Miguel Merino was the first Rioja property we signed on as a K&L direct import. Located in the Rioja Alta village of Briones, Miguel Merino owns or has under long-term lease about 6 hectares of vines, the youngest of which was planted in 1998 and is used exclusively for the Viñas Jovenes Crianza, and the oldest of which was planted in 1931. That said, most of the fruit that goes into these wines is from vines that are at least 40 years of age. Miguel is rightfully proud of these older, beautiful vineyards, planted to pure calcareous clay in one of Rioja’s most famous villages, an area famous for the diversity of its soil types and the quality of its wines. We find Miguel’s wines to be true blue Rioja in profile, but with the richer texture, slightly more spicy quality of newer oak. For the Reserva wines these barrels may well be “zebra barrels,” where the staves are American oak while the tops and bottoms are French. For what he calls “my retirement project,” Miguel has done pretty well for himself, crafting village specific, old vine cuvees which show classic terroir traits as well as Miguel’s penchant for a deeper exploration into what Rioja is capable of, not unlike his friends at one of his favorite estates, Contino.