Monday, August 19, 2013

Murcia: Lunch With Bodegas Castaño.

Once our initial introduction to the incredible wines of Murcia and the pleasures of the Monastrell grape had gotten off to an amazing start, before we knew it, lunch was upon us.  It was time to make our way to the family owned vineyard of Bodegas Castaño, located on the outskirts of Yecla in an idyllic country setting.

The farmstead fruit & vegetable grove.

"Bodegas Castaño is today one of the most respected wine producers in South-Eastern Spain in recognition for their tradition and achievements in the use of the indigenous grape varieties. With a clear innovating spirit, the Castaño family has incorporated avant-garde technologies and the latest vinification systems to keep alive the legacy of their ancestors, an inherited passion for the deeply rooted Monastrell, the king variety in Yecla.  There is no mystery. Our wines are born from over 500ha of vineyards planted along four big estates located in different areas of DO Yecla, where each variety finds its perfect habitat allowing for perfect cultivation."


Great guys- Daniel Gonzalez & Daniel Castaño.

Smiling face, fantastic shorts.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by family member and Export Director, Daniel Castaño and U.S. Exporter Daniel Gonzalez, both smiling from cheek-to-cheek and happy to have us visit.  We were welcomed, and as they began to show us around this beautiful homestead, I realized something special- this was no ordinary vineyard, it was an agriturismo!  

The guy ruled the kitchen, all by himself.

Home amidst the vines.
Ahhh... The pool.
The calm before the storm.
The home belongs to the Castaño family, resembles a modest, rustic country inn, has a sparkling pool alongside a casual picnic area and, if you are feeling particularly posh, you can enlist the services of chef, friend and foodie extraordinaire, Antonio Lozano.  It was Antonio, and Antonio alone, preparing our lunch for the day (I believe around 20 of us), like a culinary ninja, moving in silence and smiling gently at our Ooooh's and Aaaaah's.  In a kitchen no bigger than a normal house's, Antonio worked his magic and presented our afternoon meal.  Incredible- just look at all of this beautiful food!

Jamon Iberico and locally produced Manchego cheese.

Salad, made with fruits and vegetables from their very own gardens with Marcona almonds in the background.

Brilliant grilled lamb, roasted potatoes, grilled zucchini and asparagus.

Fresh local watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, cherries (delicious!) and pineapple.  

Hand-pressed wafer cookies sandwiching gooey warm honey.

I was hooked.  I had also managed to consume a lot of wine by this point, so the dreamy Spanish sky was particularly intoxicating as we sat under the trees, light wind lifting the table skirts, tumbling leaves at our feet.  My weakness: the Castaño Monastrell Rosé.  Light and clean, with hints of red fruit, I found myself staring into the glass wishing I could stay in Spain forever.  And then, as if my thoughts had been heard, I looked up and snapped this photo, right as lunch was ending...

The combination of conifers, ornamental fruit trees, colors and sunlight was just too much for me to resist.

Our bellies were full and so much laughter was shared at this tasting.  Many thanks to the gentlemen of Bodegas Castaño for an ethereal afternoon.  I can't wait to return and spend more time at their lovely casita in the country.

Be well,


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Murcia: Yecla & Monastrell... Morning.

Our second day exploring the Region of Murcia began early, setting out around 7:30 in the morning, making our way towards the town of Yecla.  Located in the extreme north of Murcia, about a 45 minute trip by car, Yecla is part of the trifecta of wine producing cities that thrive in region, along with neighboring Jumilla and Bullas.

This is where the Monastrell grape is king.  A variety that thrives amongst the arid, rocky land of Murcia's wine-growing empire, this grape prefers the heat and needs little irrigation due to its heartiness.  The soil is loose and dry, and the clusters sit low with deep roots, almost as though the vine is clutching the earth for nutrients.  The gorgeous, vibrant vines reach for the sun and grow freely, never under the constraints of tie-back or trellis, these grapevines reach mammoth size if left to grow on their own.

Beautiful, lush Monastrell.

Gnarly vines dig deep into the rocky, dry soil.
The Monastrell grape produces some of the most intensely flavored fruit in the industry, and has had a past reputation of being heavily tannic and hard to drink.  Things are and have been changing for quite some time in the region, and now wineries are producing, big, bold wines that pair well with a variety of foods and cuisine from around the world.  Over the course of our trip, we were fortunate enough to visit some of the most well known producers of wine using Monastrell- around three to four wineries a day, all of whom treated us to the best of their best, with tours, educational info and even meals prepared for our group, specialized to highlight the beauty and flavor of the Monastrell grape.

