Everything about Chozas Carrascal exuded heat, literally and figuratively. It was 37o C in early June, but only the vines were standing up to the blazing sun. While we conversed in the cool of the shaded patio and main house, I felt the passion the family had for their vineyard and business, and their natural warmth towards guests.
Chozas Carrascal is a family effort which began about 17 years ago when the Lopez-Peidro family purchased forty hectares of land in San Antonio Requena. They dedicated eleven years to planting and cultivating before deeming the grapes good enough to offer under the Chozas Carrascal name. Their patience and care have begun to pay off – Las Tres, their blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and macabeo, was a finalist in a sommelier competition (La Nariz de Oro 2009); Las Dosces, their young red, and Las Cuatro, their young rose, have been listed as two of the best Spanish wines (Guia de Los 300 Mejores Vinos de Espana, 2008-9, Vino y Cata Magazine). Their attention to detail is evident on the grounds of the vineyard and winery, from the rose bushes planted at the end of each row of vines, to the sparkling cleanliness of each room used in the winemaking process.
Their main house, tasting room and cellar are also enhanced with several stylistic features and details – a beautiful chandelier lights the way to their cellar, bottle corks are playfully set into the restroom flooring, and a tour of the partially excavated old wine cellar beneath the house highlights the rich history behind the land. Their cabernet franc is an example of the family’s labor of love and attention to detail. Each bottle is signed by Julian Lopez or his wife, numbered by Julian’s father, and hand labeled by his children.
During my visit I met most of the members of the team, or family, and quickly saw how uniformly motivated they are by their love for Chozas Carrascal. Julian Lopez, owner and manager of the business, was clearly energized by the subject of the vineyard and his plans for the future of the business. Pieter Whaley, their export manager, translated Julian’s quick words and added his own serious sense of enthusiasm. Francesc Giron, or Xesco as he is affectionately called, is the winemaker and answered all our technical questions with good cheer. (The family was proud to tell us that Xesco is also the author of a winemaking manual, “Credenciales de Chozas Carrascal”.) And as Julian is the head of the business, Maria Jose Lopez Peidro, Julian’s daughter and marketing manager, may be its heart. She was our tireless hostess and guide, and passionate about the family’s efforts and her own individual studies to obtain an advanced degree in oenology.
During my visit I met an important guest of the winery’s, Bernadette Gerth of Qualyvines. A Dutch importer of niche and “unusual” wines, she was making her first trip to Chozas Carrascal with her team of interns and half-jokingly making large reservations for several of the wines. Aside from the importance of the quality of the wine, both the family and Bernadette emphasized the importance of the quality of their relationship. Julian is focused on developing longer term relationships with distributors that are also emotionally invested in the winery. Bernadette looks for quality, “different” wines with “style”, but also only partners with wineries that are interested in helping her promote their wines in the Netherlands. The pair met two years ago at the Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Spanish Cellar now named Buyer meets Iberian Cellar for 2010 – a match made in wine heaven, you could say perhaps.
We had the option of trying the wines with a light repast in the airy tasting room or charming outdoor courtyard. After touring the house, enjoying the wines and light conversation, and leisurely dipping our toes in the pool, we were on our way back to Valencia. We discovered that Maria, a young and native Valencian, is an authority on local information and city hot spots. Sadly, we didn’t have time to try her recommendations for sights and nightlife, but my friend and I enjoyed a great paella negro at one of her favorite paella restaurants.
Luckily, for those of us in the States, Chozas Carrascal’s wines are available in a few specialty shops and restaurants (i.e. Jean Georges in New York City)!
Visits are 5 euros per person, and includes a tour of the vineyard, the winery, the main house, wine tasting and light (Valencian) refreshments. You’ll want to allot at least two hours to view and enjoy the premises, wine and company.
Anne Shih. Wine Travel Writer for Wine Pleasures.
Here’s a video (in Spanish) on how to make a paella from Requena as opposed to one from Valencia. The latter claiming superiority in paella making. What’s your experience with paellas?