Author:  M.A. de la Mata


NV Cava Demi-sec, Don Cesario, Rueda ($??). I purchased this wine in a store near the 2,000 year-old aqueduct of Segovia, and out pure curiosity (of course it became a "Bus Wine"). It is made with 100% Verdejo in the Rueda region. I have never seen a Sparkling made from Verdejo before, so I did it! Much to my surprise, it was a superb Sparkling with concentrated nutty flavors and not a whole lot of residual sugar as the name may suggest. I wonder how much drier is the "seco" version of this wine. The Verdejo, a grape known for its nutty character, shows very well in this wine adding depth and ahh! to the wine. The acidity is good and the finish medium-long. What a discovery!

NV Cava Brut, Mascaro, Penedes ($9.99).  Parellada, Xare-lo.  Methode Champenoise.  A full throttle Sparkling with concentrated layers of lemon, toasty cashews and fruity nuances of melon.  Very fine bubbles and a long finish.  Dry and crisp like good Sparkling should be.  Rabbit, caviar, seafood

NV Cava Brut, Louis Vernier, Spain ($6.99).  Xare-lo, Parellada, Macabeo.  Methode Champenoise.  Very light an uncomplicated, subtle flavors with a slight hint of rusted iron in the finish, a common flaw in many inexpensive sparkling wines.  Shrimp.

NV Cava, Sumarroca, Penedes ($9.99)(9/97). Parellada & Xare-lo, Methose Champenoise. Nice aromas of citrus, although on the light side. Fine constant bubbling, pale strw-greenish tone. Light palate with correct sparkling feel, citrus and toasty cashew. Short finish with a bit of bitterness, but likely due to the cheese accompanying the wine. R.


1973 Gran Reserva Blanco Vina Tondonia, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja ($57.99)(8/97).  70% Viura, 30% Malvasia, 5 yrs. American oak, 18-27 yr.-old barrels, 12.0% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml, fill very-top-shoulder (VTS).  Not a very aromatic wine, at least initially, eventually developing into citrus and floral bouquet, with nuances of all-spice.  Palate-wise, this wine offered tears of honey, vanilla, cream, with a distinct lime note developing in a medium length finish.  It resembles Chave’s Hermitage Blanc, with less concentration, but more elegance, and balance.  It need another 12 years aging. O.

1985 Reserva Blanco Vina Tondonia, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja   ($19.99)(7/96).  Viura and Malvasia, 4 Yr. in American oak barrels, 2 Yr. In the bottle.  A profound and lasting wine.  Citrus aromas with apple, honey-vanilla accents.  It offers rich and concentrated floral and green apple flavors enhanced by nutty-honey and vanilla notes.  Very long finish, complex and layered.  Drink it by itself.  Its a meal in its own right.

1985 Reserva Vina Tondonia White, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja ($20.99)(Revisited)(9/97). Viura and Malvasia, 4 years in American oak, 2 yrs. in the bottle, 12.5% Alc. by Vol, 750 ml bt. Figs and nuts are quite evident in the aromas with the prevalent elegant oak of Riojas. Palate-wise, this wine resemble a lighter style of Hermitage, although the region is different, the grapes are different, and the price is about 2/3 lower. Creamy, spicy and floral notes with nice acidity and ephemeral character. Very long finish. Could be mistaken for a red if tasted truly blind. Beef, lamb, hearty soups, heavy cheeses. VHR.

1986 Reserva White Vina Tondonia, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja ($??). A complex and long lasting white made with Viura and Malvasia in the old Rioja Style. A wonderful creamy and spicy bouquet welcomes you to the glass of this wine. Following are nutmeg, vanilla and ripe pear flavors that finish with an expansive toffee impression.

1987 Crianza Vina Real Blanco, CUNE, Rioja. This was one perfumed and delightful white Rioja. It was complex and full of floral aromatics which lead to a well balanced and complex palate of jasmine and citrus flavors. Do it if you can find it!

1988 Crianza Blanco Vina Gravonia, Lopez de Heredia ($14.99).  Viura, 2 Yr. in American oak, 1 yr. In the bottle.  Citrus and lemon rind aromas with hints of honey and dry figs.  Beautiful overall complexity and long finish.  Fish, gazpacho, salads.

1990 Crianza White Marques de Murrieta, Rioja ($??). A delicious Rioja white with complex anise and papaya flavors intermingled with the vanilla flavors that result from 2 years in oak. Try it with seafood paella and fetuccini Alfredo.