Our first stop of the day was at Bodegas La Purísima, located in Yecla...

The La Purísima tasting room.

Unique Spanish tile work.

An aged sign outside of the La Purísima tasting room.

"Since 1946, the La Purísima Winery selects and processes the fruit of the best vines in order to create The Great Wines of Yecla.  Our commitment to quality, innovation and wine-making tradition is acknowledged and rewarded with many international prizes and the confidence of thousands of our customers all over the world. The La Purísima Winery is an enterprise which follows its vocation as an international winery, since our wines are being enjoyed in more than 30 countries. We are a young team, with an average age of 32, which joins together technical and trade experts, international enologists and a strong marketing team, bound on leaving behind a past of wine-in-bulk production."

Wine bloggers galore.

Once inside the barrel room, our group was treated to an abundant selection of La Purísima wines.  Our gracious hosts, Technical Director Pedro Azorín Soriano and Exporter extraordinaire Daniel Giménez Alba were delighted to share the history and specifications of the winery co-op with us, while we sipped and savored the various lines of La Purísima label.  One of my favorites, the La Purísima Rosado 2012, brought a smile to my face with it's light ruby color and smooth, luscious raspberry undertones.  The wine itself can be served with just about any food you can imagine, thanks to low alcohol content and an amiable palate.  Not to mention the bottle is both intriguing and incredibly classy- it would be perfect for any gift-giving occasion, especially for that modern, chic friend who gets a kick out of branding and gorgeous, easy-to-drink wines.


After our brief but engaging visit to La Purísima, we made our way to our next destination towards the Northeast of Murcia, arriving at Bodegas Señorío de Barahonda.

This grand building contains the winery, tasting room & restaurant.


Vinesleuth Amy C. Anderson Gross in a great photo op. 
I found myself taken aback by the warm greeting we encountered here at this sprawling, modern napa-inspired winery.  With a salute to our own United States of America (by flying the flags together as a symbol of friendship and respect for their visitors), it was a moving way to be welcomed by this proud family and staff. Although Señorío de Barahonda's collection of over twelve different wines sold under 5 different brands is impressive, it's bottles like their Barahonda Monastrell 2010Barahonda Crianza 2009 and the Carro Tinto 2012 that I really enjoyed.

The Barahonda family of wine.

Our vivacious host, Alfredo Candela Belda was thrilled to show us around the vineyards, educating us on the wines, the property, the restaurant and the family homestead, La Castañona...

Home sweet home.

Now that's what I call a doghouse.

Entrance to the homestead.

The luxurious pool- a rarity in the Spanish countryside. 

The freestanding family chapel sits within the garden walls of the main house. 

Not a bad view.
An irresistible photograph of the family dog.

Original cellar, below the family kitchen.
"This family company was established in 1925 by Pedro Candela Soriano and has been growing and evolving ever since, passing to Antonio Candela Garcia, then to Antonio Candela Poveda and nowadays to his two sons Antonio and Alfredo. The company began in a small bodega (cellar) which has expanded over time according to capacity and technological requirements and now boasts a second winemaking cellar. Today Bodegas Antonio Candela forms part of the family group which also encompasses Señorio de Barahonda as well as Viña de Aliagar, the company which manages the family estates."

Second floor dining room.

Simple, modern and elegant.

Great glass-etching detail in the restaurant windows.
One of the higlights of this visit for me, being a food blogger, was learning that Señorío Barahonda Restaurant exists amongst the rows of vines and acres of Monastrell dust.  With it's light-filled, ample dining room and classic Spanish menu, this romantic restaurant environment should be a destination for all wine-lovers exploring the Yecla region.  I wasn't able to dine at the restaurant during this visit, but viewing the menu and photographs of the dishes served definitely made me want to return for a meal with the hubbs.

It's hard to believe that these were just the first two wineries that we visited on our trip- after spending time with both parties, it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy a completely home-cooked, idyllic Spanish lunch with the fellas from Bodegas Castaño...

Just wait until you see the photos of our first gorgeous group picnic- stay tuned!

*All photos author's own taken 6/23/13