Bona fide Navarra
A magical forest, a vineyard and a dream to make wine give sense to the ancestral land of the Canalejo Larrainzar family. The result: Pago de Larrainzar Reserva Especial 2014 single vineyard.
I always wish to be born into a family of vine growers and winemakers. A statement I make to underline my romantic vision of a simple but altogether pleasant life. Heaven knows, I even made wine, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Sadly it ended there, for now. I gather my dreams, but for the Larrainzar family, winemaking became a way of life. Their motto for Pago de Larrainzar: to make wine is to give sense to this land.
Halfway between Logroño and Pamplona, great-great-grandfather Luis Larrainzar acquired land from the monks of the nearby Monastery of Irache in the 1850s. The family farm was part of the Monastery of Irache, which was a hospital and a university during the Middle Ages.
In this magical setting at the foot of the Montejurra Mountain Luis planted Tempranillo grapes and established a small winery with limited production. And, with success. The 1929 wine competition of the World Exposition in Barcelona awarded Pago de Larrainzar a gold medal. Over time, the Larrainzar family decided to distance itself from winemaking but kept the land. In the 1970s, the first winery was sold.
The restart, a family project
After working for decades in the telecommunications industry, 4th generation Miguel C. Larrainzar decided in 2001 to revive the ancestral winemaking tradition. Two of his children joined him on the project: Miguel Canalejo Lasarte, as technical director, and Irene Canalejo Lasarte, as marketing and sales director. To “create” a wine with character and soul from the Larrainzar vineyards, Miguel hired renowned experts such as enologist Ignacio de Miguel Poch and vine specialist Mr Lissarrague to advise and coach the team of Pago de Larrainzar.
A sustainable approach to farming
At Pago de Larrainzar the vineyards are structured in a single plot, located between the right bank of the Ega river and the north slope of Montejurra. Thanks to the soil conditions of the vineyard and the presence of large pebbles, there is excellent water retention. What always stands out, is the importance they give to growing their 17 ha of vines. Their sustainable approach means respectfully working the vineyard without altering the ecosystem. It also follows the rules of the DOP Navarra Control Board, which guarantees quality standards and typicity of the wines.
A blend with personality
The winery uses its best grapes and selected native yeasts common in the area as the base for making red wines. Pago de Larrainzar produces only high-quality red wines from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. At Pago de Larrainzar they believe in blending wines made from a single harvest. Blending starts with dozens of different potential wines created using different varieties, tank sizes, barrels and toasting levels of French oak barrels. Every three years the barrels are renewed.
The wine, single-vineyard Pago de Larrainzar Reserva Especial 2014
On one of my tastings, this time organised by Vinos D.O. Navarra in Amsterdam, I found Pago de Larrainzar Reserva Especial 2014 in my glass. A wine only made when the vintage is exceptional. The 2014 vintage comes after deciding not to make a Reserva Especial in the 2012 and 2013 vintages.
It is Pago de Larrainzar’s most international blend. This ruby coloured blend of international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, Merlot 40%, and 20% Tempranillo. The local Tempranillo gives it greater complexity and a genuinely Navarrese character. On the nose, it has good intensity, with notes of black plum, berries, cassis, tomato leaf, cedar, burnt wood, dry hay and an earthy, leathery finish. On the palate, soft, fresh with a good level of acidity, not heavy, very well integrated oak, toast and polished, long finish. In some tastings, certain wines stand out, and this Reserva Especial 2014 was one of them.
Family Canalejo Larrainzar’s motto – to make wine is to give sense to their land in Ayegui, Spain – works very well for me. One day I hope to visit them as I want to discover Pago de Larrainzar and the diversity of landscapes and wines from D.O. Navarra myself.