Ramōn Bilbao Reserva Rioja DOCA 2011

Medium ruby color; cherry, blackberry, coffee, vanilla on the nose; cherry, black fruits, oak vanilla and spice on the palate.

Ramōn Bilbao Reserva Rioja DOCA 2011

Dry; tannins are present but well behaved, especially after eight years. Acidity similar to tannin—there, but playing nicely with all the other elements. Medium-full body. Very easy drinker, especially after some air in glass, but tasty as pop-and-pour, too. Delicious finish. All in all, a lovely Spanish Rioja.

This is distinctly tempranillo, a grape sometimes called the Spanish cabernet sauvignon, but tempranillo in general and in this wine does not have the very assertive tannins of a cab, and certainly not after eight years. Still, if you like cab you also will like tempranillo and you will enjoy this wine. Ramōn Bilbao Reserva is a blend of 90% tempranillo, 5% graciano, 5% mazuelo from 40-plus year old vines in Rioja Alta. Made in classical style; 13.5% ABV.

Graciano is a Rioja grape that brings character and tannins to the table, although it is testy with low yields and some downy mildew problems. Mazuelo is the Spanish name for carignan, a grape with many detractors, but also one that generates high yields. My guess, graciano is added for depth and character and mazuelo/carigan to increase production. And it is noted that carignan’s reputation has enjoyed an uptick when it comes from old vines and vintners who know what they are doing.

Ramon Bilboa vineyard

Ramōn Bilbao vintners know what they are doing. The winery is a consistent producer of quality. A visit to their website is a delight, including several engaging and informative videos. In addition to harvesting tempranillo from quality vineyards, the winery aged this offering 20 months in American oak, then 20 more months in bottle—thus the reserva designation. Deft use of oak stands out. Is it there, but it is not over-stated to cover flaws in the wine.

Ramōn Bilbao started his wine adventure in 1924 because he saw it as an opportunity to travel the world. The family continued the tradition until the founder’s grandson, Ramōn Bilbao Pozo, died without leaving an heir in 1966. The winery became a corporation in 1971, and in 1999 was obtained by the family firm of Diego Zamora S.A., which operates it today. The interesting story is available on the website, with links below.

Rodolfo Bastida is the technical director and general manager of Bodegas Ramōn Bilbao. In addition to a technical agricultural engineering degree, he has a master’s in viticulture and oenology, and a master’s in business management. Sara Bañuelos is the technical director. She has a bachelor’s degree in oenology at the University of La Rioja. Rosana Lisa is the director of innovation and deputy technical director. She has a bachelor’s degree in oenology. Qualified people making quality wine. Hard to get better than that.

Ramōn Bilbao Reserva Rioja DOCA 2011 is an extraordinarily easy drinker that touches all the tempranillo bases. Rich, smooth, very well behaved after eight years of age. Pair with rich meat dishes; wild game; spicy food; curry; ceviche; pizza, burgers, and other comfort food; cured cheeses. $21-24

Ramōn Bilbao website; includes fascinating videos, especially “The Soul of a Violin”

Ramōn Bilbao page on Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, U.S. importer

Ramon Bilboa vineyard
Rodolfo Bastida-Ramon Bilbao
Sara Bañuelos-Ramon Bilboa
Rosana Lisa-Ramon Bilbao
Concrete tanks at Ramon Bilbao
Barrel room at Ramon Bilbao