Thursday, October 25, 2012
It is overcast and the forecast calls for showers. The good news is that there is no grand plan for today and the rain will not get in the way of anything that we end up doing. There is a meeting of the veteranos this evening and I will most likely get there by cab.
Brian had been talking about taking an excursion one day to one of the nearby wineries and it turned out that yesterday was excursion day. Our destination was the Hoya de Cadenas winery located in the nearby town of Utiel. It is less than sixty miles away from the center of Valencia and when Brian came by at 10:45 we hopped in the car and off we went.
As you begin the journey on the main highway that eventually will take you to Madrid the scenery is cluttered and, frankly, quite ugly. However, once you get past the town of Buñol and its cement plant, the quality of the scenery vastly improves. Yesterday the contrast between the green of the younger vines and the red of the older vines was striking. There was an abundance of olive trees, also. When we exited the highway, we made our way through the small town of Utiel and ten minutes later we were pulling into the parking lot.
The winery has a daily tour at noon and there is a train – similar to the ones that you see in an amusement park – and it takes you through the vineyards to what were once the original site of the winery and the home of its owner. The house is now used for receptions and private parties and it would be and is an ideal site for an outdoor wedding. Given the fact that parties take place there some elements of the house have been modernized, but there are many of the older features that are still in place. What was once the bodega where the wine was stored and aged is now a museum and there is a display of oak wine barrels that have been decorated by various artists and those decorated wine barrels have been turned into labels for one of the seven different brands the winery produces.
The name of the winery – Hoya de Cadenas – translates as the valley of chains and it is so named because the original stoop labor that harvested the mature grapes were prisoners who were granted their freedom after the harvest was over. Today everything is mechanized and machines do the harvesting and every single vine is connected to an irrigation tube that controls the amount of water that each vine gets.
After our visit to the old winery, we returned through the fields to the 21st century version. As we stood in the midst of enormous steel tanks the process of wine making was explained to us. As one would expect in this day and age, any winery producing millions of bottle of wine per year is highly mechanized and controlled by computers that can make large or small adjustments to the process in less that a second. Our next stop took us down eight flights of stairs to the room where the wine is aged in barrels. Our guide explained that for this winery any wine that has been aged in oak for six moths is labeled crianza and the denomination of reserva is for those wines that have been aged for a year in oak. Ninety percent of the barrels are American oak and French oak makes up the other ten percent.
Our next stop was the tasting room where we tasted a cava, a red wine and a dessert wine. Some of the brands of this winery are El Miracle – a blended wine – Hoya de Cadenas – a brand widely available in the States – BO – a wine made from the bobal grape, which is indigenous to the Valencia Community and Ceremonia, which is one of their upscale wines. None of the wine is bottled on site, but rather the bottling happens in the nearby town of Chiva where all the offices of the winery are located.
There were about a dozen of us on this tour and we climbed the eight flights back up to the store and parking area. It was a bit more challenging with some wine coursing through your veins. There were a number of wines on sale and, in some cases, if you bought two half cases of a certain wine you got a third half case for free. The three of us ended up buying nine bottle of wine and because the total of our purchase exceeded 70 Euros, Brian’s admission and one of our admissions was refunded. The nine bottles of wine ended up costing us 62 Euros. In addition, Susan was given a small bottle of a very excellent olive oil and all three of us were given a very fancy wine opener.
We put out purchases in the trunk of Brian’s car and then headed for the nearby town of Requena in search of some lunch. Our first choice turned out to be closed on Tuesday, so we headed back to the center of town and made our way to the Mesón del Vino. After studying the menu, we all decided to order from the menu of the day. Brian and I started off with a scramble that was made with spinach, garlic and a touch of anchovy. Susan began her meal with garlic soup. Susan and I chose lamb chops for our entrée and Brian opted for some sausages that had been cooked in wine. French fries and a roasted red pepper accompanied the entrees. We enjoyed a bottle of red wine, as well as a bottle of mineral water. My dessert was an almond ice cream, Brian had natillas and Susan had a slice of melon. I was the only one who had coffee. Our bill for the meal was 52.50 Euros. Everything was tasty, simply prepared and of good quality.
Before we got back in the car we divided up the wine so that there would be no hassle when Brian dropped us off at the house. We were back in the house a little before 5:00 and that is where we stayed for most of the rest of the day. We did go out at 8:30 for a drink and a nibble, but we were back in the house by 9:30. The rest of the evening was uneventful and we were in bed a little before midnight.