biaxas, the Ribeiro region has a long history of viticulture which today is focused mostly on the production of mineral driven whites based on the Treixadura varietal. Luis Anxo Rodriguez is situated in the western part of Ribiero and the Os Pasos bottling is comprised of 75% Treixadura along with complimentary portions of Albarino, Lado and Torrontes. The Treixadura provides a richness of texture, fleshy peach flavors and crushed stone characters. The Albarino and Lado add acidity and the floral nature of Torrontes complete this complex white.  

2018 Manuel Cantalapiedra (Castilla y Leon)

Blanco “Cantayano”

100% Verdejo sourced from three different parcels in the sandy soils of the Rueda region, the Cantayano bottling aptly illustrates the waxy texture and subtle herbaceous character of the varietal. Fermentation is carried out in stainless steel prior to 8 months of ageing in mostly steel with and a small amount of used French oak. This is a crisp white perfect for pairing with white fish or simply enjoyed alone. The Cantalapiedra family has been farming the land in this area for many generations and their experience and expertise is apparent in this textbook Verdejo. 

2018 Raul Perez (Bierzo)

Tinto “Ultreia Saint Jacques”

Produced mainly from the Mencia varietal, the Ultreia Saint Jacques is sourced from 80-100 year-old vines planted in the clay soils of Bierzo. Raul Perez ferments this bottling in large oak cask before transferring the wine to a combination of barrel and cement tank for further refinement. The resulting wine displays a bright aromatic profile of fresh herbs along with tangy, cherry fruit. Mencia is often compared to everything from Cabernet Franc to Pinot Noir, however, it is truly a unique red grape worth considering on its own.   

2019 Alfredo Maestro (Sierra de Gredos)

Tinto “El Marciano”

The Sierra de Gredos region has only become widely recognized as a prime source for Garnacha in the past 10-15 years. The wild, old vines of the area are capable of producing some of the most exotic and multi-layered examples of the widely planted varietal. Alfredo Maestro employs 50-90 year-old Garnacha vines from Sierra de Gredos at a location known for UFO sightings (hence the name “El Marciano” (Martian)). The wine is fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeast and is aged briefly in the same vessels. This is a spicy, powerful example of Grenache which features excellent freshness.

2018 Manuel Cantalapiedra (Castilla y Leon)

Tinto “Arenisca”

100% Tinta del Toro (Tempranillo) from a single, high elevation vineyard located in the village of Benialbo in Toro, Arenisca is a distinctly elegant take on the usually quite muscular Tinto de Toro. The Cantalapiedra family work with hand harvested fruit which is fermented in large vat and aged for 11 months in used small French oak. The resulting wine shows the floral side of Tempranillo along with a silky, fine texture. There is a pleasant ripeness present which is complimented by the wine’s crisp acidity.