The Valsacro Estate
The Escudero family has been making wine and growing grapes for generations in the rugged, semi-desert foothills around Grávalos in the southwestern corner of the Rioja Baja region. Over the last 15 years or so, the Escudero brothers led by Bordeaux-trained winemaker Amador have transformed the small family "bodega" into a major Rioja wine producer. The changes have come gradually and in addition to the new winery at Pradejón (near Calahorra) they have greatly extended vineyard acreage, a very successful "cava" sparkling wine venture (one of the few non-Catalonian cava makers), and extensive Chardonnay plantings (disallowed in Rioja, but OK for cava). Amador, now in his mid-forties, is not one to shy away from taking risks to make things happen. The Valsacro project is an excellent case in point.
"One of the most adventuresome of "new Rioja" producers; amazing Dioro selection has explosive fruit; new project in Navarra called Logos bears watching."
- Anthony Dias Blue's pocket guide to wine 2006
The Valsacro Vineyards
Operating from the small Grávalos facility, Amador realized that some of his vineyards offered the potential to do something better (and different). These old vineyards, some over 100 years planted in the old fashioned "vidau" style offered the kind of raw material needed to make a modern-style premium wine - a Rioja with a difference. ["Vidau" is a mixed variety vineyard - a field blend ready to pick.] The vineyards include Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano & Garnacha. A typical Valsacro is about 40% "vidau" (majority is Garnacha with Tempranillo & Garnacha), 50% Tempranillo from 28 year old vines and 10% Mazuela (Carignan) from 25 year old vines.
Dark ruby color. Aromas of cherry, currant, vanilla bean and hint of tar. Full-bodied, with flavors of cherries, cocoa powder and oak. A touch of sweetness on entry with a little bit of air with soft tannins that are starting to integrate well.
The latest step in the project is Vinsacro (formerly Valsacro) Dioro. The earlier Valsacros were made from a field selection of the older vineyards. Now, thanks to the new facility Amador has been able to build an upmarket version of Vinsacro (formerly Valsacro) with a four-stage selection process that includes an initial field selection of the fruit followed by a second table selection as the grapes come into the winery. After fermentation wine from selected tanks is transferred to new French oak barrels for 12-14 months of barrel age. Finally, the best barrels are set aside for Dioro and the remainder used to "upgrade" the normal Vinsacro.
Vinsacro Dioro is a blend of grapes from 100+ year old "vidau" vineyards where many varieties were planted together in the same plot.
Today the grapes are harvested and vinified separately. The final blend depends on the vintage but typically it's Tempranillo (50%), Garnacha (20%) and remaining 30% is a mix of mainly Graciano (10%) & Mazuelo (10%) with a little of Monastrell (5%) & Bobal (5%).
"The top of the range is the 2015 Vinsacro Dioro, a wine that is only produced in excellent vintages. It's a blend of 40% Vidau (the old field blend) plus 45% Tempranillo and 15% Mazuelo, from a slope in the south of the Monte Yerga called Cuesta la Reina, from a big, 120-hectare plot that has been with the Escudero family for generations. It fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel with a long maceration. It matured in new French (70%) and American oak barrels for 18 months. It's still very young and a little shy, with a reticent nose where the lactic and spicy aromas are intermixed with earthy and dark fruit aromas. The palate is full-bodied but perfectly balanced, compact, powerful and serious, with abundant tannins, extract and clout. This should develop nicely in bottle, given its stuffing and balance. An excellent, modern version of a classical Rioja. 20,000 bottles were filled in June 2017. - Luis Gutierrez"
- Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (Issue #235, February 2018), 92 pts
"(sourced from a 100+ year old plot of mixed varieties; aged in new and used French oak barrels for 14 months) Deep, bright-rimmed ruby. Ripe black and blue fruits on the expansive, spice- and smoke-accented nose, along with suggestions of vanilla, candied flowers and cola. The oak qualities recede quickly on the palate, which displays sappy, deeply concentrated boysenberry, black raspberry and spicecake flavors that show a suave blend of richness and energy. Supple tannins build steadily on the penetrating finish, which leaves cherry-cola and baking spice notes behind. - Josh Raynolds"
- Antonio Galloni's Vinous (February 2019), 93 pts
"I loved the 2015 Vinsacro Dioro Rioja, and this beauty is 50% Tempranillo, 20% Grenache, 10% each of Mazuelo and Graciano, and the balance Mourvèdre and Bobal, all of which spent 12-14 months in French oak. It boasts a deep ruby/purple color as well as smoking good notes of black currants, dried herbs, licorice, and background oak. Medium to full-bodied, seamless, and layered on the palate, with terrific fruit and impeccable balance, I suspect it will shine for over a decade."
- Jeb Dunnuck (March 2019), 93 pts
Vinsacro (Valsacro)( Rioja is predominately 70yr old 55% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 10% Mazuelo, 10% Graciano and 5% Monastrell aged in American oak.
Dark cherry color. Intense and elegant sweet spices, chocolate and ripe fruit with suggestive toasty aromas that tell us about the aging in good oak. Tasty, powerful, meaty and structured and at the same time easy to drink, very round.
The slogan of our winemaker "Wine is to enjoy". Vinsacro red wine is a wine to be stored, so that positive developments are expected for at least 15 years.
