I was full of anticipation as we neared the winery. Our itinerary had us spending the morning with Vineyard Manager Mario Ezquerro followed by lunch and then an afternoon with Chief Winemaker Elena Adell. Mario is clearly passionate about his work. Through a translator, he told us the winery sources 90% of its grapes. They have 64,000 hectares (about 160,000 acres) under contract with 800 growers. Mario explained that with so many growers, it’s critical they share the same vision. It’s simple. If the grapes don’t meet his strict standards, he won’t buy them. Rioja is broken up into three regions; Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa and Campo Viejo has grapes planted in all three regions, each posing unique growing conditions.
There’s an experimental vineyard at Campo Viejo with all of Rioja’s grape varieties including Garnacha, Tempranillo, Viura, Graciano and Mazuelo planted there. Ezquerro is able to see how the grapes respond to different growing techniques and share his finding with the growers he has across Rioja. Tempranillo Blanco and Garnacha Blanca are relatively new varieties and Campo Viejo has them planted in all three regions to see where they thrive. If you take a close look at the vines, you’ll see a small red ribbon on every fourth vine. They release pheromones that confuse butterflies and keep them from laying their eggs on the vines. It’s just one of many innovative techniques that Campo Viejo employs. He an avid learner, always looking for better growing techniques.
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701! Ask about special discounts.