Nacho Sánchez lives by the beach in Malaga, a region with a strong wine tradition and some of the most interesting Spanish wines. As a journalist, he has worked in a variety of media with a focus on wine and local cuisine.
Señorío de Nevada is a grand hotel that is built to blend with its environment. Its colors imitate the red soil that surrounds it. Located in Valle de Villamena, south of Granada, everything about it transmits peace and tranquility. The hotel offers spacious common areas, sustainable architecture, and 25 exceedingly beautiful rooms in which no detail has been overlooked. Elizabethan bathtubs, windows that frame the countryside and terraces that are kissed by the afternoon sun are the norm. The building also blends modern with traditional architecture. This is evident in the use of renewable energy, such as solar power or almond shell biomass, to the use of traditional ceramic floor tiles. A lovely swimming pool surrounded by olive trees and a restaurant specializing in local gastronomy with an innovative flair can also be found on the premises. Above all else, what really makes this place stand out, is its winery.
The vineyards from which the Señorío de Nevada wines are created surround the hotel, making the entire wine-holiday experience even more spectacular. It is an interesting wine getaway in the province of Granada, where there are 20 other little-known wineries offering very high quality wine.
About Señorío de Nevada
Born in 1996, the Señorío de Nevada winery was the vision of an Andalusian emigrant who returned to Spain after spending many years in Germany. Support for the idea came from the director of the wine making center in Pauillac (Bordeaux, France), Cristophe Coupez became involved from the very beginning and to this day is still a winemaking consultant. They uncorked the first bottle in 1998 and, according to hotel manager Antonio Gimeno, “a decade later, [with] the winery already a reality, it was decided that [the] hotel would be built.” Two vast and acoustically isolated halls with enormous windows are the icing on the cake in this carefully cared-for project. The halls, with a relaxed and unhurried atmosphere, make the perfect place to taste wine.
The winery has 37 acres of vineyards and produces around 80,000 bottles annually, some of which are exported to northern Europe. The main grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo, Grenache, Petit Verdot and Viognier. That said, the winery has begun to experiment with a local white varietal called Vijiriega and a red grape that can only be found in Granada, called Romé. The grapes are used to produce wines capable of prolonged cellar life and a single organic red wine with a production rate of nearly 4,000 bottles.
“The climate is one of the most interesting factors” said Chema Concustell, Señorío de Nevada’s enologist. “We have a very wide temperature range of around 14 degrees at night and over 30 degrees during the day, which results in a slow ripening rate. This is why the harvest is very late compared to the rest of Andalucía.” Aside from his enological role, Chema also acts as a guide for winery visitors through a wide range of wine-related activities.
One can simply visit Señorío de Nevada or take part in a wine tasting event. There is an activity called ‘Elabora tu propio vino’ (make your own wine), where you can learn the secrets of blending, make your very own wine and then take a bottled wine with you. During the harvest, it is possible to join in and pick grapes. This is a great way to learn about the vineyard and it includes a lunch of a traditional rice dish or barbecue.
Señorio de Nevada is an accommodation with a winery or a winery with an accommodation, whichever you prefer, and it is the perfect place from which to explore Granada and its province. Its location, at the bottom of the Alpujarra region, serves as a perfect starting point for a surprising and delightful wine route. The stops along the route will acquaint you with the projects and great personalities at wineries. Despite their small levels of production, they export high-quality wines halfway around the world.
Even though the 168 towns that make up the province of Granada are registered under the Granada Denomination of Origin, there is one small area in particular that stands out. La Contraviesa is made up of 13 towns in southern La Alpujarra. Each has a very special climate due to the proximity to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Mulhacén peak, which is the highest on the Iberian Peninsula (11,414 feet). Additionally, the Mediterranean Sea is much nearer than it seems. The single most important factor that influences these Granada wines is the elevation of the vineyards. They grow at the highest altitude in Europe, at an average of 3900 feet.
