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Goyo Garcia Viadero's wines were a revelation for me: deeply true to the soils, climate and tradition of Ribera del Duero, but elevated, complex and drinkable. Natural wines, for sure, farmed organically and vinified without additives but simultaneously approachable and classic in character. In particular, the single vineyard Peruco stands out as one of my favorite wines that I tasted this year, just as it did last year. Last year, my colleague Eben wrote a lovely reflection on these wines, their place in the world of "natural" wine, and the work that Viadero is doing in Ribera del Duero. I wanted to send it out again, beause I think it is a beautiful profile of these wines and their particular charm.
Eben's words follow:
The last time I passed through Burgundy, I had a very interesting conversation with the wine director of La Dilletante, my favorite wine bar/restaurant in Beaune. We were talking about the hype and attention around "natural wines," and his worry that people were clumping very disparate things into a somewhat polarizing genre. To him, there were three different categories of natural wines: one of serious wines, sometimes aged a long time, that are complex, and of a very high quality; the second category was one of experimentation and an often dogmatic refusal to use SO2, coupled with a bit of inexperience on the part of young winemakers, and an inconsistent quality of grapes due to vines in conversion to organic or biodynamic farming (many winemakers say it can take 5-10 years after converting for the quality of the fruit to truly improve); I can't actually remember the third category, so if you happen to find yourself at La Dilletante, please ask the wine director to elaborate!
Of the first category, there are many examples in France (my Burgundy drinking friend tells me that to him, DRC is essentially a natural wine), and there are many arguments that might arise with each example posited. In Spain however, I think there would be no argument that the wines of Goyo Garcia Viadero fit firmly in this category. Nestled in the Ribera del Duero, Viadero is producing deep, layered, and elegant wines, reminiscent of some of the best Rhône or Burgundy wines I've ever tried. Two of Viadero's single parcel wines are co-fermentations, with the finesse and lifted floral aromas of the white varieties offering a complement to the earthy flavors and dark fruit of Tempranillo, but even his pure Tempranillo offering is balanced, with rich fruit and silky tannins. When compared to the often over-extracted, and over-oaked expressions from Ribera, there is an undeniable elegance and complexity to Viadero's wines. These are very special wines, from a very special place, guided by the hand of a true master.
Viadero's family is known for reviving the Ribera del Duero region in the 1980's, and the Valduero winery, run by his father and sisters, is still considered to be one of the most important estates there. Though working at the family domaine was always an option, Goyo Garcia chose to set out on his own in 2003, by taking some small plots near the town of Roa, and ending the use of herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The period of conversion took about four years, with his first vintage in 2008. Unlike many in the region, he harvests early for acidity, allows wild yeast fermentation, and ages his wines in used French barrels. Typically hovering around 13.5%, they are remarkably balanced wines.
It's almost unnecessary to even mention that these are "natural wines," made without manipulation, and with no added sulfites. Like any truly beautiful (and clean) expression of organic farming and natural vinification, they are first and foremost wines of high quality. I would, however, venture to say that considering the challenges of natural winemaking, to make wines of this high a quality is an infinitely greater accomplishment than it would have been with conventional techniques. There were no enzymes, no selected yeasts to guarantee aroma and taste, no new oak to add flavors, or over-extraction for color and tannins. All you have is old school hands-on farming and careful, attentive winemaking. It sounds simple, but when you taste the single-vineyard wines from Goyo Garcia Viadero, you will know that you are experiencing something exceptional.
All of these wines arrive on March 12th, 2020.
Eben Lillie and Ben Fletcher
El Peruco is a unique high altitude (~1000m) vineyard in Ribera del Duero, planted with 120+ year old Tempranillo and Albillo vines on chalky clay soils. The wine from this vineyard is a co-ferment of both grape varieties, about 85% Tempranillo and 15% Albillo. All grapes are fully destemmed before wild yeast fermentation in small foudres, followed by long élevage in large barrel. Goyo Garcia's winemaking for this wine is strictly non-interventionist and focused on less extraction: there's no racking, no additions (including no added sulfur), no fining, and no filtering. The 2015 is arresting and open, suited either to immediate, joyful consumption or longer aging. The lithe, floral character of the Albillo is in contrast with the density of the Tempranillo here, yielding a high-toned wine with beautiful red fruit and a lacy structure from both acid and tannins. Deeply mineral, with notes of fresh green herbs, this recalls other high altitude wines with its intensity and textures. I was deeply impressed by this wine in this vintage. (This wine arrives 3/12/20). Ben Fletcher
The story of the very small Finca Guijarrales begins with an accident: it was mistakenly planted with Graciano, instead of Tempranillo, about 40 years ago, when Goyo was a teenager. The vineyard lies about 880m above sea level, and the grapes for this wine are harvested by hand before macerating on their skins for 3 months and then resting for roughly a year in neutral French oak barrels. The wine is meaty and savory on the nose, with notes of ripe, crushed blackberry. The palate is finely tuned, with berry and earth notes framed by dusty, mouth-coating tannins and a delicately herbal finish. The character of Graciano is somewhat difficult to pin down, but this example shows the potential of the grape variety. (This wine arrives 3/12/20). Ben Fletcher
2018 is the first year that Goyo Garcia has been able to produce a white wine under the Ribera del Duero appellation, from hundred year old vines of (80%) Albillo Mayor and (20%) Malvasia. The grapes are harvested by hand, destemmed, and pressed into stainless steel tanks, where the juice is left to macerate on the skins for 25 days. As with Viadero's other wines, it is bottled without fining, filtration, or any additions (including sulfur). The nose is floral and peachy, with an undercurrent of orange and salt, while the wine shows brightness and tension that belies the long period of skin-contact. On the palate there are notes of citrus, peach skin, ginger root, and limestone, rounded out by delicate tannins. The finish is remarkably persistent, with long-lasting notes of ginger, cardamom, and citrus peel. Truly a special skin-contact white wine, perhaps uniquely gastronomic among the wines that I've tasted recently in that category! (This wine arrives 3/12/20). Ben Fletcher
Goyo Garcia Viadero produces small amounts of elegant, minimal intervention Ribera del Duero from high elevation plots planted with old vines of Tinto Fino (Tempranillo). The Joven is a great introduction to Goyo Garcia's unique style. From a single vineyard of 35 year-old vines at about 860 meters of elevation, the grapes for the Joven are hand-harvested, destemmed, and then fermented with indigenous yeasts in steel tank. There is no fining or filtration before bottling, and no added SO2. For a Joven wine, this is strikingly serious and thoughtful without being heavy or extracted. Red and black fruits, with spice and violet show expressively on the nose after 30 minutes open, while the palate is a bit darker and more savory, with taut acidity, pretty tannins and a long finish that would pair nicely with sausages, lamb, or beef. (Wine arrives 3/12/20) Ben Fletcher