Lopez de Heredia: The Cellar

You guys. While in Rioja, I saw THE coolest most bad ass cellar EVER. In the history of bad ass cellars. If I was a Hollywood movie location scout, I would have hit some kind of Nicolas Cage lost treasure action film jackpot.

I’m talking about the amazing Lopez de Heredia in Haro (Rioja Alta). Built in 1877, it is the oldest winery in Haro and one of the first 3 wineries in all of Rioja. Their wines are some of my favorite in all of Spain. I feel like I time travel when I drink them. And I kinda felt the same way when walking around the winery.

Above ground are the fermentation vats (huge, very old oak containers) and the coopery where they make their own barrels…

Below ground is where shit gets real. The most crazy thing about it all? The black penicillin mold that is growing everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I’m still not sure if that is a good thing or not? Cellar workers are down there for several hours every day, some of them 20 or 30 years, and they seem to be fine.

The next time I get a sinus infection, I know where I’m headed!

The extremely long tunnels where most of the barrels are kept, the oldest part of the cellar, were dug with pick axes! By hand! Insane. I seem to not have a picture of this particular thing. Apologies. But here is a picture from the Lopez de Heredia website.

How cool would it have been to spend Halloween in this place? We missed it by 3 days…

I loved how they use old school bungs (and muslin, at times) to close the barrel holes and not the newfangled plastic ones.

This is the “Bodega de Reservas” where wines from outstanding vintages are bottled and kept to age to Gran Reserva status. Since 1890, they have declared a wine Gran Reserva worthy only 22 times.

The mold that grows on the bottles helps protect them and create a constant level of humidity.

If you needed to know only 3 basic bits of info about Heredia, this is what you should know:

  • Everything is estate bottled (their own vineyards) and each wine is single vineyard. The vineyards: Cubillo, Tondonia, Bosconia and Gravonia. Grapes grown: tempranillo, garnacha, mazuelo, graciano, viura and malvasia.
  • As is true for a lot of Rioja bodegas, they wait a long ass time to release their wines. Much longer than the Reserva and Gran Reserva regulations stipulate. For example, the current release of their 2 Crianza level wines (minimum of only 12 months aging) are 2002 and 2005.
  • All fermentation is spontaneous and executed without commercial yeasts and they never use new oak barrels for aging. The new barrels coming out of their coopery get primed with skins and lees leftover from fermentation for a few harvests before using.

Don’t worry, it’s not all cobwebs and mold and dark tunnels. This is where you end up after walking down the long barrel chamber- the Ebro River. All serene and Autumnal.

Does seeing the cellar make you want you excited to drink the wine? Or scared? I hope it’s not the latter!

  • Jenna
    November 15, 2011

    L O V E LdH. Did Lydia give you the tour? You got some great photos… it was so hard to get good pics in that lighting, but luckily, it was completely unforgettable!

    • whit
      November 15, 2011

      Lydia had a death in the family, so she wasn’t there 🙁

      but it was amazing. definitely unforgettable!

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