Tastings - Wine & Spirits Magazine


97             Bodegas Vega-Sicilia     Ribera del Duero Unico Reserva Especial
In an ideal world, anyone who approaches a border crossing into Spain would receive a drop of Unico Reserva Especial on their tongue, resetting their entire system to work in Spanish. This is the most Spanish of wines, needing only a slice of jamón Iberico or a crisp bite of lechazo to deliver complete Castilian bliss. The latest release, assembled by Gonzalo Iturriaga and his team from their reserves of Unico in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 vintages, is a plump, savory beauty. It resonates in a subtle chord of flavor, working through major and minor keys as it lasts, spicy and dynamic, defining elegance. The flavors shapeshift from bitter chocolate to black currant, a whiff of freshness in scents of tomato leaf and purple sage. Compellingly delicious, this is the vinous aristocracy of Spain. Europvin USA, Van Nuys, CA

95             Bodegas Vega-Sicilia     2013 Ribera del Duero Unico
The 2013 season was relatively mild and dry, at least until harvest, when the rains came on from the end of September through mid-October. The 100 acres of vines for Unico grow on a north-facing hillside, the remnants of an ancient lake bed, its sediments combining sand and clay flecked with crystallized gypsum. The soil’s ability to manage water, along with the vines’ adaptation to the site for 40, 60 or 80 years, delivered a beautiful 2013, a silken pleasure, fragrant with fresh fruit and violet scents. The lasting impression is complex, melding notes of pipe tobacco, black mushroom umami, red currant, red meat and flamed orange peel. The dry tannins take the gentle well of dark fruits toward tension in the end, making this a keeper. Europvin USA, Van Nuys, CA

94             La Vieja Cepa     2015 Ribera del Duero Marques de Uros
Arnaldo Rodriguez and his family farm 37 acres in La Horra, most of the vines planted in the early 1950s, with the youngest planted in 1961. Their Selección Especial in 2015 is bright blue fruit on top, with some green herb notes. Then the flavors run deeper, integrating mineral-rich tannins into blueberry-skin blackness, those tannins strong without feeling aggressive. From a ripe vintage, this is gracious and easy to love. Classic Wines, Stamford, CT

94             Vizcarra     $334     2015 Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva Torralvo
Juan Carlos Vizcarra blends his best barrels into Torralvo, working with fruit from his 11 parcels of vines in Mambrilla de Castrejón (Burgos), planted more than 60 years ago. This is a serious, old-school tempranillo, needing a decade or more of cellar time to reach its peak expression. For now, the wine is substantial and long, the fruit infused into the limestone abrasion of the tannins. As powerful and austere as those tannins may be, the fruit continues to show through them; as the finish continues, you can breathe the fruit through the tannins, providing a vision of what the wine will become. Olé & Obrigado, New Rochelle, NY

93             Pagos de Anguix     $25     2020 Ribera del Duero Costalara
The Juvé family, producers of Cava in Penedès, renamed the Torre de Anguix winery to focus on pagoVintus, NY

93             Cillar de Silos     $25     2020 Ribera del Duero Cillar Vendimia Seleccionada Tempranillo
From high-altitude vineyards (over 2800 feet) in Quintana del Pidio, this is a wine of quiet elegance, presenting the power of Ribera del Duero without excess. Its floral red fruit—red plums and roses—integrates with the fruitiness of woodland mushrooms, giving the wine umami richness that lasts. Round and integrated, this is ready to enjoy now. Alt Wines, Coral Gables, FL

93             Emilio Moro     $192     2018 Ribera del Duero Malleolus de Sanchomartin Tempranillo
The Moro family farms this parcel in Pesquera de Duero, planted in 1944, producing a silken and elegant wine in 2018. You can feel the cold nights in the grape-skin spice of the tannins, black and lasting on notes of cracked peppercorns and strawberry seeds. Decant a bottle for roast baby lamb. Moro Brothers/USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA

93             Penalba Herraiz     $30     2016 Ribera del Duero Carravid
While he manages more than 600 acres of vines, Miguel Angel Peñalba makes his own wines from 23 acres he farms near Aranda del Duero, certified organic. Carravid is his flagship red, aged more than a year in French oak barrels (80 percent new). That time in oak completes the wine richness that begins with dark fruit—blueberry and black currant—the wine zesty in its plump berry flavor and elegant in its lasting savory notes of tobacco. Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