1994 Castillo de San Diego (100% Palomino Fino), Antonio Barbadillo, Jerez. Made from Palomino Fino, the Xerez grape. It is nutty and with added flavors of anise , figs and fresh apple. Serve very cold.

1995 Cosecha Blanco, Bodegas Riojanas, Rioja ($??). Clean and crisp with generous white fruit flavors and a minty finish. Made from 85% Viura, 10% Malvasia and 5% Verdejo. The finish is fruity, nutty and a bit sweet, although the wine has undergone full fermentation. Try this with clam chowder or broccoli cream soup.

1995 Colegiata Malvasia, Bodegas Farina, Toro ($9.99)(5/96).  100% Malvasia, no wood aging.  This is a fine and refreshing white wine from a region none other than Toro, which historically produces some of the strongest red wines in Spain.  This white wine is clean, fruity and complex with a nice round finish.  It should accompany shellfish and fish in general very well, as well as grilled chicken and lighter pasta dishes.  R.

1996 Colegiata Malvasia, Bodegas Farina, Toro ($9.99)(6/97).  100% Malvasia, no wood aging.  Another fine and well made white from the Farina winery.  It offers more concentration than the 1995 release, wiht generous fruit and floral hints, nice roundness, and very plesant long finish.  Seafood, pasta, and salads. HR.

1996 Albarinho, Al Laxas, Rias Baixas, Spain ($17.99)(7/97).  100% Albarinho, no wood, 11% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  This is a delicious and fresh 100% Alvarinho wine from the other side of the border, Spain.  It has very elegant fruit and roundness with a good palate weight, and very pretty and long finish.  Very unique and rare since most Spanish Alvarinho, in most US markets, is excessively old and nearly over the hill.  Seafood, soups. VHR.

1996 Moscatel, Ochoa, Navarra ($13.99/500 ml)(7/97).  100% Moscatel, no wood aging, no bottle aging, 15% res. Sugar, 11% Alc. By Vol., 500 ml bt..  This has to be one of the most unique Spanish table wine that I have ever tasted - a Damned dessert wine!  It is delicious, complex, deep and age-worthy.  Rare indeed, this wine is ideal with cream desserts, flan, apple pie, or by itself.  HR.


1947 Gran Reserva Vina Tondonia, Lopez de Heredia  ($199.00) (7/96).  75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo,  23 years in American oak barrels, 3 Yr. In the bottle, released June 1976. Impressively tannic and tight.  Ripe fruit, toffee and caramel with raspberry and meringue flavors and long finish.  Drink now.  Beef and more beef.

1954 Gran Reserva Vina Tondonia, Lopez de Heredia  ($150.00)(5/96).   75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano, 19 Yr. in American oak barrels, 6 Yr. In the bottle, released 1979.   Delicate and perfectly balanced with strong Rioja aromatics of vanilla, tangerine, raspberry and coffee.  Drink over the next 10 years.  Pork, chicken, beef, lamb, salmon, trout.

1954 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva (revisited), Lopez de Heredia, Rioja ($150.00)(5/97).  90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo, with 69 months of aging in 25 year-old  small  American  oak barrels.  A profoundly ephemeral wine.  It is all charm and vapor of dry fruit and licorice, and cream, and chocolate, and strawberry, and ….Highly Recommended, If you got ‘em drink ‘em.  Do Roasted Leg-o-Lamb!

1959 Gran Reserva Castillo Ygay, Marques de Murrieta, Rioja (8/93). I obtained that bottle at the winery last November before its release. This wine was aged in oak barrels for 29 years and bottled in 1988. Coincidentally, R. Parker had just reviewed this wine quite favorably in his latest Advocate issue. Unfortunately, it was a disappointing wine with sherry-like flavors (oxydized to death) and significantly amber-colored edges dominated the glass. It lacked aroma and depth. I was so pissed that the following morning I called Alfonso Troya-Morcillo (the wine maker there for the last 56 years) and told him what happened. He offered to mail me another bottle of the same wine provided that I tasted it and let him know how it did. The outcome of that second bottle will follow on a future newsletter.

1959 Gran Reserva Castillo Ygay, Marques de Murrieta, Rioja (2/94). The second bottle of this wine (previous bottle was bad) arrived and was placed to rest for one month before uncorking. It had delicate aromas of tobacco, pepper and red ripe fruit. It was expansive in the palate with layers upon layers of nuances and flavors. Still quite concentrated and focused, with raspberry, vanilla and truffle flavors. The finish was long and pleasant. It kept coming back in little burst of gamy-cherry sensations. I must thank Mr. Troya for following through in his promise.

