DO Rueda and Toro 30 April – 4 May 2018

On the 30th April 31 of the original 35 members booked to go on the trip, boarded the coach and set of for DO Rueda and Toro, the remaining four having dropped out through sickness.   Amazingly a further 7 in the party fell ill during the trip and missed a day or two of our bodega visits.   Never before have the ranks of our wine trippers been so depleted

The first bodega we visited was El Regajal which was en route to our final destination and is located on an estate just a few kilometres south of Aranjuez at the limit of the Madrid DO.   Founded in 1998, the Society first visited this bodega in 2008.   On arrival we were greeted by the owner Daniel, who took us down to the cellars and proceeded to go through each stage of the wine process, allowing us to taste the product at each stage.   

This included a very limited edition wine produced from vines 80 years old.   It was also the first time that we heard a vintner call one of his products s..t, which simply showed what a perfectionist Daniel is.   This was followed by a sumptuous lunch, the main course of which was a seafood paella.   All this was washed down by the bodegas wines of Ladeiras Blanco 2015, made from the Godello grape, a gold yellow color of medium high intensity with a good intensity on the nose with fine toasted and mineral notes.  El Regajal Selección Especial 2015 a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot which has been aged for 15 months in French oak and finally Retamas 2015, a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah and aged for 12 months in oak. A large purchase of these excellent wines was made by members.

A three hour journey later we arrived at our hotel in Tordesilas, where we enjoyed a reception and tapas.

The following morning we were greeted by Pablo at Bodegas Hermanos del Villar which is located in Rueda which is a recognised area in the production of high quality white wines.  Founded in 1995 the winery currently has 105 hectares of vineyards and the greater part of its white grapes is Verdejo, the remainder being Sauvignon Blanc and Tempranillo. The antiquity of the vineyard goes from new plantations until 25 years old. The production is 700,000 bottles per year.  They use cutting-edge technologies such as night-time harvesting to avoid oxidation, cold pellicular maceration, native yeast fermentation, aging on lees and battonage.   Firstly Pablo took us out to the vineyards, then into the winery and finally came the tasting   

The wines we tasted were their two Oro de Castilla, both 2017, one made from Verdejo, the other from Sauvignon Blanc, both with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 13%.   Then came Oro de Castilla Finca los Hornos Verdejo 2015 which had spent 9 months in barrel, followed by Oro de Castilla Crianza, Ribera del Duero 2015 a 100% Tempranillo which had spent 14 months in barrel and12 months in bottle.   Finally came Gaudeamus Roble Ribera del Duero 2016 also 100% Tempranillo, but 6 months in barrel and 6 months in bottle with an ABV of 13.5%.  

A short walk brought us to Bodegas Mocén a winery which was acquired in 1988 by José Luis Ruiz Solaguren, a world renowned restaurateur and winery owner, who when he was 13 years old, worked at the La Granja de BIlbao café shining shoes to help with the family economy.  In 1988 the restoration work for the rehabilitation of the old underground galleries of the bodega was begun.   These galleries date from the 15th and 16th centuries and are over 500 years old and are at a depth of 25 metres with an overall length of 4 kilometres.  

The bodega is unique in that it houses José Luis’ library and art gallery, which we also visited

The estate of Bodegas Mocén is located at 700metres above sea level.   There are 300 hectares of land planted with the most modern espalier techniques, drip feed irrigation, organic irrigation and mechanized harvesting.

Before lunching at the bodega we tasted four wines:   Bodega Mocén Verdejo Especial Selección 2017 followed by Bodega Mocén Verdejo Fermentado en Barrica 2016 both a 100% Verdejo.   Then came a Cobranza Crianza Tempranillo 2014 and finally a sparkling white, Espumoso Añ Verdejo.   Apart from the tasting, we also enjoyed these wines with our excellent lunch.

The history of Bodega Rejadorada begins in 1999 when three winemakers met to plan the production of quality red wines using the grape variety Tinto de Toro and bodega Rejadorada was born.  In 2003, Rejadorada expanded with a new winery in San Román de Hornija with the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for the elaboration, ageing and bottling, while remaining faithful to the old methods of preparation and this was the location which we visited on our third day.  

