The 11th Day of Rioja – 11 Interesting Facts about Marques de Riscal

hotel marques de riscal 1 1024x448 The 11th Day of Rioja – 11 Interesting Facts about Marques de Riscal1. Old School – Herederos del Marqués de Riscal – is one of the great historic wineries of Rioja. It was founded in 1860 but did not release its first vintage until 1862. Along with Marqués de Murrieta (1852), López de Heredia (1877), CVNE (1879), Montecillo (1872) and La Rioja Alta (1890) it is regarded as one of the pioneers of so-called “classic” Rioja, a style that emerged in the second part of the 19th Century.

2. Start of a Revolution  - Hurtado de Amézaga was a diplomat, writer and freethinker, rather than a winemaker, and had lived in self-imposed exile in Bordeaux since 1836 because of political turmoil in Spain. He inherited his sister’s possessions in 1858, including some vineyards and a cellar. This inspired him to leave Bordeaux and begin to make wine in Rioja.

3. French Influence - At first, Hurtado de Amézaga experimented with traditional Spanish winemaking techniques, but by the time the first wine was made in his newly built winery in 1862, he’d adapted the techniques of Bordeaux. As early as 1860, he imported Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Semillon and Pieponille to Rioja and distributed them to other producers in the Rioja Alavesa. 75 percent of his vineyards were made up of indigenous  grapes (Tempranillo, Graciano and Viura) but the remainder was from French clones.

As a result of his Bordeaux connections, Hurtago was asked by the government of the region of Alava in 1862 to recommend a French winemaker who could pass on his knowledge to the locals. He recommended Jean Pineau from Château Lanessan in the Haut-Médoc, who was also employed as the first estate manager at Riscal when his contract with the Diputación Foral de Alava expired six years later.

4.  An smart way to stop fraud – It’s rumored that Hurtado was who invented the wire-mesh net that is used by Riscal to this day. The “malla” was developed as an anti-fraud measure to stop people filling empty bottles of Riscal with other, lesser wines. In order to get the cork out, you have to cut the net.

5. World-famous architect – Riscal is as famous for its Frank Gehry-designed spa and hotel as it is for its wines. Gehry’s pink, gold and silver titanium canopies are among the most photographed architectural structures in Spain. Riscal receives 75,000 visitors a year.

6. So Basque  - Riscal owns around 1230 acres of vineyards in Rioja these days, the acquisition of the Marqués de Arienzo brand from Pernod-Ricard in 2010, which came with 740 acres increased the land holdings. It also buys grapes from local growers. Unlike many leading Rioja wineries, which blend grapes across the DOC’s three sub-regions (Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja), Riscal only grows and sources grapes from Rioja Alavesa, especially the villages of Elciego and Laguardia. True to its roots, it’s a Basque winery.

7. A start for Rueda – Riscal was also a pioneer in another region of Spain. With the help of the famous French consultant and academic, Émile Peynaud, he settled on the forgotten region of Rueda, northwest of Madrid. The first whites made with the local Verdejo grape were released in 1972. Hurtado de Amézaga was also instrumental in the creation of the Rueda Denominación de Origen in 1980 and the resurrection of the region’s vineyards.

8. Cabernet, what? Until the 1950s, wines that contained Cabernet were known at Riscal as “RM”, short for “Reserva Médoc”. In 1986, the winery released an icon wine called Barón de Chirel, made with Tempranillo and what the DOC still obliges them to call “other grapes” ( aka.Cabernet Sauvignon). The percentage of Cabernet varies between 20 and 46 percent, but never appears on the label, despite the fact that Riscal has had 80 acres of the grape planted in Rioja since 1860.

9. A lot of Reserva – Riscal’s worldwide fame as an instantly recognizable Rioja brand has been built on one wine – the wire-mesh netted Reserva. The winery produces 3 to 4.5 million bottles of this wine each year, depending on the vintage.

10. Cellar Re-model  - In 2011, Marqués de Riscal further modernized the cellar that was built infront of the original 1860 winery that dates back to 1883. The new winery comes complete with hydraulic presses and computer-controlled technology. Fermentation is in the traditional wooden uprights and aging happens in French or American oak barrels. No casks are kept for more than seven years.

11. Michelin Star - Rioja is a perfect pairing for any type of food. To showcase this, the winery has its own Michelin starred restaurant, Restaurante Marques de Riscal. On your next trip to Spain experience the exquisite dishes created by the prestigious Chef Francis Paniego while enjoying the Gran Reserva and the beautiful vistas from Riscal’s lovely Starwood hotel.

riscal gr 112x300 The 11th Day of Rioja – 11 Interesting Facts about Marques de Riscal2005 Marques de Riscal Gran Reserva – 93 points Wine Enthusiast

Wine Enthusiast (12/31/13)

“Earthy, leathery aromas of baked red fruits fit the classic style. This is full on the palate but not heavy, with cola, molasses, coffee and heady raspberry and plum flavors. A warm finish with fine tannins and ripe flavors of chocolate, lightly baked black fruits and vanilla. Drink 2015–2025.”

