I am heading over next month to do several visits in Spain for the first time. I am focusing on the best-known and highest quality wineries that are imported into the U.S. and I wanted to get folks feedback on who I should be targeting. Here is my current list of priorities:
Ribera del Duero – Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Emilio Moro, O Fournier, Alion
Rioja – Lopez de Heredia, Artadi, Contador, Telmo Rodriguez
Priorat – Alvaro Palacios, Clos Erasmus, Clos Mogador, Vall Llach, Mas Alta
Any I should definitely add? Any on that list that shouldn’t be?
Any travel tips (or links to others’ posts) that would be helpful for a first-timer doing winery visits in Spain after years of doing them in France and Italy?
If you visit López de Heredia, you may want to throw in visits to La Rioja Alta and Muga as well as they are all clustered around the same block.
CVNE & its Contino are both worth a visit as well.
Eat out well in Rioja and enjoy older vintages on the wine lists. What I love about Rioja is that the restaurants do not gouge one on older vintages (e.g., I got an '82 CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva at El Rincon del Vino in Logroño for only 40€/bottle).
You don’t just call up Vega Sicilia and let them know you’re showing up next month. They’re likely to wish you a pleasant journey and hang up the phone. In the same way, you don’t head out to Napa and tell Screaming Eagle, Bryant and Schraeder to set something up for you.
Have a back up plan. Since they own Alion, you might want to let them know that you’re aware of that, as they’re even less likely to open up for someone who doesn’t know their wines and have a deep connection. Might want to double check on Pingus too.
Even if you’re ITB in some way. I don’t know how much VS you’ve sold over the years, but I know people who have sold a lot who were not invited in.
But I question your entire approach. Why do you want to visit the wineries that you know from the US? You can already drink their wine. Why not visit some other wineries that you don’t know? You can learn a lot about the region, particularly if you’ve never been there. Matter of fact, you should visit Protos - they are the original. Instead of visiting some bodegas just because you’ve heard of them, why not select a region and explore? There are lots of wineries that aren’t well-known and some are lacking importers at the moment, but their wines are as good as any mentioned on this thread. The thing to remember is that for the most part, places aren’t set up for tourists like CA is, so you have to do a little more work, but it’s completely rewarding to do so.
Can’t help with other regions but I have been to Priorat and Penedes.
In Priorat I really enjoyed these two wineries in Gratallops - Cellar Cecilio and Vinedos de Ithica. August, the owner/winemaker at Cecilio does not speak much English but is a hoot and makes very good wine. Sylvia and her Father at Odysseus are fantastic people. You can try their joint wines and Sylvia’s own label.
You should definitely set up appointments for every winery you want to visit. You can do this by email or on-line. Definitely visit Lopez de Heredia- it’s like time travel into the last century. Have a great time!
In the evening, the bar there is the hangout place for the local winegrowers, and if you meet them in this setting, you are more then welcome the next day (exept for Alvaro P, but he is a bit special!) The hotelowner is also very helpful to arrange something. Have fun, and enjoy this beautiful area.
It is different than going to Cali. There is no pop in and taste. Everyone wants you to take a full tour. Some are worth it (LdH in particular). Appointments are a virtual nesissity. A full day of tasting and you may get 3 places in. But it is so awesome. Have fun
Thanks so much for all the feedback – this board is like our own personal Hitchhiker’s Guide to wine. For those questioning my “approach,” I didn’t really have an explicit one – I was simply trying to do get the benefit of some brainstorming for ideas beyond those I was generally familiar with. Now that I have a somewhat broader list (and know more about what my schedule looks like), I can go through my network and figure out where the combination of interest/curiosity, availability, accessibility and schedule all line up and then start filling in appointments.
I’ll be happy to post post-trip if people would be interested. And any other general travel info people want to share would be most appreciated…
Kevin, if you want some more advice, remember that what we in the US often see as quaint and romantic was originally designed for commerce. When you visit some of those places, you’re looking at nineteenth century capitalism. You can spend a week in Haro. It’s a tiny town, but all the wineries were clustered by the railroad station, so you can walk from Rioja Alta to Muga to Lopez and it’s like being in a shopping mall. Then in the evening you can wander the streets and spend some time in tapas bars. Logrono is bigger, and you can get lost there too. Rather than commute between them, I’d spend a few days in each.
If you prefer Ribera del Duero, spend some time in Valladolid. It was once the capital of Spain, if there was such a thing, and there are many wineries around. Then you don’t spend time driving and doing the “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” thing. Then go to Burgos - there are some differences in the wines but a lot of Americans have a hard time grasping the fact that there are different regions in Spain, much less different regions in the appellations. Explore the difference in the wines from the various regions of Ribera del Duero. When I’m in Spain, I usually try to visit some friends, but also to get familiar with a region.
Visit Protos. They’re huge and you’ll learn a hell of a lot about the history of RdD by looking and listening to them. Visit places like Abadía de Acón in RdD - they’re modern in the best sense and set up for tourists like most places aren’t. And their wines are great.
Priorat has even fewer places to cater to wine tourism than RdD has, but it’s a pretty area. However, if you blow thru it fast, you don’t ever get a sense of the region other than to say you’ve been there, done that.
Daphne Glorian of Clos Erasmus is a personal friend of mine and I can tell you that she does not accept visitors. But if you are interested in learning more of the history of the Priorat you should not miss booking a tour with Rachel Ritchie http://www.rachelritchie.com/ She speaks English and has lived in the region for many years. It was the highlight of our trip.