June Imported Wine: 2008 Heredad Ugarte Crianza, Rioja, SPAIN

Eguren Ugarte, is an international family business. The firm began in the world of wine in 1870. With more than 130 hectares of their own vineyards, they unite tradition and modernity. At Eguren Ugarte, they make wine with the Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja. Accredited in 1926, they obtained the highest category, “Calificada” in 1991.

About: The Ugarte family’s winegrowing history dates to 1870, when Don Amancio Ugarte started producing wines in San Vicente de la Sonsierra. His skill and knowledge have been handed down from generation to generation and the wines have grown in quality and fame. Heredad Ugarte has traditionally selected and harvested 120 hectares of vineyards, in the best spots of Rioja Alavesa – Laguardia and Labastida.  The combination of location, soil and grape variety, now managed by two young female winemakers, is yielding wines appreciated world-wide for their balanced color and acidity and flavor.

Rioja: Rioja [ˈrjoxa] is a wine region, with Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca. Qualified designation of origin) named after La Rioja, in Spain. Rioja is made from grapes grown not only in the Autonomous Community of La Rioja, but also in parts of Navarre and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions though there is a slow growth in single-zone wines.

Varietal(s): 92% Tempranillo and 8% Garnacha

Alcohol: 13.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: Aged 15 months in the barrel and 6 months in the bottle. This wine has clean aromas with ripe fruit and hints of toast. Smooth and soft tannins make this an easy drinker with a beautiful lingering finish and aromatic aftertaste.

Food Pairings: This bottle of Rioja is a food lover’s dream. The wine is a perfect match for Spanish or Latin inspired food, such as paella, grilled sausage/chorizo, charcuterie, and so on. The Rioja will pair with rich food and amplify the flavor. Enjoy!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A wine filled with layers of concentration and depth. Ugarte is a wine that is full throttle! With flavors of ripe fruits, cassis, cedar and tobacco. Great to serve with barbeque or any other favorite on the grill!”-JL

September Imported Wine: 2011 Luberri 'Orlegi' Tempranillo, Rioja, SPAIN

Owned by Florentino Martinez Monje, Luberri is located in Elciego in the heart of Rioja Alavesa. Florentino farms 35 hectars of old vines located principally between the villages of Elciego and La Guardia.

A farmer at heart, Florentino was the original winemaker at Artadi before establishing his own winery in 1992. Florentino is hands-on at the winery, working on all aspects of production, but his true love is working in the vineyards. All the plots are farmed with minimal treatment of the soils and vines. Vineyard sites are separately fermented and vinified. By keeping yields low Florentino extracts grapes with great concentration and flavor. Yields are around 34 to 45 hectoliters per hectars.

History of Tempranillo and its Relation to Luberri: Tempranillo is a variety of black grape widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano (“early”), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. Tempranillo has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of Phoenician settlements. It is the main grape used in Rioja (Luberri), and is often referred to as Spain’s most noble grape.

Grown early in the 20th century to produce jug wines in California, toward the end of the 20th century Tempranillo enjoyed a renaissance there and throughout the world as a fine wine. The grape has been planted in Mexico, New Zealand, South America, USA, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, Turkey, Canada, etc.  The grape is often blended with Grenache and Cariñena (known in Rioja as Mazuelo), Tempranillo is bottled either young or after several years of barrel aging. The grape often grows best at higher altitudes, giving the wine a ruby color, with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather, and herb.

Varietals: 100% Tempranillo

Alcohol: 13.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: “Vivid red. Floral- and spice-accented aromas of red fruits, rose and minerals; smells like a Dujac wine. Seductively perfumed in the mouth, with juicy raspberry and floral pastille flavors dominating. Shows impressive clarity and spiciness on the long, sweet finish. This is extremely easy to drink. “-90 Points, International Wine Cellar

Food Pairings: This Tempranillo is the perfect pairing with lasagna, pasta Bolognese, hearty meat dishes, or Mexican cuisine.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “This is an iconic area of Spain. I love Rioja! The Tempranillo truly shines here. Flavors are dry and savory, with nutty components as well. Loads of cedar and tobacco too. The wine is long and concentrated on the palate as well, with layers of complexity. This wine screams ‘RIOJA!’”-JL