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The 10th Day of Rioja – 2010 the Year of Crianza

2010 fireworks The 10th Day of Rioja – 2010 the Year of Crianza2010 is said to be the “Year of Crianza”. This excellent vintage has the potential to stand alongside 2005. The Rioja Regulatory Council tasted samples from over 284 million liters of wine from the 2010 harvest and they determined that this vintage would be rated excellent.  The vintage is also benefiting from Rioja’s decision to reduce yields – by 10% for reds, 5% for whites – in order to improve quality. The weather throughout was very favorable. Fruit set was a little later than usual, in June, but the cycle through to harvest was healthy and even.  The wines from this vintage will show balance, structure and freshness for long ageing.

rioja wine classifications1 300x284 The 10th Day of Rioja – 2010 the Year of Crianza

A great chart by Wine Folly.

Some people in Rioja have even said that 2010 is the best vintage in the last 50 years. Look back to 1964 and well………….we’ll just have to see. The last five excellent vintages were 1994, 1995, 2001, 2004 and 2005 (the last two have been on the market for a time and are becoming rare finds).  Grab up 2010 when they release the Reservas and Gran Reservas in a few plus years but until then, you’ll have to drink Crianza!


0008 vinas de gain 2010 The 10th Day of Rioja – 2010 the Year of Crianza2010 Artadi “Vinas de Gain” – 91 points Wine Advocate - click here to purchase

Wine Advocate #210 Dec 13

“The 2010 Vinas de Gain red, from a very balanced vintage is made with Tempranillo sourced from different vineyards in Laguardia averaging 30 years of age. It is fermented in open stainless steel tanks and aged in French oak barrels for one year. The palate is explosive, with clean acidity and balance, pure, hedonistic with great depth. It slowly develops some minty, balsamic aromas coating the red fruit, with even notes of fennel. 150,000 bottles were produced. Drink 2014-2022.”

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The 9th Day of Rioja – the 9 Lives of Alvaro Palacios

La Montesa Vineyard 2 The 9th Day of Rioja   the 9 Lives of Alvaro PalaciosAlvaro Palacios – son, brother, husband, father, scholar, innovator, teacher, bullfighter and winemaker. Alvaro studied enology in Bordeaux, while working under Jean-Pierre Moueix at Ch. Pétrus. He credits his tenure at Pétrus for much of his winemaking philosophy and for showing him “the importance of great wines.”

alvaro palacios.large  300x225 The 9th Day of Rioja   the 9 Lives of Alvaro PalaciosHe became well-known as a pioneer of the abandoned, ancient vineyards of Priorat and gained high ratings and publicity for his wines Finca Dofi, L’Hermita and Les Terrasses. Alvaro grew up in Rioja at his family winery, Palacios Remondo, and is one of 9 children.  In 2000 his father, Don Jose Palacios, passed away. Alvaro returned to Rioja to apply his wide experience with the Garnacha vines that his family has cared for since 1945. As a result, the red wines have more and more Garnacha, the grape they feel does best in their region. The wines are in the process of being updated, or perhaps they are going back to their roots, to the character of Rioja Baja where they are located.

2011 placet btl large 300x225 The 9th Day of Rioja   the 9 Lives of Alvaro Palacios2011 Palacios Remondo “Placet” Valtomelloso Blanco– 91 points International Wine Cellar

International Wine Cellar Sept/Oct 14



“(100% Viura):  Light yellow.  High-pitched orange zest, pear skin and anise aromas are complemented by a minerally quality and a hint of vanilla.  Pliant and focused on the palate, offering juicy orchard and citrus fruit flavors that are given depth by a touch of honey.  Spreads out on the finish, leaving behind notes of lemon curd and poached pear.”

2011 la montesa btl large 300x225 The 9th Day of Rioja   the 9 Lives of Alvaro Palacios2011 Palacios Remondo “La Montesa” Crianza – 91points Wine Advocate

Wine Advocate #210 Dec 13



70% Garnacha, 25% Tempranillo and 5% Mazuelo – also sourced from the family vineyard La Montesa del Monte Yerga in Alfaro. It displays notes of ripe red fruit and spices in an elegant but in a slightly rustic way. The palate is round, with some tannins and ripe flavors. This is very good value. Drink 2014-2017.”


