Following the Rueda Wine Trail, a historic route through the provinces of Valladolid and Ávila where the viticulture dates back to the 11th century, leads me this evening to Calle St. Maria, one of the main streets in the Medieval city of Tordesillas.
My destination is Bodega Muelas de Tordesillas, housed in a tall and narrow stone building dating back centuries where the two Muelas sisters—Helena Muelas Fernandez and Reyes Muelas Fernandez– continue running the winery started by their great, great grandfather.
“This is where we learned to make wine,” Helena tells us as she leads us down uneven steps cut out of rock to the first level of the vast cave like cellars that lie underneath the building. It is here, she tells me, where they’re aging their Alidobas Vino Blanca in casks of French Oak.
“This is very cry and crisp,” she says of the wine while we take a taste. “It was a very desert year in 2017, we had no rain which is why it has such a flavor as this.”
I like the taste and allow her to fill my glass once more. There’s a delicate light green cast to its yellow color that match its slight grassy aromas. It is amazing to me that the wines of the Rueda and nearby Ribera del Duero, two grape growing regions with harsh climates, produce such wonderful harvests of grapes. But, Helena explains, the hot summers and long cold winters create perfect growing conditions for varietals of the Verdejo grape.
As she talks, we navigate the stone steps further down into the cellars which ultimately some 60 feet underground. The walls are carved out of hard stone and I marvel at how difficult it must have been to hew the rock by hand which is how they did it back in the 1700s when the house was built. Each landing is stacked with barrels and wine bottles and each as a significance to Helena who talks about the vintage and the weather conditions the year they were bottled. The caves get darker, the light less bright the further down we go. On the next level, dust covers the exteriors of unlabeled bottles, vaulted tunnels disappear into darkness and iron grates protect rare vintages. We are descending into wine history and the history of a family who has dedicated themselves to making wine.
Now we’ve explored the depths of the cellars, we follow Helena through the shop and up to the second floor. Here, sunlight streams through the lace curtained windows. We’re in the tasting room where there’s a long table, large enough to hold us all. The cabinets and furniture look original, maybe even dating back to when the house was built which only adds to the charm. Helena passes tapas, those great small plates of Spanish food—who would know I would come to love potato salad sandwiches—and samples of their wines. There’s their Velay Vermouth made from 100% tempranillo, a 2008 Grand Reserve Muedra also from tempranillo grape (that and the Verdejo used for making white wine are the predominant grapes here), a semi-sweet Alidobas and a nice dry rose.
Their vineyards include the La Josa Estate where the Verdejo varietals are planted; their tempranillo are grown at La Almendrera estate, located in La Peña. At present their production is diversified.
“We make young white wines, white on lees and generous white; rosé wines; young and aged red,” says Helena.
The sisters are totally enthralled to be working in the old family business, in the old family home, using both their great, great grandfather’s wine recipes and developing their own. For those who want to learn some of the secrets of this venerable wine house, they offer several types of visits from tastings to an initiation into understanding the nuances of the wine.
That night, after we’ve said goodbye at the doorway and traveled back along the cobbled streets to the historic Parador Nacional de Turismo de Tordesillas, where we’re spending the night, the moon glows softly over the old stones and gardens, creating a dreamlike quality. Is it the past approaching? But then maybe it was the tempranillo.
For more information, visit rutadelvinoderueda.com