The 2009 Valbuena was harvested early, the result of a warm summer. It’s mostly Tempranillo complemented with 5% Merlot. The wine matured for five months in 20,000-liter oak vats, 16 months in new barriques (equal parts French and American oak), four months in used barrels and then four more months in the vats before being bottled in May 2011. 180,000 bottles produced. It has some reductive notes and would benefit from some time in a decanter, where you’d start appreciating its background of cherries which feels very classical and serious. The palate is well-built, with polished tannins, very good acidity and freshness with elegance and fine tannins. Mature and with good typicity. Drink 2014-2020. I tasted the latest three vintages of Valbuena, to get up to speed with what’s in the market. If there’s a wine in their collection that has seen a huge improvement since 1998, it is Valbuena, which had been kind of neglected since the launch of Alion in the early 1990s. For Valbuena, they do not want a second wine in the Bordeaux style. But with the competitive Alion breathing down its neck and the pressure of its big brother, it felt a bit out of place. So they decided to look back at the vineyards: they studied the soils and saw why Unico and Valbuena had been (empirically) produced from separated plots. (LG)
(virtually all Tempranillo, with a bit of Merlot; fermented in large oak tanks and raised in a 50/50 blend of French and American oak, followed by brief sojourns in used oak barrels and vats before bottling): Opaque ruby. Spice- and mineral-accented aromas of dark berries, cherry pit and potpourri, with a toasty topnote. Minerally, incisive and sweet on the palate, offering smoky cherry and blackcurrant flavors complicated by vanilla, mocha and licorice. Shows impressive power and vivacity on the youthfully tannic finish, with the smoke and spice notes strongly repeating. (JR)
*Cellar Selection* This is the best Valbuena since 2005, and it may be better than that. Exotic aromas of leather, lemon peel, sawdust and boysenberry come in front of a tannic but lively and intricate palate. Baked, heady flavors of black fruits, pepper and mocha finish with chocolate and vanilla as well as juicy acidity. Drink now through 2022.
Tobacco, cedar and sanguine notes mingle with dried cherry, spice and orange peel flavors in this firm red. The floral finish blooms pleasantly, showing harmony and depth. A traditional style. Drink now through 2024.
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1986 Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Blanco Gran Reserva Especial Rioja (Pre-Arrival, Elsewhere $700)