It’s Rioja Restaurant Week in New York, which means that some 100 restaurants around the city are offering special dining deals, like $25-50 prix-fixe menus plus a glass of Rioja wine, or a 20 percent discount on a bottle. Coincidentally, Fork in the Road just happens to be on the road in Rioja this week. We’re up to our eyeballs in Tempranillo and Garnacha, and loving every minute of it. One of the more interesting wineries visited in the region has been Finca Valpiedra, an 80-acre operation overlooking the Ebro River. One of only 23 wineries in Spain and the only one in Rioja that is part of the Grandes Pagos d’Espana, the country’s association of single-estate vineyards, it produces, among other offerings, two elegant wines: Cantos de Valpiedra 2006 and Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2005, both named for the stony soil in which the grapes are grown.
The first, a 100 percent Tempranillo aged for a year in oak that retails for about $16, is light-bodied and full of black fruit and earthy clay notes. The Reserva, priced at about $40 a bottle, is more structured with vanilla and tobacco aromas, as well as rosy violet hints. The winery must adhere to a strict set of rules to be a part of the Grandes Pagos, including owning all its own vineyards, making the wines nearby, using old vines, and having at least five years of commercial winemaking experience. In addition to its wines, the winery is lauded for an incredible art collection, including paintings and sculptures by local and foreign artists, which are striking enough to want to visit even if you didn’t have a glass in hand.