1959 Gran Reserva Castillo Ygay, Marques de Murrieta, Rioja (11/95). Another spectacular bottle of this wine surfaced quite by chance and as a result of a gift of my dear friend Charlie Fox. I had this bottle of wine together with a fantastic dinner at the Seasons Restaurant. It was an orgasmic experience. It is hard to believe that that wine can be so lively after so many years in the barrel and bottle. Fully approachable with casis ripe berry and chewy coffee flavors…Although my first bottle (tasted in August of 1993) was not very good, the subsequent two bottles have been an experience worth of a life time.

1964 Gran Reserva Castillo Ygay, Bodegas Marques de Murrieta, Rioja ($179.99). This vintage was reviewed by R. Parker and given an 83 pt rating. I must admit that my first bottle reasurred me such rating. Don Alfonso Troya (the wine maker) was given instructions by me to choose 6 bottles of a vintage that he thought it would be comparable to his 1959 release. He sent the 1964. I was concerned by the rating and my first bottle. Once more, I should trust the wine maker more than some moron in crystal palace passing judgment on something that he can’t do himself, make wine (just like me, but everybody is a critic…). The second (tasted five nights prior to the tasting) and third bottles (I wanted to see if lightning would strike twice in the same place after my initial disappointment) bear no resemblance to R. Moron Parker’s review, or my impressions from my first bottle. Obviously, there is some bottle to bottle variability in this wine. However, and as I parenthetically described above, it was like lightning. Beautiful, clean, exotic, lingering, complex, delicious…

1964 Gran Reserva Monte Real, Bodegas Riojanas, Rioja. A beautiful wine, well made, still very dark and concentrated, soft tannins and perfect balance. As we were enjoying this exemplary Gran Reserva, my friend Harry and I had the same thought. We wondered what this wine was like when it was released in 1970? It was the first wine made by the current wine maker, and our host during lunch at his winery, Jaime Artacho. Some critics say that Spanish wines will not last 15 years if it is not a Vega Sicilia. Viva Jaime!.

1968 Gran Reserva Castillo Ygay, Marques de Murrieta, Rioja ($NA). I continue to "ooh" and "ahh" about the wines from this winery. The 1968 was the missing jewel in the crown. It was generously shared by W Powell during a fantastic dinner at Humble Pie in Raleigh. It was still bright red with edges turning slightly orange. The aromas were unmistakably Rioja, earthy and ripe fruit with tones of oak. In the palate it offered velvety-smooth tannin and very good acidity suggesting that the wine could go another five years or more before reaching its peak. The flavors, complexity and long finish…you need to get a bottle and drink it. That is the only way that you will find out. I must add that it is well worth it. We matched this wine with an excellent French onion soup, a deserving match for an elegant wine.

1970 Gran Reserva 904, Rioja Alta, Rioja. Powerfull!, it may need another 2 years to fully open and acquire that ripeness that makes the Gran Reservas so unique.

1973 Gran Reserva 904, La Rioja Alta, Rioja. Elegant, clean, refined, delicate are all adjectives that come to mind when remembering this fine Gran Reserva. Plenty of fruit here, still. The wine was well balanced, possessing lively acidity and the unmistakable nuances of the American oak and Tempranillo, the staple grape of Rioja. If you have it, drink it. It is ready.

1973 Gran Reserva Vina Albina, Bodegas Riojanas, Rioja (5/94). This is an exemplary Rioja with an incredible nose of cream and strawberries. The wine is clean, elegant and delicate in the plate, with complex oak and black fruit flavors, perfectly tamed tannin and balanced acidity. It is soft and nearly ready to drink. Recommended.

1973 Gran Reserva Vina Albina, Bodegas Riojanas, Rioja ($??) (6/96). This wine is nearly ready to drink. It is a single vineyard animal with more lives than a cat. Deep currant flavors accompany the distinct cherry and licorice notes that persist in a long lingering finish.

1975 Gran Reserva Marques de Villamagna, Bodegas Campo Viejo, Rioja ($NA). Fully ready to drink as well. This wine shows the differences in wine making style and concentration that predated the two previous wines. It seems as if 1978 marked the beginning of a lighter, more permanent style of Gran Reserva making. This wine showed still hints of its robust beginnings with black cherry flavors mingled with sweet American oak and caramel.

