Wine Spectator Names 10 Spanish Wines to Top 100

This past summer I wanted to take our office team to a winery on my birthday. We all very much enjoy food and wine (who doesn’t?) and we are 20 minutes from world-class winemaking in Ribera del Duero. Unfortunately, the wine tourism in this part of the world is not as developed as, say, in Napa or even Rioja. But we did make a morning of it before we headed home for lunch. I had heard that Bodegas Aalto was doing some high-end tempranillo winemaking with the vineyards between San Bernardo and Quintanilla de Arriba off the N-122. Founded in 2009, the winery co-founder Mariano García was head winemaker at Vega Sicilia for over 20 years. The wines were quite extraordinary at Aalto and we enjoyed our flights in the modern tasting room in the underground bodega on the hill. So, I was thrilled to hear that their wine was chosen as the Number 6 wine of 2015 by Wine Spectator magazine.

Along with its infrastructure, Spain has made a big push in the last 20 years to modernize its winemaking practices. There are still traditional methods of viticulture practiced, but pneumatic presses are the rule not the exception anymore in wineries. This is a good thing for local economies across Spain that subsist on the good name of its exported products like wine and jamón ibérico. It looks like we have more wine touring in our future as we’ve only seen maybe two of the ten wineries on the WS list in person! The following is a list of all the Spanish wines included in the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2015.

#6 – Bodegas Aalto Ribera del Duero 2012 (54 USD), 94 points- Wine Spectator writes, “This red shows focus and density, with rich flavors of plum, blackberry, cocoa, licorice and mineral. The structure is muscular but graceful, featuring ripe fruit complemented by savory notes that keep this balanced and fresh.” (Retrieved from url)

#15 – Abadia Retuerta Viño de la Tierra de Castilla y León 2011 Sardon de Duero Selección Especial (34 USD), 94 points – Wine Spectator writes, “Alluring for its plush texture and impressive for its depth, this red delivers plum, currant, licorice, tar and mineral flavors that are rich and focused. The firm tannins are well-integrated, kept lively by fresh acidity. Smoke and floral notes mingle on the long finish. Drink now through 2031.”(Retrieved from url)

#23 – Bodegas LAN Rioja Edición Limitada 2011 (50 USD), 94 points – Wine Spectator writes, “This rich red delivers ripe, racy flavors of blackberry, kirsch, toast, spice and mineral. Plush but dense, with subtle yet powerful tannins and tangy acidity. A big wine, showing energy and style. Drink now through 2031. 6,250 cases made.” (Retrieved from url)

#30 – Dominio de Tares 2011 Mencía Bierzo Cepas Viejas (30 USD), 93 points  – Wine Spectator writes, “The plush texture delivers rich flavors of plum, blackberry and boysenberry, with accents of coffee, mountain herb, cedar and mineral. Fine-grained tannins give this structure, showing enough acidity to stay fresh. A modern-style red. Drink now through 2025.” (Retrieved from url)

#36 – Bodegas Godeval Valdeorras 2013 Viña Godeval Cepas Vellas (20 USD), 92 points  – Wine Spectator writes, “This alluring white delivers a broad range of flavors in a pillowy texture, while crisp, well-integrated acidity maintains the focus. Melon, coconut, spice and smoke flavors mingle harmoniously on the plush palate. The mineral element is fresh and long. Godello. Drink now through 2018.” (Retrieved from url)

#53 – Descendientes de J. Palacios Bierzo 2013 Pétalos (23 USD), 91 points – Wine Spectator writes, “Expressive black cherry, currant, licorice, mineral and smoke flavors mingle in this focused red. The texture is gentle but firm, with well-integrated tannins and racy acidity providing structure. A compact wine that shows good intensity. Drink now through 2023. (Retrieved from url)

#56 – Cune Rioja Imperial Reserva 2010 (44 USD), 93 points – Wine Spectator writes, “Smoky and tarry notes give this rich red an austere character, but plum, licorice, soy and mineral notes promise an expressive future. The tannins and acidity are balanced and unobtrusive. Best from 2016 through 2030. (Retrieved from url)

#58 – Torre de Oña Rioja Finca San Martín 2012 Crianza (14 USD), 91 points- Wine Spectator writes, “This red is focused and polished, delivering harmonious flavors of black cherry, olive, smoke and mineral. The tannins are well-integrated, the acidity fresh. A bit reserved, but has depth. Drink now through 2022. 10,500 cases made.(Retrieved from url)

#69 – Bodegas Monasterio Ribera del Duero Hacienda Monasterio (51 USD), 93 points – Wine Spectator writes, “This rich red delivers blueberry compote, dark chocolate, licorice and smoke flavors in a firm texture, supported by solid tannins. Ample acidity keeps this fresh through the floral, cola-accented finish. Drink now through 2026. (Retrieved from url)

#80 – Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta Viura Rioja 2012 Capellanía (28 USD), 92 points- Wine Spectator writes, “Aromatic notes of beeswax, chamomile and orange blossom frame the flavors of baked apple, coconut, ginger and tarragon in this generous white, whose fresh acidity and light tannins keep it structured, with the spicy accents lingering on the finish. A traditional style. Drink now through 2020.  (Retrieved from url)



5 San Jamón Pairings for 5 Kinds of Holiday Dinner Guests

You are standing at the entrance to Waitrose or Fred Meyer or where have you scanning down the list of items to buy for your holiday dinner party. You lament that you do not in fact live in the Love Actually movie and Ms. Knightley will not be showing up at your stoop with pudding in a tin and a side of holiday cheer. You must soldier on alone with your list, crafting a dinner party that will satisfy all your guests’ tastes and appetites.   This might mean Tofurky for the  tofu crowd and dry-aged ibérico ham for the gastro pub friend in your group (the ham we can help you with, the tofu we cannot, keep reading).