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The 8th Day of Rioja – 8 glasses of Vina Ardanza!

bottles of wine in sizes1 The 8th Day of Rioja    8 glasses of Vina Ardanza!What is better than one bottle of wine? 2 bottles in one!  Magnums are great to bring to any occasion or give as a gift as they are inherently festive. I love when restaurants pour them table side, it really adds to the experience – The Ravenous Pig & Disney’s California Grill are two that I know of that are doing this in Orlando.  Magnums slow the aging process in wine which is facilitated by the oxygen remaining in the bottle under the cork. Since magnums have twice as much wine to about the same amount of oxygen, the wine remains younger and fresher.  Add in the well made wine of La Rioja Alta with the exceptional 2004 vintage and we have an offering of a Rioja wine that can last well beyond the next 10 – 15 years.

v.ardanza 2004 300x300 The 8th Day of Rioja    8 glasses of Vina Ardanza!2004 La Rioja Alta “Vina Ardanza” Reserva Magnum (1.5L) – 93+ Wine Advocate - click here to purchase 

Wine Advocate #202 August 2012

 ”This is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha from 30-year-old vines in Fuenmayor and Cenicero. It is aged for 36 months in four-year-old American oak. It has a very enticing bouquet with dark cherry, Christmas cake, dried fig and espresso with fine delineation and bags of exuberance. The palate is medium-bodied with taut tannins, underpinned by a keen citric thread that cuts through the licorice-tinged, dark berry and allspice-tinged fruit with style. It is simply delicious on the bittersweet finish. Drink now-2020+.”

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The 7th Day of Rioja – 7th Addition to Tradition

elllanobodegaspecina 764x1024 The 7th Day of Rioja – 7th Addition to TraditionRioja’s traditional school of winemaking reigned from the 1850s until the 1980s, producing some of the world’s most consistently complex, soul-satisfying wines. With the younger generations bringing in the more modern winemaking methods, it’s a small number of those who are keeping the traditions.  Bodegas Riojanas R. Lopez de Heredia, Marques de Murrieta, La Rioja Alta, CVNE, and Montecillo are some of the most popular among the remaining bodegas but there is one that didn’t exist 25 years ago: Hermanos Peciña.

Pedro Pecina made wine at La Rioja Alta for 18 years. His family had a small parcel of land that he would also grow grapes. When the time came, he ventured out on his own to form Seniorio Hermanos de Pecina. He holds the wines much longer than the aging requirements of the DOC.

senorio pecina crianza 151x300 The 7th Day of Rioja – 7th Addition to Tradition2009 Pecina Crianza – 90 points International Wine Cellar

International Wine Cellar, Nov/Dec 10

“Vivid red. Lively aromas of redcurrant and wild strawberry, with subtle floral and spice notes adding complexity. Pure and precise, offering finely etched red fruit and floral flavors and a seamless texture. Fine-grained tannins add shape to the tangy, very persistent finish. This is a superb value.”

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The 6th Day of Rioja – 6 Wines & Women

women making wine The 6th Day of Rioja – 6 Wines & Women  The women of Rioja have been involved in the winemaking process for centuries. During the war, when the men were away fighting, the women took to the fields to care for the vines and harvest them. It was then that they realized that women were actually better at harvesting as their hands are smaller and their touch is more delicate. No other wine region in the world has as many female winemakers as Rioja.  30 years ago, the Asociación de Enólogos de Rioja had 200 members, 5 of whom were women. Today it has 308 members, and 106 are women. In addition to the women listed below, some of the other women winemakers in Rioja include Ana Barrón of Remellurí, Maite Fernández Mendoza at Abel Mendoza, Esperanza Elías of Rioja Vega, Marta Gallego of Bodegas Luis Alegre, Verónica Remartínez at Finca Allende, Ana San Juan at CVNE, Maria Martinez Sierra at Montecillo, Elena Adell San Pedro of Campo Viejo, Esther García of Heredad Ugarte, Maria Martinez at Bodegas Patrocinio, Maria Barúa of LAN, Maria Vargas Montoya of Marques de Murrieta, María Larrea at CVNE, Marta Appellaniz Gallego at Pujanza, Isabel Mijares of Remelluri,  and Maria José of  López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia.  Many other women have high level management or other positions in Rioja’s wineries. Esperanza Tomás is head of research at Roda, and Cristina Forner is CEO of Marqués de Cáceres. These wineries have highly sought-after wines that get great acclaim. In addition, Marques de Caceres is the largest export winery in Rioja.

lorinon 210x300 The 6th Day of Rioja – 6 Wines & Women  2009 Lorinon Reserva – 90 points International Wine Cellar – click here to purchase 

Pilar Bello, Winemaker

International Wine Cellar, Sep/Oct 13
“(made from 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano aged in American oak for 18 months):  Deep ruby.  Smoky aromas of cherry compote, cassis and spicy oak.  Plush and pliant, offering sweet dark fruit flavors complicated by mocha and vanilla.  Shows a subtle spicy nuance on the persistent finish, which features soft tannins and a hint of black tea.”

