The Krisses took an early summer trip to Spain. tBoW has selected from their notes and fotos for your reading pleasure. As usual, Kris-B is el voz and Kris-A is la fotografera. We join them after visiting Jerez and the Sherry region, traveling as the seagulls fly to San Sebastian and Basque country, and having arrived in La Rioja.
Lopez de Heredia: Our last full day in Rioja took us to the town of Haro, where traditional Rioja wine royalty is based. Lopez de Herediais the granddaddy of them all, founded in the late 1800s. We had few qualms about paying for a tour because a bottle of wine from their top vineyard is included in the cost [ed. tBoW is fond of LdH Vina Gravonia, a white wine]. We saw all their old barrel fermenters, traditional filters made out of bundles of grape vine stems(!), large old blending barrels (which are truly massive), and the half mile or so of tunnels where they store their wines aging in old barrels and in bottle. Lots of penicillin mold to help regulate humidity and spider webs to catch moths that eat corks. Lopez de Heredia’s “young” wine is released after five or six years. The youngest WHITE wine is released after 10 years. The reds are kept even longer. I think the most recent release of the Gran Reserva is from ’94. The rosé is even kept for ten years!
Gonzalo Gonzalo: Today was the day we’d been looking forward to. The day we meet Gonzalo Gonzalo. The winemaker who signs all his emails with “hiiihaaw.” The guy who films himself harvesting his grapes alone (a whole vineyard he harvests by himself!) with a handlebar mustache, throwing a cowboy hat in the air, all while rocking out. He could not possibly live up to our expectations, could he? After meeting in the town square we stopped by his little old aunt’s house to “pick up money.” She gave him about 30 euros, so not very much, making the stop seem like a weird one to make. He showed us the basement of her apartment/house, telling us it was built over a Roman road. Old Roman columns had been incorporated into the room’s architecture, which used to be a taberna. A poem had been translated from Spanish to Latin and painted on the wall.It basically said to go to the country side and enjoy life there, instead of working in the city. Gonzalo is featured in Alice Feiring’s book Naked Wine. His bodega is a noted party stop for winemakers and the fortunate few.
We made a stop at his tiny warehouse at the end of the street to pick up some wines and a copy of the book he wrote on the wine industry before walking to the old bodega. We sat down at the long table and started to taste some wines. He was not exactly the carefree guy he portrayed in his emails and videos. In between discussing the wines, he told us how his father was ill and in a wheelchair because of all the chemicals he had used growing his grapes. Gonzalo is 100% organic with his own wines. It seemed like the wine business was kind of depressing for him, as he said he’s more into growing herbal medicines for people who are sick and then mailing them the plants for free. He made it seem like making wine was not easy at all from a commercial sense. He explained there is always a black sheep in the family. I think he was talking about himself. Gonzalo Gonzalo is one complicated dude.
His wines were quite good. We had an old wine he calls Orgullo, which is probably 100% Viura. It was ten-years-old, the first white wine he ever made.It was very good. We compared it to the current vintage of white yeti, which is the same wine as the Orgullo, just younger. The white yeti was a bit thin but will likely become like the relatively weighty Orgullo in a few years. He makes a fairly standard Rioja (“Gran Cerdo,” named after the bankers who gave him problems early on) , which is quite good. A very fruity, but tasty, rosé (“Pink Kong”), an amarone style, and some crazy late harvest dessert wines. He found some old tempranillo of his father’s that he thinks rocks even though it was made from “toxic vines”. We tried another one of his dad’s old wines and an orange wine from Castilla Y Leon. He told us how he doesn’t drink that much anymore because his liver is in really bad condition. He loves jurançon dessert wine.
We then walked with him to the “new bodega”, built 30 years ago by his dad to house concrete wine vats. He quickly grabbed the wines we wanted to purchase from him. We asked him how much he wanted for the three wines and he deferred to us kind of sheepishly, saying he had no idea. We thought that 20 euros was a fair price given that he sells his wine wholesale for 1-2 euros and asked him for change for a fifty. He had exactly thirty euros on him (the money from his aunt), so it was meant to be.
tBoW here:What a lovely trip! Many thanks to Kris-B for sharing his travel notes. Many followup questions… to follow. tBoW recommends when traveling make it a wine tour. The only stops we like to add are castles which are often located in wine country. Let’s look at a Gonzalo Gonzalo video showing how he gets into the proper frame of mind for harvesting grapes. First job is to setup the turntable.