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2000 Pago De Los Capellanes "Tinto Reserva ," Ribera Del Duero, Spain

I rarely take recommendations from readers, and even then, only from readers that have been regularly e-mailing and commenting on the site for some time. I get a lot of wine suggestions, and I can't spend my time chasing down all of them. In this case though, the person was so insistent and sincere, and on top of that, was able to compare the wine to several that I had reviewed already, that I decided to give it a shot, and I'm glad I did.

Located very close to the heart of the Ribero Del Duero region of Spain, Pago de los Capellanes is an 160 acre estate planted with both Tempranillo, or Tinto Fino as it is locally known, and a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The name can literally be translated as "Payments of The Chaplains" and refers to the fact that the property was originally owned by the church.

The Rodero-Villa family purchased the Capellanes property and were, like many landowners, content to sell the fruit from their old vines to others, but in 1980, they decided to make a go of it, and began producing their own wines.

The winery has expanded gradually to its present size, including the construction of an official building to house the winemaking operation and to receive visitors, and has scaled to a production capacity of 42,000 cases annually, which the owners feel is the maximum they can support without a reduction in quality.

The estate produces three wines in a similar style, Tinto Joven, Tinto Crianza, and Tinto Reserva all varying by the amount of aging in barrels, and with the younger wines, by a bit of Merlot being mixed in. In addition, the estate produces a fourth wine in small quantities that is called Picon Capellanes, which is 100% old vine tempranillo from a single vineyard block, and which is only available in Spain.

This wine, the Tinto Reserva, is unusual for the region in several respects. First and most notably for its content of 10% Cabernet Sauvignon in addition to Tempranillo. Also, like most other Crianzas, or reserve wines, it is macerated for 30 days in stainless steel before undergoing fermentation, but it is then aged for 18 months in 40% American Oak and 60% French Oak, a combination which is very unusual both for Ribera Del Duero and Spain as a whole. The wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined. As the winemaker says "the best way to clarify a red wine is to decant it!" 1200 cases produced.

Tasting Notes:
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a perfumed nose of sweet oak, cherry cordials, and a hints of tobacco. In the mouth it is round and balanced with fine tannins that support primary flavors of cherry cola and black cherries that drive to a very long finish laced with sweet oak. Clearly a new world style of Tempranillo -- the opposite of rustic -- but gorgeously balanced and hard for even traditionalists not to love.

Food Pairing:
I had this recently with a veal stew braised with peppers, very similar to the recipe I;ve linked to, but done in a slow-cooked Basque style. Very nice. The wine played off the peppers nicely and brought out the juicy smokiness of the meat.

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $34

This wine is available through several Internet retailers.

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