Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> A Food and Wine Tour of Spain Part 2

A Food and Wine Tour of Spain Part 2 ... A Visit to Pago Carraovejas Winery
By Mark Gapinski

Four days into our food and wine tour of Spain, we arrived in the village of Peñafiel in the Ribera del Duero about 2 hours north of Madrid. This area of Spain experiences exceedingly hot days and cool evenings during the summer with abundant sunshine and little rainfall.  Winters can be bitterly cold. High-quality winemaking in this region emerged during the1970s and 1980s when Vega Sicilia and Pesquera demonstrated that world class wines could be made in the Ribera del Duero.









Vineyards with Peñafiel Castle as a backdrop

Our visit to Pago Carraovejas was for the “Six Senses Experience” which featured a winery tour and a lunch with paired food and wine courses. The winery, built in the late 1980s, is very modern and beautifully designed to complement its surroundings. Inside the immaculate winery, the latest in winemaking technology is utilized. We saw lots of stainless steel as well as oak temperature-controlled fermenters.

The production area is gravity driven with grape sorting and de-stemming taking place on the top level. Grapes drop into fermenters on the next level down. An even lower level accommodates barreling and racking. One thing that struck me, both in the winery and in the restaurant, was the attention to detail. For example, every cork for their two top wines is wetted and sniffed for cork taint by a trained professional.   

Two food/wine courses were served during the winery tour. The first wine, Verdling, was produced by the Ossian winery, which recently became a part of Pago Carraovejas. Ossian is located in nearby Nieve and grows principally Verdejo. Verdling is a Verdejo made in the style of a German Riesling. The soils around Nieve contain a good deal of slate, just as do the soils of the Rheinhessen and Mosel in Germany. To further create the Verdling style, the grapes were picked early, when acid levels were high and sugar levels had not yet peaked. The result was a dry, crisp wine of about 12% ABV. It was full of lime and green apple flavors with mouthwatering acidity.

It was paired with a rich, almond cream soup flavored with roasted garlic and bits of smoked fish. An edible “lid” for the bowl was created with a crisp, baked seaweed leaf, topped with what I can only describe as crumbled, salty chicharrones. The acidity of the wine was a great contrast with the rich, smoky and salty flavors in the soup.

We were served a second course on barrel tops In the wine cellar itself. The course featured the 2016 Pago Carraovejas Autour Ribera del Duero. This wine was created by founder José Maria Ruiz as the house wine for his eponymous restaurant in Segovia famous for its cochinillo asado, roasted suckling pig. This wine is only for sale there. This wine is a typical Ribera del Duero blend of 90% Tempranillo with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot. This is a powerful wine with rich red fruit and fine tannins.

It was paired with a sunny side up egg sitting atop a small mound of tuna tartar with a light dressing. This pairing really stretched my imagination, but it worked. The egg was perfect, runny with little crispy bits around the edge. The richness of both the egg and the tuna married well with tannins in the wine.

With the winery tour complete, we moved to the airy Ambivium restaurant inside the winery for lunch. Ambivium has large glass windows on most sides, enabling diners to see the sweeping landscape including the nearby hilltop castle, Peñafiel.  

The remarkable salad course featured what appeared to a sprinkling of a dry cheese that turned out to frozen droplets of aged Jerez vinegar. This course was paired with a 2016 Ossian Verdejo. The grapes came from exceedingly old vines, 100-200 years old. The vines are still planted on their original rootstocks and for almost two centuries, have dodged the phylloxera root louse that destroyed most of Spain’s vineyards at the end of the 19th century. The sandy soil of this vineyard is apparently very unappealing to the phylloxera louse. The wine was barrel-fermented and lees aged. It showed grapefruit and green melon notes on both the nose and palate with great richness and texture. Hands down the best Verdejo I’ve ever tasted.

The main course arrived, and the 2014 Pago de Carraovejas El Anejón was poured. This wine and the Cuesta de las Liebres are the two top wines from this producer and are only produced in exceptional vintages. The El Anejón vineyard is on an extremely steep, terraced hillside with a southern exposure. The soil here is primarily limestone. In her book, “The Wine Bible”, Karen MacNeil describes the Ribera del Duero as the image of conquistador Spain.

The 2014 El Anejón (93+ Robert Parker) supports that image as well. Bold and muscular this wine showed loads of rich, dark fruit with layer upon layer of flavor backed up with vibrant acidity and balanced tannins. It was served with braised pork topped with a smoky and mildly tangy sauce, not quite barbecue, but a nod in that direction. A great match for the massive El Anejón.

We closed the lunch with a rich, dark chocolate-based dessert featuring sponge cake, truffles with an intricate chocolate spiral decorating the plate. I had held on to a bit of the El Anejón and its rich fruit was also a great fit with the chocolate! 

After coffee, our visit to Pago Carraovejas was complete. As I boarded the coach, I recall thinking, “Pity the fool who has to follow this!” Little did I know what awaited.

Stay tuned for next week's Wine Festival

Do you find travel experiences like this one appealing? If so, place your name on the “interest list” for future wine and food tours of Spain by emailing Dr. Linda Elman at or Lesley Reser of Seminars International at