Saturday, March 28, 2009

2000 CVNE "Contino" Reserva Rioja Spain

2000 CVNE "Contino" Reserva Rioja Spain
Suggested retail price $41-45
Distributed by Southern Wine & Spirits in NYC

CVNE produces many different Rioja wines from the more classical Rioja style to the heavier, riper, oaky(er) new world style. However, even for the riper style, their wines remain balanced, juicy, earthy and true to their Terroir.

Contino is one of the prestige cuvees of CVNE, along with their reknown Cuvee Imperial (more Bordeaux style) and Vina Real (earthier, more Burgundian style). It was established in 1974, in a separate estate (from the main CVNE winery) in Laserna, Rioja Alavesa, a few miles from Laguardia. (FYI: CVNE is located in Haro and Vina Real is nestled on the top of a hill overlooking Logroño, called Cerro de la Mesa).

Contino is, somewhat, a single-vineyard plot of a bit more than 60 hectares of vines, surrounding a beautiful several century old spanish farm house. It produces a Reserva and Gran Reserva (only in very good year), a unique wine made from the unusual varietal Graciano (usually blended with Tempranillo) and the incredibly satisfying "Vina del Olivo" coming from a small parcel planted right in front of the farm, easily recognizeable with its very old Olive tree in the middle.

The Ebro river curls around the vineyard, forming like a horse shoe shaped platform gradually expanding and descending from the estate to the river. Protected by surrounding hills and contrasted by the Ebro River, this very particular location, like a "bassin valley, creates an ideal micro-climate protecting and offering some of the best conditions to grow great vines: the vines exposed to the south take a maximum of light from morning to night; the gentle slope descending to the river has a natural, perfect drainage; the air remain fresh and moist because of the river proximity (also protecting the vines during winter), the soil is rarely dry even during the extremely hot summer months, allowing a good acidity and freshness in the wines (especially important since 2000, in this decade of moody weather across the globe with extreme temperatures).

I can proudly say that I met and know Jesus Madrazo, the son of Jose Madrazo who bought the property in 1973 in the sole aim to produce high quality wine from a single vineyard, bottled at the estate, in the league of the best Chateaux from Bordeaux. Following his father's step with even more conviction, Jesus is a great guy, funny, generous and passionate about wine and winemaking. He nurtures his vines and wines like his own kids, taking the time to experiment, comprehend, taste and improve a bit more every year to achieve the highest possible quality wine he can make.

Over my last 17 years of wine tasting and wine buying experience, many producers told me that "a wine often reflects the character and the personality of the winemaker behind it", well, it is definitely true for Jesus Madrazo, his bonhomie, "bon vivant", generous and attentive, gentle attitude are evidently reflected in his wines.

I went there to taste the new vintage at the barrel, the current vintage and older bottlings, 5 years in a row between 2003 and 2007. Everytime, it was a delight to be there and Jesus knows how to welcome his guests. The last time, in september 2007, my wife, my son and I were eating with him in the garden facing the "Vina del Olivo". We tasted samples of the promising 2004 vintage Reserva, and the barely finished 2006 vintage at the barrel. With the lunch, we tasted 2001 Contino Reserva, 2004 "Vina del Olivo" (fantastic, one of my favorite higher end Riojas in this vintage) and 2005 "Graciano" (a really pleasant surprise and a must have for wine connoisseurs) served with some Pata Negra Ham and other Spanish specialities. It was a lovely sunny day and a memorable moment. I'm looking forward to my next visit but I'm under the impression that Jesus is no longer working there no more (unless someone can correct me on that).

However, I used to sell the last 4 or 5 vintages in the previous store where I used to work, but I didn't have any in the current one. So I decided to buy the current available vintage of their Reserva and I'm really pleased with it. I bought it because I love the wines from Contino but also for all the good memories that come with it for me.

2000 Contino Reserva is riper, more concentrated style of Rioja, compare to some of its sibblings like "Vina Real" or even "Imperial". Due to its richness and long oak ageing process, the wine normally takes quite a few years to settle down, be ready and offer its best expression. However, 2000 being less concentrated and less ripe than recent vintages like 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2007, now is a good time to start enjoying it.

The color is quite dark and intense. The nose mixes aromas of ripe red cherry and black berry intermingled with oak, spice, mocha and leather. The palate is smooth, balanced and quite generous despite the bit of age and the vintage. It displays even more red and black berry flavors, with mocha, minerals, earthy hints and present yet integrated, harmonious oak notes. The finish, which possesses this dry, oaky earthiness proper to Riojas that I love, is fairly long and really inviting. It revealed most of its complex layers after about 20-30 minutes of decanting. Very nice now, it will still evolve and integrate for a few years, in my opinion, it will keep most of its fruit for the next 3-5 years and should keep for a little while after that.

Pair it with a nice, juicy grilled T-bone steak on Sarments with schallots "emincées" and a dice of melted garlic butter on top, served with a casserole of Pleurottes sautées a l'ail...(Is it lunch or dinner time, yet?)

I dedicate this little post to Jesus Madrazo (where ever you are now) and his wines, for his warm welcome each time I came to the estate (especially when I came with my little family) and allowing me (us) to taste with him and share a bit of his time, seating in the garden of this magnificent property and drinking fabulous wines. Gracias Jesus! (for you and for your wines).


LeDom du Vin

For more info about the winery go to, or simply google it, many articles have been written on the subject.

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