Travels in Rueda
July 1, 2009
Driving out of Segovia raving over last night’s tapas of grilled asparagus, zucchini, shrimp, garlic and smoked salt, we head for La Seca in the heart of D.O. Rueda. Now widely renowned for its fresh white wines made from Verdejo, in the 1970s, the Verdejo grape was practically wiped out by more prolific varieties such as Viura and Palomino. Visionary Angel Rodríguez realized the treasure in his 17th-century Martinsancho Verdejo vineyard and refused to uproot it. For his untiring efforts in reestablishing Verdejo’s prominence in its region of origin he was officially honored by King Juan Carlos.
Angel Rodriguez in his vineyard
The majuelo (plot) of Martínsancho is less than an acre of gnarled vines, preserved in isolation as a museum of prephylloxera viticulture and as a continuing source of undisputed varietal authenticity, treasured by nurseries throughout Europe. In 1976, Angel regrafted 25 acres of his best vineyard, using Martínsancho cuttings. Rodriguez makes one wine: Martinsancho, produced from 100% Verdejo and made in the historic bodega that they’ve occupied since 1780. They still utilize the subterranean bodega which is 3 stories underground, replete with 5,000-liter oak bocoyes in continuous use for centuries.
Underground bodega at Bodegas Angel Rodriguez
At the opposite end of the winemaking spectrum but with every bit as much reverence for the Verdejo grape, is Bodegas Jose Pariente. Oenologist Victoria Pariente (one of only four women winemakers in Spain who also own their bodegas) inherited the passion for winemaking from her father Jose, who produced his own artisan wines. A new state of the art winery is still under construction and without a sign, it looks unoccupied from the highway. But drive around back and there’s a bee hive of activity! Every step of the winemaking process here is analyzed and controlled with the latest technology to preserve freshness and avoid oxidation, which easily happens with the Verdejo grape. The hand picked grapes are brought from the surrounding vineyards directly to a refrigerated storage cooler and then crushed and piped under refrigeration to temperature controlled fermentation tanks. The bodega uses nitrogen in all of the must handling to minimize oxidation. The pebble covered vineyards are from 40 years to 100 years old, situated in the “Golden Mile” of Rueda, the highest part of the plateau, whose Atlantic climate has strong variations of day and night temperatures.
In the vineyard with Victoria Pariente and her assistant
WHITE WINES FROM RUEDA
2008 Martinsancho Verdejo, Rueda ($18.99) The harsh continental climate and extreme altitude, together with the soil’s austere inhospitality to all types of insects and bacteria, allow for the practice of completely organic viticulture. From free-run juice, the new wine is racked into centuries-old subterranean bocoyes prior to clarification and bottling. 2008 was a cool, late harvest producing a full bodied, freshly fruity and minerally complex Verdejo.
2007 Jose Pariente Verdejo, Rueda ($21.99) Ecologically produced from 40 year old vines planted by Jose Pariente, the winemaker’s father. Daily battonage provides a creamy texture, backed up by fresh aromas of citrus and delicate pear flavors. …”The 2007 Varietal Verdejo is a superb expression of this once under-rated grape variety. The fruit was sourced from a 40 year old, 6-hectare estate vineyard. Medium straw-colored, the wine has an alluring fragrance of mineral, lemon-lime, citrus, and floral notes.” 90 points Wine Advocate
2007 Martina Prieto Verdejo, Rueda ($15.99) The daughter of Victoria Pariente makes this wine using extreme methods such as harvesting grapes at night to lock in the fresh aromatics. Martina Prieto bursts with flavors of creamy grapefruit, ripe pineapple, lime, flint, and a hint of cinnamon. Vibrant with acidity, this is the perfect wine to serve with octopus ceviche.
2007 Marques de Irun Verdejo, Rueda ($12.99) Fresh and lively on the palate, with aromas of white grapefruit. Unctuous on the palate, with flavors of citrus, a hint of honeydew melon and palate cleansing minerality. With a persistent, crisp finish, it pairs wonderfully with shellfish.
Gear up for barbeque weather this weekend! These are stellar reds to match with grilled ribs or lamb burgers:
2007 Vale Da Clara, Douro ($13.99) The new vintage of this red table wine is a staff favorite! Complex black fruit flavors are nicely structured by accessible tannins. Smooth and well balanced, this tasty red is perfect for quaffing when you’re sitting around with friends on the deck.
2007 La Planta, Ribera del Duero ($15.99) I had a glass of this at a tapas bar in Valladolid. It was sensational with my tapa of roasted eggplant, onion confit and carmelized cabbage. 100% Tempranillo, it has been barrel aged 6 months. There’s a hint of smoke behind the smooth boysenberry, licorice and black cherry fruit. With great food pairing acidity, it is full bodied, balanced, with a dry and pleasing finish. Recommended value wine under $25.00 by Wine Advocate.
2007 Clos de los Siete, Mendoza ($18.99) “Bright, full ruby-red. Crushed black fruits, mocha, bitter chocolate, licorice and smoked meat on the nose. Sweet, penetrating and firm-edged; … I like this wine’s balance of sweetness and acidity…” “There may be no finer red wine value in Argentina than this superb blend of 48% Malbec, 28% Merlot, 12% Syrah, and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon… This lengthy effort over-delivers and then some.” 89 points Stephen Tanzer, 91 points Jay Miller
Winemaker tasting: Meet Martina Pariente, producer of Martina Prieto Verdejo at Tango Restaurant on Sunday July 12, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. A selection of tapas will be paired with three red wines and the Martina Prieto Verdejo. $30.00. For reservations, contact Tango Restaurant 206.583.0382
Sharon Baden and Steve Winston, Owners