"(raised for 16 months in new and used American oak barrels) Deep, bright-rimmed ruby. Expressive, mineral-accented aromas of ripe dark berries, incense and smoky minerals, with vanilla and licorice undertones. Sweet, spicy and focused in the mouth, offering juicy blueberry and cherry liqueur flavors that are enlivened by a peppery spice accent. Smoothly combines richness and vivacity and finishes with impressive focus, lingering sweetness and supple tannins that build slowly and add gentle grip. - Josh Raynolds"
- Antonio Galloni's Vinous (February 2019), 92 pts
Vinsacro Rioja Blanco is made from 60% Chardonnay, 40% Viura.
Aged 7 months in oak barrels of 225 liters
The grapes come from vineyards located in Grávalos, on the southern slopes side of Mount Yerga at the foothills of the “Cordillera Ibérica” at an altitude of between 700 and 800 meters. A very high located area where you obtain fresh wines with little graduation, with very fine and elegant aromas.
Bright straw yellow color, intense aromas and elegance with outstanding floral and fruity notes. After some time in glass balsamic and spicy aromas with toasty notes rise, due to aging in oak and bottle maturation. Very cool and structured with an unusual power for a white with a variety of flavors ranging from citrus to balsamic. A white wine that is full of surprises and capable of taking on many years in the cellar.
Vinsacro white has a long aging potential and presumably will have a positive development for 20 years.
The Chardonnay grape is harvested during the second or third week of October. The Viura grape in the first two weeks of October.
The collection of the grapes is done manually.
The selected must will go through the fermentation in American oak barrels of 225 liters with medium toast, remaining in the barrel with its lees for seven months before being removed with a daily battonage, daily at first and then more sparingly.
Pairs great with roast lamb, grilled vegetables.
Betz Family La Serenne Syrah is 100% Syrah
La Serenne is the most reflective of the site/vintage dynamic of our three single-site 2012 Syrahs. Lovers of this wine know that its source, the Boushey Vineyard, is the highest altitude of the three vineyards and is typically the latest harvested. This cool site was accentuated by the cooler season and the results reflect the seriousness of this vineyard and its care.
An extraordinary, nearly impenetrable black purple color leads to a concentrated, inky aromatic impression: smoky black cherry and wild blackberry dominate, but a litany of supporting aromas is already emerging: smoke, violet, mushroom, roasted meat, Chinese 5 spice and minerals. It has a full attack on entry and a big, rich mouthfeel that goes on and on.
2012 is our 13th harvest from this site and these rows. We continue to be impressed with the chameleon nature of this vineyard, in cool years and hot, in heat spikes and cool springs: it provides us with surprises and opportunities at every harvest. While the themes of deep black fruits and pliant structure always surface, the nuance of this vineyard and its care (thank you, Dick Boushey) make it some of the most satisfying fruit we work with every harvest.
"The pure, elegant and textured 2014 Syrah la Serenne offers that classic violet and floral characteristics of the cuvee, as well as medium to full-bodied richness, lots of black raspberry fruit, fine, sweet tannin and a great finish. It’s not as powerful or concentrated as the La Cote Rousse, yet it’s a joy to drink and will cruise for a decade or more on its balance and purity. - Jeb Dunnuck"
- Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (Issue #225, June 2016), 93 pts
Dominus Napa Valley Red Blend is made from 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot.
The historic Napanook Vineyard, a 124-acre site west of Yountville, was planted in 1838. This vineyard was the source of fruit for some of the finest Napa Valley wines. Estate-bottled in the spirit of the Bordeaux châteaux, Dominus Estate is dry-farmed to allow natural stress and good concentration of fruit. Grape clusters are crop-thinned to allow sun and air to pass in between, helping to achieve full maturation and soften the tannins. Only 20% to 40% new French oak barrels are used in order to limit the extraction of oak notes. To express the unique terroir, the classic Bordeaux grape varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are planted with different root stocks best suited for the varying soil composition of gravel, heavy clay and loam.
The 2017 Dominus is one of the truly epic, grand wines of the vintage. Rich, dense and explosive, with tremendous concentration and sheer power, the 2017 Dominus captures all the personality of this site along with the natural opulence of the year. Inky dark fruit, lavender, menthol, licorice, plum, gravel and a host of dark spice notes infuse the 2017 with seemingly endless layers of nuance. Over the last two years I have tasted several hundred Napa Valley Cabernets, both from barrel and bottle. There is no question that Dominus belongs among the elite in 2017; it is simply a breathtaking wine. Certainly readers looking for a Napa Valley Cabernet to cellar should put Dominus at the top of their lists. -Vinous 98 Points
The grand vin is the 2017 Dominus, which is based on 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, harvested between September 21 and October 3, and aged in 40% new French oak. Chateau Lafite-like notes of blackcurrants, lead pencil shavings, cedary tobacco, and gravelly earth all emerge from the glass, and it's full-bodied, has a terrific sense of elegance, lots of tannins, and a great finish. This tight, powerful, concentrated Dominus will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age and keep for 25 years or more. 2017 doesn't get much better. -Robert Parker 97 Points
There was about 50% of a normal crop this year for the 2017 Dominus, due to strict selection. Grapes were harvested from September 21 to October 3 and the wine was bottled in June 2019. This year the blend is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, aged in 40% new French oak barrels. Very deep purple-black in color, it sashays nonchalantly out of the glass with graceful notions of potpourri, forest floor, crushed rocks, Ceylon tea and licorice with a core of black currant cordial, chocolate-covered cherries, mulberries and preserved plums plus a waft of garrigue. Full-bodied, the palate has a beautifully impactful, wonderfully quiet intensity of black and blue fruits with loads of floral and spicy sparks, framed by firm yet plush tannins, finishing with long-lasting earthy notes. -Jeb Dunnuck 97 Points