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Month April 2015

Dreaming of Bierzo and Mencia… A Delightful Visit to Tilenus – James Melendez


The distinctive and historic flag of Castilla y León.




Map of Bierzo D.O.


 I am all about worldly wines… wines from around the corner to the furthest ends.  Wine I think is seemingly an unfolding story–an old story both ancient and quite new all at the same time.  Ancient because the wine trail is a constant unwinding story of tradition, merriment and intertwined with food culture for at least six millennia but new because of a constant refinement of this beverage art form.


The Castle of the the Knight’s Templar


 My latest further reach was to visit Bierzo D.O. in northwest Spain in Castilla y  León.  In the collective imagination it is hard to think of red wine in this part of Spain.  That is due in part to Albariño and this white wine grape thriving in Galicia in Rias Baixas.  Galicia being an solidly Atlantic Spanish region and Albariño popularity takes that share of imagination of what is grown in northwest Spain.  I think the collective imagination of the most northerly regions for red wines are Ribera del Duero and Rioja.  I have known about Mencia for quite sometime and yet it was only a little over a half decade ago I got my first glass of Mencia.


Pablo Frias, GM of Bodegas Estefania




 Mencia is a grape found in several regions in Spain: Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Liébana; Jaen (Portuguese name) has been DNA fingerprinted as being Mencia.  Mencia has about 10 synonyms and an exact relationship to other Vitis vinifera grapes has yet to be established.  One thought of Mencia is that it is a clone of Cabernet Franc and that had perhaps transported via the Camino de Santiago.  Ponferrada is the capital of the El Bierzo in the Province of León; a very historic and charming city on several crossroad: Camino de Santiago, the Knights Templar castle, mining and viti-viniculture all come together here.  Bodegas Estefania whose label is Tilenus is quartered in Ponferrada.  The Tilenus label features several very fine Mencia wines as well as Godello – the first in class wine grapes in Bierzo D.O.

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 Bodegas Estefania founded in 1999 is producing 200,000 bottles (16,666 cases) per year are devoted to Mencia. The label name Tilenus is a Latin name for Teleno a name for an ancient Celtiberian god that Roman’s dedicated to Mars.  The label name and ancient coin on each label truly pays homage to this part of Spain’s ancient history.


The Ancient Vines of Finca La Florida


Bodegas Estefania produces a very small production of 10-15,000 bottles (1,250 cases) maximum per year of Godello.   Over 80% of all of the grapes utilized are from estate vineyards of Bodegas Estefania and 20% is purchased from wine grape growers where there has been a long relationship.  Pablo Frias, the General Manager, spoke about the emphasis of keeping production levels at the current rate and that quality is the vanguard of the Tilenus label.  Pablo mentioned that the aging potential for Godello is approximately 10 years and Mencia up to 20 years but Bodegas Estefania has yet to reach that anniversary but will do so shortly.  From what I have tasted I do think Mencia does have good aging capability and I look forward to tasting Tilenus wines when they reach that 20th vintage. I was privileged to the their 2002 bottling known as Tilenus Pieros–so this was the glimmer of how the wines age with grace.


Doing my Favourite Thing of A Site Visit in Late Spring


 Bodegas Estefania has about 30 hectares (74 acres)–I was fortunate to have visited Finca La Florida in late March.  The weather was chilly 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit / 7-10 degrees Celsius on a very moist day.  The transport was via truck to the steep hillside of Finca La Florida of very old vines 60-90 years old.  Being at Finca La Florida for me was to appreciate the coolness, the moist earth of clay, sand, and slate.  As I have mentioned before that I love wine regions in winter, early spring and late Fall–these are moments to be in touch with the vineyards renaissance and promise.  And I was keenly aware of the warm days that will blanket this vineyard with essential sunshine and heat.  This is a continental climate and a dash of influence from the Atlantic.

I was excited to taste Tilenus by themselves, with Tapas as well as a very wonderful meal of regional cuisine in stone town of Castrillo de Los Polvazares, This town reminded me of New Mexico in the U.S.  New Mexico with it’s roots in The Spanish settlers still has things for me reminiscent of New Mexico.  I was thinking of Acoma Sky City with it’s ancient homes and church high atop a high elevation Mesa.  This stone town and I cannot find a reference as to how old it its –this town feels very ancient and special.


