Ronda, Spain Bodega Visit – Guest Post by- Keith J. Pignataro (10/2010)

During a recent holiday trip to Marbella, Spain, with my family, I had the wonderful pleasure of enjoying a private tour of an Old World vineyard, even though the vineyard itself would be considered very young (less than 10 years old) by old world standards.

Located approximately 60 kilometers directly north of Marbella (at a latitude of 36˚ ) in the Sierra Ronda lies the Joaquin Fernandez Bodega – Finca Los Frutales (“fruit farm”), a 4ha vineyard surrounded by no less than 60 varieties of fruit trees – an essential part of this organically farmed vineyard – and at an altitude of 600 meters above sea level. We were lucky enough to have a very experienced, native-born tour guide who adeptly navigated the dangerous mountain roads and terrain, and safely delivered us to our vineyard paradise. The location of Finca Los Frutales vineyard offers the perfect backdrop for guided tours and tastings.

We were given an insider’s look at the bodegas extensive operations from its organic farming practices to its ultra modern vinification capabilities. Later, we comfortably enjoyed the fruits of their labor by tasting the wonderful wines (mostly blends) of this quaint bodega accompanied by traditional tapas including local olives, Manchego cheese, and chorizo. The vineyard cultivates four varieties- Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Garnacha – for winemaking. The wines are made in the traditional ‘Igualado’ (balanced) method of wine fusion. I found them to be quite approachable, offering subtle hints of coffee and red fruits.

Having the opportunity to see all this up close made me realize the dedication, hard work and passion required to make a great wine. The best part of the adventure for me personally, however, was the one-on-one time I spent with the vineyard manager. He was kind and patient enough to answer all the technical questions posed, and in a way that made me feel at as though I were part of a special fraternity. If it weren’t for family, I might still be there – it was that much fun!
Technical Notes: The crop has a north-south orientation that is particularly important on the farm. The plants are illuminated by the morning sun on the east side and in the afternoon from the West, while at the same time the grapes are protected from sunburn at noon by a carefully managed canopy. The soils are free standing, loose gravel over clay and sand, which are ideal for viticulture, and can being observed in the personality of their wines. With regard to climate, the vineyard lies on a south-facing slope, so it gets sunlight all day while the cold air moves to the lowlands where the river flows.

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