While most people spend their vacations sitting on a beach, we take ours to wine country. This year brought us to the Basque country, Navarra and Rioja, some of the most incredible areas of Spain for food, wine and nature. We ate and drank our way through 12 days of travel, stopping at a few vineyards on the way. In the medieval town of La Guardia is one of the oldest cantina- Vinasperi. Their fields are 330-550 meters at sea level, which seems to be somewhat of the average around here. In fact, the Rioja DOC law states that in order for a vineyard to be considered Rioja it must be at least 280 meters above sea level. They have 10 hectares of clay and limestone soil, making around 50,000 bottles. All wines are 100% tempranillo and vines are trained as ‘alberello’ or little trees. Each of these tree-vines have three ‘sprouts’ coming out from the ground growing grapes that are usually low to the ground. Vinasperi’s vines are mainly between 40-90 years old, replanting only when necessary. They use a mix of old and new barrels for aging which are left underground in caves that are centuries old. These caves are extremely moisture driven and mold has grown not just all over the walls, floor and ceiling, but all around the barrels– making the sight of them not so appealing.
The Crianza 2009 is aged for 12 months in old barrels. Once the year has passed, they mix together all the wines from all the barrels in a cement tank and leave it to settle for four days. It is an unfiltered wine, which leaves a bit of residue on the bottom of the bottle. The color is a clear, ruby red with 13% alcohol. Smells are fresh and intense, fruity and clean. The cherry and strawberry fruits aren’t just ripe in smell but seem like a liquor, since the alcohol was so strong. Light, white spices, like white pepper, cloves and cardamom also fill our noses. The taste was dry with smooth tannins. It needs to age and settle in the bottle for a few years however, because the heat from the alcohol hits the back of you mouth and bites the gums.
The Riserva 2006 at 14% alcohol, is a darker and thicker color than the Crianza. First smells are that of caramel and vanilla. It is sweet and less intense; more elegant and has aromas of dark blueberries and sweet spices. On the palate it’s dry and less powerful. It ages in American oak barrels giving it light tannins balancing nicely with the alcohol. Personally, I think it would be great with food.
The Selection 2006 has 13% alcohol and this time they used old French barrels to age the wine. It is made only in good years from the oldest vines which are around 90 years old. The bouquet is intense and complex, offering vanilla, musk, mushroom, truffle, leather and dark flowers like viola. In the mouth it’s surprisingly light with a tart after taste. Rock or slate flavors show off most of all.