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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Guide to Posts

Currently under revision to repair links, some of which do not work. (Invalid links denoted by *).

Gerry Dawes's New Spain Blog

Kudos for Spain: An Insider's Guide

Scheduled Speaking Appearances *



Sanlúcar Sunset in a Manzanilla Glass

Posting Date:09/23/2004 Summary: Bar Bigote Gerry Dawes copyright 2004 ... And suspended from the rafters, along with a blowfish, are amphoras, the pottery urns, which were used in the days when Spain was a part of the Roman Empire to ship w...Spain: An Insider's Guide to Food, Wine and Travel in Spain by Gerry Dawes Thursday, September 23, 2004 ...

Alicante : Monastrell , Moscatel , Fondillón , Mushrooms ....*

Posting Date:09/28/2004
Summary: Spain: An Insider's Guide to Food, Wine and Travel in Spain by Gerry Dawes Tuesday, September 28, 2004 ...

Cervecerías: Spain's Beer Bars

First appeared in Food Arts, October 2003

If you ask the average Spaniard (and most foreigners, for that matter) for a definition of a cervecería, one of Spain’s ubiquitous so-called beer bars, you will get all kinds of answers, almost none of them right.

Alta Expresión Vino -Black gold or fool's gold?

During the past decade, scores of powerful, highly concentrated, new-wave wines have cropped up all over Spain like the saffron crocuses that proliferate in La Mancha every October. These intensely extracted, international style wines encompass a bewildering array of newly minted brands that vary widely in quality and seriousness. Lumped together under the controversial term vinos de alta expresión ("high expression," or "high concept" wines--read high extract and some say "alta extorsión," for the outrageous prices some command), these potent wines depart sharply from the traditional, mellow, age-worthy style for which La Rioja, the country's premier wine region, is famous. Winning high praise in some circles and vociferous criticism in others, alta expresión wines have pushed Spain smack into the center of the brewing international debate between winemaking traditionalists and advocates of the high-octane New World approach.

First appeared in The Wine News, April/May 2001.

Spain's Vaunted 2001 Vintage

First appeared in The Wine News, April/May 2002.

For fans of Spanish wines, and particularly those crafted from tempranillo - Spain's finest indigenous red wine grape - the 2001 harvest may have produced one of the greatest vintages of all time - an ironic conclusion to a rollercoaster growing season afflicted by hard frost, inordinate heat, prolonged drought and potentially damaging rains.

On back-to-back visits in September and October, I spent more than six weeks prowling the vineyards of Spain's key red wine-producing regions - from the firmly established La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Navarra, Penedès and Priorato to up-and-coming spots such as Toro and La Mancha. A veteran of more than a dozen Spanish harvests, I have rarely seen grapes in such healthy condition or a harvest season (vendimia) that enjoyed such propitious weather.

Rioja: The Mountain Cat Springs to Life

Because La Rioja is so large and produces so much wine, this old lion may appear to move slowly, but like the mountain cat that it is, once this time-honored region springs to life, it will be hard to hold back. In fact, La Rioja is in a dynamic state of evolution, and many of its classic bodegas are already producing some of the best, modern-style wines in Spain.

Photo Gallery: Spanish Food

A collection of food photographs from around Spain.*

Gentle Corrections Department: Gourmet Magazine

Posting Date:09/27/2004 Summary: Spain: An Insider's Guide to Food, Wine and Travel in Spain by Gerry Dawes Monday, September 27, 2004 ...In an article by Alexander Lobrano about Spanish truffles, in which I was glad to see the French own up to getting a lot of their truffles from Spain, the author t ... # posted by Gerry Dawes @ 11:41 AM 0 comments ...

Chocolateria San Gines*

Posting Date:09/21/2004
Summary: Spain: An Insider's Guide to Food, Wine and Travel in Spain by Gerry Dawes Tuesday, September 21, 2004 ...Chocolateria San Gines Gerry Dawes copyright 2004...Churros, C. San Gines Gerry Dawes copyright 2004...Churros con chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés Gerry Dawes copyright 2004...# posted by Gerry Dawes @ 6:58 PM 0 comments ...

The Estate Wines of Jean León*

Posting Date:08/09/2004 Summary: Miguel Torres Maczassek, Managing Director of Jean León and son of Miguel Torres Riera, Bodegas Miguel Torres, long one of Spain's most important wineries. ... Gerry Dawes copyright 2004...Spain: An Insider's Guide to Food, Wine and Travel in Spain by Gerry Dawes Monday, August 09, 2004 ...

... and in the 1980s spilled over into several emerging wine regions of Spain such as Navarra, Ribera del Duero, Somontano, and Priorato. ... Gerry Dawes copyright 2004... ... by Gerry Dawes ... Within the past few years, there has been a significant trend in Spain towards establishing chât...In Spain, these properties are known as pagos, which are basically agricultural estates based on single-owner vineyard plots in close, often contiguous proximity t o one another. ... Map of Jean León Estate Gerry Dawes copyright 2004...

Spanish Rosados*

Posting Date:08/07/2004 Summary: Spain: An Insider's Guide to Food, Wine and Travel in Spain by Gerry Dawes Saturday, August 07, 2004 ...Saveur can talk about Hemingway downing them in one gulp, but he actually carried Las Campanas rosados around Spain with him in a cooling bag during the Dangerous S ... Garnacha Rosado Gerry Dawes copyright 2004...

