In Europe, gender equality in the wine world still hovers in the Middle Ages, but strong-willed females have made progress. In 1975, Maria Martinez, a warm-hearted yet tough survivor, began her wine career in Spain’s Rioja region. After only four years of working in the cellars, she earned her spot among the esteemed winemaker ranks, and has since been crowned “the Queen of Rioja” as the head winemaker at highly respected, 135-year-old Bodegas Montecillo.
When asked about her role as a high-profile female in this business, Maria quietly replies, “I am in love with this profession… and I’m a fighter.” She sadly admits, though, that there are few other “respected” female winemakers in Rioja.
Nevertheless, Maria skillfully carries a big torch with her gorgeous wines.
The 2001 Gran Reserva laser focuses the red fruits of cherry and plum, adding in licorice, pencil lead and a Rioja-esque dustiness. So refined and elegant, you’d think you’re drinking a fruit-forward Bordeaux red. I was fooled in a blind tasting. Simply gorgeous. Food friendly acidity, full-bodied and low alcohol (13%). (Read more about Spanish wines)
Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Occasion: Tried it blind at a tasting.
Food pairing: Grilled meats with a coffee-dusted seasoning, slow roasted game meat, or even a simple pot roast
Availability: Mostly at restaurants and high end wine shops
Find in Tampa at Vintage Wine Cellars