The #Navarra5 team hit the ground running (not yet drinking) at the start of our first full day (09/19/11) in the great Kingdom of Navarra (Twitter, Facebook) with our trusty guide and F1 driver Michael “Miguel” Mantilla (ARGOS Wine Consulting/Kraynick & Associates, Inc.). Technically I ran the day before, through parts of the glorious and small city of Pamplona, capital of Navarra/Navarre and the setting of many a famous scene in the writings of their adopted son, Ernest Hemingway. I ran past some of his favorite haunts during that afternoon jog, past the tolling bells of the Church of San Lorenzo, and through the ruins of the Citadel. One of my favorite ways to get to know a new city, neighborhood or surrounding land is to take a run through it’s fresh splendor.
[Update 01/14/12: The first video from our trip can be seen below, filmed at the Palacio Real de Olite.]
We jetted South from Pamplona in our trusty Citroën towards to Olite on the AP-15 to get to our first stop of the Spanish morning. Navarra or Navarre, while it is its own nationally recognized Autonomous Region with its own government and special privileges from the federal government, it is also of course, a Denominación de Origen (DO) or federally recognized wine appellation. There we met with Jordi Roagout (Manager) and Pilar García-Granero (DO President), where the latter gave a great overview of the Navarra DO. The climate for Navarra is widely diverse across its 5 sub-regions, rather unusual for Spain. As such, they are able to grow a wide mix of both “continental varietals” such as Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay, as well as varietals that are considered more typical of Spain such as Tempranillo and that Garnacha. “Our climate and soils obligate us” to market all wines from here, Pilar said. As winegrowers and winemakers across Navarra have learned to merge their 2000 year history of grape cultivation along with modern farming and winemaking techniques, the resulting wines have changed dramatically in both style and content. Now Tempranillo is the dominant varietal overall, at 37%, with 5% being dry whites of mainly Chardonnay and the historically dominant rosado now comprising about 25% of the current production.
“A castle is for fighting. A palace is for living.” Javier, our guide at Palacio Real de Olite, had just started our super-fast tour of the Royal Palace and Castle at Olite, a beautiful and ancient stone city near the heart of Navarra and an internationally recognized World Heritage Site. Charles III (or Carlos) was the original builder of the Palace, and also the insigator of much of the newer building towards the end of his life. The whole complex is actually made up of 3 different eras of building, all of which were eventually burned and destroyed during the Napoleanic Wars, to try and dissuade the French legions from their continual plundering and occupation during those bellicose times.
Our first Bodega (winery) visit of the trip was the to the young and exciting Bodega Inurrieta (Facebook, WineLog). They are an estate-only winery and family owned. They planted the first of their 568 acres of vines in 1999, in a beautiful and tiny valley near the river Arga in the Navarra sub-region of Ribera Alta. We were initially greeted by the tall and jovial head of export sales, Jose Antonio Pellicer He gave us a brief tour of winery which was in full harvest swing, with all of the whites and about 1/3 of the reds already in from the vineyards. The Sauv Blanc, Cab Sauv, and Shiraz were all already in, with the Merlot having been harvested just the day before. With this small break in the action, we had the fortune of being joined by the head winemaker (Oenologist), Kepa Segastizabal. The warm and kindly Kepa was very engaging, and kept apologizing for his English. He was actually quite accomplished in our language however, and was able to lead us through our tasting with minimal help from Jose. The wines showed a lot of what I like from Spain, exhibiting great acidity, low amounts of new oak and despite the relatively young age of some of the vines, great savory characteristics as well, including a sense of place. This whole tasty package was wrapped in a ton of value for the quality. Indeed, the $12 2008 Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Norte was a lesson in QPRWK. My favorite wine of the day was a mind-opening experience about the impact that Graciano could have on this region. The 2005 Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Laderas de Inurrieta Reserva was a tremendous wine that even with its $40 US price, is still ridiculously under priced. Ripe black and red fruit, charred earth and tobacco and fine, medium powered tannins make this juicy wine a wonderful effort. Following this, we retired to the dining room on the property and had a delicious meal of locally grown cuisine, including the traditional Spanish dessert, Cuajada. We were shocked at the end to find out that our chef was none other than Bodega Inurrieta founder, José Antonio Arriola!