The New Wines of The Ancient Kingdom of Navarra

Navarra, the landlocked northern Spanish province that shares a wild stretch of the western Pyrenees with neighboring France, is one of the most rewarding places in Spain for wine aficionados in search of good up-and-coming wines, exceptional regional cuisine and off-the-beaten-track travel experiences. Given the advances of the past few years, Navarra promises to be Spain's next great wine discovery and is set to become a major producer of top-quality wines from across a spectrum that includes world-class whites, exceptional rosés, native and foreign varietal reds and surprising dessert wines.

Food in Navarra: Navarra's Country Cuisine

Navarra's country cuisine, talented chefs and lively restaurants are among the best in Spain. They have at their disposal a vast cornucopia of ingredients to draw from: garden-fresh produce such as artichokes, asparagus, beans and red piquillo peppers from the Ribera of southern Navarra; quail, partridge and rabbit from the mountains; trout from the cold, clear mountain streams; fish and shellfish from the nearby Atlantic; excellent artisan cheeses from Roncal in the Pyrenees; and lamb from all across the province.

Tasting & Touring in Navarra

Bodegas Julián Chivite

The 1994 vintage – combined with the coming of age of the Chivite family's (Fernando, Julián and Mercedes) spectacular 150-hectare Arínzano Estate Vineyard (planted to tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay near the historic town of Estella) and the maturation of Fernando Chivite's winemaking skills – will firmly place Chivite among the ranks of Spain's greatest wineries.

Rias Baixas Wines*

Posting Date:08/07/2004 Summary: --Gerry Dawes©2003 ... # posted by Gerry Dawes @ 4:13 PM 0 comments ...Spain: An Insider's Guide to Food, Wine and Travel in Spain by Gerry Dawes Saturday, August 07, 2004 ...

Catavino: Sherry Glass

Posting Date:08/07/2004
Summary: Spain: An Insider's Guide to Food, Wine and Travel in Spain by Gerry Dawes Saturday, August 07, 2004 ...Catavino at Vinicola Hidalgo Gerry Dawes Copyright 2004...Catavino: Rider at Feria de Sevilla*
Gerry Dawes Copyright 2004...# posted by Gerry Dawes @ 10:05 AM 0 comments ...

Spain: Looking Back To The Future By GERRY DAWES
First Appeared in The Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 2002

Three-star restaurants, cultish boutique wines and appreciative, affluent consumers: europe’s gastronomic epicenter just may be shifting to España.
When I first began traveling the wine roads of Spain in the early 1970s, the state of Spanish wine and food was dramatically different than it is today...


Photo Gallery: Spanish Food

Salmorejo & Montilla, Taberna Juan Peña, Córdoba
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

Jamón Ibérico, Fino La Ina sherry, Casa Juanito, Jerez de la Frontera
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

Arroz con mariscos en paella, L'Establiment, El Palmar (La Albufera), Valencia
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

Pulpo, Madrid
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

Bocata tapas bar, Madrid
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

Olivas gordas, Los Cuevas (Cuevas brothers) restaurant, Sevilla
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

Aceitunas (olives), Market, Càdiz
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

Hongos (porcini mushrooms), Casa Marcelo, Riaza (Segovia)
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

Almond cookies, Barcelona
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

Tartaletas de fresas, Barcelona
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004


Madrid Scenes

July 20 to 30, 2006 Holland America Lines "Culinary Arts Series"

With Gerry Dawes, Guest Culinary Celebrity

(Booked by Cry of the Loon Travel, Devon, PA)

Civitavecchia (Rome) * Monte Carlo * Livorno * Barcelona

Palma de Mallorca * La Goulette, Tunisia * Palermo, Sicily

Naples, Italy * Civitavecchia

(Double-click on brochure images to view full size.)

Don Quixote Rides Again - The Wines of Castilla - La Mancha

* * * * *

Don Quixote Mural at Bodegas Aresan, La Mancha

Castilla-La Mancha: Don Quixote Rides Again
(Published in Santé Magazine September 2005, with minor revisions in this version.

Text & Photographs By Gerry Dawes

Spain is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’s immortal novel of the Man of La Mancha. Cervantes himself was quite a wine lover, and throughout the book there are references to wine. Historically, however, scorching summers in central Spain’s vast Castilla-La Mancha wine region have contributed to flabby, low-acid, quick-to-oxidize white wines and rustic, acid-deficient red wines that were often four parts Airén-based white wine blended with one part red Cencibel (the traditional Manchegan name for Tempranillo) macerated with the red grape skins to pick up color. The wine was warm-fermented in upright baked-clay tinajas, a king-sized version of ancient amphorae, which used to transport and store wine, water, olives and other commodities all over the Roman Empire. The Manchegan idea of vino tinto was and in some wineries still is, a pale purplish-red wine, which was usually served chilled to mask its crude rusticity.

Industry Modernization

All that has changed within the past few years. The wines of Castilla-La Mancha have become fresher, fruitier, and, in some cases, quite sophisticated. The region’s vanguard red wines, like many of their international-style counterparts, are well-built, rich, ripe, sometimes impenetrably dark, and lashed with new French oak. Fledging efforts to make quality white wines are showing flashes of promise in cold-fermented Airén and Viura, sometimes blended with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc (Ercavio); Chardonnay from Manuel Manzaneque; and Viognier from Finca Vallegracia. Spurred by the successes of warm-country wines such as those from Napa Valley and Australia, quality standards in Castilla-La Mancha (indeed, in all of Spain) have evolved rapidly over the past decade. Although quality is still a relative term, the massive production of wines in this intemperate region has changed substantially for the better.

Enormous resources have gone into modernizing the La Mancha wine industry. Existing wineries have made serious investments in upgrading their equipment, vinification techniques, and vineyard management. New wineries have sprouted like the saffron crocus flowers which color parts of the Manchegan landscape in the fall, and new wire-trained, irrigated vineyards have become common throughout the area.

Airèn and Other Grapes

The La Mancha DO (Denominación de Origen, the equivalent of France’s Appellation d’Origine Controlée) rules were relaxed in 1996 to officially allow the inclusion of foreign grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, which were only “experimental” varieties up until the revision. The white native grapes, Viura (or Macabeo) and Pardilla, and the red grapes, Garnacha Tintorera and Moravia, are also approved varieties. But the overwhelming majority of La Mancha wines are still made from either the white Airèn or, increasingly, the red Tempranillo, Spain’s greatest native red wine grape. Although there are more La Mancha red wines in the American market, there is so much Airén in La Mancha that the acreage makes it the most planted white grape on the planet, outdistancing the prolific Ugni Blanc/Trebbiano of France and Italy. The grower-members of Tomelloso’s Cooperativa Virgen de las Viñas, the largest cooperative in Europe, alone have cultivated a staggering 45,000-plus acres of Airén, which---as preposterous as it may seem in a country known for red wines---is more than double the vineyard acreage of the entire Ribera del Duero DO.

Because of its Airén production, Tomelloso makes more wine than any town in the world. According to Miguel Angel Valentín, Director of Bodegas Centro Españolas (producers of the well-made Allozo red wines and some surprisingly good brandy), Tomelloso harvested 275,600 tons of grapes in 2002. The cooperative’s prodigious production highlights the massive dimensions in both size and production capacity of Castilla-La Mancha, which includes five provinces (Ciudad Real, Toledo, Cuenca, Albacete and Guadalajara). The region boasts half the vineyard land in Spain (1.5 million acres) and produces half of Spain’s wine (500 million gallons annually).

Dry Climate

In My Fair Lady, “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” But what rain really falls on La Mancha’s high plains (manxa was the Moorish word for dry land) is less than an annual average of 16 inches. La Mancha averages 3,000 hours of sunlight per year (eight hours per day) and, during the relatively short but very hot, nearly rainless summers, temperatures can and do soar to more than 110ºF, causing Manchegans to pray for “rain on the plain.” Temperatures sometimes dip below 0ºF and bone-chilling winds sweep across the high plateau called the Meseta (“tabletop”) during the long cold winters.

The intense summer heat prevents the grapes from ripening evenly, a recurring malady underscored by Guadalupe Valdes, enologist at Casa de la Viña, who explains, “Due to the high temperatures in this region, the grape pulp ripens much faster than the grapeskins and seeds. This means that the alcohol levels and total acidity are in equilibrium before the skins and pips are ripe.” Traditionally, vines in La Mancha have been grown low to the ground and en vaso (goblet-pruned) to provide a thick canopy of leaves to protect the grapes from the fierce sun. In recent years, however, almost all new vineyards in this region are trained en espaldera (on wires) and use drip irrigation. class=Section2>

There are benefits to this dry climate. The extreme conditions are so inhospitable to insect pests, for instance, that there are still large numbers of old vineyards on pie franco, or pre-phylloxera French rootstock. The vines of La Mancha normally have few humidity-related fungal diseases. Labor costs are reduced because the vineyards need almost no chemical treatments; their upkeep requires only about half as many work days (about 20 per year) as most French vineyards. Many vineyards are essentially organically farmed.

Appellations and Producers

Just one of several DOs in Castilla-La Mancha, the La Mancha DO, which sprawls across all the region’s provinces except Guadalajara, is larger than some countries, occupying nearly 12,000 square miles. Its 475,000 acres under vines make it the largest wine region in the world. The other Castilla-La Mancha DOs are Almansa, Manchuela (where Spanish wine writer Victor de la Serna’s Finca Sandoval is the prominent fine wine to date), Méntrida, Mondéjar, Ribera del Júcar, Valdepeñas, and parts of Jumilla. The increasingly more important designation, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, is one that many wineries are using for often top-quality wines that do not strictly conform to the DO regulations in their regions. For example, many of them contain the not-yet-approved Syrah.

The producers in the most important designations---La Mancha, Valdepeñas, and Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla---fall into several categories. In the Valdepeñas DO, an overwhelming majority of the production is still dedicated to inexpensive, quaffable wine turned out by some of the largest wineries in Spain. While several wines, including the Félix Solis Viña Albali reservas, the J. A. Megia e Hijos Corcovo line, Bodegas Los Llanos Pata Negra’s Videva Aniversario, and the wines of Casa de la Viña are palatable and generally inexpensive, none of them are worthy competitors to the elite wines of La Rioja, Ribera del Duero or Priorato.

The huge La Mancha DO has a number of wineries, many of them newcomers working within the regulatory council’s guidelines, that are a notch above Valdepeñas both in the quality of their vinification facilities and wines. These commercial ventures make plenty of reasonably priced good wine to compete on the world market with wine from Chile, Australia, and South Africa. The majority of these wineries have been established recently by outsiders from La Rioja, Jerez, and Ribera del Duero, and some of their wineries and plantations are impressive.

Ribera del Duero’s renowned Alejandro Fernández (Tinto Pesquera) founded El Vínculo in the windmill-crowned town of Campo de Criptana in Cuidad Real Province and is turning out some very good La Mancha DO red wines from contract grapes. In a remote, high-altitude site (2,854 feet) near Los Hinosojos in Cuenca Province, La Rioja’s Martínez Bujanda family (Conde de Valdemar, Finca Valpiedra) has established a large, ultra-modern, James Bond movie set of a winery and a wire-trained, 618-acre vineyard on a 2,412-acre site called Finca Antigua. The inexpensive Finca Antigua wines---a Tempranillo-Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot crianza, a Cabernet, and a Tempranillo---are delicious bargains. Near Finca Antigua is Finca Los Trenzones, a 1,477-acre, high-altitude estate, which was purchased by the Rioja’s Bodegas Faustino Martinez group. They replanted the Tempranillo vineyards (including an experimental 100-acre organic vineyard), installed modern vinification equipment, and purchased new American oak barrels for ageing the wines. The clean, fruity, Condesa de Leganza 100 percent Tempranillo crianza and a reserva are quite inexpensive but with perhaps too much showy oak.

Several other DO La Mancha wineries making a palatable, moderately priced range of wines include Allozo from Bodegas Centro-Españoles, Fontal (Bodegas Fontana), Vega Moragona (S. Coop. La Magdelena), Torre de Gazate (Vínicola de Tomelloso), Señorío de Guadianeja (Vínicola de Castilla), and Veronés (Santa Rita).

Vanguard Wines

For many modern palates, the most interesting wines in this vast region are the Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla, a wine designation that was established in 1999 to allow wineries experimenting with alternative varieties (e.g., Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, and Petit Verdot) and using vinification and aging techniques that were outside the approved DO regulations to produce and market such wines as they see fit. Some of the most powerful and unique producers in the region bottle Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla wines. Many other producers market some of their wines under the DOs La Mancha, Valdepeñas, and so forth, but label their flagship wine as Vino de la Tierra de Castilla.
Vitis Terrarum

Among the top wines under this designation are the two Castilla-La Mancha self-proclaimed Pagos DOs (single vineyard DO properties similar to France’s Château Grillet in the Rhône Valley): the Marqués de Griñon Carlos Falcó’s Dominio de Valdepusa near Toledo, which makes a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Syrah, and the top Petit Verdot in Spain); and Finca Elez, theatrical producer Manuel Manzaneque’s high-altitude vineyards in the Sierra de Alcaraz in Albacete Province. Other standout wines include Ercavio from Mas Que Vinos, Gran Calzadilla (Uribes Madero), La Estacada Syrah (Finca La Estacada), Avalón (Arva-Vitis), Quercus (Bodegas Fontana), Pago Florentino (from the producers of Ribera del Duero’s Arzuaga Navarro wines), Vega Ibor (Bodegas Real), plus Dehesa Carrizal and Vitis Terrarum from eponymously named wineries. Sherry producer Osborne has made a huge investment in its new 2,500-acre estate and 270,000-square-meter bodega near Malpico de Tajo, where three Vino de la Tierra de Castilla red wines are produced: Dominio de Malpica (100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon); an Osborne Selección Solaz{ital] blend of Syrah and Tempranillo; and the bargain-priced Solaz, a blend of Tempranillo (80 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20 percent).

While Don Quixote’s wine-loving creator, Miguel de Cervantes, would certainly not recognize the wines of La Mancha today, many of the world’s top wine critics have begun to discover the potential of the world’s largest wine region. Restaurant wine buyers would be wise to taste La Mancha’s exciting new high-value wines and introduce the best of them to their guests.

What is a Castilla-La Mancha Wine?

General Characteristics
Although some of the region’s white wines---mainly Chardonnay and Viognier---are beginning to show some promise, the real interest lies in the explosion of red-wine contenders. They resemble California and Australia wines with very ripe extracted fruit, lush berry-cherry flavors, and plenty of new oak. The best of these wines can be lush, silky, sweet, and delicious, but with a kick that can hit 14.5 percent alcohol and higher.


The majority of Castilla-La Mancha’s reds should be consumed within a year or two of purchase. But a number of producers make wines that need 2-5 years to open up and to integrate some of the surfeit of new oak that many carry. Wines such as Dominio de Valdepusa, Gran Calzadilla, and El Vínculo will improve in bottle and need time after release.

Recent Vintages

In La Mancha, more than just the vintage, as indeed everywhere in the wine world, it is more important to follow the best producers, who must turn out the best wine possible every year to guard their bodega’s reputation.

2004 –-- Hailed as very good vintage in most of Spain, Castilla-La Mancha included.

2003 --– One of the hottest years on record. Massive, fat, very ripe, early-maturing wines.

2002 --– A cool rainy year in many parts of Spain, but better in hot and dry Castilla-La Mancha.

2001 –-- Some very good, rich, easy-drinking wines were made.

2000 –-- Good to very good. Ripe, easy-drinking wines. The best are balanced and ready to drink.

Reviewer’s Choice

By Gerry Dawes

Bodegas Alejandro Fernández Tinto Pesquera El Vínculo 2002 La Mancha
100% Tempranillo

Gutsy nose of crushed ripe berries and violets. Powerful, warm country wine with strawberry compote, licorice, dark chocolate, coffee, and new oak. Roast chicken with potatoes, roast meats, pasta, pizza.

Bodegas Vitis Terrarum Tempranillo Vitis Terrarum 2001
Vino de la Tierra de Castilla
100% Tempranillo

Deep, ripe, fruity nose. Round, soft, and easy-drinking with very rich black fruit and chocolate flavors and a tannic new-oak finish. Grilled or roasted meat, especially lamb, Manchego cheese, chorizo.

Mas Que Vinos La Plazuela 2001 Vino de la Tierra de Castilla
88% Tempranillo, 12% Garnacha

Deep, ripe black and red fruit and restrained oak aromas. Ripe and balanced with velvety, rich black fruit, chocolate, and cola flavors. Lamb, game, steaks, soft cheeses.

Mas Que Vinos: Margarita Madrigal & Alexandra Schmedes

Dominio de Valdepusa Petit Verdot 2002 / Dominio de Valdepusa
100% Petit Verdot

Vivid black fruits, licorice, and violets. Very rich and ripe with plum, strawberry, currant, and mineral flavors. Game, rack of lamb, refined upscale modern meat dishes.

