Thankfully our day started out not quite so early as the previous one, and the weather was overcast and slightly cooler, with the chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. The plan was drive through Ribeira Sacra, which was to be the focus of my article, visiting four bodegas in both that region and nearby Ribeiro.
First stop was family run Bodegas Cruzeiros, founded more than 20 years ago by Ramón Marcos. We were greeted by Ramón and Puri and shown the new installation – the winery has recently been moved to larger premises next door to the original. As with most producers in Galicia, their vineyards are various small plots of land scattered throughout the area, and they decided to show us Ramón’s favourite one, 400 metres up and on a 70º slope. You can see them standing at the bottom of the slope in the photo above. Then we were taken back to the winery for a tasting – I am in love with their Casa Noguedo blanco. They are still new to enotourism but have very generous hearts and are looking forward to welcoming visitors soon. This was the other of my two favourite visits.
Mid afternoon we stopped in at Bodega Petrón and were taken on a tour of their new installation. Afterwards we had lunch at Restaurante Merenzao, located next to the bodega and run by chef Carlos González. Here we also tasted the Petrón wines, though as they only produce reds I was happy to see Casa Noguedo offered as their white option to start. The meal was simply stunning, everything delicious and beautifully presented.
We had a bit of spare time after lunch as our last appointment in Ribeiro wasn’t until 8.00 pm, apparently the only time this producer could squeeze us in, with one other visit arranged by @GuitianMayer for 6.30 to fit into the schedule, so we went to the Monteforte Parador Hotel for a drink while we waited. And then the skies opened up. I mean, seriously. We thought it was a brief summer storm, but when it showed no signs of letting up we raced to the car to make our way to our next stop.
Not only was the rain torrential, there were also gale-force winds and hail. Above you can see a place we passed on the road where a tree had been felled, and we passed many more along the way.
The plan had been to visit Finca Viñoa, situated (of course) on the top of a very steep hill. We were told that we would have the tasting outside, on the terrace of the finca, overlooking the impressive vineyards. And then it RAINED. No problem – we were quickly rehoused at nearby Casal de Armán by export rep Roger Matthews, who oversees five wineries including Finca Viñoa. Taking shelter from the storm we ended up with a tasting from three of the five bodegas, but only one of the wines was from Finca Viñoa, and that one happened to be my favourite. But the others from Armán and Pazo Casanova were also excellent and we were happy that Roger was so willing and able to make sure our visit took place in spite of the change in the weather.
The next stop… well, it didn’t happen. As I mentioned earlier, the owner of this winery had told us he could only fit us in at 8.00 pm, which meant that Jorge had to re-organise the whole afternoon/evening, as this was apparently a very important bodega. By the time we arrived at… no, not going to name names… the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared, and we got to the bodega 15 minutes early. Nobody was there. Jorge called the owner who said that he wouldn’t be able to make it until 8.30. WHAT?? No explanation given, nada. Jorge told him we couldn’t wait that long and then the owner said he would be there in a few minutes, that he was on his way. Well, at 8.25 we left. The owner had not sent a message and wasn’t picking up his calls from us. Really, up until then everyone Jorge had booked had been so welcoming and generous… and then this. Later this guy messaged that he had been at the bodega but couldn’t find us. WHAT??? Bullshit.
The thing is, it wasn’t that he couldn’t make it that was the issue, even though if he’d known Jorge would have organised the visit to Finca Viñao two hours earlier, and maybe we would have missed the rain. But he didn’t even call us after he said he would be there in “a few minutes”. I felt badly for Jorge, who had put together such an amazing itinerary on very short notice, because of course he was quite upset about being treated like this. Really, no respect at all. I mean, it did seem like the owner had lied about being on his way and was planning on arriving at 8.30 anyhow, which was way too late for our schedule, so at 8.25 I just said … let’s go.
We arrived in Ourense in time for a bit of a tapeo in the old centre, going to a couple of bars which turned out to be very good. There we commiserated over the shitty treatment by the last bodega owner, finallly ending up going – fuck it – and enjoying the rest of our evening together.
Jorge had arranged a stay at the beautiful Hotel Rústico San Jaime, nestled between Ribeira Sacra and Rbeiro, a ten minute drive frome Ourense. We arrived there just before midnight and chef and owner Miguel González was there to greet us, himself exhausted after a large private party at his restaurant that evening. PLUS during the storm lightning had actually hit his building, downing a huge bouganvillea that had filled one outside wall.
I was shown to my GOURGEOUS ROOM and was asleep within minutes. Meanwhile my superstar friends and fixers still had an hour’s drive back to Santiago…