Reveling in Rioja

Recently, I had the pleasure of going on a Rioja DOCa Trade Tour, sponsored by the Consejo Regulador— the control board governing the wine region of Rioja, first established in 1925. Along with seven others, I was taken to some of the most well known Bodegas of the region, as well as some more off the beaten path. I learned a lot about Rioja, both the wines and the region. Not to be confused with the political region of La Rioja, the wine region of Rioja crosses political boundaries, with some of its bodegas and vineyards falling in the Basque country and Navarre. Made up of three subregions, Rioja consists of Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alavesa. The climates are remarkably different, ... Read More »

Ameztoi “Kirkilla”

When you travel to Basque country and enjoy a glass of Txakoli at the bar, it feels like a truly authentic experience: you're drinking the "real" wine of the locals. And it's true! Txakoli's a delicious and local treat you're unlikely to find just one or two towns over in, say, Santander or Biarritz. But that Txakoli is actually a modern invention made possible by mechanical farming and steel tanks. It's different from what the locals drank even a generation or two ago. What were the wines like back then? Well, now you can find out, thanks to our friends at Ameztoi (the growers behind perennial Rosé fave, "Rubentis"). For the first time, Ameztoi has exported a super-old-fashioned Txakoli, ... Read More »

“New” Releases from López de Heredia

I couldn’t ask for a better producer to write about as my last contribution to the Flatiron Wine & Spirits blog. Not just because López is one of my favorite wineries in the world, but also because these wines are a celebration of something I am currently confronting: the limitations of time. Maria José López de Heredia is quoted often saying that she wishes she could freeze time. Today, though I’m excited about a new beginning in Chicago, I find myself also sharing her wish. I'm sad to be leaving New York. We know the wines of Bodegas López de Heredia are more than a benchmark in Rioja. Few bodegas have escaped the forces that have reshaped Rioja. López is the exception. While ... Read More »

The Future of Rioja Blanco: The Wines of Bodegas Honorio Rubio

When most of us taste white Rioja we taste (and talk and think about!) history. The golden age of traditional white Rioja is in the past. Only the staunchest traditionalists (Lopez!) still take the category seriously, and tasting their wines is like traveling back in time. But when Honorio Rubio tasted Rioja Blanco what he saw was future full of possibilities. Viura is the backbone of white Rioja. A slew of other, flashier, “more fashionable” varieties are now accepted, but Viura maintains its place at the helm in most blends. The problem is that conventionally made wines from this thick-skinned grape can oxidize easily. That was the challenge Honorio set out to face when he committed ... Read More »

Terroir Beyond the Bodega: Hidalgo-La Gitana Manzanilla Pasada “Pastrana”

One of the largest factors that sets Sherry apart from almost all other wines is the idea that “terroir” is imparted from the bodega as the sherry ages, and less so from the vineyards. Most Capataz, or “Cellar Masters,” in Sherry country have little or nothing to do with the wine until it arrives at the bodega. However, there are number of exception to this general rule, on of the most notable being the wines of Hidalgo-La Gitana. Hidalgo is one of the few remaining family-run bodegas in Sherry country, and for generations they have been producing very traditionally with a focus on single solera bottlings. Even more unique is their ownership of vineyards located in close proximity ... Read More »

Hidalgo Manzanilla Pasada “Pastrana”: Terroir Beyond the Bodega

One of the largest factors that sets Sherry apart from almost all other wines is the idea that “terroir” is imparted on the wine from inside the bodega, not the vineyard. Most Capataz, or “Cellar Masters,” in Sherry country have little or nothing to do with the wine until it arrives at the bodega. However, as is often the case in the land of Sherry, there is an exception to the rules: the wines of Hidalgo-La Gitana. As one of the few remaining family-run bodegas in the region, the Hidalgo clan enjoys the freedom of making wines as they please. For generations this has meant: wines produced traditionally with a special focus on single solera bottlings. But, in my opinion, what ... Read More »