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Richi Arambarri, General Manager of Vintae, and Marta Plana, Owner of the Winetones

In partnership with Serendipity, the following wine is available in California and Texas markets.

As a distributor, we’re constantly playing the middleman between supplier and buyer, but if we had any say in the matter, then The Winetones would be a Spanish importer already on the tip of every buyer’s tongue. Woman-owned and a collection of three portfolios, the Winetones book is full of verve— highlighting bottles at the forefront of modern Spain in terms of quality and sustainability. And after a recent trip with owner Marta Plana in spring 2024, we had the pleasure of revisiting their northernmost selections firsthand. This particular portion of Marta’s book belongs to the serious but youthful Vintae group. Founded in Rioja in 1999, Vintae specializes in wines of unmatched value and unlimited heart. You’d be looking indefinitely to find a single sku that doesn’t triumph its growers or showcase an intimate connection to place— all for prices that will make you forget the rising costs of, well, everything.

The trek across Northern Spain reminded us not only of our love for Tempranillo, but of how far expressions of Spain’s most prized red grape have come since groups like Vintae entered the chat. Journey with us to Toro, La Rioja, and Ribera Del Duero for an inside look into four of our latest favorites.

Toro Rising: Matsu ‘El Recio’

Toro stands out as an unassuming town within the disparate, somewhat lonely region of Castilla y Leon. The D.O. is hot, flat, and un-crowded— currently recovering from decades of depopulation. In the last ten years alone, Toro lost over 11% of their working class citizens. But with the vested interests of Vintae, who began their partnership with Matsu winery in 2006, they’ve been able to use the tradition of wine to address and improve these historic losses. Vintage after vintage, they give their ninety-plus co-op farmers a reason to thrive. And although ‘Matsu’ translates to ‘patience’ in Japanese, there’s a beautiful urgency to them: these are wines convincing its own community that they could and should stay.

With Matsu, it’s best to forget the old Toro. OUT are the large, bull-ish, overly extracted reds. IN are the finessed, conscious, single-varietal expressions of Tempranillo that we know and love. Matsu perfectly captures both the struggle and determination of it’s people with a series of labels that depict multiple generations of the grower: youth, maturity, and age. While there is a place for each of these bottles, today Matsu ‘El Recio’ has us enthralled. Biodynamic grapes hail from a selection of pre-phylloxera vines, ranging in age from sixty to one hundred years. This version of Tempranillo, aka Tinta de Toro, is a generous display of terroir: earthy notes shine amidst red fruits, black fruits, and cacao. The wine matures in used French and Eastern European oak for an integrated finish.

Matsu ‘El Recio’ represents the energy of youth and the insight of age

Range in La Rioja: Hacienda Lopez de Haro

Traveling Northeast to Rioja Alta, Hacienda Lopez de Haro is situated under the Toloño Mountain range in the village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra. The property hugs the southern bank at a bend in the Ebro river, with slanting hillside vineyards and dense cloisters of goblet trained vines leading up to the winery. From the outside, the view is archetypal Rioja. But upon entry, a cheeky neon sign announces that “It’s Wine O’Clock”. And its this duality that gives Vintae’s flagship winery its distinctiveness: Lopez de Haro combines the gravity of classic Rioja with an inviting, modern edge. It’s the reason why their wines are beloved by collectors and casual drinkers alike.

Two expressions illustrate how differently Tempranillo behaves with variations in oak, age and blending partners. The 2020 Lopez de Haro Crianza is a traditional blend of Tempranillo with Garnacha and Graciano playing supporting roles. It is aged for a full 16 months in oak and then rests for an additional year in cellar. Fans of classic Rioja will instantly recognize bold, signature licorice notes. Cherry, cocoa and black fruits are matched by a velvety mouthfeel and a structured finish.

In contrast, the current release of Lopez de Haro Gran Reserva takes us back to 2014. It’s build is more narrow, with mostly Tempranillo backed by Graciano. Following a mammoth thirty months in French and American barrels and requisite bottle aging, the wine immediately opens with a welcome of oak: warm vanilla, sweet baking spices, and an irresistible hint of candy. The palate is alive with fruit compote and balsamic notes, but it’s the structure that will leave you coming back for more. After ten years of total aging, the wine boasts a lively acidity and finessed tannin that make it an ideal choice for food-pairing.

In a sea of larger Rioja producers, Lopez de Haro is a mid-sized, family-owned brand that works with a select group of local growers

The Bards of Ribera del Duero

Ribera Del Duero is a land of extremes. Whereas many other world-renowned wine regions face the perils of steep slopes, RDD sits at elevations so high (and flat) that you’ll forget you’re up to 1,000 meters above sea level. These incredible altitudes are what give RDD its hallmark climatic conditions. Proximity to the sun means scorching heat followed by wild diurnal swings and harsh spring frosts. To grow wine in such intense conditions requires equal parts dedication and pluck, but the payoff can be immense. This is where Bardos has established themselves as storytellers, or “bards”, of the land. They farm several properties across Riberas Soria and Burgos, in the eastern and central northern parts of the region, respectively. Locally, Tempranillo goes by ‘Tinto Fino’ and can be found planted alongside Garnacha Tinta and Albillo Mayor.

Fruit for the 2020 Bardos Viñedos de Altura come from hidden, select vineyards in Soria— an up-and-coming area outside of the Golden Mile garnering recognition for its 950+ meter altitudes and low-yielding, centenary vines. This style of Tempranillo is loaded and lush. It shows a broader body due to slightly elevated alcohol, balanced by a depth of purple fruit and silky mouthfeel. An impressive freshness serves as a reminder that these lands, once lost to time, still have something stunning to say. Enjoy Viñedos de Altura with cured meats and cheeses or, for a truly authentic experience, pair with grilled baby lamb chops.

The label for Bardos Viñedos de Altura is a visual poem to the land, speaking to it’s romanticism and sparseness

This concludes our tour. If it hasn’t become obvious by now, The Winetones is a clear-cut choice if you’re on the hunt for premium, versatile versions of Tempranillo. It’s their eye for quality, supplied by the Vintae group, that will leave a lasting impression and instantly instill consumer confidence. Whether it’s a snapshot of Toro via Matsu, familiar yet modern bottlings from Lopez de Haro, or pure poetry from Bardos— there’s simply something for everyone.

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