Unexpected, chance encounters can often be some of the most rewarding experiences. Such was the case when we visited some of the wineries on the Ronda Wine Route in the White Hill Town area of Andalucía. Even the kids will tell you this was their favorite day of our two-week stay in southern Spain.
It’s no secret that Mike and I visit wineries, or that a lot of times the kids are along for the ride. While Mr. N and Miss A are patient with us (and often having a good time), bringing them along certainly changes how we plan our visits and choose our wineries. This was particularly the case in Spain where most winery (or bodega) visits require an appointment and include a tour with the tasting. As such, we planned two stops: Huerta de Albala, near our home base of Arcos de la Frontera (which we blogged about here), and Bodegas Morosanto near Ronda.
We chose Morosanto for two reasons. First it was along a scenic mountain road which includes the picturesque towns of Grazalema, Zahara and the largest of them all, Ronda; and second, it is the site of some ancient Roman ruins, which Mr. N was super stoked to see.
The drive through the White Hill Towns was exhilarating. The sun was shining, there was a warm breeze and the colors were vivid. We followed a mountain stream, dipped into valleys, hugged tight curves with expansive views, popped in and out of small white washed villages (including one, pictured above, built right into the rocks!), and found ourselves surrounded by rolling green hills. The kids’ journaling activity along the way was to note an observation every 15 minutes and the rapidly changing scenery provided a plethora of opportunities.
We arrived at Bodegas Morosanto in the town of La Cimada around noon and met our host Sandra Garcia. Sandra and I had been emailing for a few days about times, tour options and GPS coordinates. She was very friendly and extremely helpful. Morosanto sits at the base of a mountain above an expansive open valley. It has a large patio with stunning views. It’s immediately easy to see why this is a popular destination for small weddings and private gatherings.
We were the only people at the winery, except for the staff out pruning the vines (a benefit of being off-season). Sandra explained the layout of the vineyard, where they grow Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Muscat, Viogner and Tintilla de Rota; the history of the bodega, which began in 2005; and their small batch production facility. The highlight for us all, were the ancient Roman ruins dating back 2,000 years which included the frame of a farm house and an ancient wine press.
Following the brief tour, we were seated in the wine tasting room. The kids were treated to a tapa and Mike and I tasted four wines: the Chardonnay, a Rosé made from Tempranillo grapes, and two blends, the Lucio and Lunera. The Rosé was delightful and fresh, and the red blends were full, velvety and a mix of fruit, spice and oak flavors. Mike and I differed on our favorites so compromised with a bottle of the Lunera and a bottle of the Tintilla de Rota (a variety we have not yet tried).
As we wrapped up the tour Sandra asked if we had plans for lunch or to visit another winery. We had plans for neither, but said both would be wonderful if she had suggestions. She immediately began to make some calls and then said, there was a small winery across the valley which sometimes offered lunch. She could arrange for us to be there in an hour (the owner was returning from a nearby town and spoke English – his wife did not). We weren’t sure what to expect, but we were certainly open to another winery and the kids were ready for lunch.
After navigating back to the main road and then off the beaten path we found ourselves at Bodega Garcia Hidalgo in the center of the brilliant valley. We were greeted by the most adorable little puppy and the proprietor’s wife, Zabel. Miguel, her husband, was not due back for 10 or 15 more minutes. Not too worry we said, we speak some Spanish, to which she said she speaks a little English. It was smiles and pleasantries all around. We instantly felt right at home with Zabel who treated us as though we were family. She too has a daughter and a son, both grown, and she was thrilled to see the kids.
After a few minutes chatting, Zabel showed us to the dining area, just past the large kitchen where a veritable feast was in the works! I didn’t think there was any way that could all be for us. The dining room was filled with natural light from a floor to ceiling wall opened to the valley. A beautiful table was set for four and we were invited to sit. Within moments Zabel began to bring the food – all homemade! We started with fresh bread, crackers, pate, cheeses, meats and jellies (tomatillo and red pepper).
Miguel arrived shortly thereafter. He was soft-spoken and very gracious. After introductions he proudly began to explain the wines. We were served a crisp Chardonnay with the tapas. Then came the first course: an egg and potato frittata, tomatoes and onions (from the garden), chicken croquettes and mini-burgers made with chorizo. This was served with an oaky red blend from Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
At first we thought this was the main course – it certainly would have sufficed. It was both filling and delicious, but then Zabel said the paella would be ready shortly! Homemade paella!!!!! This was completely unexpected. We had yet to order paella on our trip and it was on our list of must-dos. We had no idea, however, we would be treated to authentic, homemade paella!
And it did not disappoint. It was a beautiful saffron gold and filled with prawns, calamari, pork and chorizo. Zabel served it straight from the skillet right at the table while Miguel poured his prize wine, “Zabel.” (Now if that doesn’t melt your heart!) Zabel is another red blend using Shiraz, Cab Sauv and Merlot but in different percentages than the first. It was oaky, fruity and full certainly a winner!
Then just when we thought we were finished, dessert was served! Ice cream and puff pastry.
I don’t think the smiles ever left our faces. We chatted with Miguel and Zabel for quite some time about life, family and our trip. Zabel showed us around the property and took the kids to see two turtles that had taken up residence in her pool this winter. Miguel showed us around the winery and cellar. We also purchsed two bottles of Zabel, one to age until Miss A can taste. (The kids each get to pick one wine which we’ll save for them. With a cat and butterfly on the label, and given our incredible experience, it’s no surprise Miss A chose this one.) The visit was unbelievable. Even the kids felt the magic. We were welcomed as family and even sent away with a gift of wine salts and plenty of hugs all around. We were so moved, we drove back the next day with a tin of chocolates from Chicago (of which we packed several to share along our journey).
It was a wonderful way to round-out our stay in the White Hill Town region of Spain. The day left us smiling, laughing and in an utter state of euphoria. And this is why we loving visiting wineries and tasting wines. We never know what to expect, who we’ll meet or where it will take us (sometimes even on photoshoots!), but so far, it’s given us some amazing memories and enriched our lives with many wonderful souls.
Ctra Arriate – Setenil Km. 1, 6
29400 – La Cimada, Ronda
Malaga – Espana
P: +34-692-18-76-16 (Spanish)
+34-662-67-11-11 (English & German)
Visits by appointment
Bodegas Garcia Hidalgo
Llano de la Cruz, Km. 28
29400 – Ronda
Visits by appointment
Cheers! Next up…Granada!