Tasting Notes (When no price is available, the wine may not have a U. S. importer.)

Bodegas del Muni Corpus del Muni 2003 V. T. de Castilla
75% Tempranillo, 20% Syrah, 5% Garnacha

Clean, ripe compote nose. Gutsy, warm, pleasant ripe black fruits flavors with prominent new oak. Drink now, but would benefit from some more cellaring. Manchego cheese, paella, steaks. Fran Kysela et Fils, Ltd., 540-722-9228, $48/case of 6.

Bodegas del Muni Corpus del Muni Viña Lucía 2001 V. T. de Castilla
100% Tempranillo

Dark black cherry. Toasty, funky nose. Heady and very ripe, but juicy and decently balanced with jammy red currant and strawberry flavors liberally laced with new French oak. Lamb, sheeps’ milk cheeses, beef. Drink now, cellar for a few years.
Fran Kysela et Fils, Ltd., 540-722-9228, $60/case of six.

Conde de Leganza Finca Los Trezones Crianza 1999 D. O. La Mancha
(Owned by Bodegas Faustino Martínez, La Rioja) 100% Tempranillo

Dark, plummy blackberry. Rustic nose of with vanilla, cloves, compote. Facile, easy drinking, balanced with juicy, sweet fruit flavors and vanilla American oak that needs food. Good by the glass. Chicken, spinach pasta with tomato sauce, grilled mushrooms. Drink now, 2-3 years.
Palm Bay Imports, 800-872-5622, $80/case. Value selection.

Bodegas Fontana Mesta Tempranillo 2004 V. T. de Castilla

Medium black cherry. Clean, fruity nose. Nice, quaffable, strawberry compote with cloves and cinnammon, some chocolate flavors and no oak. Good by the glass (available in magnums). Pizza, pasta, lamb dishes, tuna. Drink now, 1-2 years.
Winebow - VinEspaña Selections, 212-255-9414, $64/case

Fontana Tempranillo Roble 2003 D. O. La Mancha

Deep black cherry. Clean, ripe fruit, light new oak nose. Spices, cloves, ripe crushed berries, a little jammy, but rich, round, inviting. Drink now. Pizza, pasta, lamb, tuna, swordfish.
Winebow - VinEspaña Selections, 212-255-9414, $84/case

Bodegas Alejandro Fernández Tinto Pesquera El Vínculo 2002 D. O. La Mancha

Deep black cherry color. Gutsy nose of crushed ripe berries and violets. Big, powerful, warm country wine with strawberry compote, licorice, dark chocolate, coffee and new oak. Roast chicken with potatoes, roast meats, pasta, pizza. Drink now, hold two-four years.
Classical Wines, 800-257-7225, $200/case.

Bodegas Alejandro Fernández Tinto Pesquera El Vínculo Reserva 2001 D. O. La Mancha

Black cherry. Licorice, ripe fruit, oak. Big, gutsy, tarry, licorice and ripe berry flavors with a liberal lashing of oak. Roast pork loin, lamb, cheese pizza, pasta with Mediterranean sauces. Drink now, hold several years.
Classical Wines, 800-257-7225, $320/case

Osborne Selección Solaz Tempranillo-Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 V. T. de Castilla
50% Tempranillo, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep plummy red. Ripe fruit, new American oak. Balanced, easy-drinking, versatile with ripe cherry, plum and berry fruit, brassy new oak bite. Good by the glass. Pizza, pasta, hamburgers, grilled vegetables. Near-term drinking.
W. J. Deutsch & Sons, 914-251-9463 $64/case

Osborne Selección Solaz Shiraz-Tempranillo 2003 V. T. de Castilla
50% Shiraz, 50% Tempranillo

Medium pie cherry color. Light oak, spices, red fruit compote. Ripe fruit, warm, noticeably peppery, strawberry, cherry, brassy oak. Good by the glass. Manchego/Zamorano cheeses, grilled beef, pork chops, pizza, hamburgers. Near-term drinking.
W. J. Deutsch & Sons, 914-251-9463 $64/case

Osborne Selección Dominio de Malpica Vendimia Seleccionada 2001 V. T. de Castilla
100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark blackberry. Spicey oak, ripe fruit nose. Smooth, easy, fat, round, very ripe with coffee, carob, dark chocolate and licorice flavors. Pork cutlets with leeks, mushrooms and peppers, pasta with cheese, game dishes. Drink now, 2-4 years
W. J. Deutsch & Sons, 914-251-9463, $120/case

Finca Antigua Tempranillo 2002 D. O. La Mancha
(owned by Familia Martínez Bujanda, La Rioja) 100% Tempranillo

Deep black cherry. Pleasant oaky, strawberry compote nose. Bright, ripe strawberry, red currant and chocolate braced with firm oak tannins. Good by the glass with food. Grilled meats, aged cheeses, pizza, barbecue fare. Drink now, 1-2 years.
CIV - USA, 800-669-1972, $80

Finca Antigua Reserva 2001 D. O. La Mancha
75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah

Deep, plummy blackberry. Ripe fruit, mature coffee, tobacco nose. Heady, very ripe black fruit compote, tarry licorice, dark chocolate and new oak. Roast chicken, grilled meats, pork roast, mushrooms. Drink now, 2 years.
CIV - USA, 800-669-1972, $144.

