The last Rioja wine we had in the club was in December 2021, which we think is appropriate as there is something weirdly Christmassy about Rioja reds. In an utterly dry and elegant way, the spices and slightly warmed red fruit flavors are reminiscent of mulled wines and are perfect companions to the season’s heavier fare such as roasts, stews and shepherd's pie. The Ramirez de la Piscina family are an ancient Rioja Alta family and, as might be expected, they value the traditional style of Rioja wines as well as the natural environment that produces their beautiful wines, so they farm biodynamically and sustainably. They are also one of the very few, in a region with more than 20,000 small grape growers, to produce wines exclusively from estate-grown grapes. Since 2018, the Rioja DOCa allows subregions, villages and individual vineyards to appear on labels, and yet, despite their location in a famous part of the Rioja Alta, San Vicente de la Sonsierra, the Ramirez de la Piscina family have, so far, stuck to the old labeling tradition. The 100% Tempranillo grapes are handled very gently during the temperature controlled fermentation and are put into barrel for aging without pressing the wine off the spent skins so as to leave behind any bitter oils and harsh tannins that might be released by squeezing the seeds and skins–along with a valuable volume of wine—yet the wine remains an extraordinary value. Toasted spice, vanilla, fresh coconut, black cherry and plum on the nose with similar flavors plus red licorice on the palate. The medium, fine tannins are perfectly balanced with the alcohol and acidity. A perfect match with the previously mentioned dishes, along with Mexican meat dishes.