As you know Totally Spain customises itineraries for individuals and group visits to wineries all over the Spain and Portugal. Last weekend (for research purposes of course!) we went to discover what’s on offer for our wine-loving clients in one of the most charming smaller wine-producing regions in Northern Spain known as the Costa de Cantabria – and we loved it!
Our destination was Bodegas Vidular. We’d tried and enjoyed the wine before but when we heard the small winery had won ‘Best Wine’ at the Madrid Enofusion Wine Expo 2013, we realised this was a family-run business with a lot of drive and ambition.
Last Sunday we visited the bodega and vineyards and we can’t praise the people and the place highly enough. It was one of the best visits we’ve experienced – so welcoming and the location was idyllic. The Cantabrian wine was excellent too!
We started out early at one of their younger vineyards in Noja. It was a warm summer day so the town was buzzing with people going to the beach. Yet upon entering the vineyard we immediately escaped the hustle and bustle.
Mikel Duran (who set up and runs the business with his brother and father) welcomed our group of 12 adults plus 8 kids. Looking suitably weathered from more than 14 years working his vineyards, he gave us a fantastic introduction to life on a family winery in Cantabria. In a question of minutes, we felt more like friends than visitors and gained a real insight into how they got started, who does what, how they get along as a family and how you never know where your next deal will come from – ask him about the Japanese photoshoot of surfers in their forties and how it led to their first big order to Japan!
During our walkabout, Mikel gave us a highly practical explanation of how they look after the vines, outlining the challenges and how they are overcome with many a witty anecdote. After half an hour there, it was time to round up the children who were playing hide-and-seek between the vines and off we went to the next vineyard.
Mikel led the cavalcade with his roomy 9-seater Mercedes van (he offers a collection service for small groups) and we zipped about the area – visiting a number of other locations where the winery has planted vines recently. While the children enjoyed the freedom of the fields and made friends with the neighbouring cattle, the adults appreciated the stunning views and scenery as Mikel explained the differences between each plantation.
After another 15 mins, it was time to make our way to the HQ for Vidular. We drove the 15km or so towards Voto, through beautiful tree-lined countryside lanes into the villages of Escalante and Gama – and on up the hillside we went – to the most beautiful location we’ve seen in ages. Breathtaking!
It was amazing to be so near civilization and yet so far as well. This is a completely isolated and beautiful part of Cantabria that is very close to the coast but quite high at 250m above the sea. After walking the southeasterly facing vineyard (which has incredible views onto the coast looking down towards Laredo) it was time to taste the wine!
Mikel brought us into the winery and after an explanation of their production process, he introduced us to chef Mario Armesilla from Santander who has teamed up with Mikel and family to prepare the culinary element of the visit. Mario was really friendly and spoke about his experience as head chef in a number of well-known restaurants in the region. As he brought out some wonderful appetisers, Mario was more than happy to share his recipes with us and chatted with us for a while as Mikel opened the bottles.
Despite having a number of professionals from the wine industry amongst the group (or perhaps because of this) we had a very informal tasting. Mikel opened a few bottles of their Cantabricus wine (80% Treixadura and 20% Chardonnay) and we started on Mario’s tuna, roast pepper and anchovy tapa. An explosion of flavours and all of them wonderful. We kept with the Cantabricus and ate the octopus with potato and paprika which was delicious. As were the ‘croquetas’ (a béchamel based croquette popular in Spain) sealed with almond crumbs rather than breadcrumbs – all wonderful. And the wine performed brilliantly with the flavours. Another two friends arrived from the city and a couple of people had come to the winery to buy their wine direct. Conversation levels rose as we gargled and munched.
Soon it was time to move over to the beautifully restored restaurant for lunch (which must be pre-booked and for a minimum of 10 people). We had ordered the Cantabricus menu. Each dish outshone the previous – Mario is a truly wonderful chef.
Half way through the meal we changed onto the winery’s other white– the Ribera Del Ason (an 80% Albarino and 20% Chardonnay) – with another thumbs up from the group. Some discussion followed about the bottle’s label – Mikel has told us a recent re-branding exercise has been the topic of much discussion amongst the family…
By the time dessert came around, we were pretty full and very relaxed (so much so that we forgot to photograph it) but we all squeezed in a taster of the Orujo with coffees. The winery produces three wine-liquors that are only for sale at the winery itself. Again – delicious. At this point most of us probably needed to take a nap under the vines but after purchasing some wines and Orujo and saying our goodbyes to Mikel and Mario, we travelled in convoy back down to one of the local villages for some more coffee and a cocktail or two was consumed in the garden of a lovely country bar before heading home.
Thank you Mikel for making us feel so welcome. And Mario for showing us just how good Cantabrian cuisine gets!
Keen to sample a Cantabrian wine? The Vidular wines are for sale in a number of locations in Spain and internationally – but if you can visit the vineyards and winery and taste the wine in-situ, you won’t regret it. Totally Spain can arrange visits and transport to the winery plus dining at the bodega. Each season has its own charm but, remember, harvest time is early October so if you go late September/early October you’ll enjoy the vineyards in all their splendour. Have a look at our suggested Tours of Northern Spain which gives you an idea of other complimentary foodie activities we can organise in the area. Read our other blogposts on Cantabria and check out our Guide to Northern Spain if you’d like us to add on some time in nearby Bilbao or San Sebastian.