Bodegas Vitis Terrarum Vitis Terrarum Tempranillo 2001 V. T. de Castilla
100% Tempranillo (ungrafted single vineyard)

Deep black red. Big, deep, ripe, fruity nose. Big, round, soft, low acid, very rich black fruit and chocolate flavors. Smooth, easy drinking with a tannic new oak finish. Drink now to 5 years. Grilled or roasted meat, especially lamb, Manchego cheese, chorizo.
Boca Wine Imports, 561-212-6095, $320 / case of 6.

Cooperativa Nuestra Señora del Pilar Almedo 2003 V. T. de Castilla
(Special American cuvee) 60% Tempranillo, 25% Syrah, 15% Syrah

Murky plum red. Big, grapey, toasty nose. Strawberry and toast, soft and grapey up front, but with sherry-like flavors and a hot finish that belies the announced 13% alcohol. Pizza, pasta, barbecue grill food. Good value. Drink up.
VinLozano Imports, Inc., 978-297-5477, $60.

Bodega Ecologica Bruno Ruíz Villanueva Roble 2001 V. T. de Castilla
75% Cencibel (Tempranillo), 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah (organically grown)

Med pie-cherry red. Pie cherries and new oak. Pleasant, easy-drinking mix of spices (cloves, cinnamon and vanilla), strawberry-red cherry fruit and new oak. Good by the glass. Grilled chicken, tuna steaks, pasta, tapas.
VinLozano Imports, Inc., 978-297-5477, $60.

Cruzares, S.A. Marqués de Moral Crianza 2000 Valdepeñas
(Owned by Félix Solís)100% Cencibel (Tempranillo)

Deep black-red. Tanky, rustic, baking spice nose. Rustic, with volatile acidity, but a pleasant, if rough-edged country wine (true to the region) with a core of chocolate-red berry fruit. Grilled food, Italian pasta dishes, cured cheeses. Good value, drink now.
Fran Kysela et Fils, Ltd., 540-722-9228, $48/case of 12

Topping bottles with hot wax at Finca la Estacada

Finca la Estacada Selección Varietal 2001 V. T. Tierra De Castilla
Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Mazuelo (Carignane)

Dark plum-cherry. Violets, licorice, toast, black and red fruits. Cola, cherries, red currants, licorice, spices, good acid and firm new oak (18 months). Upscale modern cuisine dishes, pasta, roast chicken, steaks, pork, lamb. Drink now to 3-5 years.
Grapes of Spain, Inc., 703-249-8028, $84/case of 6.

Mas Que Vinos Ercavio Tempranillo Roble 2003 V. T. de Castilla
Tempranillo (usually with some Cabernet Sauvignon)

Deep plum-red. Very ripe black fruits, licorice, baking spices. Rich, very ripe, sweet black currants, black raspberry, cloves, and licorice. Drink now, 1-2 years. Great value. Barbecues, grilled food, sheeps’ cheeses.
European Cellars/704-358-1565 / $80
Mas Que Vinos Ercavio Reserva 2000 V. T. de Castilla
90% Tempranillo, 10% Merlot

Dark plum-red. Ripe black currants, restrained oak. Delicious, rich, but not overripe, soft black cherry, currants and chocolate flavors with oak in harmony. Grilled lamb, game dishes (quail, rabbit), dishes with chorizo. Drink now to five years.
European Cellars, 704-358-1565, $?

Mas Que Vinos La Plazuela 2001 V. T. de Castilla
88% Tempranillo, 12% Garnacha

Dark black cherry. Deep, ripe black and red fruit nose, restrained oak. Ripe, but again not overripe, velvety, rich black fruit, chocolate and cola flavors with oak in balance. Lamb, game, steaks, soft cheeses. Drink now to five years.
European Cellars, 704-358-1565, $360 / case

Bodegas Hermanos Arenas Sánchez Aresan Crianza 2002 V. T. de Castilla
65% Tempranillo, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep plum-red. Ripe, sweet, jammy nose. Simple, easy-drinking, ripe blackberry and currant flavors with firm oak tannins. Charcuterie, cured cheeses, grilled meats. Drink now, 1-2 years.

Pago Florentino Pago Florentino 2002 V. T. de Castilla
(owned by Ribera del Duero’s Arzuaga-Navarro) 100% Tempranillo

Deep, thick black plum. Pleasant, very ripe blackberry-black cherry nose. Very concentrated, incredibly rich, powerful (14.5%) black cherry, chocolate and cola flavors. Cheese ravioli, grilled tuna, rack of lamb. Drink now, 3-4 years. $160 / case

Pago del Vicario Agios 2002 V. T. de Castilla
80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha Tintorera

Thick, dark blackberry. Intense blackberry jam, licorice. Incredibly concentrated, powerful, rich, extracted with licorice, chocolate and jammy black fruits. Venison, roasted meats, Mediterranean pasta dishes, enchiladas. $220 / case

Arva Vitis Avalon de Arva Vitis 2001 V. T. de Castilla
100% old vines Tempranillo

Med-deep plum-cherry red. Sweet red fruit, light new oak. Good balance, easy-drinking, sweet plum, cherry, strawberry fruit and baking spices. Chicken dishes, tuna, game. $?

