Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Viña Catajarros Cigales Rosado, One of Spain's Truly Great Rosé Wines

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"You ask about rosé?  Blended from tempranillo and garnacha (red grapes), verdejo and alvillo (white), the Hermanos Merino Viña Catajarros rosado ($13.99), from the Cigales region, was seamless and displayed a certain seriousness under its flirtatiousness. (I tasted the 2010; you may find the 2011.)"  Howard G. Goldberg

 Basilio Izquierdo, the top winemaker in La Rioja and a frequent traveler with Gerry Dawes to visit The Spanish Artisan Wine Group artisan winemakers, tasting Viña Catajarros Cigales Rosado at 
Bodegas Crescencia Merino in Corcos del Valle (Valladolid).  
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012 /

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Persistence of Memory* (Salvador Dalí) Five-Watch Rating 

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Cigales, Castilla y León

Bodegas Hermanos Merino, Corcos del Valle (Valladolid)   

Viña Catajarros Rosado 2011 Cigales 13.0% 12/750ML $13.99 SRP

A blend of 80% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha Tinta, 10% Verdejo, 5% Alvillo.

Appearance:  Pretty, bright, strawberry-raspberry rosé (please don't call my rosados pink).

Nose:  strawberry-cherry fruit with hints of spices such as cloves and cinnamon.

Palate:  A delicious, lively wine with excellent acidity, bright strawberry, cherry and cranberry flavors and spices, with a dry classic finish and nice light, but firm tannins from the red grape skins and a lingering minerality that makes it a great food wine.

This is a wine that begs for a second bottle.  I would not hesitate to cellar this wine for three to four years.

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"Hermanos Merino Catajarros Cigales Rosado, a mix of two red grapes (tempranillo and garnacha) and two white grapes (verdejo and alvillo). The latter had a slight spritz, and lots of body without being weighty; it is an unmitigated bargain and will become our house pour for the summer. If I can lay my hands on some." - - Rozanne Gold, Waiting For Godello: The New Wines of Spain, The Huffington Post

Eugenio Merino in the family vineyards that he works so hard to tend,
allowing him to produce one of the truly great rosados of Cigales. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012 / /

Viña Catajarros is the best rosados from Cigales I have ever tasted.  The wine is made from 80% Tinto del País, as it is known here (Tempranillo), Garnacha (5%) and two white wine grapes, Verdejo (10%)  y Alvillo (5%).  The wine is fermented in stainless steel and bottled in March or later.  In January 2012, The Spanish Artisan Wine Group chose to bring in the 2010 rather than wait for the 2011, because serious rosados like Viña Catajarros are even better with extra time in bottle.  I have had Catajarros Rosado when it was four years old and the wine was still drinking beautifully.

Viña Catajarros is made by the Merino brothers, led by Eugenio Merino, a man who works his own vineyards and treats each goblet-pruned vine like it is one of his children. One of the primary premises of Bodega Hijos de Crescencia Merino is to take meticulous care of their vines with the objective of obtaining high quality wine and they consider that the success of their wines begins in the vineyard. The family has 15 hectares (37 acres) of vines around the tiny village of Corcos del Valle, north of the historic provincial capital of Valladolid.  

Eighty per cent of the vineyards are planted in Tinto del País (Tempranillo), the principal variety of the D.O. Cigales, the other 20% is a mix Garnacha and white wine grapes, Verdejo, Viura and Alvillo.  Seven and a half acres of the vines are more than 50 years old and some 1,200 of the vines are at least 100 years old.  More than 32 acres of the vines are goblet pruned, less than five acres are on wires.

>The Merino brothers work their vines all year long and try to keep sulphur treatments of the vines to a mínimum.  To reduce yields, in the section of the vineyards on wires, grapes are green harvested, but the other 32 acres are pruned back in the winter months to leave 3 branches each with three shoots and a “thumb” with two shoots with the intention of keeping the yields at under 5.5 tons per hectare (less than 2.25 tons per acre), the yield that the Merinos consider optimum to obtain high quality wines. 

As late as eight years ago, the Merino brothers were still making their wines in an ancient cellar hewn out of stone, using the classic stone and timber Roman-style press.  Even though the  Merinos make mostly rosado (and a small amount of red wine) right now, I consider them to be one of my most prized artisan suppliers.

