This large and remarkably quirky family winery dates back to 1903 and is – after Vega Sicilia – the oldest winery in Ribera del Duero, accounting for 75% of the region’s sales during its initial ‘wow’ period from 1982 through 1987.
Surprising therefore, that they have not had a presence in the UK for many years – if ever – but perhaps not, as new blood, in the form of Ricardo Peñalba – has only been present since 2006 and the sudden death of his father Pablo.
Mother María Pilar, now a sprightly 70, continues nonetheless as doyenne, running guided tours not only for the many wine fans who materialize but as part of the hospitality extended to hotel guests; for their 400 hectare property, which lies at a height of some 800 metres, not only includes a forest and 140 quite distinct plots of vineyards – though the main ‘Torremilanos’ block consists of 55 - but since 2008 a very plush hotel, which, only a stone’s throw from Aranda, is a favourite venue for big-time local weddings and whose restaurant serves food to die for.
Onto the wine, however!
In essence, from 200 hectares of vineyards planted on a variety of different soils – the main features of which are broadly pebbles, limestone and sand - once managed by his uncle Félix and now by cousin Miguel Ángel, Ricardo makes no fewer than 14 different wines.
25% of the vineyards are older than 60 and some as old as 150!
The harvest is therefore long: taking an average of 45 days; and in a bountiful year such as 2011 can result in a million kilos but in more difficult ones – say 2010 - can yield 600,000 kilos.
Tinto Fino is of course the main grape variety, but there is Garnacha too, Merlot, Viura, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and also Albillo, which may or may not be white Tempranillo. In addition, they make their own barrel, and these are a combination of French, US and Romanian.
We will major on 2 of Ricardo’s wines: Monte Castrillo and Los Cantos: the first a rich, toasty, blackberry and plum flavoured entry-level offering with some seven months in oak; the second a more opulent, vigorous black fruit scented wine with a little Merlot and some 13 months in barrica.
We are, however, most taken with his more select, and pricier offering: Torremilanos – a marvellous, seriously structured Tinto Fino with masses of spice, damson fruit and coconut infused French oak. Also available on request: Torre Albéniz – a spicy, fatty, mineral, nutmeg, red and black fruit imbued wine which benefits from about 2 days in a decanter; and the wild and radical bio-dynamic Cyclo, made partly in concrete, from Tinto Fino, Albaillo and Garnacha grown on 3 of the oldest plots on the estate.
In addition, we suspect that some of you may like Ricardo’s dry, forthright, cherry imbued Monte Castrillo Rosé, which in Michael P’s words ‘has a pleasant leafiness to it and is the antithesis of the candy floss style’. Ask us for a sample, therefore, and we will be pleased to bring it in for you – though we are told that it sells like hotcakes in both Mexico and Russia!