Discover Montecillo’s Latest Library Vintage Releases

Montecillo’s release of 1985, 1994, 2001, and 2005 vintages this fall showcases the dynamic range of Rioja over the decades—and the thoughtful winemaking practices that define the winery

Bottles of Montecillo Gran Reserva
Montecillo’s latest library vintage releases will be available directly from the winery’s cellar. Photo courtesy of Montecillo.
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The excitement of opening an aged wine cannot be defined by taste alone. For some, the compelling aromas, complex flavors, vibrant acidity, and long-lasting structure that can only come with years of bottle aging are almost like traveling back in time. Soon, fans of Bodegas Montecillo will get the chance to take a sip of a distant past when the winery releases its latest library vintage wines.  

This September, Montecillo unveiled a new collection of wines from its Gran Reserva Seleción Especial line that showcase the ageability and character of Rioja wines, including vintages from 1985, 1994, 2001, and 2005. “It’s really exciting to share these special wines today because they show the evolution of Montecillo—where we were back then, where we are now, and where we’re headed. But even more so, these wines tell the story of Rioja,” says Rocio Osborne, the global PR and communications director and sixth generation of the winemaking family at Montecillo.

One of the oldest wineries in Rioja, Montecillo was established in 1870 when Celestino Navajas built the winery in Fuenmayor. However, his grandson José Luis Navajas’ studies in Burgundy helped usher the winery into a new era. José Luis Navajas adopted innovative winemaking techniques—from cold fermentation to oak aging and beyond—that emphasized balance and quality and thrust Montecillo into the spotlight. With the aim of preserving the legacy and family-owned philosophy of care and respect for the land and the quality wines, the Osborne family took over Montecillo in 1973. They expanded the Navajas’ approach of crafting contemporary wines through thoughtful winemaking practices that best served the grapes and would preserve the character of the wine for years to come. 

Harnessing the Aging Potential of Rioja 

In the years since, the Osborne family has maintained a historic underground cellar, housing Montecillo vintages dating as far back as 1926—the year the Rioja Denomination of Origin was created. While released only occasionally, Osborne says it’s through these special vintages that people can understand the true aging potential of Rioja wines. 

“There is intention behind every step of making wines like these. From the vineyard site, and the grapes picked for that wine, the winemaking techniques incorporated, the contact with the skins and maceration time, the temperatures—every aspect of winemaking is considered. And even then, not every vintage will be capable of aging,” says Osborne. “So when you have a wine that has developed and matured and become more complex like these wines, it’s just a testament to what can be done in Rioja under the right circumstances.”

Madeline Maldonado, the beverage director of Mercado Little Spain in New York City, says releases of library wines like Montecillo are helping drinkers take Spanish wine seriously. “In general, most people are familiar with the aging potential of French and Italian wines, but there are a lot of crossover qualities that Tempranillo has with wines from those countries,” says Maldonado. “When people drink Montecillo’s library wines, they will learn more of the similarities Tempranillo has in aging potential.” 

Maturing in Flavor and Elegance 

Maldonado tried Montecillo’s latest library vintages at a vertical tasting at José Andrés’ Nubeluz in New York City in February and was impressed with the precision and attention to detail demonstrated by each wine. “Bodegas Montecillo is truly capturing a unique story through each vintage,” says Maldonado, noting that the wines have become more elegant and lean with brighter acidity with age. 

Low angle of vineyard grapes
These special library releases from Montecillo demonstrate the aging potential of Tempranillo. Photo courtesy of Montecillo.

This current release of vintages proves that aging provides a more linear quality and focused direction to the wines. The acidity mingles with all the complex aromatic qualities, making the fruit more refined over time. It’s that balance that Osborne says allows a bottle of the 1985 vintage to maintain such stunning harmony over 30 years. The wine was made with 100 percent Tempranillo and spent 48 months in semi-new French oak, then bottle aged for five years before it was initially released years ago. Even now, it displays the lively acidity and energetic flair of wine much younger. 

Osborne suggests that the balancing act of fruit, structure, and acidity is even more apparent in the 1994 vintage. Considered a mythical vintage, the 1994 release is also made of 100 percent Tempranillo, which spent three years in semi-new French oak and another 10 years in bottle before its original release. 

“The 1994 vintage is kind of like the baby that I watched grow up,” says Osborne. “When it was young, it was powerful and full of life. Over the years, the wine has gotten smoother and more mature. The flavors and aromas are almost completely different from when I first tasted it many years ago. Now, when I drink it, the purity of fruit and spice reminds me of Christmas.” 

Nuances of Mediterranean herbs and balsamic shine on the 2001 vintage, while the 2005 vintage—an enchanting blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, and Maturana Tinta—performs a melody of spiced oak, pepper, and fruit on the palate, expressing its subtle and elegant notes in layers. 

“We know Rioja offers age-worthy wines, but for them to evolve in the way that they did is evidence that winemaker Mercedes García is taking the winery in a direction in which it will continue to evolve,” says Maldonado. “I sensed meticulous attention to detail through her last 15 years at the winery, where her first Gran Reserva vintage was the 2005.”

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An Approachable Collector’s Wine 

An added benefit of Montecillo’s latest library vintage release is that the wines will be available directly from the winery’s cellar, ensuring drinkers receive bottles in the best condition possible. According to Osborne, special shipping arrangements were made specifically for the collection, including temperature-controlled storage that’s more regulated than standard shipping. “Nowadays, it’s not as easy to guarantee wines are in proper condition at home,” says Osborne. “So these wines are the perfect opportunity to try wines that come entirely from the cellar, alleviating some of the concerns people may have about opening an old bottle potentially ruined from sitting in a closet for several years.” 

With a price point that leans toward accessible, and wines that range in seriousness and character, Montecillo’s library vintage release has an approachability that novices and wine connoisseurs can appreciate. 

“This is a winery that is investing in making wines available in the market while remaining accessible,” says Maldonado. “Montecillo wines speak to their origins and tell their story without breaking the bank. Whether you are a collector or a new wine drinker, this is wine that you can age, and learn about the evolution of their characteristics.”


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