Wine review: Montecillo 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva

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
Price: $25-$28
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



  1. My friend and I bought a bottle of this wine, and another Tempranillo wine from Ribera del Duero, because I was writing a paper on the Tempranillo varietal for my Bar and Beverage class (I’m a culinary student). I was having trouble writing as I had never tasted a Spanish wine before then. I needed to be able to talk about it from a personal experience. We tried a few ounces of each wine, and I must say that I was very impressed.

    Personally, I don’t believe that I’ve ever enjoyed drinking a red wine as much as I did tonight, when we had our first tasting of Spanish reds. While I’m not nearly as experienced in wine tasting as I’d like to be, I have had the opportunity to enjoy many different types of wines, having a wide range of flavor and aroma profiles. Yet, this Tempranillo really stood out to me. My friend had previously written off Spanish reds, concluding that Italian reds were far superior. I think he had merely tasted a Spanish wine of much lower quality. However, from the time we took our first sips he said that his whole concept of red wine had changed! He had a new desire to rethink red wine on the whole. We’ve both decided to give up beer entirely and instead spend that money and time studying wine much closer.

  2. Bobby: psyched you enjoyed Montecillo and way to represent!


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