LABASTIDA WINERY AND OFFICES Carretera Rivas de Tereso, s/n 01330 Labastida, Alava. Sulfite Alkohol 13,5 Vol % Parker-Neal Martin 93:The 2005 Gran Reserva is the first since 1999 selected from the best casks, where it is aged for 25 months in used French and American oak. It has a wonderful, wild mint-scented bouquet with hints of licorice and white fennel. The palate is medium-bodied with bold tannins that bolster its vaulted structure. It has very good weight with grippy, dry, tertiary tannins towards the long finish. It will need several years in the cellar. Drink 2016-2025. A visit to Rioja could not pass without a stop at Bodegas Remelluri, now managed by the pocket dynamo that is Telmo Rodriguez. I jumped in his muddy 4x4 to inspect his high altitude vines up on the Sierre de Tolono mountains and isolated, uncultivated plots of potentially great terroir that Telmo is keen to exploit in the future (see video). Remelluri is suffused with a sense of place and history, epitomized by the family’s home that is veiled in a monastic aura, every nook and cranny coveting untold stories from the 14th century when the monks from the Tolono monastery founded a sanctuary on this site. Do not be fooled, because now this estate is looking towards the future, through Telmo’s eyes. Though I was impressed by their current releases, the phrase “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” kept running through my mind, because it will take time for Telmo to implement his winemaking tenets that have been honed through extensive experience both in Spain and abroad. This includes converting Remelluri’s vineyard to biodynamism and re-training the vines away from the trellis (something that Telmo abhors in Rioja). But one thing that he enacted immediately was the bold decision to convene growers from whom Remelluri had sourced fruit for many years, and inform them that this arrangement would cease forthwith. Telmo was effectively putting them out of a job in order to focus upon his own terroir, and to use his own words, “concentrate the personality of Remelluri.” This culling of out-sourced fruit is effective from the 2009 vintage. To compensate these growers, Telmo offered his experience and contacts to assist them in creating their own label. He was encouraged by the positive response and galvanized growers to take responsibility for their own wine; he was essentially sowing the seeds of his own philosophy. So let us begin with this label, because it is well worth seeking out.