93             Hnos. Pérez Pascuas     $115     2016 Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva Vina Pedrosa
Based in Pedrosa de Duero, northwest of Roa, the Pérez Pascuas family farms close to 300 acres of vineyards. They select this wine from 60-year-old vines, aging it for two years in barrel, then at least three years in bottle. It’s stately, an old-fashioned Ribera del Duero with plump, anise-scented fruit. That purple fruit flavor runs deep, lasting past the warmth of the wine. A gracious red for pork braised with fennel. Think Global Wines, Santa Barbara, CA

93             Dominio del Pidio     $100     2020 Ribera del Duero
This is a project from Oscar and Robert Aragón, brothers who also work at their family’s winery, Cillar de Silos (their 2020 Cillar Vendimia Seleccionada is also recommended here). They restored the 16th-century cellars in Quintana del Pidio that once served the local monastery. Their 2020 is light and fresh with delicate red fruit scents that last. There’s a bitter baking-chocolate note to the tannins, the wine having aged for 16 months in French oak barrels, 60 feet underground. It’s a Ribera del Duero with stamina, driving forward, leaving a breath of fresh air in its wake. Alt Wines, Coral Gables, FL

93             Resalte de Penafiel     $257     Ribera del Duero Essences Cuvee No. 2
This is a blend of several vintages from the bodega’s stock, selected for longevity and aged in large French oak casks. Potently structured, the wine still feels welcoming in its blueberry flavors, while chalky tannins give it life and lift. Those tannins keep their grip on the finish, the black fruit lasting past them with scents of roses to match the freshness of the tannins. MC Elite, Miami, FL

92             Neo     $30     2021 Ribera del Duero El Arte de Vivir Tempranillo
This wine’s substance and power build out of a salty savor in the tannins, as cool fruit depths rise like a wave of flavor, richly, elaborately structured. There’s lots of cumin spice on the fruit without feeling oaken, lasting with a sweet apricot high note. W.Direct, Lawrence, KS

92             Torres     $25     2019 Ribera del Duero Celeste Crianza
Grown near Fompedraza, south of Peñafiel, this is a wine of indulgent richness, its vibrant red-currant and strawberry flavors turning purple in the shadow of blue-black tannins. There are no edges to it, the wine needing time to come into focus with air. It has a summery tomato-skin undertone giving a sunny warmth. Wilson Daniels, Napa, CA

92             Valdevinas     $45     2005 Ribera del Duero Tinar de Mirat
Based in Langa de Duero, in the eastern hills of Ribera del Duero, Valdeviñas works with its own vineyards as well as small plots of old vines around the village. This late release has reached sweet maturity while the fruit still feels vibrant, with notes of blueberries and bergamot. The soft texture is beginning to show the wine’s age at the edges. For drinking now with roast lamb. Spanish Wine Exclusives, NY

92             Vega Clara     $37     2020 Ribera del Duero Mario
Clara Concejo founded her winery in Quintanilla de Onésimo (Valladolid), the town where most of her 29.6 acres of vines are located. It’s in the western side of Ribera del Duero, and the fruit of the wine has a vertical freshness, a foresty character, as if looking to the Atlantic, noted panelist Nacho Monclús. There’s purity to the currant flavor, supported by oak behind the fruit. An immediate, easy pleasure. Classic Wines, Stamford, CT

92             Vilano     $55     2019 Ribera del Duero Reserva
There’s a positive charge to this wine’s pomegranate-red fruit, the tannins oaky in their coffee-bean richness, lending a sleek, sumptuous texture along with a spice, like fenugreek. It feels Moorish-Iberian, with a sweet blackberry density for North African dishes. W.Direct, Lawrence, KS

91             Alberto y Benito     $18     2019 Ribera del Duero Briego Tiempo Crianza
A blend of fruit from vineyards near Peñafiel (at elevations around 2450 feet) and south of the river, in Fompedraza (close to 3,000 feet), this wine initially takes a Bretty direction with horse-stable scents. Then there’s plenty of black cherry-skin flavor and floral notes coming through in the end. The acidity keeps it fresh, lasting on tannic tension. Kraynick & Associates, Royersford, PA

