Day 3 Galicia: On the way to Ribeira Sacra
We’ve been blessed with glorious spring weather so far. The rain that I feared might mar our tour hasn’t appeared. All this made the 4 visits planned for today all the more enjoyable. And what visits!
First we started at Guímaro, owned by Pedro Rodriguez Pérez. Pedro likes to consider himself a rebel
and go against the grain. He uses the Galicia wine guru, Raul Perez, as a consultant and partner in another venture.
It’s a medium sized winery producing 150-180,000 bottles annually. The property has been in his family since 1880 but it was 27 years ago that his father started wine production and reclaiming the spectacular abandoned terraces along the Sil River.
The winery is another impossible to find destination. Our driver had been there once before which was great because even a GPS wouldn’t get us to this isolated place. I guess they don’t want to spend the money on signs, or maybe they only want to control how many people visit the winery.
What a way to start the day: 21 wines at Guímaro alone! The winery produces 2 whites and 6 reds. Pedro believes the future of this area will be its red wines.
First we started with tank samples since Pedro thought wine lovers such as us would appreciate tasting the evolution of the wine: 2018 Blanco, 70% Godello and the rest a blend of Treixadura,Albariño,, Torrents, and Loureiro, with distinct yeastiness, very crisp with pronounced acidity; Blanco 2018, a blend of Godello (70%), Donna Blanca and Treixadura, the wine spent 24 hours in cold maceration which gave it a deep yellow hue; fermented in barrels and stayed on its lees for 8 months;
Other tank samples: Red 2018, his entry level Mencia (80%) with 8 other varieties in the blend which Pedro referred to as tutti-frutti, 70% came from the Sil Valley and 30% from Minho Valley, typical Guímaro style of fruit forward wines; Guîmaro Camino Real 2018, from 50 year old vines, 80% Mencia and the rest ‘tutti fruitti’, aged in big barrels with 45 day cold maceration and aged in different sized barrels, great cherry aromas and flavor; Guímaro A Ponte 2018 using 5 varieties, mostly Mencia, 100% stems, whole cluster fermentation, pressed by foot, 6-8 months in barrels, only 3,000 bottles made; Pombeiras 2018, the word is Gallego for dove, again 100% stems, 75% Mencia and the rest ‘tutti fruity, fermented whole clusters for 45 days, 10-12 months in 8 year old barrels; Finca Meixeman 2018, 75% Mencia from a 70 year old vineyard, cold maceration with 50% in big barrels and 50% in small barrels; Finca Capeliños 2018, 75% Mencia and the rest ‘tutti fruity ‘ from 100 year old vines, 55% stems retained, deep red color and soft tannins.
Then we started the tasting of bottled wines: Blanco 2017, same composition as the tank sample, but rounder, smoother, reduced acidity; Red 2018, improved from the tank sample because of the bottle aging ; Camino Real 2017; Finca Meixeman 2017, soft tannins, smoky; Finca Pombeiras 2017, still noticeable tannins, dark color and lingering taste; A Ponte 2017; our last wine was an experiment : a fortified Mencia and Alicante Bouchet, a dual effort with the Nieport Port House.
This is a winery to search out.
Our lunch visit was at Adega Algueira, where we were met by the dynamic son Fabio Perez. His father started the winery 40 years ago, reclaiming some of the many abandoned terraces along the spectacular Sil Valley. This is a slow, laborious and costly process and supposedly there are still 95% more abandoned terraces to reclaim, some dating back 2,000 years to Roman times who first started cultivating grapes.
The winery produces about 100,000 bottles, depending on the weather. Some Summers (2017) temps reached 117 F, and in 2016, a devastating hail storm.
The winery has 75 acres and 15 different grape varieties from which they make 16 wines. Their high end wines are still foot stomped and reds are 80% of their production. They use old barrels to avoid the influence of wood flavor.
Our tasting featured 6 wines: Brandán 2018, 100% Godello, tropical fruit flavors, pronounced acidity. (We learned they plant whites on the quartz soil and reds on slate); Escalada 2017, single vineyard Godello, this wine from a different area than Brandán was noticeably different, pale green, more citrus aroma, fermented and aged in barrels 1 year on lees, round and complex; Mencia Joven 2018, this is their cash cow wine, fresh light, cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors, easy to drink, 75% of their production; Pizarra 2015, Gallego word for slate, a single vineyard, from vines his father planted 40 years ago on a steep almost vertical slope, foot stomped , 100% Mencia and only 1500 bottles, with soft tannins and good structure; Pizarra 2012, more vegetal, still noticeable soft tannins; Serradelo 2015 (in Gallego the grape is called Brancellao), similar to Pinot Noir, smoky aroma, dark berry, soft tannins.(Fabio thinks the Brancellao has more potential than Mencia); Castagaia 2014, from another local grape (there are 65 local varieties in Galicia), strong tannins, deep color, good clean finish, a wonderful wine.
We had a delightful lunch in their restaurant that featured pulpo (what else) and baked baby lamb. There were many compliments.
Our last winery visit (not our last visit) was to the modern winery of Regina Viarum with a production of 280,000 bottles. The name is Latin for ‘main road’ in deference to the Romans and the road that led to Rome and we tasted the following wines: Godello 2018, pale green, apple and herb aromas; Mencia 2017, serious dark berry aromas; Mencia Ecologico 2016, 6 months in oak, noticeable aromas of spices and cinnamon; Mencia 2015, 10 months in barrel, very tannic; El Capitano 2016, 18 months in barrel, 12 months in bottle.
After the tasting we went to the balcony for a spectacular view of the Sil Valley beneath us, before going to our last visit.
This was a cultural visit. We were greeted by Elias Prieto of Gundivós who has dedicated his life to preserving the heritage of his small town of 80 people. He restored a centuries old building where he and his family live. He also has continued the tradition of ceramic production and we watched as he glazed a small clay pot with pine resin. He is also making wine fermented in clay amphora like his ancestors did.
This was a great way to end a beautiful day before heading back to our parador hotel high up above Monforte.