Valpiedra is a beautiful estate found in the Rioja Alvesa region of the Rioja D.O. in Northern Spain. We came to know this winery when we toured Northern Spain with Fine Vintage last fall. Fine Vintage not only arranged for a tour of this estate, but also a Michelin starred dinner paired with their delicious wines in the Bodega’s dining room. A truly amazing evening!
Valpiedra began producing wine from the estate they created in 1999. However the Martinez Bujanda family had been cultivating vineyards and producing wine in Rioja since the 19th century. The vineyards at the estate were first planted in 1974, and the winery is now in the hands of the third generation of Martinez Bujanadas, brother and sister Carlos and Pilar.
The estate covers 80 hectares and sits on a bow in the Ebro river between the towns of Cenicero and Fuenmayor. The location is one of stunning beauty. But the Martinez Bujandas did not acquire the property just because of its beauty, it happens to an excellent location for planting a vineyard. Rioja has long held a place among the world’s great wine regions. Situated in Northern Spain along the banks of the Ebro River, Rioja has an ideal climate for growing grapes. The Sierra de Cantabria Mountains separate the region from the cold winds coming off of the Atlantic. The growing season is usually warm and dry.
Rioja is divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alvesa and Rioja Baja. Rioja Alvesa is known to make wines with noticeable body and structure. Walking among the vine rows at Valpiedra we immediately thought of Châteauneuf-du-Pape as the ground was covered with the large galets roules or pudding stones that region is famous for. Valpiedra actually means “valley of the stones”. These stones have a significant effect on the vines grown upon them. The stones heat up during the day and then reflect that heat back upon the vine in the cool of the evening which helps the fruit obtain optimum ripeness. The stones also block the sun from the soil, reducing evaporation and the need for irrigation. The vineyard at Valpiedra is planted to Tempranillo, the dominant grape variety of Northern Spain. Valpiedra has also planted a few rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, Matura Tinta and Garnacha. The vineyard is divided into 10 different plots, delimited by the mix of limestone and loam underneath. The average vine age on the estate is 35 years.
Valpiedra produces only two wines: Cantos de Valpiedra, a Crianza (aged for two years, at least one year in oak) made of 100% Tempranillo; and Finca Valpiedra Reserva, made only in top vintages from 92% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano and 2% Maturana Tinta. All grapes are handpicked and brought to the winery for selection. Only French and American oak is used. The Reserva spends 22 months in oak before being transferred to bottle.
Valpiedra is a member of the prestigious Grandes Pagos de Espana, an association of 30 Spanish wine producers dedicated to upholding and promoting very high standards in single estate wine. Wineries are admitted if their wines faithfully reflect their terroir and possess an unmistakable and unique personality. Other member wineries are among the elite of Spanish wine producers and include Aalto, Abadia Reuerta, Mas Doix, Mauro and Numanthia.
Inside the winery is a beautiful mix of modern and traditional. We began our evening in a very modern tasting room with sleek, clean lines of beige-coloured wood and full height windows looking out onto the bow in the river and the vineyards. After tasting several of their wines in that room, we moved into their dining room, a more traditional, formal room with beautiful wood paneled ceilings. There we were treated to one of the most memorable meals we have had. Dinner was created for our group by brothers Carlos and Ignacio Echapestro. The Echapresto brothers own and run Michelin rated Venta Moncalvillo Restaurant in Daroca. Daroca is the tiny village down the road from the winery. Population only 24 people! Carlos and Ignacio cooked up a six-course meal for us that was truly amazing and certainly re-enforced the merit of a Michelin star. Dinner was paired with Valpiedra wines, including some back vintages and was truly a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime feast!
2010 Finca Valpiedra Reserva
Raspberry and dark red cherry dominate with secondary notes of tobacco adding complexity. Cedar and woodsy notes join in on the finish. While the acid profile is quite high, as can be the case with many more traditionally styled Rioja wines, there is enough fruit to carry it. It gives this wine a very juicy, long finish. Definitely a worthy candidate for the cellar.
2009 Finca Valpiedra Reserva
Quite similar to the 2010 but here the wine takes on a more polished profile. The acidity and tannin are less evident, which gives the fruit a more dominant role on the palate. Raspberry intermingles with various savory notes of spice, earth, and a touch of vanilla.
2005 Finca Valpiedra Reserva
Red and black cherry aromas offer a seductive bouquet. Black cherry and raspberry carry on to the flavour profile and are joined with plum and secondary notes of herbs and earth. Medium body with medium acid. At 11 years past the vintage, this was just entering maturity.
2001 Finca Valpiedra Reserva
By now it was very evident how well the wines from Valpiedra age and how much additional complexity comes with that age. A mixture of red and black fruit are delivered on a medium+ body that at 15 years was still showing plenty of structure and vibrancy. Barrel notes (caramel) joined with cedar and earth. Terrific balance, great complexity that began to evoke a top quality St. Emillon.
1994 Finca Valpiedra Reserva
As a treat the winery dug deep into their cellar and pulled this out for us. After 22 years this was showing no signs of fading. Slightly different than the more recent wines, the profile was more black fruit. Earth, cigar box, caramel and slight hints of licorice made for a complex and changing drink. Great balance made for a terrific, seductive mouthfeel. A taste of history!