It’s not always easy to find a wine we believe is worthy to be our Wine of the Month. There’s a lot of sifting involved and a wake of opened wines left behind that range from average to sub-par, flawed to corked, pretty good to, eventually, The One. Once in a great while, however, one of our reps shows up with a wine that immediately captures our wine buyer’s eye and palate, and they, quickly as they can, get as many other wine buyers and tasting panel members to try it. Because they know, and we quickly find out upon nosing and tasting, that our search is over, the day has been won, the wine is a stunner and easy pick for our monthly feature. This pretty much sums up this month’s wine from Rioja, Spain, and one of the grand families in Spanish wine, Familia Torres.
In 2005, the Torres family decided to open a winery in the town of Labastida, in the very heart of the Rioja Alavesa region. Torres was well aware of the region's winegrowing potential, which allows for the production of high-quality wines that display remarkable personality and mature beautifully. Altos Ibéricos is named after Alto Otero, the beautiful enclave that is home to the winery. This Crianza level wine is 100% Tempranillo and sees 12 months in Oak before an extending aging regimen in bottle. To get a Crianza this good for under ten bucks? Inconceivable!
Seriously, though, this is a heck of a bargain and what my seventh grade Spanish teacher, Señor Peralta, would deem "¡Bastante Bien!" And don’t forget to eat! From June gloom to bright summer sunshine this Crianza will pair with modern cuisine and good friends, red meats and cheeses, oil-rich fish, and is especially exquisite when enjoyed with its cousin, Ibérico pork.
The nose is loaded with forward, ripe red fruits, assorted red berries, strawberry and plum. Savory notes of black tea and spice mélange provide additional layers. In the mouth the red fruits continue with bright cherries taking the lead, bolstered by umami earthiness and spice, tea and balsa wood reflections. It is impeccably balanced and drinks like a wine at least twice its price. The finish is lengthy and reiterates the olfactory and gustatory delights we experienced-- fruits and spices, earth and umami, enwrapped in a lush, rich mouthfeel that slowly recedes like a cloud-free summer sunset over the Pacific Ocean… brilliant, memorable, rewarding.