April 2024 Crianza Wine Club Notes

Viña Zorzal
2019 Graciano

Regular Price: $17.99
Club Price: $15.29
Buy Now

If Oscars were awarded to wine grapes, Graciano would easily snag the title of “best supporting actor.” In Navarra and neighboring Rioja, Tempranillo generally takes the spotlight as the lead grape. But Graciano has often been blended with Tempranillo in small amounts, adding elegance and freshness with its higher acidity while also enhancing the color with its very deeply-hued skin. Viña Zorzal stands out as one of the few producers crafting single-varietal wines from this unique grape, and it’s not the first time their Graciano has graced our wine club selections. Previous vintages have received great reviews and feedback here in the shop, and this year's offering continues the trend. 

Founded by Antonio Sanz in 1989, Vinicola Corellana, nestled just a short drive away from Rioja, in the La Ribera Baja region of Navarra, has built a solid reputation for delivering both quality and consistency. Antonio's three sons, Mikel, Inaki, and Xabier, now lead the charge. Embracing organic farming methods, they are dedicated to producing wines that reflect regional character while striving for top-notch quality. 

Once widely dismissed due to its low yields, Graciano has been experiencing a revival as Spanish winemakers rediscover the value of indigenous grapes. Single-varietal Graciano wines can be pricey, but the brothers at Zorzal aim to keep their wines affordable. In the glass you’ll get enchanting aromas of plum, cassis, mulberry, and spice. On the palate, layers of dark fruit unfold, supported by pleasantly firm tannins, leading to a lingering finish. Balanced fruitiness, complemented by savory undertones make it a perfect match for charcuterie, jamon-and-melon canapés, or grilled pork dishes.  - JL

Wonderfully heady with powerful mulberry scents and juicy fruit. Great impact! Then vibrant and lively. Real lift. Precise and surely no oak but pure fruit. Amazing length. Nice label too.
— Jancis Robinson, MW

Bodegas Maximo Abete 2021 Casalasierra

Regular Price: $17.99
Club Price: $15.99
Buy Now

 To start with, if you didn’t know, rosé wine in Spanish is called “rosado”, and red wine is simply “tinto”.  With that out of the way, let’s ask the two defining questions for this April Crianza wine: how red can a rosado be and still be rosado? And how light can a tinto be and still be a tinto? I will let you make the call after tasting, but, as the winemakers request on the back label, “taste this wine without preconceptions, forgetting all that you have heard and drunk previously.” Forgetting all I have heard and drunk is a bit ambitious, but I get it - keep an open mind. 

This wine, like its makers, exudes fun and lightheartedness while showcasing serious quality. The makers are Yoanna and Maria Abete, daughters of winemaker Máximo Abete, after whom the winery is named. They collaborate with Juanma, the son in law, making for a powerful trio. To quote the sisters, “We grew up among wine demijohns and van deliveries. There was always a smell of wine in the background because shortly after we were born, our dad, Máximo, and our mother, Blanca, opened up a wine shop on the ground floor of the family home in San Martin de Unx.”


The pose in the photo is a great visual of their enthusiasm, their charisma, and the radiant simplicity with which they approach their craft. As opposed to the more, dare I say, slightly stuffy demeanor of the big Rioja houses, the Abete clan makes serious wines with a light spirit, rather than making things “corporate”. Sisters, husbands, and friends, make Máximo Abete very much a family affair.  

They continue the efforts their father Máximo started:  making high quality wines of individual character from grapes grown in the Guerinda Mountains in San Martin de Unx, in Navarra’s Baja Montaña. In their words, “We like to experiment, have fun and keep learning, so to that end we make many different wines. We feel every wine has its own authentic story to tell, with a strong sense of place and a simple purity.”  

On a recent visit to the US they personally showcased 6 of their wines, all of which were delicious. As is often the case when visiting winemakers from small estates make the rounds, we knew these wines would sell out quickly. We immediately asked them to save 3 of the 6 wines for our wine club. The next day, 1 of our choices had already sold out. Luckily we got the other two, and Casalasierra (“the mountain house”) is one of them. 

It is a very light Garnacha that just bursts with fresh raspberry and forest strawberry, hence the berry label. Despite being so light, it has a surprisingly big mouthfeel and structure. It has phenolics or tannins or maybe it’s salinity that gives it a pleasant grip, making it work well with food. When I commented on this more substantive quality, Yoanna looked at me and smiled, and agreed that this wine is more than your everyday rosado: “todo terreno”, all-terrain, is what she calls it. It’s crunchy when you want it to stand up to food, it’s raspberry coulis with a hint of balsamic when you’re sippin’ in the sun. It belies its 14.1% alcohol, and if you love it as much as we do, you’d better stock up. This one carries the infectious fun charm of the Abete sisters and will be gone fast. - BMS

Popular posts

Our favorites spots in Madrid - The Spanish Table
The Spanish Table Paella Recipe - The Spanish Table