Reserve Caliber Crianza
Pioneering chef and proprietor José María Ruiz’s Pago de Carraovejas label has caught the attention of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate in a big way. Ruiz has produced “one of the most reliable Crianzas” in all of Spain, according to the Advocate, which pinned a truly impressive 93 points on this “nicely-balanced,” “full-bodied and lush” 2014 Pago de Carraovejas Crianza red. This is no small feat given it is the Advocate’s second-highest scoring Crianza in all of 2014 — and a category that rarely hits 93+ claim. Built on Ribera’s traditional Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) and bolstered by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, even Antonio Galloni’s Vinous heaps on the praise, calling it “Juicy and seamless in texture,” while Wine Spectator enjoyed its “rich core” of dark fruits and found it “dense but balanced.” In fact, the wine has been so good lately, that beginning in 2015, the Crianza will be blended into the much-more expensive Reserve. Translation: this is a rare last chance at one of Spain’s best Ribera Crianza reds — rich, spicy, and savory — at an unbeatable price.
Food pairings matter, but rarely are they central to the conception of a 500-acre winery: Before becoming a vintner, José María Ruiz tasted wine with the palate of a sommelier, then of a chef. Although his restaurant was well-known in his home city for making a mouth-watering cochinillo — Segovia’s traditional whole-roasted suckling pig — Ruiz the chef was frustrated: There seemed to be no wines that matched well and did the decadent cochinillo justice. Ruiz the sommelier was dismayed that, overall, Spanish wines were given such short shrift on wine lists.
Convinced that nearby Ribera was the answer to both issues, Ruiz staked a claim on south-facing slopes near Penafiel, where Tinto Fino thrives in the high-elevation that endows rich, supple Ribera with its acid lift. The blend of Tinto Fino, Cabernet, and Merlot sees a year in oak, one in bottle, and is, unsurprisingly, a dream pairing for really any pork (cochinillo) preparation you’ll encounter.