91             Malcaracter     $42     2020 Ribera del Duero Limited Tempranillo
This needs time to come together, presenting contradictions at first, fresh cherry and fruit leather, flamed orange zest, mustard seed and chocolate. With a day of air, it settles into cool blueberry fruit, a velvet nap of tannins integrating the spice into underlying richness. Copa Fina, Oakland, CA

91             Finca Rodma     $51     2020 Ribera del Duero Avizor
Based on the western side of the region, Rodma farms 34 acres of vines, its parcels ranging in altitude from 2,100 to 3,200 feet. This wine seems to show that higher altitude in superripe fruit that’s not jammy, the fruit foresty, the tannins black. Its complexity mirrors the flavors of sautéed mushrooms served over beef. Toros & Vinos, Miami, FL

91             Valparaiso     $19     2020 Ribera del Duero Crianza Romero de Aranda Tempranillo
Refreshingly cool, this wine’s fresh red-plum flavors pour out of the glass, followed by black plum-skin tannins that last. The fruit enlivens that tense, tannic grip, and both will enliven a char-grilled steak. W.Direct, Lawrence, KS

91             Vega Clara     $150     2019 Ribera del Duero Dacan
From the 80-year-old vines at Pago de Valtarreña in Pedrosa de Duero, Dacán shows its time in new French oak with toasty scents and savory wood influences of soy sauce. It’s an ambitious wine with plenty of fruit to stand up to the oak—indulgent, hedonistic, as one panelist said. There’s a dry feel to the tannins even as the wine has concentration, guts and staying power. Classic Wines, Stamford, CT

91             Vilano     $42     2020 Ribera del Duero Crianza
This is a tight, floral and herbal Ribera del Duero, its youthful character charged with jammy black-raspberry fruit and bloody, purple tannins. Austere and grippy, this needs bottle age to mellow. W.Direct, Lawrence, KS

91             Vilano     $30     2021 Ribera del Duero Roble
With plush black-currant flavors edged in scents of rose petal and rusty acidity, this is a savory, earthy red. Acidity rounds out the richness of the fruit, a mouthwatering match for grilled chopped sirloin. W.Direct, Lawrence, KS

91             Hermanos del Villar     $18     2020 Ribera del Duero Crianza Oro de Castilla
Plump and quiet in its red fruit, earthy and gentle in its green-edged tannins, this is a warm Ribera del Duero with a sense of elegance: A steal for $18. Olé & Obrigado, New Rochelle, NY

91             Vizcarra     $158     2019 Ribera del Duero Celia
Juan Carlos Vizcarra selects this fruit from the oldest tinto fino vines at his family’s vineyards, including 7 percent grenache in the blend. Aged in mostly new French oak barrels for 18 months, this yields exotic scents of rain-forest fruit, violets, tamari and cinnamon—complicated as a young wine, needing age to mellow its iron and tar-black tannins and transform the lean red-currant fruit matrix into complexity. Olé & Obrigado, New Rochelle, NY

90             Bodega S. Arroyo     $60     2015 Ribera del Duero Senorio de Sotillo
There’s tannic density and black-cherry flavor at the core of this wine, needing air to move past its chocolate-mint scents toward umami savor. Earthiness comes up with fruity mushroom tones; a wine to decant for grilled meats. Vinamericas, Miami, FL

90             Bodegas Cepa 21     $62     2019 Ribera del Duero Malabrigo
This is a selection from a vineyard in Castrillo de Duero, offering perfumed red fruit and briny, fruit-skin tannins, hinting at black olives. Those lovely fruit tannins last, weighed down by French oak tannins for now, needing bottle age to work past its waxy oak. USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA

90             Casa Lebai     $115     2020 Ribera del Duero La Nava Albillo Mayor
Though this vineyard was planted in 1940, it was not legal to label the wine Ribera del Duero until 80 years later (the region changed its regulations in October 2019). This old-vine albillo mayor ferments in concrete eggs and ages in 500-liter French oak barrels, converting its ripeness and warmth into intriguing spice, layered over scents of buttercream, crab apple and persimmon bread. Match its perfumed richness and airy length to veal sausages or roast turkey. Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