The stone church here in Castrillo de Los Polvazares has very large nests on bell tower where there are resident storks.





Tasting the cuisine in Castrillo de Los Povazares in a style known as Cocido Maragato. I have eaten a large number of regional cuisines in Spain but this for me was so different and unique from other cuisine styles. The meal starts off heavy and then goes to lighter dishes.  I was eating this meal with the team from Bodegas Estefania and Tilenus wines and other wine writers the following dishes La Ración consisting of sausage, chicken, pork shoulder, pork cheek and ears.  I was able to taste the 2002 Tilenus Bierzo Pieros Mencia–a hauntingly memorable wine and hope to be fortunate to taste once again.



Here are the wines I had paired with fantastic fare from Castillo y Leon that made such an impression on me:

Tilenus Bierzo Godello – 2013 – 9.2 (92)

2 vineyard sites 20 years old vines.
Scent characteristics:  yellow citrus tones, tea, sesame, wild flower honey and mineral
Flavour profile:  lemon, white peach, sesame, tea, and white flower.

Tilenus Bierzo Vendemia –  2014 – 9.0 (90)


Scent characteristics: Black cherry, bay leaf dicideous forest and lavender

Flavour profile:  Tayberry, wild strawberry, cinnamon and hint of Thyme



Tilenus Bierzo Mencia – 2011 – 9.2 (92)


Scent characteristics: Red cherry, hint of game, crashed red candy, blackberry and suede

Flavour profile: Tayberry, strawberry preserve, Cardamom and hint of red pepper


Tilenus Bierzo Mencia – 2010 – 9.2 (92)


Scent characteristics: lavender, graphite, germanium, and rose petals
Flavour profile:  warm black plum, strawberry, and baking spices pepper


Tilenus Bierzo Mencia – 2008 – 9.3 (93)


Scent characteristics: black/blueberry pie, hint of dark flower floral garden.
Flavour profile:  blackberry, very slight hint of Ethiopian coffee

Tilenus Bierzo Finca La Florida Mencia – 2008 – 9.4 (94)


Scent characteristics: Blackberry, cassis, rose garden in afternoon heat, leather, Ethiopian coffee and geranium
Flavour profile:  long and complex strawberry and blackberry tones, anise, Cardamom and clove



Tilenus Bierzo Pagos de Posada Bierzo Mencia – 2006 – 9.4 (94)


Scent characteristics: blackberry, strawberry, game and leather bound books
Flavour profile: pulsating acidity, strawberry, cassis, pepper, clove and graphite.



Tilenus Bierzo Reserva Mencia – 2007 – 9.5 (95)


This wine spends one year barrel and two years in bottle

Scent characteristics: black berry, red tea and thick forest
Flavour profile:  blackberry, Acai, tea, pepper, cinnamon stick and Black Krim Tomato


Tilenus Bierzo Pieros Mencia – 2002 – 9.6 (96)


The grand dame of fine Mencia.

Scent characteristics: Blackberry confit, mountain strawberry, raspberry, cinnamon, rose petal and hint of forest.

Flavour profile: Cassis, Tayberry, blackberry Coulis, Heirloom coffee, sweet spices and lavender



Tilenus is one of the finest producers of Mencia in Spain. A must experience producer.


James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

Website for Tilenus

Bodegas Estefania

MGWines Group

IMG_5239 - Version 2


“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”

© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
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World Wide Wine Day – 1-July-2015 – To Celebrate All Varieties – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy

World Wide Wine Day Rev


I am in favour of all wine variety days.  While I think many groups want to represent their flagship wine varieties.  I think there have been so many in the past half decade.  I do think that because there are so many and probably many more to come it becomes harder to rally for all grape varieties on separate days.  I think most people are so busy that to celebrate every wine grape day might be an impossibility.

While the top and most widely produced grapes get their own day – 99% of other wine grape varieties never have their day in the limelight.

I had thought of a specific day where the entire wine category is important to celebrate.  To celebrate all varieties, all wine making tradition, all regions and all styles on one day a year.  I envisioned 1-July of every years as a great day since it is the day that toasts the first half of the year and looks forward to remaining portion of the year left.

