The Duero River starts in the north of Spain and travels 460 miles through Portugal to the Atlantic Ocean. Along the river, there are several recognized wine-producing regions, including Ribera del Duero in Spain. Just outside the Ribera del Duero wine region sits a unique destination, Abadia Retuerta, the Abbey of the Twisted River.
General Manager Enrique Valero Quintana recently visited the United States to tease and entice me about this special property. Abadia Retuerta is the 12th century abbey of Santa María de Retuerta, which has been restored, rebuilt and converted into a five-star hotel with a one-Michelin star restaurant and winery.
A 700-hectare estate located on the corner of the Duero river, the property is split so that half of the land lies within the Ribera del Duero denomination, but the other half does not. There are 210 hectares on the property that have been planted to vine, and these vines are planted outside of the Ribera del Duero region. The vines are separated into 54 plots that lie over a set of hillsides that reach a height of 850 meters and then slope down to the southern bank of the Duero River. Sedimentary soils, altitude and climate contribute to the uniqueness of the winery that is just a few miles away from the famous Vega Sicilia located in Ribera del Duero.
The rebirth of a historical vineyard began in the late 1980s with replanting the vines. The winery opened in 1996, followed by the hotel opening in 2012 and the spa opening in 2014. Since opening, Abadia Retuerta has received numerous accolades for both the wine and the hotel and for three consecutive years has been in the Wine Spectators top 100 wines of the world.
While Enrique Valero Quintana could only tempt me to visit the distinct property, where they tout having the only spa in the world with a spa sommelier, he was able to share the wines from Abadia Retuerta.
We started with the 2016 Le Domaine Blanco de Guarda. A region known for red wine, especially Tempranillo, making white wine is purely the result of a mistake. After phylloxera, the plan was to plant Merlot. But the nursery was disorganized and made a mistake. At first they thought it might be white Merlot but, alas, it was Sauvignon Blanc.
Le Domaine is made with 80 percent Sauvignon Blanc with 20 percent Verdejo, which is barrel fermented on the lees with battonage. The first vintage of the wine was in 2011, the same year it won best white wine in Spain. The straw-colored 2016 has an intense, bright, aromatic nose with notes of grapefruit, pineapple, green apple and white flowers. On the palate, the wine has a round mouthfeel with more weight on the mid-palate than what was anticipated by the nose. Good acidity and a long finish, this is a white wine that can age for five or 10 years.
The primary grape of the region is Tempranillo, and the Pago Negralada is made from the best Tempranillo plot on the estate. The vines are planted in deep gravel soils topped with sand and the wine is aged for 24 months in new French oak barrels.
Quintana brought three vintages of the Pago Negralada to try. The 2014 Pago Negralada has an intense nose with aromas of dark red fruit, brown sweet spices and cedar. On the palate, sandy tannins coat the tongue and the wine has a long finish.
The 2012 Pago Negralada comes from a colder vintage, and the resulting wine has rich aromas of dark black fruit and tobacco.
The 2004 Pago Negralada has aromas of slightly stewed fruits and soft, smooth tannins on the finish.
Pago Valdebéllon is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, which has adapted well to the region. The Cabernet Sauvignon grows on a limestone-rich terroir, and after maceration, it spends 17 months aging in new French oak barrels.
The 2015 Pago Valdebéllon is a dark red color with notes of ripe dark fruits like blackberries and black currants, sweet spices, cocoa and coffee. On the palate the acids and tannins are well-balanced as the wine tingles the tongue and then lightly dries the palate.
Petit Verdot, another Bordeaux variety, was also planted at Abadia Retuerta. Planted in sandy soil, the Petit Verdot is aged for 16 months in oak barrels. The 2014 Petit Verdot is a dark ruby color with intense notes of ripe fruit, rose petals, roasted coffee and tobacco. On the palate, it is structured but silky in the mouth. This limited release wine will get better with age.
Enjoying these wines over lunch with Enrique Valero Quintana, with photos of the property in the background, I was utterly enamored, and I would find my mind wandering off as I dreamt about sipping these wines at Abadia Retuerta. Perhaps the next time I drink them, that is where I will be.