Romping in La Rioja Part 2 – October 3, 2009

It is a quick three minute walk from the hotel to the spot where the winery tour begins.  There are about a dozen of us and we are told that the tour will cover both the old and new sections of the winery.  We are told that the annual production of the winery is five million bottles.  Armed with this knowledge we begin our tour.

Our first stop is the spot where the current harvest is being deposited.  Tractor after tractor arrive, their trailing cart lade n with grapes.  They are unloaded into a very long stainless steel tub where a corkscrew mechanism separates stems and leaves from the grapes and, in the process the first gentle crush of the grapes begins the process.  In the newer part of the winery the fermenting grape juice will be held in stainless steel tanks and eventually transferred to oak barrels.  In their first year of fermentation in the barrel the wine will be transferred to a holding tank while the barrel is thoroughly washed out to remove any seeds and impurities that have settled to the bottom of the barrel.  This process will happen four times in the first year and two times per year thereafter.  We learn that the grapes go through a second pressing and the quality of that pressing varies greatly.  The initial flow is equal in quality to the first pressing, but there comes a point where the overall quality begins to degrade.  The resultant product is then sold off to other wineries.

We finish our tour with a visit to what is called The Cathedral.  It is here that bottles of wine from every vintage are kept, starting with the first product ever produced in the original winery.  Older bottles are never uncorked.  They superheat a pair of large tongs which is then placed around the neck of the bottle below the cork.  After the neck is superheated for several minutes, a paint brush that has been soaking in cold water traces the area above the tongs.  The resultant contrast between hot and cold cracks the glass above the tongs and the neck of the bottle is removed.  The process is a clean one and as a result there is no trace of degraded cork in the bottle that has been opened.

We learn that Frank Gehry was originally unwilling to undertake the project of building the hotel and that he was invited to the Cathedral where they opened several bottles of wine whose vintage was the same as his birth year.  He later agreed to undertake the project.  We further learn that the hotel sits above the Cathedra; and that the colors of the titanium and the stainless steel are a metaphor for the wine produced by the winery.  The purple titanium represents the red wine produced here.   The yellowish cast of the metal below the mesh netting in which all bottles produced by the winery are encased.  The stainless steel is emblematic of the clear color of the bottle that holds the wine.  We finish our tour with a sample of a red wine and a white wine that the winery produces.  We learn that the whites, which are produced from verdejo grapes that are grown in the region of Rueda.  We than our tour guides and we head back to the hotel to rest and relax.

At 8:30 we head out to the town of La Guardia where we stroll for a while and then find a small outdoor terrace and enjoy a plate of ham and a revuelto of scrambled eggs and butifarra.  It is so good that we order a second dish.  We then make our way back to the hotel and we call it a night.  We agree to meet at 10:00 the next morning for breakfast.  This has been one of the best days that I have ever spent in Spain!

bodega 1bodega 2bodegas 3bodega 3bodega 4bodega 5bodega 6bodega 7

Future owners of the winery?

Future owners of the winery?

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