The numbers paint a troubling portrait. In 1985, there were 6000 hectares of vines in Ribera del Duero, 9000 in 1990, and 22,000 today. The rapid expansion of acreage under vine has led to several shocks to the DO as new estates had leveraged the growing reputation of the region but backed it up with incautious vineyard locations and with “me too” clonal selections and winemaking. This was the situation that greeted Carlos del Rio Jr when he returned from abroad to start working with his father and Peter Sisseck at his family’s famed estate, Hacienda Monasterio. Having established themselves as keen prospectors in locating the best terroirs in Ribera del Duero, the del Rios were witness to the struggles of many under-capitalized properties with tremendous potential, so in 2012 they acquired Montecastro Bodegas y Viñedos.
What led to this decision was not old vines but where they were planted. The 27 hectares of vines at Montecastro are located on gentle slopes at an elevation between 860 and 923 meters above sea level. This is one of the highest elevation vineyards in the area bordering the provinces of Valladolid and Burgos. With the cooling effects of elevation, the vineyards at Montecastro are protected from the intense summer heat of this part of Spain. The soils are poor, high in limestone content and quite rocky. From the start, the original founders of Montecastro chose only the best terroirs to plant and seen from a distance, the vineyards standout in a landscape of cereal grains located on heavier clay and nutrient rich soils.