The Dozen Vol. 26 No. 04 Wine

The Dozen – In Rioja’s Shadow

Ribera del Duero and Rueda look for more attention from the Jane Corkpullers.

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If you get to the party late, it may take a little while for people to figure out who you are.

In one way, the neighboring Spanish wine regions of Ribera del Duero and Rueda remind me of California’s Sonoma County. For various reasons, Napa Valley, for years, received all the good publicity when it came to California wines. Although Sonoma had been there all along, making very good wines, it took several years for the Jane Corkpullers – consumers who love to drink wine but aren’t in the wine trade and don’t consider themselves to be aficionados – to think about Napa and Sonoma on equal terms.

The same with Spain. Almost anyone who knows Spanish wines knows a little about Rioja, considered the country’s premier red wine region. Ribera is located a little farther inland south and west of Rioja and, like Rueda, lies along the Duero River (which becomes the Douro when it reaches Portugal). But while both regions have made wine for years, they did not get their appellations until the early 1980s. 

Today, Rueda is known for its white wines, made mainly from Verdejo and often by Rioja wineries. And it may surprise many wine lovers that some of the most famous red wines in the world – Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Pesquera, Aalto, Monasterio – are produced in Ribera, mainly from Tempranillo grapes – the same as Rioja.

We have some of each here for all the Janes out there. Enjoy.

2020 Marques de Cáceres Rueda Verdejo ($9). Full-bodied with green, soft-mint aromas and tastes with a heavier aftertaste of honey and molasses.

2020 Torres Pago del Cielo “Celeste” Rueda Verdejo Sur Lies ($16). Leaving the wine on the lees softens it and gives a good mouthfeel and a touch of cheesy whey notes to go with the rich green flavors – nicely done.

2019 Martinsancho Rueda Verdejo ($18). Very mellow, with light fruitiness and lots of whey or white cheese flavors and light tannins in the finish.

2021 The Prisoner “Saldo” California Chenin Blanc ($30). I admit I am a California Chenin-phile. And this one has lovely floral notes without them being overwhelming, with green apple and kiwi flavors and good, but not too tart, finishing acidity. Lovely.

2020 Frank Family Carneros Chardonnay ($33). Enjoyable, complex, with slightly tangy apple and pear flavors and a spritz of eau de vie and a touch of honey. Juicy without being sweet, and good finishing acidity.

2016 Naia-Vina Sila “Naiades” Rueda Verdejo ($33). The age and perhaps barrel fermentation give this white some nice fruity oil flavors (as with Riesling) to go with the green flavors, although the flavors aren’t entirely married despite the age. Nevertheless, an intriguing wine.

2015 Torres Pago del Cielo “Celeste” Ribera del Duero Crianza ($24). Rounded flavors of cherries and blackberries emphasize vibrant fruit rather than barrel notes, plus smooth tannins.

2020 Goya Garcia Ribera del Duero Joven ($28). This joven – a young, unoaked wine – is understandably fresh fruity with cassis and cranberry flavors, a little gamey and with a fair amount of rough tannins – a puppy wine with big paws.

2016 La Capilla Ribera del Duero ($30). Very satisfying and well-structured, with dusty cherry flavors and smooth tannins.

2019 Del Aguila “Picaro” Ribero del Duero ($36). It is a bit fresher in its fruitiness than most Riberas but has nice, ripe blackberry fruitiness with enough good tannins to tame its exuberance.

2009 Prado Rey “Sitio de Ventrosilla” Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva ($45). Delicious, full-bodied, and very smooth with rich and complex flavors of dark black fruits with hints of chocolate and savory earthiness.

2019 Alma Rose “Radian” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($63). A big, flavorful wine with lots of cherry and cola woven into a buttery fruitiness – long and complex on the palate.

Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.

Feature photo: Ribera del Duero

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