Juan Antonio Leza y David González

Gomez Cruzado

Borrowing from the astute Tim Atkins, MW; if you are just talking about ‘old style’ and ‘new style’ in Rioja, you are missing the point. In fact, Gomez Cruzado takes that a step further… they sort of make everyone who is still arguing about style look foolish.

David González Marcos and Juan Antonio Leza Martínez are part owners, viticulturists, winemakers and general managers of Gomez Cruzado and they seem untouched by the storm over new style and old style. They talk about it less than anyone else we know in Rioja. I thought maybe they were sort of deaf, dumb and mute on the issue and then I began to realize that their efforts transcend what all of their neighbors, all but handful of truly knowledgeable journalists and sommeliers everywhere are all arguing about. Juan y David settled the argument a long time ago, with some very inspired ideas and then rebuilt a century old producer, and it’s vineyard sources and viticultural and vinicultural practices to accommodate their vision. Sommeliers and journalists, take note: the debate is over, the paradigm has shifted and if you need proof, it is in the Gomez Cruzado line up.

Gomez Cruzado, Duke of Montezuma, 1886, 13th winery founded in Rioja, Barrio Estacion in Haro…blah blah blah… by the 1980’s they had changed ownership multiple times and had become a big, bland, grocery brand. New ownership in 2003 hired Juan and David in 2007 who slashed production, re-worked grower contracts, bought vineyards made a huge investment in re-equipping and re-furbishing the winery…and in 2013 – became partners in the winery.

They both do everything, but Juan (a.k.a. ‘Penn’) does most of the talking, handles the vineyards (and the crazy Americans) and David (a.k.a. ‘Teller’) handles the wine. They are, in practice, interchangeable and rarely separated. The partnership is a powerful one, manifested in their astonishingly great wine that outwits most of their contemporaries.

In the Barrio Estacion neighborhood in Haro, resides Rioja’s soul and beats Rioja’s heart. In the oldest, most venerable neighborhood in Rioja, one MUST produce Criadores wines: Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. The wines of Gomez Cruzado have consistently gotten better since the 2007 vintage and the 2010 Reserva is a once in a lifetime masterpiece. There is also a Blanco that is Viura and Tempranillo Blanco and is one of our best selling wines in the portfolio.

The traditional Gran Reserva at Gomez Cruzado was called ‘Honorable’ but that wine now is a Cosecha wine to allow for the greatest level of flexibility. It is what they consider their finest vineyards and finest lots in their finest Post-modern style years. Stylistically it has enough oak and bottle age to be Reserva, at least, if not Gran Reserva, but it is made in vintages suited to a post-modern style. The Gran Reserva is generally made in years suited to a Gran Reserva (modern) style. Can you imagine if Vina Tondonia changed styles based on vintage? No, let me re-phrase that…WHY WOULDN’T any winemaker choose to make wines to fit the style of the vintage, if the wine could be better?

Oops, I am sorry, did Juan and David just knock over you ideological house of cards about ‘Old style’ and ‘New style’ Rioja producers?

There is a newer line called Seleccion Terroir. Single site, single varietal Tempranillo (Cerro Las Cuevas), Garnacha (Pancrudo) and Viura (Montes Obarenes), all from higher altitudes. Right now, on the world stage, if you have Rioja and you want to compete with Barolo or Burgundy… these are your wines. Terroir driven, old vine driven, site driven…post modern winemaking  that allows the vines and the sites to express themselves. These wines are second to none in Rioja right now and there is nothing else like them that we are aware of.

But wait…there’s more. If you call in the next 20 minutes, we’ll ship a free bottle of Vendemia Seleccion, a $17 retail value! Let me provide a little context: Every other wine at Gomez is literally as good as it gets in Rioja in it’s respective category, or is forging a new category. This is the least expensive, most basic, least oaked wine they make.

The most exciting thing going on in Rioja right now are the young winemakers translating the astonishing old vine material into a pure expression of terroir. If you leave out the Crianza or Reserva levels of oak, create some funky labels, have astonishing flavors and extremely fair prices, well… sooner or later the world will get the message. In Rioja’s case that's apparently going to be later (some sommeliers can be idiots, most all journalists are idiots), but we are on the cusp. 2Twenty has Tentenublo, a vanguard of that style. Big wineries, old wineries and the people who control the Consejo Regulador just culturally cannot make these types of wines. The very idea of not blending hundreds of vineyards together or slapping 2 years of oak on something is so foreign to them that we just don't see those types from any big houses.

Because of their vineyard sources and meticulous winemaking… Juan and David have ‘accidentally’ made the hipsters look um…well…a lot less hip. The Vendemia Seleccion is better than most everyone in the too-cool-for-school category. Again, I want to avoid the hyperbole…but the 2015 Vendemia Seleccion may be one of the greatest Cosecha wines I have ever tasted from Rioja. Imagine how difficult that will be to explain to any of my other producers who might happen to read this. Maybe I am an idiot, too.

The Criadores wines are traditional (without the Brettanomyces and volatile acidity). The Singular Terroir wines are really special – not only do so few producers make these types of wines, no one else in Rioja makes wine this good from all three primary grapes. And then they beat the young kids at their own game.

Gomez Cruzado is the best and most significant producer in Rioja right now. The time to get on board with this ‘new’ producer is right now.  These wines will not remain the incredible value that they are. The press is coming, they are one of the fastest growing brands in Spain, and one of the fastest growing Rioja brands in Europe. We are being allocated smaller quantities of the special wines and asked for projections for the others.

While every producer we have from Rioja is in the book for a reason and a special reason at that, each having their own unique attributes, Gomez Cruzado has established itself as our cornerstone Rioja producer based on the supernal quality across their entire, diverse, range of wines.