Our Vail Farmers’ Market wine tasting today will feature organic Spanish wines from Old World Imports! Our tasting will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the Cellar at Grappa Fine Wines & Spirits. This tasting is free and open to the public. No one under the age of 21 will be admitted. Please have valid identification.
“Cantayano” from Manuel y Isaac Cantalapiedra will provide introduction to Rueda and Verdejo.
The gentle, rolling hills of Rueda lay claim to being the ancestral home of the noble Verdejo grape. Prized for its firm structure, complexity, and ability to transmit the limestone minerality of the Rueda soils, Verdejo produces one of Spain’s most distinctive white wines…as long as it is farmed well and carefully vinified. Unfortunately in the last decade, producers large and small have adopted a very modern vision of Rueda, with the intention of producing white wines geared toward the international market. High yields, machine harvesting, selected yeasts, cold fermentation, heavy filtration, and copious amounts of sulfur have become standard winemaking practices. This monolithic mentality has left many artisanal-minded producers striving to produce authentic, terroir-driven Verdejo wines shut out of the Rueda D.O., working under the broader Castilla y León umbrella. Thankfully, deep respect for the land and non-interventionist winemaking shows in a finished wine regardless of appellation approval. Let us introduce to you the father and son team of Manuel and Isaac Cantalapiedra, two of Verdejo’s vanguard working in Rueda.
The Cantalapiedras descend from several generations of winegrowers working in the municipality of La Seca. This dusty town of 1,000 people, half an hour southwest of the industrial center of Valladolid, is considered to be the heart of the Rueda appellation, with a disproportionate number of well-known producers calling it home. Although there are records of the Cantalapiedras’ grape-growing dating to the 19th century, the birth of the current estate can be traced directly to the year 1949, when patriarch Heliodoro planted his first vineyard plot, or majuelo, at the tender age of 15. For many years, Heliodoro’s son Isaac worked alongside him, and together they have built a 20 hectare domaine that is now certified organic. In the past they sold the bulk of their grape production to larger producers in the area. It is with the third generation – Helio has since passed away and Isaac’s son Manuel has joined – that the family has established a small cellar of their own, bottling their first vintage in 2014.
Being farmers first, they strive to go beyond organic, and incorporate many biodynamic practices into their viticulture. Their grapes are oftentimes harvested later than other producers in the region, with about 7 hectares of their fruit vinified by the Cantalapiedras, while the rest is sold to the old relationships of the family. In the cellar, Manuel utilizes wild yeasts for fermentation, minimal amounts of sulfur, and no other additions. They produce a wide range of wines, from their entry-level village wine called Cantayano, to the more soil-driven, single plot wine called Majuelo del Chivitero, to flor-aged wines (historically traditional for the region), as well as skin-contact and pét-nats with no added SO2. These are winegrowers who promise to be dynamic and forward thinking. Given the excellent quality of the wines right out of the gate, we are beyond excited to see what the future holds for Manuel and Isaac Cantalapiedra.
Akutain is another producer in the vanguard of Spanish wine making. Their story begins over four decades ago, when Rioja’s storied estates were consistently producing Spain’s most highly sought-after wines. At this time, Juan Peñagaricano Akutain was an engineer in nearby Basque Country, working for a company that sold cooling units to wineries. Juan developed personal relationships with many Rioja bodegas and spent time tasting and learning in the region, most notably in the cellars of two of the great traditionalists of yesteryear – CVNE and La Rioja Alta. These experiences gave him the confidence to plant his first vineyard in 1975, located 5km west of Haro at Rioja’s epicenter. With a desire to work in the chateau style, Juan acquired a horse stable adjacent to the vineyard and converted it into a small bodega. Akutain has been making wine here in this small but highly functional bodega ever since, with the goal being “to control the whole process from vineyard to bottle.” They strive to produce wines in the traditional style set forth by the Grand Bodegas, but on a much smaller scale, and most importantly to singularly reflect the wind-swept, high elevation terruño of Rioja Alta.
Today the property is comprised of 6.5 hectares of four distinct vineyard plots, all estate-owned and located in the Rioja Alta subzone, ranging from 25 to 40 years of age.
Juan’s son, the young and ambitious Jon Peñagaricano, is now handling the day-to-day operations. Before coming back to the estate, Jon worked for 7 years as an export manager for a vineyard equipment company. In his youth, Jon spent as much time in the vineyards and winery as he could – pruning vines, cleaning barrels, bottling, labeling, etc. These days, Jon is leading the estate into the 21st century. Akutain has begun converting their highest elevation vineyard, Gembres, to organic viticulture, with the rest of the estate following suit. In 2015 Akutain made its first cosecha wine, as well as their first cask-aged rosado, a wine that reminds us of the great Rioja roses of yesteryear.
Harvesting is by hand, all fermentations are with natural yeasts in fiberglass vats (with no temperature control), and all aging is in used American oak. Due to the small size of the cellar, they do not rack the wine from barrel to barrel, but rather decant the wine periodically out and then back into the same barrel. They bottle age for a significant amount of time in natural caves that the Akutains built under the first vineyard they planted back in 1975. This is traditional Grower Rioja at its best!