We all approach the holidays with a mix of anxiety and excitement. It is important to start off an intimate gathering by acquiring the appropriately matched food to the guests. Imagine if your crazy uncle/cousin/colleague/neighbor turns up and you haven’t the properly rolled Yule Log cake? What is a host to do?  To save you time, we have gone ahead and recommended some  pairings for you. Lo and behold San Jamón’s 2015 Holiday Pairing Guide:

1. Queso Zamorano (€6.90 wedge, 250 grams) for your Culinarily Challenged Cousin who cannot cook and always brings the dish to a potluck that nobody wants to eat. Since he cannot cook he eats an inordinate amount of cheese (in sandwiches, on canapés, or as tapas). For him we recommend our best-selling, award-winning sheep’s milk cheese, El Fundador, from the farming countryside in the province of Zamora. It is sharp and nutty like manchego, but a bit more strongly-flavored and less oily. This cousin will remark about how they have no time to shop or cook and then ask which items they may take home in tupperware and if you have any cheese left. You’ll have to remind them to take their dish.

Bellota Jamón Ibérico

Bellota Jamón Ibérico

2. Acorn-fed bellota jamón ibérico (€17.90 sliced, 100 grams) to impress those who need impressing. The shiny, unctuous slices of a traditional, craft gastronomical luxury like bellota ham are usually reserved for special occasions like encounters with in-laws or bosses. These two parties are especially susceptible to the charms of melt-in-you-mouth, nutty, sweet free-range Iberian pork aged for more than four years. The balance of the tangy, flavorful meat and translucent, delicate white fat loaded with monounsaturated fats is no match for finicky out-of-towners or exigent employers. This is truly the recommended gift to have on hand when a raise may be on the line or your father-in-law is inexplicably giving you sidelong glares.

Mitarte Crianza Rioja

Mitarte Crianza Rioja

3. Mitarte Crianza (€19) for the son-in-law who will loves, loves, loves his wine. He can talk about vintages, obscure grapes and regions. He’ll school or try to school any audience showing any modicum of interest in wine. His passion is sincere, but talking at length about the resurgence of Pét-Nat is not for everyone. Off-the-beaten-track Riojas might be up his alley. The Mitarte Crianza is easy-drinking and its juicy tannins, toasty French and American oak and medium body matches wonderfully with hearty winter holiday dishes and roasts. The Mitarte story is also worth telling: winemaker Ignacio Gil’s family has been for the last 60 years making wine from the centennial vines around the mountainous village of Labastida. Ignacio battled nationalist separatists from the Basque country while mayor of Labastida when he was not harvesting grapes. You can turn the tables on your son-in-law with that anecdote.

Bellota Lomo Ibérico

Bellota Lomo Ibérico

4. Lomo for your sophisticated world-traveler friend. This friend is the one you turn to when you need to know the best AirBnB in Bangkok or the fastest way to get to Tierra del Fuego. She is entertaining if only slightly obnoxious as there is no where she has not been and her funds seem to come out of thin air. It takes a lot to shock her and she’ll eat anything, so it is tough to impress her with anything on the menu anywhere. Enter lomo ibérico (€5.95 sliced, 100 grams; €14.50 whole, 450 grams) a magical cross between a soft, chewy jerky and a savory gourmet fruit roll up. It is the acorn-fed Iberian pig tenderloin that has been coated in curing salts and Spanish paprika and then slipped into a natural casing. It does not matter how many times this globetrotter has been to the plaza del toro, she has not ever had anything as organoleptically pleasing as lomo ibérico. High in protein and very low in fat.

La Delizia Extra Dry Prosecco

La Delizia Extra Dry Prosecco

5.  La Delizia Extra Dry Prosecco (€15.95) for grandma because grandparents need to be taken care of over the holidays. They are the reason we are here and usually revel in the attention given to them as it is one of the rare times of year that we put aside the coordination of our daily lives and try to focus on our grandparents. There was something floating around social media recently that said, “Be patient teaching your parents/grandparents email as they taught you how to eat.” To ease the transition from ‘grandma is just a phone call away’ to ‘now she’s hear telling me how to mash the potatoes’,  top up her champagne flute with a touch more La Delizia prosecco. It has touches of apple and pear and just enough finely-beaded bubbles to bridge that gap.

Stay safe out there, with love from everyone at San Jamón.