Barranco Oscuro Winery
The wines produced by Manolo Valenzuela and his son Lorenzo at the Barranco Oscuro Winery are from vineyards with an altitude of 4500 feet. Looking north from their vineyard, one can see the Sierra Nevada mountain peaks that are permanently covered in snow. If you look south, on the other hand, you will see the shimmering blue of the Mediterranean Sea, just 10 kilometers away. On clear days it is possible to see the Rif Mountains in Morocco, Africa.
The landscape is another unique feature of the La Contraviesa región. Small oak trees and a multitude of medicinal and aromatic plants like thyme, lavender and others add color to Barranco Oscuro winery’s 30 acres of countryside. You will see the yellow hues of Spanish Broom and Bolina, which is a species of shrub seen throughout Southern Spain, Northern Morocco and Algeria.
The project was born towards the end of the 1970s when Manolo Valenzuela came back from Barcelona and bought land in the municipality of Cádiar. The region has a history of winemaking, but only for their own consumption or for bulk sale. Some of the acreage already contained grape vines. Everything about the property seemed to have the potential for making wine. Without much thought, Valenzuela decided to venture into wine production and establish his own brand. “I lived in France and I thought: I want to make wine like that,” explained Manolo. He started by planting varieties such as Pedro Ximénez, Montua, Moscatel, Grenache, Tempranillo, Jaén Blanca and Negra. He took a risk with a local grape, Vijiriega, that had been all but forgotten. “By the end of the 1990s I already had around [14 acres] that were producing between 5,000 and 10,000 bottles” says Lorenzo. From that moment on, observation was the best education for the family, so they decided to make wines with no additives and very little manipulation. This meant that the growing season depended on the capriciousness of nature. These natural wines are achieved with minimal intervention during cultivation and harvest. In the winery, no chemicals are used and everything is done to respect the wine.
Getting to know Lorenzo and Manolo means discovering a passion for wine and the environment, and the love of doings things right. They are a small family team that is driven by in-depth knowledge of the vineyards and a determination to intervene in as little as possible. “We protect the vines, of course, but we try not to do anything else” explains Lorenzo Valenzuela. “Each year is an adventure.”
Currently, the winery annually produces around 25,000 bottles of reds, rosés, whites and sparkling wines. All are bottled under approximately 20 brands; primarily single varietal, each with its own personality. Many of the wines pass through the hundred or so barrels in the winery, from which some of the best and highest alcohol wines in La Contraviesa are created. El pino rojo (The Red Pinetree) has up to 17 percent alcohol. The personality of the wines has attracted the attention of foreign markets, resulting in the export of nearly 80 percent of production. Having said that, nothing compares to tasting them in the winery with the Valenzuela family.
La Alquería de Morayma
Just 15 minutes from Barranco Oscuro you will find La Alquería de Morayma, a place where the word “relaxing” is an understatement. La Alquería provides an oasis of shade and water in the form of a beautiful rural hotel with 23 apartments distributed over a 12-acre section of the property. Some of them even form little squares that seem to imitate some of the local villages. They were built over the last two decades but have respected the traditional Alpujarra architecture to the extent that they seem much older. This was achieved thanks to Mariano Cruz’s eye for detail. His vision brought La Alquería de Morayma to life. All of the windows are filled with colorful geraniums. Almost every corner display wicker baskets, old farm tools and different objects recovered from abandoned or demolished properties. There is even a small chapel for small celebrations, although it is more often used for yoga classes.
There is also a restaurant where local gastronomy can be enjoyed. Regional dishes like rice with rabbit or the traditional Alpujarra meal made with bread crumbs, chorizo, morcilla (Spanish black pudding sausage), lomo (pork loin), fried peppers, eggs and Serrano ham is available. Another must try is the delicious Andalusian gazpacho. Many of the dishes are produced with “produce from the vegetable garden and from the trees that grow in the area, mainly almonds, figs and quinces” explains director María del Mar Cruz. The restaurant also produces nearly 5000 bottles of lovely organic wine annually under the La Alquería de Morayma label.
Continued Exploration of the Region
La Alquería de Morayma is a fantastic jumping off point to continue exploring the wines of southern Granada. In La Contraviesa, there are a total of seven small wineries, each one enchanting in its own way.
