Wine Reviews: Ramón Bilbao

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-07-2021

There are plenty of heralded wine regions I have yet to visit, far more than I will likely see in my lifetime. But Rioja is high on that list. One day I hope to visit the cellars of Lopez de Heredia and explore the larger region, but until then, wine offers that ability to travel through the senses.

For years, Rioja wines have consistently delivered for me, and I have so many fond memories of serving these wines to friends and family at gatherings, especially around the holidays and colder months. A few years back, I befriended a reddish-colored, malnourished alley cat, and helped her out over a long winter with a steady diet of canned tuna and chicken scraps. I named her Rioja.

Anyway, I recently tasted through some interesting wines from Rioja’s Bodegas Ramón Bilbao that are worth highlighting. The bodega’s namesake opened the winery in 1924. He passed away just five years later, leaving the bodega to his son Enrique. The company has grown and expanded over the decades, especially lately, and has spread out to make wines in Rueda and Rias Baixas. In Rioja today, they have more than 200 hectares of vineyards, and source grapes from some 900 more. Featured today is a solid lineup, from entry-level up to the flagship Mirto, whose first vintage was 1999. Across the board, these wines are very well done and worth checking out if you, like me, enjoy Rioja.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2020 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rías Baixas Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $19
Medium yellow color. Aromas show zesty lemon and crunchy green apples, with white flowers and chalk and a nice, deeper honeyed element. Zippy and crisp on the palate, this shows yellow apples, kiwi and lemons, along with sea salt, lemon verbena, white tea and chalky tones. A nice creamy factor gives it some depth. Fun, accessible Albarino. All stainless steel, this spends six months on the lees. (88 points IJB)

2020 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rioja Rosado Spain, Rioja
SRP: $18
Medium copper color. So fresh on the nose with lemons and white peach mixed with nettle, white pepper, dandelion greens and talc. The palate is zippy and crisp with nice textural depth. Flavors of white cherries and red apple peel mix well with notes of dandelion, chalk, talc, mint and minerals. There’s a bright, nervy, shellfish-friendly appeal but some nice complexity and depth, too. A lot going on. 85% Garnacha, 15% Viura. (88 points IJB)

2017 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza Spain, Rioja
SRP: $19
Vibrant ruby color. The nose shows spicy pepper and paprika, leathery, sage tones over top of juicy raspberry and red currant fruit. The palate shows tangy red and black cherries and currants on a frame of light tannins, livened by the acidity. Notes of red pepper flakes, leather, pepper and earth add complexity. It’s fun and fresh, but offers a good amount of depth, and a ton of food-friendly fun. 100% Tempranillo aged 14 months in American oak. (88 points IJB)

2017 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rioja Edición Limitada Spain, Rioja
SRP: $27
Light purple color. The nose exudes black cherries and red currants, along with scorched earth, leather, all sorts of incense sticks, with tones of cocoa and coffee. Nice grip on the palate, solid tannins meet well with moderate acidity, with a nice core of tart, dark currants and cherries. All sorts of fallen leaves, earth, soy, incense and black licorice elemnts add complexity. Needs air and some time to unpack the intricate savory tones, but this is very well done for the price. All Tempranillo aged 15 months in new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2015 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rioja Reserva Spain, Rioja
SRP: $27
Bright purple color. The nose shows deep cherries, plums and blackberries, with violets, warm clay and loamy earth, with sweet cocoa and sage tones – very pretty. Bright acidity gives this wine a lot of life, from start to finish, with nice tannic grip. Tangy cherry and plum fruit blends with complexities of cedar, sandalwood, clove, incense sticks and cigar box. Floral and earthy tones come out with air; this needs two to five years, then give it air and a nice roasted meat meal. Aged 20 months in American oak. (90 points IJB)

2015 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rioja Mirto Spain, Rioja
SRP: $45
Bright purple color. Tangy cherries and dark plums on the nose, inviting yet deep and intricate with notes of rosemary, paprika, mint and bay leaf. There’s a deep core of red and black currant fruit, nice strong grip but no harsh edges, moderating acidity – everything is lined up so nicely. The complexity is really nice, with these tar, spiced tea, leather, clove and iron tones, but air opens up all sorts of stuff. Oaky tones aren’t overdone, and this is balanced, age-worthy and very, very pretty. Impressive stuff that Rioja lovers should seek out. (93 points IJB)

2012 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rioja Gran Reserva Spain, Rioja
SRP: $39
Light purple color. The nose sports red cherries and some wild blackberry, with lovely tones of tilled soil, leather, tar, coffee and cedar. Really well-balanced on the palate with tangy acidity and suave but structured tannins. A juicy but tart mix of black cherries, laced with complex notes of leather, chewing tobacco, coffee grounds and cedar. Notes of bay leaf and mushroom broth come out with time. Vibrant and nuanced, fresh, refined already but needs a few years to show its best. 90% Tempranillo, the rest is Mazuelo and Graciano, aged 30 months in American oak. (91 points IJB)

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