This morning began with a tour and tasting at Bodegas Aalto. Bodegas Aalto is the brainchild of the former winemaker from world-famous Vega Sicilia, Mariano Garcia, and business partner and former President of the Consejo, Javier Zaccagnini. The photograph above shows the first two of 5 floors of their winery, built into the hills outside the village of Aranda de Duero. In addition to using state-of-the-art de-stemmers that are the same de-stemmers used by Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux, Mariano Garcia invented an A-shaped 15,000 litre custom stainless steel fermentation tank, because he wanted to control the cap of the must during the remouage. With his genius invention, the skins and wine are manipulated as little as possible. In addition to pioneering winemaking techniques, Bodegas Aalto does not have any estate grown fruit at the moment. Helas! you say? Nope. It's great- they source fruit from 200 proud vineyard plots in 8 nearby villages. They vinify the fruit from every village in separately in different tanks, bottle it, and then blend it into Aalto. I got to try the 2009 and 2010 of the villages La Horra and Aguilera, and then the Aalto for 2009 and 2010 that included these villages. Young, huge, and stunning.
As winemaker at Vega Sicilia, Mariano Garcia had an agreement with several older people in the villages surrounding the winery to buy their exceptional quality grapes and use them in his wines. Many of these older people do not have family members who want to take over the care of their vines once they retire or pass on. Garcia and Zaccagnini decided that they wanted to make sure that these incredible vines were not ripped up and lost, so they got permission from their owners to take cuttings of the vines to plant at Aalto. They have vowed to tend the vines for 40 years, to get to know each vine and its expression on their land, before making wine with any of them. Incredible.
Next stop: back to our little town of Peñafiel, to Convento San Francisco. While the convent was founded in 1290 and has long since been unoccupied by nuns, the current residents are a team of the sons of two local families, whose grandmothers have been friends all of their lives. The dynamic younger generation regularly seek the advice of their winemaking elders in the area, producing traditionally styled wines reflective of the region.
An interesting lunch followed our visits to these two innovative wineries. We had the pleasure of tasting 5 wines with our meal seated next to the 5 winemakers (or export managers) who made the wines. In attendance was Eduardo Garcia, one of the sons of Aalto's Mariano Garcia, who with his brother have their own winery project nearby. His wine, Astrales, from Bodegas Los Astrales, was particularly delightful. We also tasted wines from Protos Bodegas Ribera Duero de Peñafiel, Bodegas y Viñedos Sanz Moneo, Bodegas Felix Callejo, and Viñedos y Bodegas Garcia Figuero.
The Castille de Peñafiel, "our" town's castle (top of page), was our final destination for the day. After a really cool tour of the castle- I stood at the very top of that watchtower, and had a 360 dgree view of the entire Ribera Del Duero region!- we had another RiberaConnect tasting with 15 more wineries seeking importers. The photo below is from the Castille, which has a Museo de Vino inside, housing wines from all over Spain. The sign shows all 6 DOs of the region, including Ribera Del Duero.
We had the evening free (sort of). The wineries we met the day before sent samples from their portfolios over to the hotel for us to try so we could get a better feel for their lineups. Needless to say, it was nice to enjoy a (small) gin & tonic on the terrace as a palate refresher before revisiting some of the wines from the day before. We all had "tinto teeth" at this point, the consequence of tasting Tinto Fino for 3 solid days. I think I brushed my teeth about 4 times a day, to no avail!
There are more stories to share, and I'm back in now, so stay tuned for part 5 of the tales!
Available now on KLWines.com:
2008 Aalto Ribera del Duero ($49.99)
95 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "A glass-coating opaque purple color, it is already displaying a complex aromatic array of sandalwood, smoke, espresso, lavender, Asian spices, and assorted blue and black fruits. Smooth-textured, succulent, and structured, it will evolve for 2-3 years and offer a drinking window extending from 2013 to 2028+. In the scheme of things, it offers great value in top-flight Ribera del Duero." (06/11)
For the collectors out there, it just so happens we have a handful of bottles of Vega Sicilia in stock at the moment as well, including one bottle of the 2000 "Unico", below:
98 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2000 Unico is deep crimson-colored with an ethereal perfume aided by its extended upbringing. Aromas of Asian spices, lavender, incense, truffle, and confiture of black fruits are compelling. Sweet, forward, rich, and hedonistic, it nevertheless has the balance and structure to continue evolving for another 5-10 years. In strong vintages Vega Sicilia drinks well at age 50 and I would expect the same of the 2000." (06/11)
Sarah C. Covey
Wine Sales Professional
K&L Wine Merchants - Redwood City