90             Neo     $31     2021 Ribera del Duero Disco
Floral honey and wild-blueberry scents show off this wine’s lively freshness. It feels crisply lined with green tannins and cool acidity, while the fruit is gentle with a creamy texture in the middle. W.Direct, Lawrence, KS

90             Hnos. Pérez Pascuas     $60     2018 Ribera del Duero Reserva Vina Pedrosa
This smells like a flourless chocolate cake, dark and savory, a rich and luxurious wine with some bitter spice to the dry and austere tannins. There's heat in the end, needing cellar time to open past the tannins. Think Global Wines, Santa Barbara, CA

90             Protos     $30     2020 Ribera del Duero 27 Tinto Fino
Brightened by the pink-peppercorn spiciness to its high notes of red and green fruit, this is full and rich, deepened by blueberry savor and saturated with oak char. The oak recedes with air, as the wine melds its char with warm cherry fruit. Monsieur Touton Selection, NY

90             Resalte de Penafiel     $30     2020 Ribera del Duero Origen de Resalte
The structure of this wine is somehow imperceptible, even as it holds the plump fruit in a crisp line. It feels ambitiously oaked, but it’s not an oak bomb, offering plenty of ripe fruit to absorb the scents of baking spice and vanilla. The structure does show itself in the end, where the oak tannins last, needing a year or two in bottle to fully meld. Terroir Connections, Miami, FL

90             Sei Solo     $108     2019 Ribera del Duero
This is Javier Zacccagnini’s selection from two vineyards in La Horra, where the vines are more than 60 years old. The wine ages for 20 months in used 600-liter French oak barrels, and though the oak is prominent, scents of cherry blossoms and flavors of red fruit drive through it. There’s a spicy pink-peppercorn edge to the tannins, layered into the rich, voluptuous texture. Kysela Père & Fils, Winchester, VA

90             Sei Solo     $56     2019 Ribera del Duero Preludio
The fruit of bush vines in La Horra, Gumiel de Izan and Moradillo, some young, others reaching up to 80 years old, this aged in large-format French oak barrels (50 percent new). The wine’s oak presence is strong, but the fruit is equally strong, black and tarry, like a plum-skin syrup, merging with the oak in notes of tobacco smoke. A classical, grippy black wine from Ribera del Duero, it has edges to it, making room for blackened duck. Kysela Père & Fils, Winchester, VA

90             Tinto Pesquera     $40     2020 Ribera del Duero Crianza
Black cherry and fresh tobacco scents lift this wine out of its warm fruit flavors of jammy blueberries. Soft and cushioned, with oak in the background, this is mature and ready to drink. Folio Fine Wine, Napa, CA

90             Virtus     $120     2016 Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva
Full-on acidity and mineral tannins combine with this wine’s slightly syrupy fruit, delivering a pure blueberry flavor. A selection from parcels in La Horra and Hontoria de Valdearados, the vines more than 60 years old, this is a rustic, lean Ribera del Duero with some old-fashioned charm. W.Direct, Lawrence, KS

89             Arrocal     $32     2020 Ribera del Duero Crianza Tinto Fino
This wine’s black fruit is tight and fresh, one simple note of blueberries with gentle bitterness in the end. The wine’s weighty tannins last with warmth. Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

89             Arrocal     $85     2019 Ribera del Duero Reserva de Familia Tinto Fino
Perfumed and intense, soft and luxurious, this wine feels poised and potent—a bee sting of tannins takes over and leads into a bitter black-bean finish. Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

89             Bodegas El Lagar de Isilla     $50     2016 Ribera del Duero Reserva de la Familia
Violet scents add a purple cast to this wine’s black-cherry flavors, the oak influence more integrated than the significant warmth, which gives a four-square, big and burly feel. D'Cata, Doral, FL

89             Emilio Moro     $46     2020 Ribera del Duero Vendimia Seleccionada
Butterscotch sweetness hails from this wine’s candied blue fruit and cherry cough drop notes. This is floral, giving, satisfying, balanced in a sweetly ripe style. Moro Brothers/USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA

89             Bodegas Penafiel     $31     2018 Ribera del Duero Silencio de Miros
Gritty with black fruit, red plum and pomegranate, this is spicy with cinnamon-bark notes up front, then more generous in the end, the tannins silken and lasting. Some animal notes take this into a minor key, where it lasts on warmth. Dreyfus Ashby & Co., NY

89             Vizcarra     $26     2021 Ribera del Duero Senda del Oro
This is a tight, formidable wine with heady blackberry-jam flavors, rich with oak and aggressive tannins, then the acidity cleans up the finish. For braised lamb. Ole & Obrigado, New Rochelle, NY

88             Alion     2019 Ribera del Duero
Saturated with oak, this is a warm vintage of Alion, focused for now on savory, grape-skin tannins and then lasting on alcohol and char. Europvin USA, Van Nuys, CA

88             Bodegas Cepa 21     $19     2021 Ribera del Duero Hito
A potent, earthy wine, this is all about energy and drive rather than flavor detail. Decant it to pull the fruit out of its peppery tannins, then serve with grilled lamb chops. USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA

88             Dominio Fournier     $50     2016 Ribera del Duero Reserva
A wolf in wolf's clothing, this is a big, bad wine with lots of hard mineral-water tannins. Oak lends vanillin and some milk-chocolate richness to the purple fruit. González Byass USA, Chicago, IL

88             Juan Galindo     $30     2019 Ribera del Duero Crianza
Sweet oak delivers pleasure, taking this wine’s blackberry jam flavors toward vanilla, milk chocolate and char. FWS Copaboca Distribution, Miami, FL

88             Vina Mayor     $34     2019 Ribera del Duero Secreto
Ripe fruit carries through this wine, from sweet black cherries to highlights of peaches, while tannins frame it in compact black earthiness. Its gentle, lasting on red fruit sweetness. USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA

88             Monteabellon     $95     abellon 2017 Ribera del Duero Finca La Blanquera
Plush and rich, this wine’s cool rain of black fruit falls over the polish of its Bretty, mineral tannins. It has some sweet tangerine high notes of acidity to cut through its weight. Europvin USA, Van Nuys, CA

88             Monteabellon     $35     2020 Ribera del Duero 14 Meses en Barrica Tempranillo
Ready to drink, this wine is all about umami richness and evolved fruit. It shows some sweet red-fruit complexity against the black, earthy Brett. For braised lamb. Europvin USA, Van Nuys, CA

88             Montegaredo     $35     2017 Ribera del Duero Crianza Piramide
A plush red with the honeyed richness of blueberry syrup, this is soft and oaky, ready for a steakhouse. Vitis Imports, Inglewood, CA

88             Emilio Moro     $19     2021 Ribera del Duero Finca Resalso Tempranillo
Gentle in its dark-chocolate tannins, sweet in its black-currant fruit, this is light and vibrant, finishing with freshness. The bitter, floral spice of the tannins will meld with braised rabbit. Moro Brothers/USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA

88             Torres     $42     2018 Ribera del Duero Reserva Celeste
Perfumed with the floral notes of plums, along with some dimpled prune, with contrasts hard edges and clean lines. It’s juicy, warm and savory, for a steak. Wilson Daniels, Napa, CA

87             Arrocal     $20     2021 Ribera del Duero Tinto Fino
This is a sweet and sour Ribera del Duero; its acidity and sweet red fruit will hold up to meat in a sweet sauce. Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

87             Pago de Carraovejas     2018 Ribera del Duero Cuesta de las Liebres
Sweet, dark plum flavors saturate this tinto fino, spiked by alcohol and volatile acidity. This is built for barbecue. Alma Carraovejas USA, Sausalito, CA

87             Pinna Fidelis     $25     2019 Ribera del Duero Crianza
Structured by oak tannins, this wine's fruit is full and loosely structured. It's gentle, a warm summer rain of fruit, dimpled in its ripeness, broad in the finish. Dodds Wine, Lone Tree, CO

87             Protos     $15     2021 Ribera del Duero Tinto Fino
Clean, simple and straight, this wine's black-fruit richness balances its peppery tannins. It ends with a candied sweetness that would work well with barbecue. Monsieur Touton Selection, NY

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

This story appears in the print issue of February 2024.
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