Bodegas Real Vega Ibor Tempranillo Barrique Crianza 2001 V. T. de Castilla
100% Tempranillo

Dark blackberry. Cola, cherry jam, ripe strawberries. Rich, soft, round, low acid with strawberry-cherry, cola and tannic oak finish. Pasta, game dishes, charcuterie, sheeps’ milk cheeses. Drink now, 1-2 years. Grape Expectations Wine Imports, 919-781-1655 $56 / case

Bodegas Real Finca Marisánchez Roble 2001 V. T. de Castilla
80% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot

Opaque, thick, black plum. Nice, concentrated nose, new oak. Very concentrated, rich, blackberry-cherry, plum, chocolate, and carob flavors. Deceptively drinkable, but packs a punch
Grape Expectations Wine Imports, 919-781-1655, $176 / case

Dominio de Valdepusa Syrah 2002 D.O. Dominio de Valdepusa
100% Syrah

Deep black plum. Big, concentrated, stewed black fruit. Big, but well-balanced with rich, round, blackberry fruit and licorice. Drink now to five years. Pates, charcuterie, venison, grilled meats.
$300 / case

Dominio de Valdepusa Emeritus 2000 D.O. Dominio de Valdepusa
Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah

Medium deep black-red plum. Big, ripe, modern Bordeaux-esque nose. Very powerful (14.5%), but smooth with intense stewed black fruit, cola, carob and espresso. Drink now to seven years. Venison, country pates, charcuterie, cheese selections, mushrooms. $520 / case

Dominio de Valdepusa Petit Verdot 2002 D.O. Dominio de Valdepusa
100% Petit Verdot

Thick, dark black cherry. Deep black fruits, licorice, violets. Very rich, ripe, delicious with plums, strawberries, red currants and minerals. Drink now to 7-8 years. Game, rack of lamb, refined upscale modern meat dishes.  $440 / case

Pagos de La Familia, S.A. Summa Varietalis 2001 Vino Tinto de Mesa Tinto de Toledo
(Made at Domino de Valdepusa) Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah

Deep plum red. Big, ripe plummy, herbaceous. Very ripe, concentrated, delicious black currant and cherry fruit. Game, mushroom sauces, Spanish cheese selections, serrano ham. $320 / case

Bodegas y Viñedos Uribes Madero Gran Calzadilla 1998 V. T. de Castilla
75% Tempranillo, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep black raspberry. Big, ripe wild fruit nose, violets, perfume, licorice, oak. Ripe, intense, sweet fruit with loads of strawberries, red cassis, smoke, licorice, violets with tannic new oak finish. Now to 10 years. Great Napa Cabernet / Bordeaux food.
Charmer Industries, 800-794-9615, $93 / case of 6.

Bodegas y Viñedos Uribes Madero Calzadilla 1998 V. T. de Castilla
60% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Garnacha, 12.5% Syrah

Deep black cherry. Great, sweet, ripe wild fruit nose, licorice, chocolate. Wonderful, sweet fruit with wild strawberries, currants, black raspberry, coffee and licorice with prominent new oak. Now to 10 years. Napa Cabernet / Cru Classe Bordeaux food. 
Charmer Industries, 800-794-9615, $93 / case of 6.

Finca Sandoval 2001 La Manchuela
93% Syrah (Petit Syrah) / 7 % Monastrell (Mourvedre)

Thick, black as coal. Powerful, deep, ripe black fruits nose. Very sweet, smooth blackberry, black cherry, and cassis flavors with hints of black pepper and firm, but not overwhelming new French oak. Now to 5-7 years. Hermitage food, roasted and grilled meats, wild duck, goats’ and sheeps’ milk cheeses. Jorge Ordoñez - Fine Estates From Spain, 781-461-5767, $240 / case

Finca Sandoval 2002 La Manchuela
93% Syrah (Petit Syrah) / 7 % Monastrell (Mourvedre)

Deep black cherry. Deep, ripe plummy, black fruits and licorice nose. Big, ripe, round, silky with easy-drinking, sweet, black fruits flavors and minerals. Perhaps will develop more complexity with cellaring. Now to 5 - 8 years. Hermitage food, roasted and grilled meats, wild duck, goats’ and sheeps’ milk cheeses. Jorge Ordoñez - Fine Estates From Spain, 781-461-5767, $240 / case

Bodegas Martúe Martúe Syrah 2001 V. T. de Castilla
100% Syrah

Thick, deep black raspberry. Ripe, sweet black fruits, black pepper, oak. Very concentrated with bright black cherry, clove and pepper flavors and a sweet cola and oak finish. Now to 3-5 years. Duck, roast pork, sheeps’ cheeses, steak with peppercorns. $160 / case

Dehesa del Carrizal Selección Privada 2002 V. T. de Castilla
40% Cabernet Sauvigon, 30% Syrah, 30% Merlot

Murky black plum. Spicey nose, new French oak. Cassis, blackberry and minerals, dominated by new oak. Big Napa style, corresponding dishes, venison, grilled meats, goats’ and sheeps’ milk cheeses. 3-5 years. $?

Bodegas Pago de Vallegarcía Syrah 2001 V. T. de Castilla
100% Syrah

Deep black raspberry. Ripe fruit, minerals, coffee, new oak. Sweet, ripe, intense dark black fruits, some pepper, but bound in new oak. Game terrines, roast pork, lamb rib chops, grilled tuna. Needs 3-5 years. $320 / case


The New Wines of Don Quixote's La Mancha Spain Gourmetour

By Gerry Dawes
Spaingourmetour (Sept.-Dec. 2004)

Being a Don Quixote-like figure myself-one who has peripatetically criss-crossed Spain for some thirty years-I have an affinity for the Man of La Mancha, but until I set out in January of both 2003 and 2004 to investigate the buzz about Castilla-La Mancha's emerging quality wine movement, I had never had the opportunity to explore the region in depth. During my eye-opening trips through La Mancha, I visited more than forty wineries scattered across the core of this vast five-province region (Cuenca, Toledo, Ciudad Real, Albacete, and Guadalajara). I tasted some surprisingly good wines in revitalized existing wineries and saw several impressive new bodegas and vineyards that showed great promise.

Click on the La Mancha link above for the complete article.


