You never know if a visit with a winemaker or to a winery will end up being thrilling or a snoozefest or somewhere in between. It’s usually the latter. But, SOMETIMES and usually with every big trip I’ve taken, there’s always that one visit that defines the whole thing. The one that you’ll laugh about the next day while recounting all the crazy things that happened, daydream about a month later when you’re stuck in traffic…
That visit was with Peciña. It began at 10:00 AM and ended around midnight? 1:00 AM? Who knows. We were too busy having a good time.
We arrived to the winery and met Pedro Peciña and Mikel Martinez (export manager and Pedro’s best childhood friend). They showed us around the winery and explained their process; native yeasts, mostly older barrels, as little sulfites added as possible, no fining or filtering. Good Rioja wine, that can age well. Simple. We headed upstairs to their small dining room meets tasting room and a table was set with linens, plates of jamon…and every wine they made.
Two different styles of white, 2010 Cosecha, 2005 Crianza, 2001 Reserva, 2001 Gran Reserva, 2001 Harvest Selection and a few more.
Being able to taste a winemaker’s entire lineup of offerings is THE best way to really understand the personality and style of the house. Throw in some older vintages of a few things and you’ve got yourself an ideal tasting. But, a visit for me and Christina is not complete (or ideal) if we can’t also see the vineyards. This is key. It gives a sense of place and a true understanding of where it all begins.
Mikel and Pedro drove us to their lowest and highest vineyards. Being able to walk the rows and see the landscape of the area and surrounding land by foot and by car is the way a place really gets stuck in my brain and my visual memory…and my tasting memory too.
We picked a forgotten tempranillo bunch from the vine for a taste and spied some vines of white viura hidden within the rows. Their bright yellow-green leaves gave away their identity, as the tempranillo leaves were all golden orange and red.
Their El Codo vineyard was impressive; a beautiful, neverending slope.
We finished taking in the sights and got back in the car. We had to get to lunch! That’s right. The boys had made reservations at a fantastic spot loved by locals and winemakers in the area called Alameda, in the town of Fuenmayor. We would eat local and seasonal specialties and drink one of their older vintages- the 1998 Gran Reserva. OK…if we must.
Zucchini soup with fried jamon and olive oil, croquetas filled with- you guessed it- jamon and bechamel, warm and tender artichoke in a puddle of olive oil and topped with slivers of fried garlic and crispy bits of jamon…
And then- enter STEAK HEAVEN. Presented with the bone and all its glorious, blistered fat.
Add the ’98 Gran Reserva and you’ve got what would be one of the best food and wine pairings Christina and I have ever had.
Could the day get any better? Yes- why, yes it could!
Did we want to go to the “Balcony of Rioja”? OK!! So we drove up and up and up until we got to see this.
And then we hiked up the rest of the way on foot to the tippy top. We caught our breaths and realized we were thirsty. We should get a beverage. What kind of beverage? Gin and tonics. Or rather “yin and toneeks.” Back in the car we went to drive to Vitoria, which was technically in nearby Basque country, for a bit of tapas and drinks.
We talked about natural wine, the use of sulfites and their importance, crazy winemakers, travel, family, oak, Rioja, tradition…We ate horse meatballs, drank mediocre red wine, ordered beers in Basque…sang a Katy Perry song, of all things, at the top of our lungs on the drive home.
Needless to say, I think we can all say we made some new friends.
And I learned a hell of a lot more about Rioja than by sitting in a room sipping and spitting some wines and looking at maps. Lucky me. Lucky me, for sure.