I noticed all the sudden an interest on a Like page I created on Facebook.  For the longest time and I did give up for a bit of time that there was no interest.  Now this renewed interest seems to be blossoming.

There can only be a World Wide Wine Day only if you want there to be one and if you think it is important.

Celebrations can have the following elements:

  • Proclamations
  • Festivals
  • A Twitter tasting
  • Trending in Tweets – #WorldWideWineDay #1-July-2015
  • On and off-premise events
  • A Facebook community – give a like: – https://www.facebook.com/pages/World-Wide-Wine-Day/124594817597294

It’s time to celebrate, taste and learn about known and soon to be known wine regions, wine grapes that are rarely tasted and rarely get any publicity, renew interest in popular wine grape varieties.

Tweet me if you have idea or a comment: https://twitter.com/JamesTheWineGuy

Add comments on how you will celebrate World Wide Wine Day this year: https://www.facebook.com/pages/World-Wide-Wine-Day/124594817597294

Old videos when I tried to launch this day several years ago:

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”
© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
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Bodegas Lavia – A World Class Monastrell Producer – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy


I’m in front of Bodegas Lavia in the middle of the vineyard.



I was fortunate enough to put my foot on ground in Bullas, D.O in Murcia, Spain to experience a world class producer of Monastrell: Bodegas Lavia  I think the most amazing thing is to visit a wine country in it’s pre-budding period–for me the wetter and the cooler season is often more memorable than peak growing season because I have to use my imagination of what I see and what I taste.  And simply the focus is not a wandering mind due to ideal weather but because the cool and moist weather makes my mind focus on the subject at hand.  I have a greater appreciation for this site when I tasted finished wines and see a cool and yet-to-bud vineyard and for me there is nothing so inspiring.  Bodegas Lavia is panoramic and the site and winery are immaculate–showing a constant attention of both site and facility is a labour of love which reflected back to each bottle I tasted.  Bodegas Lavia’s logo depicts the peak that represents the landscape and combination of climate, weather, soil type and a neighbouring forest of pine trees to help the ecosystem retain moisture.


The beautiful peak logo on each label of Bodegas Lavia


Barrel cactus in front of the Bodegas Lavia


It is time for more Monastrell!  Monastrell from Bullas is a grape that found the right region and the region found the right grape.  Monastrell (Mourvèdre) is a grape that in my opinion selects the region where it is planted or better said Monastrell is defined by being planted in the optimum region.  Southeast Spain is a great place for Monastrell and Bullas is an optimum region.  Nicely hot the way Monastrell likes in the summer and excellent soil content make for the right conditions.  The best of fruit does not always yield the best of wine; the best fruit and the best wine makers makes for outstanding wine.  I had the honour and privilege to visit Bodegas Lavia with winemaker Sebastien Boudon.  Sebastien lets a combination of judiciousness and balance to produce wines that have a full sense of art, place and variety that result in memorable wines that put Bodegas Lavia on the world wine map.


Sebastien Boudon giving us a sample from barrel


When I think of the many Monastrell (Mourvèdre) I have tasted in the past half decade have landed often on a singular note: Chocolate.  I kept thinking that this variety was stuck on the chocolate note and no other.  I thought–how nice–I’ll keep this variety in mind when I need a full throttle chocolate experience.  There is nothing wrong with this note as I have tasted many a variety with a hint of chocolate, however, this note was amongst many other characteristics.   My experience in Bullas and Alicante has changed my view of Monastrell (Mourvèdre) as there is a great liveliness that expresses a delightful texture and depthful complexity.  I love the complexity of Monastrells from Lavia–each held symbolic and symphonic notes of black/blue fruit, intense red floral, winter spices and fresh herbs.  I love complexity in wines and to do get there does not mean using intense toasting of barrels but rather a balance of barrels and toasting signatures.  The stylzation that Sebastian creates is an homage to the best for this regions but also an overall of great expression but not at the expense of excess but of absolute authenticity.  Sebastian employs native yeast, a posture to not overly extract fruit in maceration, French barrels and ho heavy toasting, and non-reliance on new barrels.  The coopers in the barrel room range from François Frerers, Boutes, Remond, to Redoux.  No one in Bullas D.O. has the same touch and depth of experience as does Sebastien Boudon–a master Monatrell wine maker.