1975 Gran Reserva Black Label, Torres, Penedes. This wine was the last release of the black label with less than 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Following releases were nearly 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, as this wine displayed quite clearly, the last great Gran Reserva vintage from large producers was 1975. Since then, smaller producers have produced the most profound and concentrated Gran Reservas. They are difficult to come by since most of them do not export to many world markets (of course, they have not met EBRO, yet). The wine was open, aromatic, complex aromas of vanilla and tempranillo, black fruit and caramel emanated from this beauty as we swirled the wine. This wine displayed deep flavors of currants, spice, black pepper, fruit and cassis, with notes of chocolate and figs in the finish.

1977 Gran Reserva Vina Tondonia Centenary Release, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja (N/A). A deceptive red. It is so because upon opening it has no flavor nor aromas. However, after about one hour it begings to offer concentrated coffee bean aromas and flavors, with nuances of raspberry and vanilla. Try it in 10 more years.

1978 Gran Reserva Vina Tondonia (current release), Lopez de HerediaRioja  ($59.99).  80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano, 8 Yr. In 25 years-old American oak barrels, 4 Yr. In the bottle.  A delicious and elegant wine that will belong to the timeless shelves of many collectors.  Velvety soft tannin, creamy flavors with no rough edges and complex tobacco-coffee and earthy notes.  Grilled tuna, chicken, rib-eye.

1978  Gran Reserva Tinto Vina Tondonia, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja ($59.99)(8/97).  80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 5% Mazuelo & Graciano, 8 years in 25 to 29 years-old American oak barrels, 4 Yr. in the bottle.  12.0% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Orange rind-tangerine and roasted coffee aromas with hints of ethereal berries and cream.  Good fruit with deep citrus fruit-coffee flavor, strawberries and cream.  A serious wine with soft tannin, and good acidity.  Will improve with another 15 years of bottle aging. Best with lamb, duck. O.

1978 Gran Reserva Marques de Villmagna, Bodegas Campo Viejo, Rioja (my last bottle, $NA). Delicate and perfectly balanced. The aromas were rich and generous with layers and layers of herbal, cream and ripe (very) berries. A bit more weight and softer tannin than the 1982. The acidity was a bit higher, resembling the levels of the Turzaballa. The palate feel was similar to having a strawberry/coffee-flavored liquid cotton candy. A very long and pleasant earthy finish was the pinnacle of this wine.

1978 Gran Reserva Monte Real, Bodegas Riojanas, Rioja ($??) (6/96). This wine is the essence of the old Rioja style, soft, agreeable, approachable and full of complex, multi-layered flavors that persist in the finish, liquid strawberry and vanilla essence.

1978 Gran Reserva Vina Alcorta, Campo Viejo, Rioja ($??). A clean and elegant wine from aroma to finish. Beautiful flavors of figs and melon with a hint of cinnamon were obvious in this wine.

1981 Gran Reserva Vina Turzaballa, Ramon Bilbao, Rioja. What a wine. If you are into delicately balanced, timeless wines which bring spectacular aromatics and finely blanced flavors to the end, this is it. It feels as a very well made strawberry-flavored brandy with vanilla and cream nuances which mingle well with the earthy and mineral character discretely present in the background. This is a single vineyard wine from a small plot in Rioja, and made by Don Floentino de Lencada, and 85 yeard-old man that has been making wine for longer time than most of our readres have been alive.

1981 Gran Reserva Vina Turzaballa, Bodegas Ramon Bilbao, Rioja ($20.99) (3/96). Still in its youth. Vibrant and ready for the long long haul. It was the richest of the wines tasted with significantly greater density and firmer tannin. Acidity was also higher. It yielded a delicate nose of cream and strawberry aromas with earthy notes in the palate and an impeccable long finish of ripe blackberries.

1981 Gran Reserva Monte Real, Bodegas Riojanas, Rioja ($??). Specific grape blend unknown, although heavy on the Tempranillo, 76 months in American oak, 13% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt. Spice and cherry aromas mingled with vanilla. In the palate it displays a nice array of Rioja flavors with the typical strawberry and cream feel, together with mocha, licorice, and a spicy hint here and there. Complex, layered with good flavor progression to a very long and elegant finish which becomes recurrent in waves. French Onion Soup, Grilled seafood. VHR.

