Uncorking the delights of Piedra wines

A burning desire to own a vineyard since university days had attorney Grant Stein see the dream turn to reality in 1998 with the purchase of around 175 acres of vines in Spain’s Toro region. Fast forward to 2010, to the Brasserie’s dinner in conjunction with Jacques Scott in January honouring the spectacular wines that are being made at Estancia Piedra. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull reports.
 
Background
When Walkers Global Managing Partner Grant Stein finally decided that he would pursue his long held desire to own a winery, his attention was turned to the Toro region in Spain.
 
“I had always loved Italy and France, but France is very bureaucratic and by 1998 Italy had undergone something of a revolution in wine making and the prices of the best vineyards had already rocketed up. So I looked to Spain and all advice pointed to Toro,” he explains.
 
Toro is a town and municipality in the province of Zamora, part of the autonomous community of Castile and Leon in Spain. It is located on a fertile high plain, northwest of Madrid at an elevation of 739 meters (around 2,400 feet) and is at the centre of Spain’s wine-producing region, sitting on the Duero River roughly half way between Zamora, the provincial capital and Tordesillas in the province of Valladolid.
 
“The area benefits from a good deal of sunshine compared to the other great winemaking region in Spain, Rioja, which is further north,” Grant explains. “The wine therefore takes on a tremendously deep colour and Toro grapes were traditionally used to give more depth to the colour of wines made elsewhere in Spain.”
 
Grant says that the high amount of sunshine means that harvesting tends to begin a little earlier in the Toro region so that grapes are picked at their optimum ripeness.
 
It is, according to Grant, a fantastic location for grape growing. Indeed luxury goods giant LVMH has recently purchased vineyards very close to Estancia Piedra.
 
“They have made wine here since the days of the Romans,” he advises. “We bought around 175 acres of vines that were between 40 and 100 years old. Unfortunately there was no winery on the site so our first job was to build one quickly!”
 
Grant says the winery was complete in 1999, just in time to vinify grapes from that year’s harvest. “We had to rent a generator initially as we had not had time to get hooked up to the electricity grid,” he recalls.
 
In 2003/2004 Grant built a home on the property and last year a smart new visitor’s centre was also added.
 
“Wine tourism is on the increase in Spain,” Grant ventures, “so it is wonderful to have a property to accommodate visitors who are interested in what we are producing.”
 
As a testament to that interest, the English wine critic and television presenter Oz Clarke paid them a visit last year. Grant says: “Oz Clarke spent a good few hours with us, including lunch. He really knows his stuff and was very interesting company.”

The dinner
The Brasserie’s dinner held in conjunction with Jacques Scott to highlight the wines from Estancia Piedra was a sold out affair. Indeed the burgeoning numbers meant the restaurant had to extend the seating to the patio adjacent to the main dining room, so great was the demand for tickets to the event.
 
Although reds are the predominant wine made at Estancia Piedra, the dinner began with one of their few whites, the Verdejo from 2008, served along side a Brasserie Garden Salad of miniature grilled vegetables in a caramel coffee vinaigrette.
 
Grant says: “This is a 100 per cent Verdejo wine that gives aniseed hints of fennel and citrus notes on the nose with ripe peach and white flowers and a sweet finish. It’s well structured on the palate, fresh and fruity.”
 
Next was something of signature dish for the Brasserie, a seasonal tomato gazpacho with watermelon cubes and served with Estancia Piedra’s  Rosado.
 
Grant explains that although the Rosado (rosé) is a deep pink colour the grape skins are only briefly allowed to mingle with the juice, so deep a colour do they impart.
 
Grapes are 100 per cent Tempranillo creating a brilliant strawberry pink. The wine is fresh and intensely aromatic, with an explosion of sweet forest fruits on the nose and a rounded, well structured palate, retaining lively acidity.
 
A Valencia Paella full of rich and flavourful chorizo, calamari and prawns was next on the menu, ably accompanied by Piedra’s Lagarona from 2003.
 
This is a blend of 75 per cent Tempranillo and 25 per cent Grenache with an aging of 18 months in oak barrels (85 per cent French, 15 per cent American). Deep, dark black-red in colour, this wine is full of wild and dark fruits on the nose with just the right amount of oak aging to infuse notes of vanilla, chocolate and dark roast coffee on the palate.  
 
The main course of pan roasted lamb loin served with a potato frittata and grilled white asparagus along with a prune compote was, as with all the other dishes on the menu, in keeping with the food of the region and very well received by diners.
 
Piedra’s outstanding single vineyard Paradinas from 2001 was served alongside the dish and is an intense example of the Tempranillo grape of the area.
 
“Hand picked grapes are harvested from our 100 year old vines from our Pago Paredinas vineyards. We age this wine for around 22 months in French oak barrels and the result is an intense wine with an extraordinarily complex nose that shows notes of blackcurrant, cassis, black pepper and licorice on the nose,” Grant states. “This is a big, powerful wine with solid tannins and a great amount of fruit.”
 
A Crème Catalan served with a Navel orange salad rounded off the proceedings extremely well. Estancia Piedra’s sweet dessert wine, its Cantadal Dulce 2007 was the perfect choice to pair with this delicious dish.
 
“All the pairings were very good, but this surpassed all others,” Grant enthuses. “Our Cantadal Dulce is just sweet enough to be termed a dessert wine but not cloyingly so. It’s a beautiful example of the Verdejo grape (95 per cent) blended with a little Moscatel de Grano Menudo (5 per cent). Its aromatic freshness with citrus notes was the perfect accompaniment to the dessert and a wonderful end to a great event.”

Uncorking-SM

David Whitefield, Sergio Serrano and David Anderson

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