Wining, dining and traveling in Castilla y León in Spain

Northern Spain in Castilla y León verified again why the area is so popular with traveling people. Sunshine, beautiful and variable landscape, cultural heritage, buildings, tasteful food and vintage time with wines revealed their best sides to travel agents and journalists on their gastronomy and grape harvest tour in Ávila, Valladolid, Peñafiel and Segovia.
Wine in one the positive necessities that one must experience when travelling in Spain. Diversity, earthiness and softness of Spanish wines are familiar to wine lovers and as well as their quality. Travel agents from Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany and Italy both journalists from USA and Finland had great opportunity to get first hand and newest information about the wine culture and business in Castilla y León and forward it to the travelers.

Harvest time, when grapes are picked, is one of the best opportunities to familiarize wines and viticulture.

Rafael “Rafa” Mancebo Fernández is real and rural winemaker and heart of Garnacha Alto Alberche 7 Navas wines. He tells in a lively manner about the background of their wines. Rafael sums up that eleven people, Navaluenga friends, gathered around an idea that haunted them and they could not allow to happen, to lose their old and wonderful vineyards high Alberche Valley. So they started the work together and have made their wines since 2005.

The winery represents the quality and rural side of Castillo y León wines. Their top wine is 7 Navas Finca Faustina 2008 that comes from grapes that have been picked from vines more that 85 years old at 1100 m above sea level.

Abadia Retuerta winery represents another side of winemaking and total thoroughness. The philosophy is based on making quality wines that reflect the personality of each individual plot/terroir/microterroir. Their aim is to produce terroir wine (vino de pago). Abadias Retuerta’s mission is to be more than on winery, and their goals are hence in a top-level wine tourism. Tourist agents could get a glimpse of that during Land River drive around the vineyards.

What would be a wine trip without a tasting! Here passengers are concentrating to Abadia Retuerta’s quality wines.

One of the highlights of wine tourism is making your own wine. It all starts besides the vines by getting the right equipments, like aprons, cloves, cutters, goggles, hat and basket.

The result is a jug full of red wine juice, firstly sweet but having promising potential alcohol level of 13.5 %.

Food is mandatory in Spain. Nothing goes forward if it is not included. Not to speak about the unforgettable tastes of different dishes. During their gastronomy and grape harvest tour in Castilla y León travelers run into all kinds of meals that were beautifully displayed, traditional, plain and very delicious.

A proper start for a day, among others, is a small bit of Spanish Tortilla de Patatas, à la Paradores Hotel in Ávila. 

Restaurante Puerta de La Reina, La Granja, represents a true and high class place to have a traditional Spanish lunch. The first dish as an appetizer shows how real tastes and setups can be enjoyed with eyes and mouth. Tasting portions on a tray contains Cheese from the Region, Traditional Beans Stew, Scrambled Eggs with Black Pudding from Cantimpalos (Revuelto), Marinated Pintail Salad.

When it is time for main dish and meat is chosen, Roast Suckling Pig, Cochinillo Asado, is primus inter pares. It is one of the most typical dishes in the cuisine of Castilla y León, especially in the city of Segovia. The tenderness of the roast pig is one of the main characters of the dish. Many times that can be seen when chef cuts the pig with plate! Piglet is served on a large platter with roast or fried potatoes and a simple green salad. Simple and tasty.

Traveling unites people and places.  One of the attractions of travelling is to visit new places and thus familiarize its culture, economy, nature, habits and people. Castilla y León and its sights give opportunities to get in touch with World Heritage Cities like Ávila, Salamanca and Segovia and small other cities, like Peñafiel and small villages. 

The landscape of Castilla y León gives the impression that most people have from Northern Spain, space, sand, fields, picturesque old brick houses in a village.

Peñafiel is a small town in Valladolid Province, autonomous community of Castilla y León. Best it is known for the Peñafiel Castle and for its medieval square used for bullfights and named El Coso Square, Plaza del Coso. The square is surrounded by private homes. Since medieval times the town owns the rights to use and auction their windows, balconies and doorways during bullfights.

Yemas de Santa Teresa is a sweet pastry that is one of the specialties in province of Ávila. They are small orange balls that are made of egg yolk and covered with sugar. The fluent and competent cooperation with two artisans represents one small part of the manufacturing tradition in Castilla y León area.

Nowadays modern and developing wineries want to broaden their concepts including other activities to their services. Arzuaga Navarro winery has very ambitious and vivid approach to their business-idea. With wines they combine Tinto Fino grapes with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the result of fabulous wines. The Arzuaga estate itself has vineyards also located next to their Plant "La Planta", that is game reserve of wild boars and deers. Arzuaga organizes private wine tours for individuals and very small groups, where they visit the winery, cellars and take a short "safari" tour to the game reserve.

The province of Segovia is a good example about the vast and rich cultural and industrial heritage that the area possesses. Handicratfs are produced in many work places. That tradition can be seen in the Glass Factory that dates back to the Middle Ages. Still to day older and skillful master watch how a younger journeyman succeeds.

Segovia was declared as a World Heritage City in 1985. In the middle of the city rises the Roman Aqueduct that gives its contribution to the historical city and rich monuments. Aqueduct rises up to 29 meters high and is one of the largest and best remained constructions from the Roman Empire from the first century.

Text and Photos: Heikki Remes

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