allende The 6th Day of Rioja – 6 Wines & Women  2007 Finca Allende – 91 points International Wine Cellar - click here to purchase

Verónica Remartínez, Winemaker

International Wine Cellar, Nov/Dec10

 ”Opaque ruby. A complex bouquet of dark berries, cherry cola and spicecake, with subtle minerality. Juicy, palate-staining blackberry and bitter cherry flavors blend density and energy, with very good mineral spine. Fresh and focused on the finish, which repeats the spicy notes.”

beronia 94x300 The 6th Day of Rioja – 6 Wines & Women  2008 Beronia Reserva – 91 points Wine Advocate – click here to purchase 

María Jesús Sáez, Winemaker

Wine Advocate, 2010 / Dec 13

“This is more classical in style, displaying some leather and tea leaf notes and a polished palate where the spicy meat flavors are well-married with the red-black fruit and abundant but fine tannins from a cool harvest. It’s a great Reserva and great value.”


gaudium 199x300 The 6th Day of Rioja – 6 Wines & Women  2005 Marques de Caceres “Gaudium” Gran Vino – 92 points International Wine Cellar - click here to purchase

Cristina Forner, CEO

International Wine Cellar, Sept12

“(95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano, aged in new French oak for 18 months and then in bottle for another 2 years):  Opaque ruby.  Sexy aromas of black raspberry, vanilla, pipe tobacco and Asian spices, plus a suave floral character.  Fleshy dark fruit and violet pastille flavors open with air and show impressive energy, with a spicy note adding lift.  Clings impressively on the finish, with the dark berry and spice notes repeating.” 

rio madre The 6th Day of Rioja – 6 Wines & Women


2012 Rio Madre Graciano – 91 points International Wine Cellar - click here to purchase

Ana Escudero Carra, Winemaker

International Wine Cellar, Sept/Oct13

“(100% graciano; aged in French oak for 11 months):  Opaque ruby.  Sexy, high-toned cherry and blackcurrant aromas are complicated by notes of Indian spices and fresh rose.  Smooth and seamless in texture, offering intense black and blue fruit flavors that become spicier with air.  The floral element repeats on the finish, which shows excellent clarity and persistence.  This wine delivers uncanny value and has the structure to age.” 


 I0004429 Finca Valpiedra Cantos 78x300 The 6th Day of Rioja – 6 Wines & Women  2009 Finca Valpiedra “Cantos” Crianza – 90 points Wine Spectator - click here to purchase 

Lauren Rosillo, Winemaker

Wine Spectator, February 28, 2013

 ”This bold red delivers rich flavors of plum, blackberry, licorice and cola. Broad on the palate, yet lively and focused. The fruit is fresh, but the impression is savory, with loamy and mineral notes and a crisp finish.” 



vina bujanda reserva rioja 2006 73x300 The 6th Day of Rioja – 6 Wines & Women  2006 Vina Bujanda Reserva – 92 points Wine Advocate – click here to purchase 

Lauren Rosillo, Winemaker

Wine Advocate #202 August 2012

“The nose is well-defined, with notes of wild strawberry, leather, sage and tobacco that speaks clearly of its place. The palate is also well-defined, with fine tannins and harmony: an elegant, focused Reserva with a satisfying, silky smooth finish. Excellent.


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The 5th Day of Rioja – 2005 the Exceptional Vintage

roda3 The 5th Day of Rioja – 2005 the Exceptional Vintage

2005 was an incredible vintage in Rioja. The smart collectors are buying up as much of the vintage as possible. The conditions were perfect and you really had to try hard to make bad wine in this vintage.

roda1 The 5th Day of Rioja – 2005 the Exceptional VintageOne winery that is notable is Bodegas Roda. All Roda wines are made from 30 year old vines.  They are newer to the scene as the first vintage was in 1992. Although the winery is new, the cellar dates back to the times when phylloxera decimated the vines in France and there is a staging area where they would get the wines ready for transport by train.

roda The 5th Day of Rioja – 2005 the Exceptional Vintage

2005 Roda I Reserva – 94 points International Wine Cellar - click here to purchase

I love this wine. Its deep purple, juicy and very smooth. This wine would please anyone who likes those big, rich Cabernets.  They only pick the darkest grapes off the vine to make this wine so it will always have the intensity that you find this vintage.  Drink now or save it for later, you won’t be disappointed.


International Wine Cellar Sept/Oct 10

“Deep ruby. Sexy, high-pitched aromas of black raspberry, cherry-cola, Asian spices and sassafras, with slow-mounting minerality. Juicy, sharply focused red fruit flavors show an alluring sweetness and pick up notes of allspice and candied rose with air. Sweeter still on the finish, which is smooth, sappy and extremely long. This will be a beauty in a few years but it’s actually very easy to drink now.”

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