A Personal Homage to the Wines of Bodegas Riojanas on the Occasion of Their 115th Anniversary

(Entry in the book Bodegas Riojanas published to commemorate that anniversary.)

It is a an honor to be invited to contribute to a book celebrating the 115th Anniversary of one of the greatest wineries in La Rioja. I have been drinking well-aged, classic Rioja wines for more than thirty-five years and I consider them to be among the world's finest red wines. My experience with these wonderful wines dates back to the late 1960s, when I was living in Southern Spain and drinking some sublime Rioja wines from the 1950s and even the late 1940s. Among these wines was a magnificent 1947 that may have been the greatest red wine of my life, which includes a 20-year career in the wine trade during which I sold some of France’s greatest Burgundies, Rhône Valley wines and the best red wines of California.

Early on, when I was living in Spain in the 1970s, I was often attracted to bottles of Viña Albina and Monte Real Reservas by their labels, which are some of the most attractive in Spain. The Bodegas Riojanas labels speak of tradition, of experience, and of quality and for me their wines show all three attributes. Those factors should never be discounted no matter how inflated the hyperbolic claims by urban-bound wine writers of instant greatness for so-called modern miracle wines become. I found back then, as now, that the wines of Bodegas Riojanas were not wines to be sipped alone and, especially, in this epoque, not vinos de cata–wines made for blind tastings. Wines such as Viña Albina, made in that lovely Bordeaux claret style that has almost disappeared, and Monte Real, which in vintages such as 1973 (especially, and, with age, in other fine vintages as well) can easily be mistaken for a great aged Burgundy, are food wines par excellence. With their fine acidity and balance, they are perfect accompaniments to a meal. They begin to soar in the third glass as the meal progresses, not overwhelming the diner with a powerful, huge mouthful of blackberry jam at first taste and becomes increasingly more boring to drink as the meal goes on.

Over these many years, it has been my pleasure to have encountered numerous bottles of exceptional wines from Bodegas Riojanas. In March 1998, during a gastronomic conference in Córdoba, I introduced several major American food luminaries and chefs to some of the aged Rioja treasures from the wonderful old Roman-origin cellars at El Churrasco restaurant. Among them was a splendid 1982 Bodegas Riojanas Viña Albina. My colleagues were astounded at how well the wine had aged (and it was only 16 years old!). Our group of a dozen people had four bottles (two of Viña Albina and two of another Rioja of similar age), which amounted to half the price of just one bottle of one of Spain’s most famous wines.

On another occasion, with a group of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia wine aficionados, on a wonderful October evening in San Sebastián at Jatextea Rekondo, which has one of the greatest wine cellars in Europe, we raided for great Rioja red wines from Txomín Rekondo’s cellars five different decades from the 1980s to the 1940s. 

Representing the decade of the 1950s, we encountered a superb, still lively and rich 1952 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva, a wine I also found in excellent condition (again like a great old Burgundy) a couple of years later with New York Times wine writer, Frank J. Prial, in Getaria at Kaia, one of the best seafood restaurants in the world.

Those bottles were all memorable, but I have saved the best two encounters with Bodegas Riojanas wines for last. Some fifteen years ago, when the wine was only 17 years old, at my home outside New York, I served my friend New York Times writer Howard Goldberg a Monte Real Gran Reserva from the 1973 vintage, an incredible sleeper vintage for a number of classic Rioja bodegas, one in which a number of top wines over time began to resemble great aged Burgundy. Goldberg took a sip, pondered the wine and said, "My God, this a dead-ringer for a Burgundy!"

In the fall of 2003, I have was having lunch in the Basque Country in the fishing port of Getaria at Kaia, one of my favorite restaurants with one of my favorite people in La Rioja, Isaac Muga of Bodegas Muga, whose wine, Prado Enea, in vintages such as 1973 and 1981, reminds me a great deal of Monte Real. I suggested that we order some older Rioja wines from other bodegas. He confided that he was not that fond of "aged Rioja wines" anymore. When I presented him with a glass of the magnificent 1964 Monte Real Gran Reserva, Isaac said, "Well, I do like this kind of aged Rioja!"

In September 2005, I had the 1964 Monte Real again with two famous American chefs, Norman Van Aken and Terrance Brennan, also at Kaia. I am happy to report that they also like "this kind of aged Rioja."

For some years now, Viña Albina and Monte Real reservas, have been the alternate choices as my vino tinto at home, the wines I drink when I want a wine that delivers pleasure that builds on each sip and brings me back with its aromas, flavors and charm to one of my favorite places on earth, La Rioja. They could come from no where else.

Bodegas Riojanas has a 115-year history of producing excellent wines across a spectrum of styles and price-ranges. They acquit themselves splendidly in all categories including their rosados and semi-sweet white wines. I can only wish them 115 more years (and more) of continued success.


--Gerry Dawes



Artisanal Cheese Center

An excellent, well-cared-for selection of fine Spanish cows', ewes' and goats' milk cheeses. Cheese classes, wine tastings, special events. Check Artisanal's website for Spanish cheese and wine classes by Gerry Dawes.

The Spanish Table

Absolutely first-rate Spanish food, wine and cookware stores in Seattle, Berkeley and Santa Fe. Food & cookware from Spain & Portugal including paella pans that serve one to 200 people, Portuguese copper cataplanas, terra cotta cookware, specialty food items, music, books, and much more! Owned by Steve Winston, el jefe, who opened the Seattle store in 1995.

Spanish Cheeses

Informative source for information on the cheeses of Spain, from the Foods From Spain promotional arm of ICEX, the Spanish Trade Ministry. (English language site)

Excellent, lively forum on Spanish wines, restaurant recommendations in Spain, etc.

Website of Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page


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