Rioja. The word alone conjures up images of Spain, of Tempranillo and Garnacha. I recently enjoyed a visit to Rioja and spent a magical day at Campo Viejo.
N:42°28’48” W:02°29’08” These numerals grace each label of Campo Viejo wine and show the winery’s latitude and longitude. Nestled in the heart of Rioja Alta in Logroño, Campo Viejo is a magnificent facility, world-class by any standard. After spending the morning with Vineyard Manager Mario Ezquerro, Chief Winemaker Elena Adell joined us at lunch. We sipped on Campo Viejo wines including a crisp Tempranillo Rosé and a Cava Brut Reserva. Elena has been with Campo Viejo now for 30 years, and her love for what she does shines through in every word she speaks. She trusts Mario to present her with exceptional fruit and then does her part to make sure it’s transformed into outstanding wines.
The numbers are mind-numbing. 140 gargantuan stainless steel tanks. 70,000 oak barrels. 6,000,000 bottles. In the end, however, the quality shines through. This is no low-end bulk wine. It’s meticulously crafted and delicious. Elena’s “experimental” winery would be the envy of many winemakers. It’s here she works with some of the newer, lesser-known varietals like Tempranillo Blanco and finds out what makes them sing.
Campo Viejo began in 1959 and today resides at its third site. The present-day winery was the joint vision of winemaker Elena along with architect Ignacio Quemada and Director of Operations Fernando Pozo. Opened in 2001, the goal from the start was to build an underground winery. It allows them to work with gravity and to use time-honored methods of winemaking. They wanted a winery that used sustainable practices and integrated with the landscape and the terroir.
The winery features two main areas, one for operations such as fermentation and blending, the other for barrel and bottle aging. Elena and her team are highly conscious of the environment and make sure the winery meets or exceeds every standard for emissions. Water is re-used for irrigation. The goal is to have a completely sustainable winery.
We wrapped up our winery visit with a blending project. Elena gave us each a barrel sample of 2014 Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano and challenged us to create our own blend. I went with 65% Tempranillo, 25% Mazuelo and 10% Graciano. I thought it was pretty tasty and Elena gave it a thumbs up, too. We left Campo Viejo and met a few hours later at La Galeria in Lagroño for an astoundingly good dinner accompanied by an array of Campo Viejo wines. The grand finalé was a bottle of 1964 Reserva Crianza. The more than 50 year-old wine has more than stood the test of time.
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.