Historic Stone Seating Area Adjoining the Vineyard at the Méndez Home
There's a lot of albariño made in Rias Baixas...a whole lot. Much of it does not leave the region. And the majority of what does reach the US is pleasant, but unmemorable. But one that had caught my attention was Do Ferreiro. The winery, not quite 50 years old, is run by Gerardo Méndez. Méndez farms a number of small plots of albariño--several of them are over 50 years old and one is over 200 years old. It wasn't easy to get an appointment--even with help from the importer. But persistence paid off. I got an email from a lady called Encarna who said that they'd be actively harvesting and wouldn't be able to give us as much attention as they would like to...but that they'd be pleased to have us visit.
And so we were off in search of the winery. Garmin and Googe Maps got us to the area. But it took two cell phone chats ("tell me what you see...") to get us there. Encarna met us with a big smile. She wasn't just the English-speaking employee...she was Gerado's daughter, and she helps run the business. The winery is tiny--it basically fits in the large garage adjacent to their stone house. The entire staff consists of Encarna, her younger brother and her dad--plus seasonal help in the vineyards. We were just finishing a casual tour with Encarna when Gerardo rode up on his tractor with a load of grapes. I half-feared a fierce look from a busy man. Instead...we got hugs. And before he and his son unloaded the grapes, they--all of them, plus his wife and Encarna's little girl--took time to be with us. We sat around the ancient stone table next to their house and they opened a bottle of their Cepas Vellas--made exclusively from the 200 year old vines. It was albariño at a whole new level...deep and complex. We were frankly stunned...not at the quality of the wine. It was superb--but that wasn't a big surprise. At the family being so gracious, so warm, so welcoming at their busiest time of the year. It's one of our most enduring memories of the trip.
When I got back to DC, I went in search of Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas. There wasn't a lot in the area...four bottles. And I was pleased to give all four a new home!