We headed over to Bodegas Ochoa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog), our next stop, while still happily digesting our multi-course lunch. Bodegas Ochoa is right down the road from the Palacio Real de Olite, which was probably quite handy once upon a time, considering that the family has produced wines since they were originally well-loved by Kings Charles II and Charles III. The Ochoa family has been crafting fine wines from their Navarran Estate in Olite for the last 6 centuries. The current patriarch of the family, Javier Ochoa Martínez, is still the Director of the Bodega and his wife remains the Cellar Master. The family run winery is completed by his winemaker daughter Adriana Ochoa and youngest daughter Beatriz Ochoa now handling the domestic and international marketing. We were met by the ebullient Beatriz and Pablo Aguirre, Sales Manager. While tasting through their wines and very enjoyable estate olive oil, we were briefly treated to a cameo by Javier, whose joyous playful demeanor is quite clearly where Beatriz gained her own. The wines from Ochoa were even fresher than Inurrieta, yet featured that same great mix of complex ripe fruits and underlying savory herbs, earth and tobacco. The wines were wonderfully light with their oak treatment and my palate was again delighted to find another fantastic Navarra Graciano. The 2007 Ochoa Navarra Serie 8a Mil Gracias Graciano, named for Javier’s penchant for signing documents with a simple “8a” (Ocho-a). It features a deep ruby and violet color, with another great mix of dark, ripe and juicy fruit, complemented beautifully by the white pepper and violet floral finish. The fine and chewier tannins add mouthfeel and even more pleasure. The 8a Mil Gracias Graciano, along with the great Inurrieta effort haunted me throughout the rest of the trip with their dark complexities and were two of my favorite wines for the entire week.
Following a short break we headed back out on foot from the beautiful Palacio Guandelain for a 9 o’clock dinner. The small 25 room hotel is clever mix of the original 18th century design and contemporary modern touches. Originally built by the Viceroy of New Granada, it was converted to a boutique modern luxury hotel and reopened in May of last year. We could not have had a more glamorous #Navarra5 HQ!
The stroll to the resto in the lightly cool Navarran night lasted only 10 minutes. We were joined by Conchi Biurrun, Manager for the Navarra DO. She led us to one of the nicest restaurants in Pamplona, called Enekorri. The restaurant is styled hyper-modern, with dark brushed steel and wood as the predominant features. One of the coolest ones is a basement wine cellar with a glass ceiling…ie, the floor that you walk upon! Our food was another exercise in amazing Navarran cuisine, but each plate was completed with a modern fusion twist: Way, way YUM. It was a brilliant end to our first full day in Navarra. Stay tuned for Day 2…
Our travels across Navarra and Bilbao were tagged in realtime on Twitter using the hashtag #Navarra5. The intro post in this series can be found earlier on Vinopanion. You can find all of the photos & videos from this fabulous trip to Navarra, Spain (Twitter, Facebook) (and a little in Basque Country) on my Flickr in their own set and tagged with “Navarra5“. All of my runs that I took (including getting lost!) are on my MapMyFitness, titled “Wines of Navarra“. Lastly and most importantly, all of the awesome wines that we had from our first day are listed below and all are tagged with “Navarra5” so that you can list them in your own WineLog. Cheers!
Wines from Bodega Inurrieta (Facebook, WineLog):
Color: lighter yellow, clear edges
Nose: Very tart gooseberry then an underlay of cream that is just starting to fill up.
Palate: Great tart and creamier grapefruit and gooseberry medley, zesty acidity with that cream caressing the mouth as well, light white florals in the finish, bit of lemon custard as well. Very good: NewWorldWK.
Color: Dark ruby, medium ruby core
Nose: Black and red fruit with sweeter tones to it and lightest oak.
Palate: Black flinty fruit here, stoic, then sweeter ripe cherry comes in the mid-palate, charred earth finish with balanced acidity and coating, fine tannins. Very good: QPRWK.
Color: Very dark almost inky ruby, med ruby edges
Nose: Dark fruit, earth and dust, very tight now.
Palate: Sweet and ripe black fruit, dry palate overall tho. Great charred fruit and tobacco here, with fine medium tannins, some blue fruit out into the juicy finish: AwesomeWK.
Wines from Bodegas Ochoa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog):
Color: Deeper violet and ruby core with ruby edges, violet highlights.
Nose: Great black fruit here, closed and dusty, with white pepper and deeper violet florals. Very nice.
Palate: Beautiful, with chewy, but not overly big tannins with some fineness. Juicy acidity complements the darkest fruit here, with anise and earthiness. White pepper closes it out with those violets again. Quite an effort: AwesomeWK.
Color: Medium to darker ruby with ruby edges.
Nose: More fruit than anticipated, of a complex red and black medley, but then some great savory herbs, meat and earth come in, mixed with loam and leather.
Palate: Quite good, with dry, very fine tannins, wonderful acidity and black and Bing cherry, mixed with drier black fruit and deep anise. Earth, loam and leather come in here, into the more savory finish. very good: OldWorldWK.
All of the wines from our trip to the Kingdom of Navarra (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog):