Pour Me a Rioja for International Tempranillo Day

Happy International Tempranillo Day! What a wonderful grape to celebrate. Today, we’re toasting Spain’s most famous grape with some wines that just landed from Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos. They have long been one of our favorite Rioja producers, and with good reason: this family-run winery makes classic, expressive wines at a price you absolutely can’t beat. If you’re looking for balance and character and value, you’re going to love this bodega.

The story of the wine starts as a love story: two Spaniards with oenology degrees (Angel and Araceli) met in Africa, then returned home to set down roots in Rioja and make great wine together. And so the story goes—they built this project in an old flour mill in the town of Laguardia and enlisted their family members to take part. Nearly 25 years later, they own 20 hectares of their own vineyards in Rioja Alta, mostly comprising Tempranillo, all farmed without pesticides or herbicides. In the cellar they let the indigenous yeasts do their magic so that there’s a distinctive regional personality to their wines.

We have four in stock now, ranging from a 2017 Joven to a 2005 Gran Reserva. Though each is distinctive there’s a throughline: the wines are light on their feet, even in the older bottlings. There’s deep Tempranillo flavor and well-integrated oak, with a lifted freshness. Spanish Wine Buyer Joe Manekin threw around the term “joie de vivre” in his description of these, and I can’t disagree. They’re well-made and structured, but playful and fun to drink. I brought home the 2010 Reserva to accompany a grilled steak this weekend and it was a perfect pairing. The caramelized notes in the meat from the grill were balanced by the high acid and spicy red fruits in the wine. Pure delight.

Tempranillo is the star grape in Rioja, and Rioja was the first region to be a wine star for Spain, the first to earn its highest ranking, the DOCa (Denominacion de Origen Calificada). There are iterations of the grape all over the world, but in many ways, Rioja is its spiritual home. So I’m happy to raise a glass today—for the grape, for the region, for the veterans, for the long weekend. And if you’re looking for the perfect wine to do so, Bodegas Casa Juan is where you’ve gotta start.

Find the wines:

2010 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos Reserva Rioja

2015 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos Crianza Rioja

2005 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos Gran Reserva Rioja

2017 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos "Cuarteto" Rioja

- Kate Soto