España 2004: Peñafiel

Monday, 17 May 2004

Today we travelled from Ábalos in the Rioja region to Peñafiel in the Ribera del Duero area. Another beautiful day in our part of Spain – easily hitting 2.5 on the Knowmark Weather Scale. We first drove south through the mountains (Tierra de Cameros) to Soria. It was a beautiful mountain drive, rivalling similar travels in North America. There was a huge highway project underway, building a tunnel under the Puerta de Piqueras, which is difficult to navigate in winter due to snow, etc. However, we encountered no such problems today!

From Soria, we turned west on N-122, a great highway running east-west across much of Spain. We stopped in Villaciervos for lunch at a truck stop, having one of the best menús del día that we could remember. The Ribera del Duero wine region begins as we entered San Esteban de Gormaz, and we began to see vineyards quite frequently from that point. However, this region is quite different from Rioja country in some respects, as the vineyards don’t seem to be as concentrated, with many other crops and bush, etc. interspersed. But, we’ve only seen a little bit of the area, so our view point may well change.

Peñafiel seems to be a nice little town (~5000 inhabitants), with an absolutely stunning castle – real fairy-tale stuff. We wandered around, getting our bearings, had a glass of the local wine in one of the many bars and finally had some nice raciones for dinner at our hotel.

Tuesday, 18 May 2004

Briefly, the high points:

Drive to Quintanilla de Onésimo and visited the Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro; toured the bodega (with a most charming guide – Gustavo) and had a wine tasting; bought some wine; back to our hotel restaurant for a very nice menú del día; rest; driving tour north of the Rio Duero (comparing the countryside to the recently visited Rioja region – many differences, but also many similarities); returned to Peñafiel and decided to tour the storybook castle (it is quite amazing); walked through some of the town and stopped for a glass of wine and some tapas.

And, it was another beautiful day – we’ve decided to only give it a 2.5 since it was a little too warm for a while.

Wednesday, 19 May 2004

Today found us meandering through the Ribera del Duero region in the morning, taking in two bodegas (both in Pedrosa de Duero) – Bodegas Rodero and Bodega Hermanos Pérez Pascuas. We tasted at both places (and were well pleased) and bought several bottles. Our guides (Elena and Mónica respectively), were both perfectly charming and very knowledgeable. Our experience at both places was very positive and we continue to learn more about Spanish wine.

After our morning (and, early afternoon) in Pedrosa, we ventured over to Roa and had a very nice lunch at Hermanos Arrante. We wanted to try the lechazo, but many of the asadors only open occasionally, so we settled for chuletillas a la plancha – very tasty. Back to Peñafiel on some new roads (of course!) for a rest. Then a little shopping for jamón y cheso to go with the good bread we bought in Roa earlier. The default bread in this area is not to our liking, but they make a special bread in Roa (thanks, Mónica!) which we found. It is quite wonderful – much like focaccia. So, that was our dinner, accompanied by a fine young wine (tinto roble, 2002) that we had tasted at Rodero in the morning. On to Madrid tomorrow – apparently just in time for the royal wedding! The weather forecast is good for our transition day (and, another perfect 3.0 today).