Growing up Torremilanos in Ribera de Duero

First off, we bid you a joyous Natural Wine Week! We’ll celebrate this Saturday with Paul Stroud of Craft Wines Co.–read more below. First, though, it’s back to Spain this week friends where this time we are visiting just one vineyard: Torremilanos.

Torremilanos is located at the heart of the Ribera de Duero, in the Castilla y Leon region, on the outskirts of Aranda de Duero. The origins of the Torremilanos winery date back to 1903, however it was in 1975 when the Peñalba López family bought the estate that big changes began to occur.


The Ribera del Duero Wine Region.

Growing up in a family of winemakers and confident in the quality of the local grapes, in particular Tempranillo, Pablo Peñalba decided to invest and increase the amount of vineyards up to the 200 hectares the winery operates today.

All the vineyards are situated along the hills next to the vineyard’s wine cellar. The family follows traditional farming practices to ensure the best quality of grapes, and the vineyards are cultivated in harmony with nature and allow them to be certified organic. These practices, when combined with the characteristics of the soil, climate and the winery’s own cooperage give their wines truly distinct personalities.

The Castilla y Leon region.

The 200 hectares of Finca Torremilanos vineyards are located on a slope above and nearly 2 kilometers south of the Duero river at an altitude of 800-900 meters. Soils are deep and composed of limestone, sand and clay in roughly equal proportions along with gravels from the old river bed that are composed of silex and quartz. The farm has been worked using biodynamic principles for the past five years and will be Demeter certified as of the 2016 vintage.

Farming Practice: Certified Organic

This large and remarkably quirky family winery dates back to 1903 and is–after Vega Sicilia–the oldest winery in Ribera del Duero, accounting for 75 percent of the region’s sales during its initial “wow” period from 1982 through 1987.

It is surprising therefore that they have not had a presence in England for many years–if ever–but perhaps not, as new blood, in the form of Ricardo Peñalba, has only been present since 2006 after the sudden death of his father Pablo.

Mother María Pilar, now a sprightly 70, continues nonetheless as doyenne, running guided tours not only for the many wine fans who materialize but as part of the hospitality extended to hotel guests. The 400-hectare-in-total property, which lies at a height of some 800 metres, not only includes a forest and 140 quite distinct plots of vineyards–though the main Torremilanos block consists of 55–but since 2008 there is a very plush hotel, which, only a stone’s throw from Aranda, is a favourite venue for big-time local weddings. Additionally the restaurant serves exquisite food.


In essence, from 200 hectares of vineyards planted on a variety of different soils–the main features of which are broadly pebbles, limestone and sand–once managed by his uncle Félix and now by cousin Miguel Ángel–Ricardo makes no fewer than 14 different wines. And, fun fact: 25 percent of the vineyards are older than 60 years and some are as old as 150! The harvest is therefore long and takes an average of 45 days. In a bountiful year such as in 2011, there can be a million kilos’ production. In more difficult years–say 2010–yields can be around 600,000 kilos. 

Tinto Fino is the main grape variety, but there is Garnacha too, as well as Merlot, Viura, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and also Albillo, which may or may not be white Tempranillo. In addition, the winery makes its own barrels, and these are a made of French, U.S. and Romanian woods.

Tempranillo, arguably the most famous of Spain‘s native grapes, is a vibrant, aromatic varietal that offers spicy, red fruit aromas and flavors. The grape’s name translates to “little early one,” a moniker that references fruit’s early ripening tendency–Tempranillo thrives even with a short growing season.

The varietal is at its best in top Riojas, where oak aging is employed to generate increased complexity and harmony. From the best sites, these wines can be remarkably concentrated with great aging potential. New wines from this region are darker and more robust, with more dynamic primary fruit flavors than traditionally styled examples. These wines seem to reflect the influence of Spain‘s other key region for Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero. Regardless of style, Riojas tend to be medium-bodied wines with more acid than tannins. These wines generally feature Tempranillo blended with Garancha, Mazuelo and Graciano. For these wines, there are three quality levels which will appear on the label. Everyday drinking wines fall under the category of “Crianza”; “Reserva” denotes more complex and concentrated wines; “Gran Reserva” refers to the most intense wines, made only in the best years.

The same labeling scheme applies to wines from Ribera del Duero, which, like Rioja, is dominated by Tempranillo and shares similar blending grapes. Again, Ribera del Duero wines are generally darker and more powerful than the most traditional Riojas. These wines also generally see less oak treatment than Riojas.  

Take a breath, let that sink in, and then get ready for this week’s wines!

Finca Torremilanos, Montecastrillo Rosado Rosé, Castilla y León, Spain :: $13 sale $11

Dry, forthright, cherry imbued Monte Castrillo Rosé. There is a leafiness to it and is the antithesis of the “candy floss” style. Produced from 100 percent Tempranillo grapes from vines aged 15 years, planted on brown limestone gravel and grown organically (not certified) at the base of the Castrillo hill on the Torremilanos estate. The vines are trained to wires for better control over ripening. The vineyard is 2,700 feet above sea level.

All of the must from these grapes is used to produce this rosé. The grapes are harvested relatively early in the season with the intent of producing a fresh wine with a moderate level of alcohol, so the wine is inviting and lively on the palate. The grapes and harvested and left with the skins for only 1 hour prior to pressing due to the high level of phenolic compounds in the 2008 fruit. The grapes were fermented with neutral yeasts at cool temperatures to maintain a bright, fruity character.

Finca Torremilanos, Monte Castrillo Roble, Castilla y León, Spain :: $13 sale $11

This estate-grown wine is 100 percent Tempranillo from organically farmed vines that are between 10 and 20 years old. Ruby red and powerful with spices and dark fruit everywhere, with blueberry and dark chocolate dominating. Big yes, but also smooth with gentle tannins all the way through. This is a an excellent value from Ribera del Duero in Northern Spain.

Finca Torremilanos, Los Cantos Tempranillo/Merlot, Castilla y León, Spain :: $20 sale $18

Los Cantos a more opulent, vigorous black fruit scented wine with a little Merlot and some 13 months in barrica. From 5 different parcels of biodynamically farmed vineyards, aged for 16 months in French oak barrique. One of the benchmark producers of the region, Finca Torremilanos balances the tradition of the area with modern technique, resulting in rich, structured bottlings that still retain vivacity and freshness.

Finca Torremilanos, Crianza Tempranillo/Cab, Castilla y León, Spain :: $28 sale $25

Wine of intense color and great vividness. Slight spicy aroma expression and roasted at first, which gives way to hints of fresh grapes that evokes red and black fruits with balsamic thyme. The mouth is soft, smooth, velvety, fleshy and juicy, with great mineral freshness that comes with an elegant tannin. Pairing: Roasted meat stews and vegetables.


This Saturday we celebrate Natural Wine Week with a visit from Paul Stroud of one of our favorite distributors, Craft Wines Co.! Paul will be pouring two great wines and two awesome ciders:

  • Martha Stoumen Wines’ “Post Flirtation” Carignan/Zinfandel (2016) and Carignan, Venturi Vineyard (2015)

  • Tin City Cider Co.’s Dry Hopped Cider (2015)

  • Scar of the Sea, Newtown Pippin Apple Cider (2015)

We start sippin’ and tastin’ at 4pm. Hope you can make it! Tag your pics #pickitupatpearl so we can CHEERS! 

Discover why 5280 Magazine Readers and Editors voted Pearl Wine Company Denver’s BEST BOTTLE SHOP. PWC takes pride in being Denver’s best wine shop–a craft liquor specialty store. Conveniently located on South Pearl Street in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood.