In June 2018 we based ourselves in the historic city of Valladolid, and visited some great winemakers in the surrounding area. Our tours in 2012 had been a huge success, and I had very high hopes, which were more than exceeded.
Our first taste of Rueda wine was at our first night dinner, at which we were joined byJean Belondrade from the fabulous Belondrade bodega. Jean is the son of Didier Belondrade who founded the winery, and was a very entertaining and engaging host. Their Apolonia Rosé was washed down with some very innovative tapas and we sat down to a multiple course dinner accompanied by the Verdejos of Belondrade, finishing with a Jeroboam of the sublime Belondrade 2012.
Our first visit the next morning was to Bodegas Menade. Set up in 2005 by Ricardo, Marco and Alejandra Sanz, these three siblings of a famous wine making family have a created an extraordinary ecological estate in the heart of the Rueda DO. This is white wine country with the indigenous Verdejo grape being the most important and comprising 90% of all the plantings.
We tasted a sublime selection of Verdejos plus a dry and a sweet Sauvignon Blanc. Fabulous quality, fascinating place and a brilliant first visit.
Founded in 1942, the Fariña estate is regarded as the founding father of the Toro region that almost single handedly established this small area as a quality wine production zone, culminating in being awarded its DO in 1987.
We admired the art collection (artists submit label designs for one of their reds each year) as we tasted the first two wines – a Malvasia that was rich and textured, followed by the most drinkable red called Lagrima. It was then lunchtime. Having had the pleasure of visiting Fariña on numerous occasions I knew what to expect. Wonderful pork ribs with potatoes, beef casserole with salad, and the famous nuns cakes made in the local convent. Washed down by contrasting crianzas and a delicious muscatel sweet wine. I could see no one would be booking dinner later.
Ribera del Duero
Home to arguably Spain’s most famous estate – Vega Sicilia, where Tempranillo is King – our task was to explore as much diversity as we could.
Our first stop was at Tomás Postigo. Tomás is a renowned enologist who has worked with some the most famous names and estates in Ribera del Duero. In 2008 he set up his own bodega in an industrial unit near to the train station in Peñafiel.
His son Gabriel led us round the the most functional and most unlikely winery I have ever visited and despite removing a lot of the romantic imagery that we often associate with wine making, it was a quite extraordinary visit. The level of detail involved to create the highest quality wine was amazing (read the blog to find out more).
Their barrel fermented Verdejo was rich and utterly delicious – perhaps the best Verdejo we have tasted on tour. We then tried the 2017 Ribera red, not yet released but samples decanted from three different barrels – each with a different level of toasting. This was highly instructive and a first on tour. The differences were plain to taste and gave a really meaningful insight into the art of deciding on the use of oak.
The 2016 finished article red was superb – beautifully balanced with many years ahead of it.
From Peñafiel, it was a short hop to Aranda de Duero where we met owner Riccardo Penalba, owner of the Finca Torremilanos. This is a 200 hectare estate, organic and biodynamic and with a four star hotel attached to it. Riccardo gave us a wonderful insight into the history and philosophy of the estate as we wandered through the vines.
We enjoyed a leisurely tasting in the courtyard of the hotel before moving into a beautiful high ceilinged dining room a traditional, classic lunch: morcilla, sausage and croquetas, followed by lechazo – young lamb and salad. A deliciously rich crème caramel and ice cream rounded things off perfectly before we all got stuck into the local Spanish spirit – Orujo. Before it all got too messy it was time to leave and after a burst of animated discussion, the bus went quiet……
Historically, this area used to be a big wine production area but a succession of wars, economic depressions, phylloxera, and a movement of labour away from the villages over the past 150 years reduced the area to a pitiable small reflection of its former glory. In recent years, it was famous for its Rosado, and in the past 20 years producers have reinvested with great success.
First stop was Finca La Legua. Hosted by owner Gonzalo Escribano, we had a fascinating insight into their philosophy based around polyphenols, tannins, grape ripeness and balance – a theme that permeated their whole approach to winemaking. Add in 300 years of viticultural history, some amazing old cellars and a truly charming host, it established Cigales as a place to visit.
Next stop was Bodegas Concejo. It was a huge pleasure to be returning here after our successful tours in 2012. Enrique Concejo, the owner was in sparkling form as he showed us the spanking new winery and then showed us round the 1000 year old historic palace in the village that he has converted into a beautiful boutique hote
We then tasted their range – 3 rosados and three reds – all paired with some amazing tapas. Carpaccio of beef, cheese salad, squid ink risotto, tortilla, a mini burger and a delicious croqueta. This was a stunning final visit.
Our final night dinner was a spectacular affair at Restaurante Trasteo in the centre of Valladolid. We had the most exciting and innovative 8 course degustacion menu which we paired with some of our favourite wines from the tour – Menade Verdejo and Postigo Ribera del Duero.
Asparagus creations, foie gras, monkfish, beef, rice pudding – all fashioned in beautifully creative ways completed a truly wonderful and harmonious tour. I can’t wait to come back to this amazing place.
What my clients said about this tour
“We had a great time on the trip. The thing I like best about your tours is you wake up each morning and know the day is going to be interesting & involve stunning wine & great food. What more could one want?”– C Hurley