You will find the winery Bodegas Elias Mora at the end of a narrow road up the hill from the tiny town of San Román de Hornija, the last in the Province of Valladolid before crossing into Zamora in the winemaking region of Toro. Here winemaker Victoria Benavides produces splendid wines, rich in character, exported worldwide. There's a purity to the winemaking here, all made from Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) grapes grown in vineyards no more than a ten minutes drive from the winery, a (literally) walkable path from vineyard to the 200,000 bottles of excellent Toro wine produced each year. Happily, Elias Mora wines are available in the United States. Go try for yourself.
For readers in or visiting the Washington, DC area, Elias Mora wines are available at the absolutely excellent SER Restaurant on Glebe Road in the Ballston area of Arlington, VA. You must visit.
If you've not already done so, I recommend you read our Spanish Wine 101 post to truly understand and appreciate this and other wine from this great winemaking region and country. Suffice it to say, you'll find Elias Mora in the Toro DO (region) in the Autonomous Community of Castile and León, about a two hours' drive northwest from Madrid. The winery receives visitors for tastings, so we recommend making them a part of any excursion through this beautiful part of the country.
The dry continental climate here -- hot days, cool nights, sometimes with a 15 Celsius (that's 59 Fahrenheit!) difference between the two -- tends to produce Tempranillo grapes (called "Tinta de Toro" here) yielding big robust red wines that will appeal to American drinkers fond of equally robust California reds. The comparison is inexact, as these wines are clearly Spanish and clearly Old World in style, but we think their intensity and depth with delight you. Anywhere between 200 to 400 milliliters of water fall on these vines each year, growing in vineyards from 650 to 730 meters above sea level. These are hearty vines whose roots have sunk deep through the clay into the water table as they aged from 18 years at the young end to over 50 years at the elder. Though some vines are well over 50 years old, the winery itself was built in 2000 taking the name of the vineyards' previous owner, Elias Mora himself. Uniquely, everything here is grown on "bush vines" spaced three meters apart (as opposed to vines that have been trellised).
Taken together, the recipe of talented winemaker, old vines, and excellent growing conditions produces something brilliant in Elias Mora wines. Our recent visit afforded us the chance to taste through their lineup. We've shared our favorites below. There's more where this came from, as well: 2016 seems to have been a really nice year, "dry, with healthy grapes," we learned. Good.
2014 Viñas Elias Mora
The youngest on our list, Viñas Elias Mora was (like the rest of the lineup) made from 100% Tinta de Toro grapes before aging six months in all American oak barrels. Our host, Catalina, explained that Spain tends to prefer American oak for the younger wines. Look for freshness and a fruit forward qualities here. The juicy, mouth-watery red fruit components make this a great everyday wine that can be drank easily with or without food. It's a typical glass you might find served with tapas.
2012 Elias Mora Crianza
We loved this bottle so much that we recommended it as part of our top November 2016 wine recommendations, where we remarked on its delicious notes of black currant, with some purple jamminess on the tongue. There are firm, but not overwhelming tannins in the finish. This Crianza is a versatile wine suitable for drinking alone and with well-prepared meat dishes such as lamb or pork. It's aged in a blend of both French and American oak. Though this was a 2012, Catalina said of the excellent 2011 growing year that "all the best grapes that year went into the Crianza".
The Descarte was born when winemaker Victoria discovered a barrel of her 2012 harvest that seemed quite different the others; she decided to make a separate wine from these grapes grown on some of Elias Mora's north-facing vineyards. That makes this 2013 the second year for the Descarte, and though it still needs two to three more years in the bottle, we were greeted in October 2016 with lovely notes of balsamic and mint to accompany the red fruit. We'd love to get our hands on a bottle that we'd age with plans to drink sometime in 2018 or 2019. The nose, by the way, matures and improves over an hour as this bottle is open.
2012 Gran Elias Mora
Victoria produces only one plot's worth of the Gran, to which she adds the best of what she tastes out of the barrels as the wine ages. The extra barrel aging produces a most mature and sophisticated wine, featuring leather and preserved fruit on the rather alcoholic nose. It's smooth but deep, with licorice and mint notes on the tongue. We'd not drink this alone because it makes such a fine pairing with good yet simple food and cheese. It will pair divinely would lamb dishes.
Catalina explained to us that they found raisins of Tinta de Toro on the sorting table during this very dry growing year (there was no real winter). These raisins, in turn, produced this uniquely lovely dessert wine that rings in at 80 grams of sugar per liter. Notes of menthol, peppermint, and balsamic accompany juicy plum, like the sweetness you'd find just as you bit into a plum. Experiment with cheese pairings for a perfect dessert.