As mentioned in my article below on Navarra Wine Country, we recently had the chance to visit an impressive new winery project near Estella in Navarra: Pago de Larrainzar.
The project is the vision of Miguel Canalejo Larrainzar, the former president of Alcatel in Spain. It is a real family project: a couple of his children are involved full-time in the winery.
The project is simple yet top of the line: produce a single, top-quality wine using the best grapes and wine-making techniques available. Top quality is the key word here.
The folks at Pago de Larrainzar also believe in the future of enotourism in their region and have built a wonderful winery space to receive visitors. They are also creating a trellis museum, a garden-like vineyard that displays different training systems form around the world. The vineyards are charming, enclosed by a historic wall and overlooking the famous Irache Monastery. The winery has modern and clean lines, with an ample, elegant, and airy tasting/eating area upstairs.
The Director for Enotourism, Marian San Martin, gave us a wonderful tour, including a walk around the walled vineyard and the adjoining forest. Though the winery is a new project, the estate has been in the family for 150 years.
After the tour, we tasted the wine…an impressive wine for a first year effort! See below for my tasting note.
It was our lucky day…Santiago Canalejo, the son of the owner was planning to come to the winery and have lunch. Very graciously we were invited to stay and have lunch with the family and their friends.
What a fantastic lunch…fresh, regional products made into some pure, simple and delicious dishes. Josetxo, the winery chef is a master of this kind of local cuisine.
Our first course was unforgettable! Navarra is known for its famous white asparagus...they were the largest ones I had ever seen (check the picture)! Normally we get the white asparagus in cans, but these were fresh, boiled and served with vinaigrette and some lettuce. Truly amazing flavour….never had anything like it!
Our second course was a typical winery dish for the region…patatas a la Navarra (read Patatas Riojana), Potatoes cooked with chorizo until they have a soup-like consistency….simple, hearty and tasty!
Our third course really surprised me….it was revuelto de mollejas de pato…this translates as scrambled eggs with duck gizzards….but this does not do it justice!
Tender vegetables, carrots, spring garlic, onion, mushrooms sautéed in duck fat (the secret to the flavour), then tender duck gizzards with fluffy, just-done eggs. It was simple yet astonishing! I can honestly say I wasn't a fan of gizzards before!
All these went great with the wine…but the perfect match was the scrambled eggs, whose earthy, intense flavour matched perfectly!
Our hosts were charming and really passionate about the wine and the winery!
Wine: Pago de Larrainzar 2004
Winery: Pago de Larrainzar
Denominacion de Origen (DO): Navarra
Grape variety: 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Tempranillo
Oak regime: aged 12 months in new French oak, followed by 7 months aging in bottle before release. The oak was 72% new oak and 28% oak of one year. The winery uses two barrel sizes, 225l and 300l.
Price: 24 euros
Visual: Quite intense, youthful color
Nose: Intense nose...big fruit, fresh plums and anis. Hint of both green pepper and some black pepper from the Cabernet.
Mouth: More complex and more restrained than the nose. Impressive structure, refreshing acidity. Fruit cooler in mouth, more cherry and cranberry…that's the impressive acidity talking! Loads of black pepper and a touch of green pepper. Very long finish….elegant, but very intense tannins.
Food: See above for the lunch matching
Second look: I retasted the wine a couple of months after the winery visit and already the tannins had smoothed out some….even more impressive in this second tasting. I was also able to decant the wine and taste it through a 4-5 hour period….it continued opening, really improving further with aeration.
Conclusion: Wonderful, complex food, with excellent quality of fruit. A little more time in bottle will smooth out those impressive tannins even more! This is wine that will improve in the bottle for 5 years and maintain its peak form for many more. An impressive first wine…the winery can only go on to even greater wines!