Finca Valpiedra vineyard lies in a crook of the Ebro River

Finca Valpiedra vineyard in a crook of the Ebro River

Founded in 2003, the Grandes Pagos de España — great growths of Spain— honors single estate wines from its thirty premium member wineries. Many of them were on display at a recent tasting in San Francisco, at the Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, where the food beautifully complemented the wines.

Finca Valpiedra vineyard

Finca Valpiedra vineyard

It immediately became clear that Tempranillo is alive and well and not the one-note monster its hot growing conditions can reduce it to. Deftly cultivated and correctly aged, Tempranillo is earthy and substantial but also subtle and even sweet, with notes of vanilla over tobacco and dark fruit.

Since it would be impossible to give adequate space to the marvels on tasting display, I chose to focus on wines under $25 and, among these, there was one knock-out: the Cantos de Valpiedra 2011 from Vinca Valpiedra in the Rioja region of northeastern Spain. In fact — and I only learned this afterward — Finca Valpiedra is the only Rioja winery belonging to the Grandes Pagos de Espana.

Cantos de Valpiedra bottle“Cantos” is an apt name for this wine, which sings along in an alto register: penetrating, unctuous, yet totally balanced, with none of the lead on the mid-palate which can mar even the most expensive Tempranillo…and there were many here with a price tag of over $100 retail. Which makes the Cantos, at $20 retail, something worth writing about. In the interest of full disclosure, this is a Crianza, ie., a young red wine, normally not comparable to the Riservas with their greater age, power, taste profile… and price tag. It also means that this 2011 can be enjoyed now…and for many years to come, should you choose to cellar it.


In Portugal, Tempranillo is known as Tinta Roriz, one of the grapes used to make port.




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