Simply stated, the 2007 Valenciso Reserva may well be the finest Rioja produced in the 2007 vintage, further testimony to the acumen of Luis and Carmen’s ability to fashion flawlessly balanced wines, in spite of the vagaries of vintage. The 2007 Valenciso Rioja Reserva captivates and inspires with a harmonious bouquet and a wealth of deep down flavors. Produced from 100% Tempranillo, the wine tantalizes the nose with savory scents of red and black fruits, woodland berries, cedar, sandalwood, nutmeg and cinnamon. On the palate, the wine unfolds slowly from a tightly wound core of fruit, wood, and warmth that characterize the best wines of Rioja Alta. Layers of complex flavors satiate the palate and linger long after the wine slips down the throat. Once again, Valenciso’s Reserva strikes a perfect balance between fruit and structure. We suggest serving this extraordinary wine at cool room temperature (60º-64º F) after an hour or more of aeration, though there’s no need to be in a hurry; it will continue to mature in bottle for up to a decade or more.
A wine as elegant and sophisticated as the 2007 Valenciso Rioja Reserva deserves some of the finest accompaniments one can bring to table. As a complex, elegant Rioja, the 2007 Valenciso Reserva pairs beautifully with the traditional specialties of Rioja and the surrounding Ebro River region of Spain as well as with classic continental favorites. An entrée of grilled lamb chops, served with wild mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, garlic, and herbs, gets our nod as does a traditional stew, prepared a la riojana, with chicken or game birds, white beans, chorizo sausage, peppers, paprika, and tomatoes. However, one of the most memorable meals we enjoyed on a recent trip to Spain was a delicious oxtail stew accompanied by a bottle of Valenciso Reserva. Venison stew served in a thick brown sauce, grilled venison tenderloin, or a slowly braised pork shoulder served with tiny lentils, also provide memorable pairings with Valenciso’s charismatic Reserva. On a simpler note, a plate of fine Spanish cheeses and a loaf of warm crusty bread or a few slices of perfectly cooked duck or rotisserie chicken, accompanied by grilled vegetables and onions, offer all the companionship the 2007 Valenciso Reserva needs to resonate. Salud!
Editor’s Note: We’ve been enamored of the complex age worthy Rioja Reservas that Valenciso has consistently fashioned since 2000. Apparently, the word is now out, and we are not the only ones. Valenciso’s 2007 Rioja Reserva (this month’s feature) not only garnered 93 points and high praise from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, it also stole the show at the Sommelier Wine Awards, where an international coterie of sommeliers awarded the 2007 Valenciso Rioja Reserva a Gold Medal and deemed it Finest Wine of Show out of 2,000 entries.
The Compania Bodeguera de Valenciso is the artistry of Luis Valentin and Carmen Enciso. The name Valenciso, a combination of the proprietors’ two last names, came to fruition when Luis and Carmen left their respective positions at one of Rioja’s oldest and most prestigious bodegas. With a shared a vision of creating a truly boutique Rioja in their own cellar, Luis and Carmen have created one of the finest and most seductive of all Rioja wines. Their dream comes to life each vintage in the outstanding Rioja Reserva that flows harmoniously from their bodega into our glasses.
The secret to the nearly instantaneous success of Valenciso is the criteria Luis and Carmen apply to making wines. Each relies upon the inherent greatness in old vine Tempranillo, the quintessential Spanish grape varietal that steals the heart and defines the soul of Rioja. Yields in the vineyard are kept draconically small in order to fashion wines of finesse, flavor, and symphonic harmony. In addition, all of Valenciso’s wines are made in very small lots or cuvees in the cleanest, most impeccably run winery we have ever visited. Moreover, only small barriques are used for aging, a third of which are renewed annually. French oak predominates and all of it is of cork “flor” quality, the highest level possible. Yet, without expert winemaking, all of these measures would be of marginal value at best. With a string of successes that began with Valenciso’s inaugural vintage in 2000, Luis and Carmen have made their dream come true. Only Rioja Reserva is made at Valenciso, and none of this bodega’s wine is released until it attains a minimum of four years of age and is able to comport itself in the glass.
Luis Valentin is one of the most engaging, yet humble winemakers we have encountered. He exudes quiet confidence and genuine self-assurance born of discipline, patience, and a true love of wine. And he articulates his passion and pursuit of excellence with an earnestness rarely seen today in any profession. Spending time with this gracious gentleman is a lesson in humility and an inspiration to pursue the high road, wherever that road may lead. It is good fortune, indeed, that Luis’uinnate charm and personality make their appearance in each and every vintage of Valenciso’s beautifully wrought Reservas.
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