2017 Castro Ventosa – Raul Perez, Mencia, Valtuille, Bierzo D.O., Castilla y León, Spain.
Raul Perez’s brilliant and dark hued Castro Ventosa, 100% Mencia, from the 2017 is really showing well with deep fruit concentration, satiny tannins, a mineral note, delicate florals and a slightly earthy reductive element, that all folds nicely together, making for an intriguing and engaging, almost Burgundy like effort. Perez, one of Spain’s greatest winemakers and the Mencia maestro has crafted a very seductive and transparent estate wine here, that fits beautifully into his exceptional collection of Bierzo offerings, though different from some of his personal project wines. This garnet colored 2017 delivers a full range of flavors led by dark currant, black cherry and brambly berry fruits along with dusty spices, dried minty herbs, wild flowers, graphite, truffle and subtle cedery wood. The Castro Ventosa has a fine balance with natural acidity and a firm structural feel that makes this a wine that works best with food, where it really shines, especially some rustic country cuisine and meat dishes. Perez naturally fermented his Castro Ventosa Bierzo Tinto mainly in oak vats, though about 10-15% was done in stainless steel tanks, with about 40% full (whole) clusters and then matured it in a combination of used 225L and 500L French oak barrels, that perfectly showcases the region and the grape. This middle tier bottling is one one of the best values in Bierzo reds and showcases the talents of Raul Perez for a very reasonable price.

The Castro Ventosa (Windy Castle) was founded by the Perez family back in 1752 and the family has owned the estate ever since, now with the legendary Raul Perez, the godfather of Mencia, running the show here. The Perez family owns 75 hectares of Mencia vineyards in Bierzo, this makies them the biggest owners of vines of this grape within the Bierzo D.O. region. The Bierzo D.O. zone is located in the northwest of the Province of Castilla y León, just above Portugal with a more continental climate than the cooler and Atlantic Ocean influenced Ribeira Sacra D.O., where Mencia is also found. Bierzo is in a small valley surrounded by mountains, with an exceptional terroir and with a unique microclimate, its low altitude prevents frost in winter and the warm summer provides for perfectly ripe grapes. The soil here has a mixture of quartzite and slate, as well as clay and sand, all of which suits the Mencia, as well as Godello and others ancient local varietals. The Castro Ventosa winery is located in the village of Valtuille de Abajo at the foot of the slope of the Castro, the ruin of an ancient Roman fort that dominates the village. Mencia is an indigenous red varietal of Northwestern Spain, once thought to be a cousin of Cabernet Franc, though in modern times DNA testing has ruled out any relationship with Cab Franc, it has elements of flavors that reminds me of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Syrah with its dark fruit, good acidity and medium body. It’s always a treat to drink a bottle of Raul Perez’s wine and this one was delicious and rewarding over the course of evening with a hearty meal, and it reminded me that I definitely need to get a few more bottles and I can’t wait to try his latest releases!
($40 ESt.) 94 Points, grapelive

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