1982 Gran Reserva Marques de Villamagna, Bodegas Campo Viejo, Rioja ($18.99). Lighter in palate feel than the previous wine. It was significantly more open, although younger and from a better rated vintage. Fully aromatic and ephemeral in character with very much the same flavors as the Turzaballa, but riper and with more emphasis in the mineral/earthy character leaving the impression of roasted coffee bean flavors in the palate.

1982 Reserva Vina Alcorta, Campo Viejo, Rioja ($??). Another stunning wine, elegant and well defined with a lingering vanilla finish. Whatever happened to Campo Viejo after the 1985 release is beyond me.

1983 Gran Reserva, Beronia, Rioja. Fruity, fully open, a silky-smooth and complex wine. Velvety tannins and intensely focused, yet light.

1985 Cencibel (Tempranillo), Crianza, Casa de la Vina, Valdepenas ($??).  100% Cencibel (Tempranillo), 1 year in American oak.  Very elegant and ready to drink, with ripe berries, earthy and cassis flavors that emanated from the back of the palate.  A fine wine whose life is peaking now, and beyond my believe.  I felt that a Crianza as this one would not last more than a 6 years after release.  It is going on 10 and still fine.  DRINK NOW!  Cocido a la Madrilena.

1985 Gran Reserva Vina Turzaballa, Ramon Bilbao, Rioja (1/96). . 1985 was a tremendously dry year. In turn, some of the best Reservas and Gran Reservas were produced in much of Rioja, and Spain for that matter. In my opinion, 1985 is perhaps the best vintage of the 80’s form Rioja. The D.O. labeled it as "very good" just as 1981, where 1982 and 1987 were labeled as "excellent". In so far, the examples that I have tasted in our local market and abroad seem to indicate that 1981 and 1985, two sleeper vintages, are yielding wines that can withstand the long haul a bit better while offering greater concentration, and potential elegance when full maturity arrives. This 1985 Gran Reserva is well packed with all essential elements vibrantly awaiting maturity. In many ways, it reminds me of their previous release, 1981. The key to the potential longevity of this wine comes from three factors; 1) acidity is fairly high, 2) fruit is clean and vibrant and 3) fine tannin that is not evident until the finish, but that sneak up on your palate very slowly while ultimately engulfing your entire tongue without a bitter feel.

1985 Vina Turzaballa Gran Reserva, Ramon Bilbao, Rioja, Revisited ($19.99)(12/96).  90% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo and Graciano.  5 Years in American oak and 5 years in the bottle before release.  This is a progress report on an exceptional wine that is still available in our local market.  The wine has gained depth and body, with rich spicy aromas and flavors that are appealing, and enticing.  It is currently starting to throw sediment (finally) and will evolve to a delicate raspberry and cream brandy-like wine over the next 9 years.  Good for the medium aging rack in your cellar.  Highly recommended.   Pork and lamb dishes.

1987 Gran Reserva Castillo Ygay, Marques de Murrieta, Rioja ($??)(5/96). A decent Gran Reserva, with coffe/chocolate falvors and a medium finish. This wine is unfortunately the result of U.S. marketing pressures to get the Castillo de Ygay out early, at a reasonable price and with the purpose of generating interest in the real thing such as the real current release 1968. This wine is missing 10 years of wood and 14 years of bottle aging.

1987 Reserva Gran Colegiata, Farina, Toro. This is one hell-of-a-wine. Tannins are still wild on this baby, but it also displays tons of fruit and a myriad of flavors which will pale many other wines that sell for double the price. This wine is worth setting aside for a year or two to allow the maturity factor to enhance its flavors. I must add that I had discounted this wine after tasting several other wines from the Bodega. Fortunately somebody had some insight into this one.

1987 Reserva, Gran Colegiata, Toro. This is one hell-of-a-wine. Tannins are still wild on this baby, but it also displays tons of fruit and a myriad of flavors which will pale many other wines that sell for double the price. This wine is worth setting aside for a year or two to allow the maturity factor to enhance its flavors. I must add that I had discounted this wine after tasting several other wines from the Bodega. Fortunately somebody had some insight into this one.

1987 Reserva Senda Galiana, La Rioja, Spain. A sample of this wine was left to me by Tom George during his visit to our market. It was unopened. He said "taste it and let me know". Shit! did I enjoy this wine. With our order to Tom, I ordered 4 cases for myself. It is a Rioja benchmark Reserva. It has the typical strawberry and cream flavors with a medium body and a beautiful finish.

