Revisiting Spain's excellent Elias Mora wines with our friends at Joselito in Washington, DC

Laughter and happy conversation fill this room of polished marbled tables and glasses, twinkling as the light of the long day's evening sun refracts through their sparkling contents. This is a party whose blend of elegance and warmly familiar charm could only have been the work of Javier and Christiana, proprietors at Washington, DC's Joselito - Casa de Comidas, our hosts for the evening. We've come to try a lineup of wine from Bodegas Elias Mora, a lovely winery that we visited in Spain's Toro region, after which we wrote:

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.

Of course, I've also written about Joselito on the occasion of its opening in January:

Step through the door of newly open Joselito: Casa de Comidas in Washington, DC’s Eastern Market neighborhood on Capitol Hill, and find yourself transported to a bygone world both elegant and intimate, where you’d expect to see Hemingway at a nearby table. Joselito is the picture of charming city dinner cafe, making us feel as if we’re looking through the window on Madrid, Paris, or New York as proprietor Javier Candon has managed to bottle the essence of the classic city in this delightful restaurant serving all Spanish food and wine.

Don't take my word for it. The Washington Post calls it excellent as well, with the added bonus of "the city's best sangria". But I digress.

Further reading: Elegant and intimate, new Joselito Spanish restaurant is an instant best of Washington, DC

Aurelio Cabestrero is rather a luminary on the country's wine that his company, Grapes of Spain, has been importing since 2001. As we taste each wine paired to another delicious dish prepared by Chef David Sierra, Aurelio explains the Toro is found in the declining altitudes as the Duero River flows westward towards Porto, Portugal, on the Atlantic Ocean. There was but one winery here as late as the 1970s, producing rather alcoholic and rustic wine alongside a community of winemaking co-ops. Back then higher alcohol content was associated with with higher quality wine, but a conscious effort to improve the wines' acidity, the establishment of the Toro DO in 1987, and the significant growth that followed in the 1990s have put Toro on the map of outstanding regions both in Spain and (we argue) on the world stage. As I wrote last year:

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.

2012 Elias Mora Crianza

We begin with the Crianza, grown on 45 year old vines planted in stony, brown limestone soil before aging in 50% new oak barrels. Deep violet in color, rich tannins fill the nostrils with spice. It's warm, and conveys the sense of a good warm rain in late springtime (we were drinking these in May, so perhaps it was on our mind). Rich black fruit in the nose gives way to spice and cocoa powder and a quite smooth feel in the mouth.

2013 Elias Mora "Descarte"

A wine I am always really excited to drink, the Descarte is grown from a specific vineyard that Victoria used for Crianza until 2012. The fifty-five year old vineyard produces something especially aromatic, aged in 100% French oak of which 30% is new. Freshly cut pepper on the nose, balsamic, and a touch of cinnamon turn out to be quite dynamic, evolving into nice mineral notes, cedar, and -- we dare say -- root beer when aired in the glass. Aurelio thinks we can age this wine in the bottle for fifteen years. We'll see, though it will be admittedly difficult to spend so long not drinking it. We found dark raspberry jam notes on the palate, the sense of biting into milk chocolate with gooey raspberry, and good natural acidity that make this exquisitely complex wine a great choice for food.

2012 Gran Elias Mora

Produced from a single vineyard filled with seventy to ninety year old vines, the nose on the Gran conveys luxurious cappacino notes that waft smoothly out of the glass, as if it were wrapped in silk. Aurelio stops here to explain that Victoria selects her favorite barrels to produce the Gran (for the uninitiated, that would be barrels of wine, as the aging process matures, not just empty barrels), that "time helps you work better, know which vineyards and barrels" will produce the best. At length, the nose develops into a sensation of melting chocolate that in turn gives way to delicious dark fruit such that my muscles contract at the back my mouth as if to coax more out of this outstanding glass of wine. Maple syrup and a super spice medley of pepper, all spice, and toasted coconut round things out to make for a bottle that can't be appreciated until you've drank it yourself.

2010 Elias Mora Reserva

I recommend you open this bottle and let it air and develop for about three hours before serving. Your patience will be rewarded. Rather different from what we've already tried tonight, there's licorice on the nose and an instant sense that this thing will pair very well with steak or lamb. It's the first time all night we've drank a wine that seems particularly smoky, with notes of beef jerky, wood plank cedar, and cigar. The fruit on the palate is more aggressive that we expected, though, intermingling with touches of mushroom, soy, vanilla bean, unbuttered popcorn, and rich ancho chili. Yes, these things can coexist quite well in a complex wine like this.

Note: Wine drinkers in Washington, DC can find the entire lineup of Elias Mora wine at the Schneider's of Capitol Hill wineshop. For those outside of the DC area, Grapes of Spain works with distributors across the United States, so it's likely you can easily get your hands on a few bottles. Elias Mora also exports worldwide.