A Different Take on Castilla y León #WorldWineTravel

Castilla y Leòn is the light green region in the Central-Northwest part of Spain. Map courtesy of http://www.winefolly.com

World Wine Travel Visits Castilla y León
March brings our group to the Castilla y León region of Spain. Not quite as well known as Rioja, but well established wine regions include Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, and Bierzo. Our group will have lots to explore! I’ll be taking a slightly different tack, looking for winemakers working in a minimalist, natural style. 

Esmeralda Garcia “Michika” White Spanish Wine 2017 ($39 here) 13%abv
This wine from the which is known at Rueda, and the grape, Verdejo, is typical of what you’ll find in most modern Rueda wine. This wine is from 130+ year old, rehabilitated, own-rooted vines. Even though it is a white wine, there is brief skin maceration before pressing. After fermentation with native yeasts in amphora, the wine is aged in a Sherry cask and a layer of flor is allowed to form. The flor protects the wine from oxygen and keeps the color bright while bringing a unique set of aromas. This is an older, traditional way of winemaking in Spain which Sherry lovers will understand.

Eye: Hazy medium lemon
Nose: Medium plus intensity aromas of bruised apple, apple skin, nuts, lemon curd
Mouth: Dry, medium acidity, medium plus body with a round texture, medium plus finish.
Conclusions: While different from a typical modern Rueda, this wine was very enjoyable. Daughter Casey characterized the nose as earthy and odd, but the wine was delicious and she enjoyed it with her burger. If you’re feeling adventurous, this wine is very fun!

Bottled under crown cap (like a beer bottle) and a cork, I thought this wine was going to be sparkling

Maria Isabel Rodriguez Moran “Alumbro” Microbodega del Alumbro Clarete Rosé 2019 ($32 available here) 12% abv
Juanjo and Maribel Rodriguez farm a 4.5 hectare plot of land (about 10 acres), located in the little known D.O. Tierra del Vine de Zamora in the larger region of Castilla y León. Their winery is Microbodega del Alumbro. They are committed to organic farming, all hand work in the vineyard, spontaneous fermention and no additions in the winery, including no sulfur dioxide at bottling. The 2019 Clarete is made of 50% Garnacha (Grenache, a red grape) and 50% Viura (white grape) as a rosé. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, may have some natural carbon dioxide when opened. They show their wines at Raw Wine and there is a nice overview of their winery at their US Importer, Sensus Wine.

Eye: Hazy medium orange-salmon
Nose: Medium plus intensity aromas of chamomile, strawberries, cherries.
Mouth: Dry, medium plus acidity, medium body, medium alcohol, medium plus intensity flavors, medium finish. Flavors of strawberries and cherries with a surprising touch of salinity
Conclusions: Fresh strawberries on the nose, you imagine the wine might be a bit sweet. What a nice surprise to taste the fruit but wine is dry and even a bit saline. A very nice rosé, with just a hint of frizzante.

La Senda “Vindemiatrix”

Bodegas y Vinedos La Senda “Vindemiatrix” Vino Tinto 2017 ($25 online here)13% abv

Diego Losada’s Bodegas y Vinedos La Senda, is a small winery in the Bierzo region in the northwest corner of Castilla y León. Diego farms a total of 5 hectares (11 acres) of rented vineyards with old bush trained vines. He pursues all hand vineyard work with organic viticulture and minimal intervention in the winery, including no additions, no use of oak barrels. The Vindemiatrix wine is a field blend of 80% Mencía (typical red wine grape of Bierzo), 10% Palomino (white wine grape, better known as the source for Sherry) and 10% Doña Blanca.

Eye: Clear, medium ruby
Nose: Clean, medium intensity ruby with aromas of ripe blackberry, blueberry, black plum, rosemary, balsamic and big whiff of nail polish remover – volatile acidity (VA)
Mouth: Dry, medium plus acidity, medium fine-grained tannins, medium alcohol, medium body, medium plus finish. The ripe fruit is prominent on the palate, with the rosemary and balsamic, unfortunately, the VA plays too prominent a role and spoils the enjoyment of this particular bottle.
Conclusions: This wine illustrates the thrill and risk of natural wines. Bottled without any additional sulfur, the wines are more fragile and it’s possible that the wine was fine at bottling, but without the protection of sulfur dioxde, volatile acidity took over. Other reviews of this wine would indicate that it is well made and enjoyable, just not this bottle.

This was supposed to be a take-out Spanish influenced dinner from a young chef’s pop-up restaurant….

Our Spanish Influenced Dinner “Oops”
Here’s the TL:DR – I messed up the date. We were all set to try out a young chef’s Spanish influenced pop-up takeout dinner and I thought it was for March 21. Standing outside the deserted pickup point in Minneapolis, I found out I had the date wrong, the pop-up is March 28. Our daughter, Casey and Dan were already at our house. We quickly cycled through plans B (closed), C (hour+ wait), and landed on burgers. So we enjoyed our natural wines from Castilla y León with burgers!

Posts from World Wine Travel Bloggers

Take a look at all the discoveries below from our World Wine Travel bloggers, then join our chat on Twitter. Just search for #WorldWineTravel on twitter Saturday March 27 from 10-11:00 am CDT. We’d love to hear what you think!

31 Responses to “A Different Take on Castilla y León #WorldWineTravel”
  1. culinarycam says:

    That Alumbro is calling my name! Well, they all are, but that one in particular is stunning. Now you have me craving burgers…and wine.

  2. advinetures says:

    Three terrific recommendations of which we haven’t had any. We’ll definitely be on the look out for each. And glad your take was different but not as reluctant ;).

  3. Robin Renken says:

    I love all these small wineries you are finding! These wines sound wonderful, wines with stories, even if there was a bit of VA on the one. Natural wines can be a risk, but the reward can be so delicious!

  4. Lynn says:

    Nice wine finds Jeff, you have a great source(s). Perhaps another bottle of the La Senda is in order? Your oops, luckily it was just family!

  5. Those wines look fabulous. I appreciate that you are seeking out and sharing these sorts of wines. Hopefully you will tell us about that Spanish dinner next month!

  6. If that’s what Plan D looks like, sign me up! And the wines sound really interesting; hope I can find one or two near me.

  7. Those burgers look like a tasty pivot! Interesting wines, I don’t think I’ve heard of either of those two blended with the Mencia.

  8. steveofthegrape says:

    Jeff, I want to try that Maria Isabel Rodriguez Moran “Alumbro” Microbodega del Alumbro Clarete Rosé. I like natural wines with a little fizz. Sounded amazing.

  9. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    The first two wines sound great, in particular the Rueda! It’s too bad re the Bierzo, but you’re right — that’s the occasional drama of Natural Wines. Too bad about the take out dinner plan, luckily the burger look excellent.

  10. Excellent pivot to the burgers! Good for you to take your chances with natural wines and suffer any unintended consequences. So many are rewarding!

  11. Susannah says:

    Jeff, I am loving the photos of your meal and your wines. Without sulfur, it can be really tough but I salute them for trying. I dig the clarete you tried and finding out about dona blanca as a grape and the Rueda you suggested. Cool stuff thanks for keeping an eye on this corner of the market. Cheers, Susannah

  12. I’m especially digging the sound of the first two wine Jeff. The third one reminds me of my first “natural” wine, which also happened to be a skin-fermented white from Italy. Based on your description I think mine probably had more VA. Having said that it was dry and the delicious, but no doubt the VA was a distraction. I’ve been fortunate to not have a repeat of that situation…so far! Cheers my friend!

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