1987 Reserva Vendimia Seleccionada, Martinez Bujanda, Rioja. Rough, disjointed, meager fruit well on its way to become thoroughly oxidized, very high acidity and a rough/burning alcoholic feel packaged in a bitter tannin finish. I would venture to say, cook with it, or save it for unwanted guests.

1987 Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Garnacha La Sarda 1st Vintage, Carinena. Although my personal policy of not considering for EBRO’s portfolio Spanish wines containing Cabernet Sauvignon still remains in full force, I could not help but to pass judgment on this one. It is made by a very small winery in Carinena. A one-man operation to which I can relate very closely… The wine maker made me try this wine while in the barrel. I told him my honest opinion. At the time, this wine offered a potent chlorine aroma and flavor. The wine maker gave me a bottle and said try it in a few years, so I did. I have to admit that this was a very interesting wine. It was complex with multi-layered flavors of smoky plum, blackberry and figs. The finish was medium in length. None of this will change my philosophy. I wonder what this wine would have been without the Cab. part…

1988 Montecillo Reserva, Rioja ($10.99).  Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, 2yrs in American oak barrels.  Great aromas of vanilla, oak, earthy tones.  In the palate this is a decent Rioja with some vanilla, and sweet oak, but lacking the strawberry finish so distinctive of Rioja.  Light and short finish, unlike its aroma.  A good value for daily consumption.  Hot dogs.

1989 Gran Reserva Vina Turzaballa (tasted one week prior to bottling), R Bilbao, Rioja ($??). A beautiful Gran Reserva. Dense, rich, tannic and young, obviously the bottle part of the aging is missing. We tasted the wine as it was being readied for bottling, and after 7 years of wood aging (small barrels). The 1989 Rioja vintage will be one to write about for many years to come. It will be as legendary as the 1985, if not denser and more age-worthy. This Turzaballa should be released in early 2001!

1989 Reserva, Conde de Valdemar, Rioja. Restrained and shallow. Some fruit, but no complexity. It is a "new" Rioja style wine which seems to forget that Tempranillo needs things other than speed and lack of aging.

1989 Reserva, Campo Viejo, Rioja. The typical Rioja strawberry and vanilla character, with lingering sweet oak tones in the finish was not there. All I found was a lacluster presence of disjointed tannins and acidity with a finish shorter than a fish fart. Those of you that were lucky enough to taste their 1985 and 1987 releases will now what I mean when you try this new release.

1989 Crianza, Gran Peromato, Farina, Toro. This wine was quite a nice surprise. It is smooth and with a good full palate feel. It has notes of tar, sweet American oak and blackberries, pleasant and flavorful finish. I would match this wine with a formidable garlic loaded gazpacho, pesto, bocaccia, chorizo, and T-bone steak.

1989 Crianza Vina Real Red, Cune , Rioja. Tasted twice with similar results; oxidized, not recommended.

1989 Reserva, Ramon Bilbao, Rioja. A textbook Rioja. Aged for two years in small American oak barrels and 2 years in the bottle before release. It provides aromas of cherry and sweet oak. In the plate it is difficult to conceptualize that this wine will provide such a myriad of flavors just by looking at it. Vanilla, strawberry and cashew nut flavors followed by an elegant medium long finish with more of the same flavors. Aging potential ~10+ yr.

1989 Florentino de Lecanda Reserva, Ramon Bilbao, Rioja. This is a single vineyard wine produced by Ramon Bilbao under the label that bears the name of the winery’s owner. It is a limited production wine, with ~ 10,000 cases made. This Reserva is produced from vintages declared "very good" or "excellent" by the D.O. (government agency in charge of controlling the region’s wine production), just as Gran Reservas from reputable wineries. It is deep and young. Concentrated color and flavors make this Reserva one to age, if you can resist the temptation. As it ages, it defines several layers of flavors with the classic Rioja tell-tales of strawberry and vanilla up front, and earthy mineral adjuncts leading to a toasty coffee and cream finish. If you see it around, get a few bottles, taste one or two, set the rest aside and try them one at a time three times a year. Write your impressions as you move through the case and time while comparing with previous notes how this wine slowly progresses toward full maturity.