When I discovered this wine, I went immediately to see Eugenio Merino and visited him at least four times before acquiring his wines for the U.S.  At the time, he was using a plastic stopper in his wines, but I convinced him to seal his wines with Amorim cork and he became my first supplier to switch to Amorim, which we guarantee 100% against cork taint. 

All the corks that seal our bottles come from Amorim and the corks in my artisan wines are double checked at the cork factory.  In all my tastings which includes several hundred bottles since I began acquiring wines for The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections, I have less than half a dozen bottles of white wine, none of which were sealed with an Amorim cork (that supplier switched to Amorim right away) and virtually no rosados with cork taint.

"Rosé makes people happy. Especially this one."&
Comment & photo
posted by Dr. Vino on Twitter.
As part of a wine trip connected to the annual Zarcillo de Oro wine competition, I was invited to a tasting of Cigales wines at the Consejo Regulador offices in Cigales.   Many of the wines were the beefy, high alcohol reds now being made in this region that was once famous for its rosados.  I tasted Catajarros and, as soon as the tasting was over, I asked where I could find the producer.

That tasting led to a meeting with Eugenio Merino and a visit to Corcos, where on several occasions over a period of four years, I tasted the wines going back five years--and this was when this wines were bottled with plastic "corks." Eugenio became one of my first artisan wineries to seal his wines with Amorim corks and the result has been spectacular. 

Among all the wines in The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections portfolio Viña Catajarros is one of several wines that consistently draw the most praise from the experience tasters who come to my tasting luncheons (see below).

Hermanos Merino Viña Catajarros Slide Show

Catajarros was originally vinified in the family's classic hand-hewn wine cave bodega, where the grapes were pressed with a rustic stone-and-timber Roman style wine press. Thousands of these caves* dot the soft-stone hillsides of Castilla y Leónand where were many of the region's artisan wines and artisanal cheeses were historically made.  Less than a decade ago, the Merino Brothers came out of their cave and built a small, functional bodega in Corcos.

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"The hill behind me is honeycombed with family-owned wine and cheese caves, cool man-made caverns which were already centuries-old when Columbus discovered America. In a little stone shed built into the hill, Ambrosio and Asunción, are laying out the fixings for a simple, but first-rate and unforgettable dinner: a salad of garden-picked lettuce, perfectly ripened flavorful tomatoes, and sweet Spanish onions; wedges of Ambrosio’s superb Burgos sheep’s milk queso Castellano, a delicious, slightly sharp, white cheese; round, thin slices of home-cured country chorizo; chuletillas (milk-fed lamb chops), and red cherries picked from a villager’s trees.

The meal will be accompanied by the rustic, but delicious, country wine which Ambrosio and his father buy from the cooperative in the neighboring village of Quintanamanvirgo, then age in large old barrels down in the cave next door.  Ambrosio ages cheeses in his cave.

Soon we descend into the pitch dark depths of the wine cave, lighting our way by candles. The bodega, as a wine cellar is called in Spain, is perfectly cool and properly humid for aging wine. It is rustic, old, full of atmosphere. There are cobwebs, mold, 16-liter bulbous glass garrafas with cork stoppers, a modest stash of bottled wines, a couple of smaller barrels, and a large cuba barrel, where last year’s harvest of wine is gaining character.

Using a siphon, Ambrosio draws a good measure of dark red Ribera del Duero wine into a porrón, a beaker-like pitcher with a neck for putting wine in and with a long needle-nosed spout. The spout facilitates sanitary communal drinking for those who have mastered its use and wine-stained shirts or blouses and good-natured expletives from those who haven’t.

Part of the ritual demands that we sample the wine from porrón down in the cave. Ambrosio lifts the beaker by its glass neck and places the tip of the spout just inside his open mouth without letting it touch his lips or tongue. He elevates the bottom of the beaker and a thin stream of wine flows out. Once the flow begins, Ambrosio gradually extends the porrón to arm’s length taking the wine into his mouth in an arching stream that flashes ruby in the flickering candle light.

Watching someone drink from a porrón in one of these wine caves is spectacular, beautiful, folkloric. There is almost a religious quality to this rite, a discernible atavistic pull that binds those who share from this vessel. This wine bonding, camaraderie in a jug, is the stuff of vintage nostalgia." - -  Gerry Dawes, Heavenly Nights in Old Castile, A Traveler in Wines.

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