Sebastien Boudon – Wine Maker (Center) and fellow wine writer Liza Swift – Brix Chicks (Right)




Finca Paso Malo


Bullas D.O. is 2,500 hectares / 6,100 acres and became a DO (Denominación de Origen) in 1994.  Though a long time wine grape producing region it has come a long way to become a region of high quality and artistically driven wines.  Bodegas Lavia is easily one of the flagship producers of the region.  While Monastrell is king here–the regions also produces Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Viura.  The Oxford Companion to Wine gives a very very brief paragraph about Bullas which is both unfortunate and telling–unfortunate in that it is a big miss to not talk about this regions fine wines and telling insofar as not either viewing or experiencing this regions to document the beautiful craft of winemaking that is happening here and now.  When I see all too brief entries it appears to be an assessment of the region and/or perhaps not paying attention.  Soil composition in Bullas is limestone and alluvium and unlike many agricultural crops–Vitis vinifera either does okay if the soil is not optimum or thrives if the soil type allows for proper growth, nutrition and access to water.  Bodegas Lavia has a great set of soil and climate circumstances to support outstanding old vines.  The vines in Finca Paso Malo are 50 years old Monastrell vines, other sites of Lavia include 40 year old Monastrell and 16 year old Syrah vines.


Beautiful metamorphic rock found at Finca Paso Malo


On this trip, I tasted many tissues from pork to chicken to fish and I tasted with Monastrell.  As I have tasted Tempranillo with many fish dishes–the harmony and matching capability of Monastrell was a definitive experience.  Spain is alive with great wine to pair with a lively food culture. I had one experience of tasting Paella and Monastrell and the pairing was superb–neither got lost in the mix–instead a complement to each other.   While Bodegas Lavia’s wines can be enjoyed without food–my optimum experience with these wines is to taste and enjoy with food.


Squid and Squid Ink




Here are a list of wines that I got to taste with my point scores.  I did taste a couple of barrel samples and they were near their time to be bottled:

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2004 – 9.4


Monastrell is the lead partner of 80% to 20% Syrah

Scent characteristics: Wild strawberry, cedar, cherry and leather bound library

Flavour notes: Strawberry, white pepper, cassis and cardamom.


Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah – 2006 9.4

Monastrell is the lead partner of 80% to 20% Syrah

Scent characteristics: Boysenberry, ancient forest, cassis, and underbrush

Flavour notes: Bright cherry, Black Krim tomato, cardamom and hint of chocolate


Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2009 – 9.3


Monastrell is the lead partner of 80% to 20% Syrah

Scent characteristics: Blackberry, strawberry, cinnamon, spice rack, and violets

Flavour notes: Cherry, strawberry, hint of chocolate, pepper, cinnamon stick

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2010 9.3 (93)


Monastrell is the lead partner of 80% to 20% Syrah

Scent characteristics: Tayberry raspberry, tart red cherry, rustic wood pile and hint of suede

Flavour notes: Tayberry, raspberry cardamom, cinnamon, brittle, and hint of Thyme


Lavia+ Bullas Finca Paso Malo Monastrell 2009 (95)


Scent characteristics: Allspice, Licorice, hint of Cacao, game

Favour notes: Cassis, blackberry, mineral, Bay leaf and hint of lavender


This tasting highlighted old vine Monastrell as well as how it ages–these wines need not be consumed right away.  The aging potential of Monastrell of Lavia wines has promise.  I was delighted to taste wines a wine 11 years old–no sign of weakening but rather a wine holding considerable finesse.


I know it is hard to just read about great wine and experiences–as I like to say tasting is believing.  I would encourage Bodegas Lavia’s wines be tasted at some point in your wine tasting plans.  The point of difference of artistically crafted wines from Bodegas Lavia are a treasury of delight.  Seek out these wines—I am.


James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

Website for Bodegas Lavia


Bodegas Lavia is part of MGWines Group

MGWines Group

IMG_5239 - Version 2


“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”
© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
Follow, subscribe, like, browse: