Offer available through Monday, 11/6/2023, or as inventory lasts.
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Hi everyone –
We’ve been looking forward to putting out this offer. We had to wait a bit for more inventory on a couple of the wines to come to the Twin Cities, but now we’re good to go. These are two wineries that we visited during our August-September wine journey in Spain, and we LOVED every drop we experienced.
There’s something here for everyone and for every occasion.
Let’s get to it!
Ribera del Duero 101
One of the first stops on our Spain trip was Ribera del Duero, located about two hours north of Madrid and following the weaving of the Duero river from east to west.
One of my favorite wine books is Vineyard Tales by the great Gerald Asher. It’s actually the book I pick up the most when I’m feeling a bit burnt out on wine and wine talking, for his words always remind me of why we are into this stuff. He weaves stories about regions and wine people together better than anybody. My copy is 25 years old and I still read it multiple times a year.
In his chapter about Ribera del Duero, he nails the feeling of visiting the area:
It is in fact Old Castile itself that most of those tasting these new Ribera del Duero wines find most difficult to accept as the improbable source of such sumptuousness. Nowhere in Spain, nowhere in Europe that I can immediately think of, is quite as bleak. Wind-whipped and frozen in winter and mercilessly sunbaked in summer, it is virtually without trees, totally without charm, and austerely indifferent to any human presence. Though cities like Burgos and Valladolid have something of the grandeur appropriate to former capitals (Valladolid was the seat of government for much of the sixteenth century, Spain’s golden age) the small towns and hamlets seem isolated and forlornly colorless. Forget smiling wine villages, real and imaginary; those of Old Castile appear to have been pulled together, stone by stone, as raw evidence of survival against all odds.Vineyard Tales by Gerald Asher
The starkness of the region was a shock to me. I’m used to wine regions being filled with rolling hills of green, and evident wealth in the form of beautiful houses and fancy cars, little of which we saw there.
And I loved it.
This is a tough area to farm, and the people that work the land and in the vineyards are a hardy lot … like Minnesota farmers in many ways.
The principal grape is Tempranillo, known in these parts as Tinto Fino. It’s unclear if Ribera del Duero has its own clone of Tempranillo, but knowing it was brought over from Rioja hundreds of years ago I’m sure minor mutations have happened in this extreme land, which is very exciting. Tempranillo from Ribera is very different from Tempranillo from Rioja: it’s darker, it’s blacker, it’s more concentrated.
With excitement, one of the first wineries we visited in Ribera del Duero with our group was Emilio Moro.
Background on Emilio Moro
This is a third generation winery, which is a rarity in Ribera del Duero (which outside of the legendary winery Vega Sicilia, is a relatively young wine region). Grandfather was born in 1891, and Emilio Moro was born in 1932. The family has always been involved in the wine business, but as the popularity of Ribera wines soared in the 1990s (thanks to critics such as Robert Parker) they were uniquely positioned to become a superstar of the area.
In front of the winery, where they displayed the three principal soil types with old vines.
They had incredible and well done educational displays throughout the winery.
Emilo Moro has some major advantages over other Ribera del Duero wineries. For one, they have some of the oldest vineyard holdings in this relatively new region, including some rare 100+ year old plots. Another advantage is the family establishment in the region. They are respected and honored. There is much outside money (big money!) coming into the area, but it’s still a very traditional region that generally likes to work with their neighbors first. The third big advantage in my opinion is an adherence to old-school winemaking ideas but with modern technology at their side. Evidence of this is in one of the wines we are offering.
Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero 2020
This is the classic. The go-to. The one everyone should have on their wine shelf.
A great Ribera del Duero does a couple of things better than most wines.
First, it’s a big wine. It’s winter weight. Ribera del Duero like this don’t mess around, and as the temperatures drop and you start enjoying braised meats and stews, a wine like this goes a long way.
Second, this particular wine is a pitch perfect example of what I think Ribera del Duero should be. So if you buy it, pay attention when you smell and taste it the first time. Tattoo that into your brain. That’s what Ribera should be.
Lastly, it’s BALANCED, which I can’t say about all Ribera del Duero. Many suffer from too much extraction and loudness. It’s hard to hear the details when the volume, bass, and treble are all cranked to 11. This one is balanced and beautiful. When combined with the full bodied nature of the wine, it’s like a linebacker dancing ballet. You just don’t come across it too often.
Only 35 bottles are left … grab it while you can.
Tasting note: blackstrap and licorice fruit with a powerful presence. Big aromas loaded with a kaleidoscope of blackberry, black tea, mushrooms, toasty oak, and verve. This is winter-weight wine, begging for a steak off the charcoal grill. Firm tannins linger on the finish and beg for fats and proteins to bring balance. Wowza.
Emilio Moro “La Felisa” Vegan/Organic/No Sulfites Added
This was one of my highlight wines from our trip. I had never heard of it or had it before, and I was overjoyed when we returned and I learned it was in the warehouse of the local importer.
100% Tempranillo from what they call a “medium age” single vineyard (30-60 years old). This plot was the first in the Emilio Moro portfolio to be farmed fully organic, with zero herbicides or pesticides. The wine is also made without adding any extra sulfites.
As many of your know, sulfites are not the enemy and they serve an important part in the world of winemaking to help stabilize wines and keep oxidation at bay. However, sulfites are notorious for stripping wine of some of it’s greatness and it’s a talented winemaker indeed that can make a chemically stable wine without adding sulfites.
This is one of the best no sulfites added wines I’ve ever had.
The story is fun: the matriarch of the family wanted a wine different from the normal production. A wine that was environmentally friendly and no added sulfites, which she was sensitive to. Being in charge of the family, she gets what she wants and now it’s one of the top wines of Ribera del Duero.
Tasting note: This wine throws curveballs. First off, it’s 15% ABV, a bit more than the ‘regular’ Ribera del Duero, but comes across with less heat and alcohol presence. How is this possible? I think its because of the lack of sulfites, which are allowing more of an ‘aromatic bloom’ to happen.
This is more aromatically complex than any Ribera del Duero I’ve had outside of Vega Sicilia, and that’s saying something!
91 points Wine Spectator: “Fruit-forward and expressive, with generous well-spiced boysenberry and blueberry fruit flavors up front, followed by savory notes of eucalyptus, Earl Grey, loamy earth and smoke on the midpalate and finish. Fresh and floral, this is thick in texture but well-knit and balanced, with taut tannins firming the zesty finish.”
Exploring Basque Country and Txakoli
The last three days in Spain were spent in Basque Country.
Of course we had to be in Bilbao a couple of nights, that way we had a full day to explore the Guggenheim museum. And of course we had to spend a night in San Sebastián, wandering the old town and eating Pintxos (the Basque version of tapas).
Ahead of our trip I had lunch with our friend Hai Troung, chef/founder of the late great Ngon Bistro, and a frequent traveler to this area. I outlined where we would be and when, and he said “Well, okay … but you need to go somewhere else.”
Getaria is a fishing village about 30 minutes west of San Sebastián, and an hour outside of Bilbao. With a population of only 2500, it’s very much the opposite of tourist-choked San Sebastián.
Clinging to the edge of Spain, the old village juts out to the ocean where the fishing boats still head out every morning for the day’s catch. The streets are narrow, the fish is always the freshest you could imagine, and there is an outdoor grilling culture unique to the area (ancient grills built into the outsides of the old buildings).
And in the hills above the town, the vineyards that produce one of our favorite Txakoli.
Tasting the ocean: Txakoli 101
Txakoli is a crisp and refreshing wine, hailing from this part of the Basque Country near the oceanside. This wine is typically made from indigenous grape varieties, such as the white Hondarrabi Zuri and the red Hondarrabi Beltza. Txakoli’s signature acidity, citric edges, light effervescence, and low alcohol content make it a perfect companion for the region’s seafood dishes and pintxos.
Its distinct flavor profile and unique winemaking methods (fermentation in stainless steel tanks plus the influence of the Atlantic Ocean) contribute to its appeal and a growing global fan base.
Txakoli comes in several distinct styles, each with its own characteristics and flavor profiles. The primary styles of Txakoli are as follows:
- Txakoli de Getaria: This is perhaps the most famous style of Txakoli, originating in the coastal town of Getaria in the Basque Country. It is made primarily from the Hondarrabi Zuri grape variety, resulting in a vibrant and slightly effervescent white wine. Txakoli de Getaria is known for its high acidity, light to medium body, and aromas of green apples, citrus, and a hint of saline minerality. It is often poured from a height to create a natural spritz, which enhances its refreshing character.
- Txakoli de Bizkaia: Produced in the neighboring province of Biscay (Bizkaia), this style of Txakoli is also made from Hondarrabi Zuri, but it can have subtle differences in flavor due to variations in terroir and winemaking techniques. It tends to be equally zesty and crisp, with a touch of sea breeze in the aroma.
- Txakoli de Alava: In the province of Alava, this style of Txakoli is crafted primarily from the grape variety Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia. It is often considered the most mineral-driven and least effervescent of the three styles, with prominent citrus notes and a bracing acidity that pairs wonderfully with regional dishes.
- Txakoli Rosé: Some Txakoli producers also make rosé versions from the Hondarrabi Beltza grape variety, resulting in a bright and slightly effervescent pink wine. These rosés are fruity and lively, offering flavors of red berries and a refreshing finish.
While these are the primary styles of Txakoli, there can be variations and nuances within each category, depending on the specific winery and the microclimate of the vineyards. Regardless of the style, Txakoli wines are celebrated for their ability to complement the flavors of Basque cuisine, such as seafood, pintxos, and grilled dishes, making them a cherished part of the region’s culinary culture.
Our spontaneous visit to Ameztoi
This was on our final day in Basque Country, before driving back to Bordeaux. We awoke early, checked out of our hotel in San Sebastián, and got to Getaria as fast as we could (which typical of this region is always longer than you think). Upon entering Getaria, we immediately took the left turn to go up into the hills.
This was jaw-dropping. Simply one of the most beautiful views ever. We parked and absorbed where we were, took a ton of photos, then noticed cars parked in front of Ameztoi winery (which is a brand I’ve loved for years). We stopped in and introduced ourselves, apologized about not having an appointment, and made it clear we just want to say hi and take a couple photos.
They immediately cleared a table for us on the deck, brought out incredible nibbles and bites, and kept our glasses filled with Txakoli. The hospitality was incredible, and I made it clear how appreciative we were. The export manager happened to be there, and we had a great conversation about her visit to Minnesota a few months prior.
One of the greatest days ever. Simple as that. We finished it off with grilled monkfish at a local restaurant next to the fishing wharf, before heading back to Bordeaux.
The offer: Three wines from Ameztoi (including the extremely rare Primus)
We have three wines from Ameztoi on offer here. All are incredible. The first two are classic Txakoli, the last is something different, rare, and particularly incredible.
Ameztoi Txakoli and Ameztoi Rosé
There are the go-to wines, the style most people are familiar with. Bright, fresh, clean, lively as can be. Sometimes I use the word “feisty” when tasting them. The little shot of CO2 they deliver is classic Txakoli, leaving the palate clean, refreshed, and ready for more.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking these are summer-only wines. They are ideal for any dishes involving oils and fats (read: butter), for they can cut right through all the richness. They are also great alternatives to Sauvignon Blanc when you’re getting a little pink-grapefruitted out.
One of my favorite simple dishes is a piece of white fish (cod, halibut, whatever), dusted with salt, pepper, and tarragon and slowly pan-fried with butter. In a French style, I’ll spoon the butter over and over the fish as it cooks, almost poaching it as it sits in the pan. It doesn’t take long before it is done. Then setting the fish aside and holding in a warm oven, I’ll blast the heat on the stove and quickly pan fry some asparagus or carrots that I’ve sliced thin and chopped. Once plated, I squeeze a lemon over the whole thing.
These two wines go exceptionally well with that preparation. Txakoli can handle butter, tarragon, and veggies all on the same plate. Quite a feat.
The wine you may not have had before is the Ameztoi Txakoli Rosé. It’s one of my favorite pink wines all year round, and has been making an appearance on my Thanksgiving table the last couple of years. Fresh strawberry and raspberry bloom from the glass with all the citric goodness of Txakoli framing the flavors. This stuff is simply incredible.
The rarest Txakoli produced: Ameztoi Primus
We were treated to this wine at the winery, and it blew us away. I had never seen it or heard of it. It was so crazy delicious that it made the cut and became one of the twelve bottles we hauled back home.
Amazingly, and little did I know, the local importer had some in the warehouse in St. Paul. Only 15 bottles remain, and they are all available here, right now.
So what is this, and why is it so special?
The oldest vines. The best fruit. The top selection on the picking line. Aged on its lees for six months, then bottled straight from the tank. In other words, this is BIGTIME Txakoli, and something very special indeed.
Tasting note: This smells and tastes more like a PREMIER CRU BURGUNDY than anything else, especially if it came from Puligny-Montrachet or Chablis. There is a speed on the aromas, packed with citric goodness running into ripe apple, that is so complex it’s almost overwhelming. Without a doubt one of the best white wines I’ve had this year. This is serious stuff, so plan a special night around it. Will it age? It may, but I wouldn’t hold onto it to experiment. It’s firing on all cylinders right NOW and will be awesome well into 2025.
Wine travel is the best travel. To go to a region, meet the people, get to know the family, walk the vineyards, kick the dirt, and drink the wine of a place is unlike anything else.
We hope this offer gave you a little glimpse into Ribera del Duero and Basque Country.
Sommelier and founder/owner of Twin Cities Wine Education
Offer and special pricing are available through Monday, or as inventory lasts