1989 Reserva Vina Tondonia, Lopez de Heredia  ($24.99)(6/96).  75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano.  4 Yr. in 65 year-old American oak barrels, 2 Yr. In the bottle. Concentrated, elegant and young with coffee bean, caraway, mint and blackberry with plum hints and vanilla tones that lead to a very long cassis finish.  Beef, game.

1989 Vina Tondonia Reserva (revisited), Lopez de Heredia, Rioja ($20.99)(5/97).  80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano, with 48 months of aging in 15 year-old small American oak barrels.  If you recall,  I  sometimes  experience  physical sensations when drinking wines, i.e.: L’Ecole #41 and the loosening and tingling of the underside of my toes.  Well…here is another one.  This wine gave me shivers, no shit!  Another one of those wines that tastes different with every zip, evolving and developing in the glass.  It is a well balanced wine with fine, yet evident tannin, deep strawberry and vanilla flavors accompanied by orange rind, and roasted coffee bean notes.   Very  long  finish  with the flavors following through in harmony.  Age it for another 15 years.  Highly Recommended.

1989 Crianza Vina Bosconia, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja ($14.99)(5/96). Similar to the Cubillo above described, but with more body and thickness. Tannin is more present and meshes well with the overall presentation of the wine to the palate. Try this with beef ribs.

1989 Crianza Vina Bosconia, Lopez de Heredia  ($14.99) (10/96).  80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5 % Mazuelo & Graciano.  4 Yr. in 40 year-old American oak barrels, 2 Yr. In the bottle.  A beefy, chewy Rioja like I have never tasted before, particularly for a Crianza.  This wine could easily be mistaken for a great Gran Reserva released a few years too early.  It had a multi-layered profile that started with ripe berries, tannic middle and a long finish that resolved into a delicious and elegant fruity and creamy palate feel.  Drink over the 8 years (at least).  Beef.

1990 Gran Peromato, Bodegas Farina, Toro, $8.99**.  Tempranillo and a bit of Garnacha Tintorera, 6 months in American oak barrels.  This wine is almost the same thing as the Tinto Zamora above described, with the added complexity and depth of a fruit blend and the wood aging.  It is rich, a bit more concentrated and displaying nice vanilla and ripe berries flavors.  Great with steak and pork chops.

1990 Cosecha, Vina Mayor, Ribera de Duero. It is young, jammy and with an extracted finish. I would recommend this wine with bar-b-q, cook-outs, informal meals, etc. Personally, I enjoy it by itself because of its nice plum, coffee and raspberry flavors.

1990 Crianza Vina Cubillo, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja ($12.99)(5/96). This wine has to be the most popular Rioja by the glass in Spanish tapas bars and restaurants. This is for a very good reason; It is affordable, very good and matches summer foods and tapas perfectly. It is creamy and fruity, more on the lighter side, but not to be understimated in its long and pleasant finish. Best with pickled seafood (i.e.: smelts and octopus), suckling lamb or pork.

1990 Crianza Vina Cubillo, Lopez de Heredia  ($12.99)(11/96).  65% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacho, 10% Viura & Graciano, 2 Yr. in 25 year-old American oak barrels, 2 Yr. in the bottle.  Packed with fruit and cinnamon flavors.  Complex, smooth, with a long finish of roses and berries.  Caramelized pork, shrimp and grits.

1991 Crianza, Ramon Bilbao, Rioja. It is light in body, but very pleasant and interesting. It offers rosy, creamy flavors that last and last. Best with seafood, chicken, veal and other uncomplicated dishes.

1992 Crianza, Protos, Ribera de Duero ($??). I was not as enthused about this wine as with their Cosecha. Although it offered the same style of flavors as the Cosecha above Gran Reserva, #37, June 1996 3 critiqued, it was a bit rough, burny and hollow in the middle. It clearly shows the maladies of the 1992 vintage in Ribera de Duero.

1992 Tinto Zamora, Farina, Toro. Affordable and bountiful. It comes in one liter bottles, which for the price it is a bargain. Nice fruit and soft tannin, with a spice and cherry finish. It is not complex nor profound, but a nice glass of wine any day.

1992 Crianza Vina Cubillo, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja ($12.99). 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, 10% Viura and Mazuelo, 24 months in American oak, 12.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt. A Rioja nose welcomes you to this nice wine. In the palate it offers cocoa, tangerine, a bit roasted coffee and cream. It has a light palate feel that delivers quite elegant and delicate flavors. Very long finish with the same flavors coming through for nearly 4+ minutes, and in non-decaying/diminishing fashion! Grilled Lamb, Rack of lamb, HR.

