Uncorked: Las Moradas listens to grapes, not trends

Every bottle of wine tells a unique story.

Las Moradas de San Martin took the saying literally, and turned to a different writer to pen a story for each of their wines. It’s a striking representation, written in the native Spanish of the Madrid winery, each story as unique as the wine Isabel Galindo made from the high-elevation, old-vine garnacha vineyards in a region that has quietly built a solid reputation for high-quality wines.

When the project started in 1999, there were doubters. Any vineyards in the area mass-produced wines, and weren’t focused on growing high-quality wine grapes. But Galindo wanted to explore the terroir of the area.

“We were pioneers that started a boutique winery in Madrid,” Galindo said. “It was all bulk wines, now there are 30 wineries. They are all small, beautiful projects that have helped rebuild the area.”

Wide swings between daytime highs and nighttime lows led to a diurnal shift that has helped ripen garnacha yet retain acidity when the temperatures cool off. Las Moradas de San Martin owns about 51 acres that all surround the winery.

Unlike wineries in the area, the vineyards are right outside the winery doors. Galindo said the soils are “very poor and dramatic.”

“The soil is like going to the beach,” she said on a Zoom call that wrapped just before she was about to eat dinner at a traditional Spanish time of 10 p.m. “It can rain for a week, and it’s so sandy you can walk right through the vineyards. All our vineyards are dry-farmed and goblet (head-trained) cultivated.”

The results are very age-worthy wines with a mixture of intense fruit, herbal notes and well-defined tannins.

The Las Moradas de San Martin Senda 2016 ($11) is what Galindo said is the most difficult wine to make, because she has to dial the tannins in just right. The small garnacha bunches are naturally low-yielding because their age varies from 40 to 110 years. But the grapes have thicker skins because they are grown at altitude.

There were flavors of plum, light black cherry and a little menthol note on the wine. In the cellar, Galindo separates the skins off the wine before fermentation. Calling the Senda tannins “very wild,” she noted they “can be the same as the day they are pressed after five years.”

“I tasted it in 2005 for the first time,” Galindo said. “It’s been [the] same wine for the last 10 years, there’s no evolution, and that’s why I am changing everything. I want to forget everything I thought I knew, and am listening to my grapes.”

The Las Moradas de San Martin Initio ($14) 2017 had a little mint note that cut through the hearty wine’s chewy tannins. There were plenty of savory characteristics: cracked pepper, rosemary, espresso and even an earthy note.

With intense black fruit on the nose, black cherry, rosemary and aged balsamic flavors, the Las Moradas de San Martin La Sabina 2011 ($15) was a bottle Galindo wished she had to taste during the Zoom call.

Grown in vineyards planted in the 1930s, the low-yielding vines only produce a wine in exemplary years. The 2011 is that – it’s hard to believe the wine is 10 years old as the fruit flavors are still fresh, and the tannins still seem young.

A green wax cap covers the cork, a decision Isabel made when she decided the wine would stand out from the others because there’s no sulfur added.

As the winery and the region grow, Galindo will continue to blaze her own trail. She runs constant trials in the cellar and vineyard. Three years ago, she had all the syrah and tempranillo grafted over to Albillo Real. It’s the only white wine on the estate, and one she raved about. Unfortunately, it’s tied up in the supply chain logjam of imported goods. But the intriguing white eventually will get tasted.

“The trend is follow what one person does if it’s successful,” Galindo said. “But it’s important for me to listen to the grape, not to people. People can say I’m crazy, but I am listening to the grape, not the trends. That’s not good for the grape, and that’s the ‘different’ between the commercial winery and us.”

• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at jamesnokes25@yahoo.com.