The Oenophiliac

Bringing you stories from the world of wine and beer.

Nicole Linares: Rioja Road Trip – Days 14 & 15

Day 14 – May 15th

Rioja DOC LogoToday we visited Cune Winery. I have worked with the distributor of these wines and sold them in grocery stores, so these wines are close to my heart. I particularly like the Monopole. The winery and property was very modern and very large, with steel and wood and metal and glass all blending together very nicely. I noticed that the structure, or parts of it, was made to look like barrels or casks. I loved those details. As we entered the fermentation area, we noticed a large teepee like structure in the middle of the room. As we got closer we saw that the floor was made of glass and that you could see down into the aging cellar. I really liked that they had used all of the space nicely, even carving their building into the side of a rocky mountain, which blended into the structure. Down in the storage area, we noticed that the cave wall made up the entire back wall. When we went into the barrel cellar, we saw that the entire left side of the room was cave wall as well! It was a great contrast between nature and man-made structures. We finally went down into the old wine cellar we saw earlier from above, and I liked that it was circular room, almost resembling a tomb. At our tasting

Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE)

Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE)

we tried the Monopole first, a 2012. It had great acidity and was extremely refreshing with a clean finish. Next we had the Rosado, 2012. It was a bright salmon pink with a nose of strawberries. It was a bright, clean wine with notes of candied fruit. We tasted a Crianza 2009 that smelled like dark chocolate, leather, pepper and cocoa, it was very drinkable. We tasted many wines at this tasting, but I’ll speak about the wines I found to be my favorite. I enjoyed the Reserva 2007 that had a wonderfully expressive nose of vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, dark red fruit and coffee. It had a long and fruity finish. I also really enjoyed the Contina Graciano, 2007. It was amazingly complex with a spicy and fruity finish.

Murua labelWe toured Murua, a small winery with minimal production. It had a farm feel, very cozy and we ended the tour tasting three wines; a blanco 2008 that was drinkable and refreshing, a VS Murua 2012 with notes of sea spray, soft tannin and hints of blackberry and raspberry. Lastly, we tried a Murua Reserva 2005 that had a long acidic finish with notes of black pepper.

Later, we enjoyed a fabulous lunch prepared for us by the family of the Murua winery. We had chuletillos (small pork chops) made fresh on the BBQ and small plates like pate and peppers. We really enjoyed the lunch and I was able to get into the kitchen and snap some shots of their “parilla,” or grill. It was so good!

Later that evening, we headed to dinner at Rosie’s where Chip had a Priorat, which was the wine that I tasted that made me realize that my passion for wine went deeper than I thought. It was a great evening.


 Day 15 – May 16th

Chip really saved the best for last. For our last “bodega,” today we headed to MUGA. This has been the favorite winery of wine for a long time and I think it was the first Rioja wine I had ever tried. Orestes and I usually meet up for glasses of wine and good conversation and we always have a bottle of MUGA unfiltered to enjoy. So to say the least, this is the most special day for me. Muga is a very special winery, and they are very proud of their name. You see it everywhere,

Muga Winery

all over the winery. It’s on the front of the shop, with a massive and elegant M gracing the wall and it is on everything you see. Chip told me that the wine we would enjoy the most would be the Prado Enea, which I haven’t tried. Our tour guide was a very cute and energetic woman who rushed around excitedly showing us everything. We were taken into the cellars and I was even able to find my birth year, 1984. The cellar resembled the underground of an old, really

Prado Enea

Prado Enea

elegant castle with iron-wrought gates and elaborately decorated tables and chandeliers. I also loved all of the wood.  The large wooden barrels had iron stairs wrapping around them. We got to see the cooperage and I was able to catch a glimpse of the different kinds of toasting levels for barrels. I think its great that some of the wineries kept true to their history and had their coopers. It seems like it’s becoming a lost art so I’m happy some keep them around. Another interesting thing we were able to see was the egg station. They still used egg whites to clarify the wine and we saw the tool used to separate the whites from the yolks. It looked like two slides going in the opposite direction.  In the cellar, we were also able to see that they still used the remuage method for clarifying the Cava wine, turning them little by little each day so the sediment falls to the cork and creates a cap.  At our tasting, we tried a blanco that was barrel fermented first, a blend of Viura and Malvasia. On the nose I picked up green apple and some tropical notes like pineapple and fresh citrus. It was acidic and fresh, with a bright structure and clean finish with notes of vanilla at the end. And for our last Rioja bodega wine tasted we had a Crianza 2009 Unfiltered, which turned out to be the “Reserva” that Orestes and I enjoyed so much! It was wonderful to taste one of my favorite wines at the winery in which it was made with Mr. Muga standing right there! One of the best moments of my life and one that I will never forget. I’m not sure if it was the environment in which we tasted the wine, but it had never tasted so good.

Bodegas Muga 'M'

Bodegas Muga ‘M’

After Muga we bought a few things at the gift shop and had a little bit of free time before our meeting at School of Hospitality for Rioja. We went to the Wine Culture Museum, near the town of Briones. It was amazing to see the progression of wine’s life through history, beginning with the first amphorae all the way to the sculptures of fawns with grape leaves as headdress to the many different types of corkscrews! My favorite was the sculptures made of marble and terracotta. They looked so real and were so perfect, it was hard to imagine someone carving them by hand. You could really feel the love and appreciation for wine through the years and this made me love it more. To remember the museum, I bought a necklace of white stone grapes and I can’t wait to wear them. I also liked seeing the progression of bottles lit up from behind, like art.

After the museum, we headed to Santo Domingo de Calzada and to the School of Hospitality. We were greeted by the director of education for Rioja and were given a tour of the school. It was smaller version of our school, with mock dining room and restaurants, including a café, which opened during the day for students, and faculty to purchase treats and drinks made by the students. There were also kitchens for them to cook and pastry departments as well as cleaning. One thing that caught my eye that we don’t have at FIU was the mock hotel room. Students had to practice breaking down and making up a room, including the bathroom. I thought that was neat and I thought it would benefit us to have that. We were then treated to a special meal prepared by the students. I thought that the service and dessert were the best part of the meal and I was happy to chat with a few of them, as they seemed nervous.

After the lunch, we headed back and packed up. I have never in my life had an experience as amazing as this one and it only cemented my decision to pursue a career in the wine industry. I am so grateful to have been able to join this family on this once in a lifetime trip and I will never forget the wines and people of Rioja and most of all, how well both of them treated us on this special journey.

Journal written by Nicole Lindares

Nicole Linares is a student at the Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality, USA, an active member of her schools Wine Academy and budding wine writer

One comment on “Nicole Linares: Rioja Road Trip – Days 14 & 15

  1. Red Wine Lovers
    July 29, 2013

    Thank you for mentioning our article. It sounds like you had a wonderful time there.


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