Grapes are selected manually and transported to the winery in boxes  and when the grapes reaches the winery, the are further examined on a selection table against very rigorous criteria when all elements, which may reduce the quality of the wine are removed.   The selected grapes are the placed in the fermentation tanks and for the first 4 or 5 days subject to cold maceration.  We were shown around the bodega by the oenologist Roberto a young man with an obvious passion for wine. All the wines we tasted were Tinta de Toro  

The first wine we tasted was Rejadorada Roble 2016, from vines 20 to 40 yeas old. The wine is fermented at a controlled temperature for 20 days and then aged for 6 months in American and French oak barrels.   Then from vines 40 to 60 years old, came Novellum 2014 which has had a slow fermentation below 23° C and intense maceration and ageing for 12 months in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Thirdly we tasted Antona Garcia 2015, a single vineyard production from which the grapes are manually harvested and then a further selection of the best bunches made in the winery. Pre-fermentation maceration and slow fermentation are at a controlled temperature and then the wine is aged for 11 months in selected French (30%), Hungarian (40%) and American (30%) oak.   The final wine of the tasting was Sango 2012 made from vines which are over 70 years old.   The wine is aged for 18 months in very tight grain specially selected French oak barrels.

Bodega Teso la Monja is part of the group Viñedos y Bodegas Sierra Cantabria which has five bodegas, four located in DOC Rioja and one in DO Toro.  The winery has five vinification systems for very precise winemaking and uses five different types of tanks.    An example of their innovation is their new Ovum, an egg shaped wooden tank.   This allows the wine much greater contact with the wood and also allows the wine to gently circulate. The product from this tank sells at around 1,200€ per bottle.

We had 10 wines in all, tasting five and then enjoying another five with lunch.   The tasting was elegantly conducted with each of the wine glasses having a collar on the stem on which the name of the wine was printed.   The pity was that 8 of the wines were from DOC Rioja and only two from DO Toro. The two Toro wines were Victorino and Almirez, both Tinta de Toro.   Victorino comes from vineyards where the vines are 70 years old.   The grapes are pressed by treading and maceration takes place in the open tanks where the grapes have been trod.   The wine is aged for 18 months in new French Oak barrels.   The Almirez grape comes from different vines with an average age of 15-65 years. It is harvested manually and the first selection is carried out in the vineyard, then a final selection is completed later on a table in the winery.   Fermentation takes place over 8 days at a controlled temperature and it is left to macerate with its skins for 8 more days. 30% of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in new French oak barrels and the rest in stainless steel tanks. The ageing of Almirez extends over 14 months.

On day four we visited the Convento de Santa Clara which was the Royal Palace for Alfonso XI and Pedro I.   Its construction started in 1340 to mark the victory in the Battle of Tarifa.   It is a unique example in Castilla and León of a Mudéjar palace, following the style of the Alhambra, with large rooms surrounded by galleries around a patio. It became a Poor Clare Monastry in 1363 when it was given by Pedro I to his daughter Beatriz.

After our visit to the Convento, we went to Bodega Campo Elisio.   Located in the centre of the village of La Seca is a 17th century manor house, with plaster, wood and brick in the purest Castilian style and a coat of arms on the façade, providing a hint of its high lineage.   Underneath it are a rabbit warren of cellars which have now been modernised and which provided the basis of the bodega   Behind the high walls surrounding the property, in the courtyard of the manor house a new building has been erected, equipped with the latest technology for making white wine, but whose appearance preserves the harmony between the old and the new.

We tasted three wines while down in the cellars.   First Campo Alegre DO Rueda 2017 a 100% Verdejo which had been aged for 6 months in concrete egg barrels (30%), oak    barrels (40%) and stainless steel tanks (30%) and then blended.  Next we tasted one of the few rosados: Hnos Lurton Valentin Rosado 2017 made from 100% Tempranillo, barrel fermented, 50% in concrete tanks in the form of eggs and 50% in French 225-liter barrels.  and finally Campo Alegre DO Toro 2013 which had been aged for one year in oak barrels.

 

That evening we held our traditional reception and group dinner with much depleted numbers, only 25, due to sickness, in restaurante Alquira, just opposite the hotel.

 

Our final day saw us break our journey home for lunch at Finca Estacada which the Society last visited in 2014.   The winery is located in Castilla La Mancha (Cuenca) near the town of Tarancón.   Our excellent meal was accompanied by Finca La Estacada Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc 2017 and Finca La Estacada Tempranillo 2016 which had spent 6 months in American oak barrel and two months in bottle.

With the exception of the sickness which afflicted a number of our trippers, this was an excellent visit, with some outstanding wines and bodegas, as shown by our spend of 9,355€ (302€ p/p) on wines.   As usual our thanks go to the wine trip team for such a well organised visit.

Gaby Ferenczy                                                                                                                                                                May 2018