1993 Tinto Zamora, Farina, Toro. This new vintage offers the same fruity, uncomplicated, ready to drink wine found in previous releases, and so typical of Spanish Tapas Bars.

1993 Cosecha, La Cruzeta, Navarra. Torrecilla is back under a new name. An Italian winery sued Torrecilla for name copyright infringement because in the U.S. people pronounce the two wines the same way, "Torechela", hence the eledged brand confusion. I guess now all the Smiths can sue all the Smithes...and win. Anyway, this is a fruity and well balanced young Navarra wine made with Tempranillo and Garnacha, Beaujolais in style and very agreeable. I recommend this wine with light fare such as grilled chicken, pastas, and even mussels.

1994 Cosecha, Protos, Ribera de Duero ($??). A nearly orgasmic young red, up there with computers, Cuban cigars and sex (not really). Delicate nose of blueberry with an intensely fruity palate and a clearly defined creamy finish (true meringe). May arrive toward the fall.

1994 Las Campanas, Navarra ($6.99).  A good Navarra wine with plum and cream flavors.  Although the presence of small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon is evident by the lack of harmonic flow in the palate, it is drinkable.  Light, straight forward and simple.  Good for everyday drinking.  Spam, deviled ham.

1994 Tinto Zamora, Bodegas Farina, Toro, $8.99** 1 liter bottle!  100% Tempranillo, no wood aging.  Tinto Zamora is back after a short month-long absence that seemed like a year by the number of requests we received for this wine.  1 Liter bottle of this fantastic, everyday fruity red wine is tough to pass up at this price.  It is simple, straight forward and fruity with red berries and spicy flavors.  This wine has been voted a Best Value by both Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate for three vintages in a row!  A rarity with occurrence once in every twenty blue months.  Great with lighter dishes, bar b-q, and white meat dishes.

1994 Crianza, Vega Izan, Ribera de Duero ($18.99).  100% Tempranillo, with 22 months in American oak, 6 monts in the bottle before release, 12.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  In the characterisitc flavor of Ribera de Duero, this wine shows a very nice and elegant merenge/cream backbone that mixes well with the spicy and leathery caracter of Tempranillo.  The finish lingers with nice vanilla and cherry feel, Tanninis soft, but present, with nice balance.  It is a bit young, so another 2 years of cellaring will not hurt it.  Lamb.  HR.

1994 Tempranillo, Ochoa, Navarra ($12.99).  100% Tempranillo, with 18 months in oak and 10 months in the bottle before release, 12.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  This wine is quite extracted and young, but considering the youth of some of the cabs that people currently enjoy, this one is ready to drink.  However, give it 3 to 5 years and it will be even better.  It takes about 30 minutes to open up a little bit, and 14 hours to show some splendor.  I would like to revisit this wine in 2 years before attempting to describe it.  R for short term cellar (3 - 5 years.).

1995 Monastrell, Carchelo, Jumilla ($8.99).  75% Monastrell & 25% Merlot, no wood aging.  Young and light with abundant fruit, very much Beaujolais style.  Short finish, straight forward and simple.  Versatile with many light Summer dishes.  Not recommended because of the Merlot content (not a Spanish grape).


NV Fino, Antonio Barbadillo. Nice and fresh, with salty-nutty flavors that turn into anise and mint in the finish.

NV Amontillado, Antonio Barbadillo. Wholesome with residual sugar and caramel-honey flavors that stick around for a while.

NV Cream, Antonio Barbadillo. Delicious, complex and toasty.

NV Old Oloroso, 50-year-old Solera, Antonio Barbadillo, Spain ($19.99).  A complex vino de Jerez with nutmeg, anise, caramel, honey and mint and….We had this wine with our flan.

NV Palo Cortado Sherry, Lustau, Spain ($10.99?). A very well made Sherry from a top producer. It is a bit too light for a Palo Cortado blend, but complex and off-dry as it should be. The character of this wine relies mostly on dry nuts flavors rather than the typical anise and floral qualities of Sherries.

NV Pedro Ximenez, Antonio Barbadillo. The best PX, as called by the Andaluzian, I have tasted todate. No Bull! It is unfiltered, as in the old style, and flavorful. It feels weighty and rich with nutmeg, raisin and toffee flavors. It is decandently sweet to the point that I took the bottle and utilized it for an adult version of pancakes. Boy! was that a great way to start the day or what!...