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Wine Recommendations for Summer 2024

| Featured Wine

Lately it seems like Spain is on a roll or that our palates are set to appreciate what we try from Spain. You may recall that in our last email, we featured the Cellar Credo, Miranius, from the Penedes as one of our white wine recommendations. This newsletter we return to Spain to recommend to you 4 wines from two impressive producers: Sierra de Tolono in Rioja and Quinta da Muradella in Galacia.

Both Sierra de Tolono and Quinta da Muradella are small, independent, family-owned wineries run by people driven to present wines that express their specific place. The vineyards are all indigenous varieties, many old vines, and organically-farmed. Grapes are hand-picked and, in the cellar, fermented spontaneously with minimal sulfur additions and no fining or filtering. We tasted these wines and were smitten. From where else can you get wines that cost $20-$22 and get so much complexity? Spain is on a tear.

Sierra de Tolono
Rioja Alavesa

Sandra BravoSandra Bravo farms biodynamically on her 8.5 hectarres of high-altitude vineyards. She uses only indigenous varieties and privileges expressive wines characterized by freshness. She is committed to biodynamics as a means for producing and maintaining soil that is “alive,” because of which “then you get wines that are alive, with lots of flavors, with a long life, with good acidity– the original flavor of the grapes.”

We tried the white first, and side-by-side with 3 other white Riojas (Viura). We liked all of them. We loved the Tolono.

Rioja, Blanco, 2022– $20 (12.5%)

This is our first vintage with these wines and, given the difficulty of the vintage, and the fact of global warming, we feel like we found someone to watch. Sandra Bravo did a superb job of maintaining acidity and consequently a sense of freshness in this challengingly warm vintage.

White Riojas often go through malo and are aged a bit in oak; not the Tolono for which the emphasis is freshness. The Tolono is characterized by lime zest and a compelling saltiness that seemed to accent the crispness. Fresh, vibrant, and satisfying on a warm summer evening. I look forward to trying this when corn returns– a nice corn salad with lime, cilantro and salty feta, some baba ghanouj with cucumbers and cauliflower and some potatas bravas will make a simple summer meal to which the Tolono, Blanco will be invited.

Rioja, Tinto, 2021–$20 (13.5%)
100% Tempranillo

Our experience with the white led us to try the red which we did at our book group a few weeks later. We gather as friends, so we always have a lot to talk about, including books. Though the emphasis is not on wine, this wine received several comments from “this is nice,” to “I’d like 6 bottles.”

There is a dark, ripe red-blue fruit (dark cherry, blueberry, black raspberry) on entry but despite the wine’s youth, already secondary aromas and flavors of herbs (tarragon, lavender) and cedar keep the fruit in balance. There is as well a current of minerality that extends the finish. The Tolono, Tinto should pair nicely with things off the grill, from burgers and steaks to tempeh.

Quinta da Muradella

José Luis MateoJosé Luis Mateo has been charged with making “the most refined European wines that most people have never heard of.”

Quinta da Muradella, founded by Mateo in 1990, is located in the micro wine D.O. of Monterrei, in southeast Galacia. Granted its own D.O. in 1994, this is nonetheless the first Monterrei wine we have carried.

José Luis Mateo works with 26 different varieties across 15 hectares. All his vineyards are field blends, i.e., planted with more than one variety, with each vineyard picked at the same time and grapes co-fermented. As importer Mannie Berk, founder of Rare Wine Company, wrote about José Luis Mateo, “[w]e’re lucky that he was born in an obscure village within an obscure appellation, with obscure grapes to work with,” otherwise, his wines would be better known and command much higher prices. So, let’s keep this discovery quiet, shall we?

Candea, Blanco, Monterrei, 2022– $22
Dona Blanc, Treixadura, Verdelho– roughly equal parts

There is plenty of ripe sweet fruit, more melon and pear, and a beguiling floral note that is tempered by something herbal (lemon thyme?) and a lengthy, minerally finish. While it does not undergo malo, there is an almost creamy texture to the wine.

We tried it, we loved it, we bought everything that was left in Vermont, which at the time was just under 4 cases. We have 2+ left in the shop which we feel lucky to have given that only 500 cases were made.

Candea, Tinto, Monterrei, 2020– $22
Mencia, Tempranillo, Garnacha Tintorera, Mouraton

We found considerable concentration on this lighter-bodied wine, making it a good candidate for a summer red. Raspberry and pomegranate fruit, with a very pretty earthy quality that went to peat for one taster and more peppercorn for another.

From Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate:

“I love the simplicity of the red blend 2020 Candea Tinto, which is straightforward, tasty, juicy and balanced, without any excess or makeup, raw and authentic, with notes of wild berries, flowers and herbs and a medium-bodied palate with moderate alcohol and nice balance. Highly drinkable.”