A bit further north, in the town of Ugíjar, Juan Palomar launched a project in the 1990s that was inspired by his love of wines from California’s Napa Valley wines and wanted to make the same kind of wine in his country. Today Dominio Buenavista, has about 60 acres which produce 50,000 bottles of wine annually. Many of them are sold in the United States and in 2015 Dominio Buenavista was named best Spanish winery at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
There are also other wineries in the area such as Los Barrancos, which has 19 acres under vine and its wines, officially organic since 2011, are labeled under the names Cerro de la Retama, Loma de Felipes and Corral de Castro.
Other wineries like Centro Temático del Vino can also be visited. The Cuatro Vientos Company runs it as a kind of wine museum, where you can see a wide range of objects related to the region’s winemaking tradition.
The Néstares Rincón Winery, in the town of Torvizcón is a family project that started at the beginning of the 20th century and is now run by the family’s fifth generation. This is also where you can find the Centro de Interpretación del Vino (wine museum) and learn all about the process and tools used to make wine.
Finally, in the town of Cástares you will find García de Verdevique Winery. This winery makes whites, rosés, reds and sparkling wines under the García de Verderique and Altos de Verderique labels. They also produce a sweet wine called PX de Verdevique.
These are just a few reasons that La Contraviesa in Granada is an ideal place to get lost for a few days and begin to discover the quality and characteristics of some very unique and personality-filled wines from Southern Spain.
BOOKING A WINERY VISIT
Almost all these wineries can be visited that offer wine tasting events. All you need to do is call to book a visit, although some only offer group tours. In others, like Señorío de Nevada, you can even take part in the harvest and pick grapes as long as you call to book in advance.
The easiest, quickest and cheapest way to organize a visit to several wineries in the south of Granada is to contact the Ruta de los Vinos wine tour company in Granada, who offer different wine-related activities such as wine tours and getaways that combine, among other things, wine and nature packages. This is great option, if you want to try a range of wines from different wineries at the same tasting event. They offer different leisure or nature-related activities with the added bonus that they will take care of the driving.
Wineries that Offer Food
Some of the La Contraviesa wineries have restaurants. The Señorío de Nevada Hotel, mentioned earlier, has a great restaurant offering local cuisine with an innovative flair. The menu at La Alquería de Morayma is based on traditional Alpujarra food, while the Cuatro Vientos winery focuses on meats and Alpujarra products such as ham cured in Trevélez.
Calle Monjas del Carmen, 2, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 22 25 95
Fantastic place to taste wines from Granada and all of Spain. There is no kitchen, but they do prepare platters of cold meats, cheese, smoked or salted fish and pickled products of very high quality.
$ La Tana
Calle Rosario esquina con Placeta del agua, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 22 52 42
This is one of the most traditional taverns in Granada. Located in the San Matías neighborhood it has one of the most complete wine menus in the city. You can also taste some more adventurous wines, all served with very high quality tapas.
Calle Santa Escolástica, 2, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 22 70 10
This is a great place to enjoy a home-made vermouth or one of their house wines as well as delicacies like beef with Port pâté, ham with artichokes and cheese or any one of their montaditos (bread with a tasty topping) sandwiches and whole-grain toast with any of their delicious fillings or toppings.
Calle Pianista García Carrillo, 2, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 22 82 90
The same family that runs La Alquería de Morayma owns this restaurant that first opened in the Albaicín neighborhood several decades ago. It has spectacular views of the Nazari Palaces of the Alhambra and serves local cuisine as well as a natural wine from an organic vineyard which they make in Cádiar.
$ Picoteca 3 maneras
Calle Santa Escolástica, 19, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 22 68 18
Delicious and intelligently creative cuisine. Chef Antonio Rojas suggests that Wine Tourist Magazine readers taste the hake filled with salmon and cheddar drizzled with seafood sauce and mussels, organic eggs with truffle cream, mushroom confit with foie gras or the beef tataki with a Japanese touch. Wonderful local wines, of course, accompany everything.
$ El Lagar
Calle Silencio, 2, Pampaneira · Tel: 0034 673 636 394
This restaurant offers an extensive menu with grilled meats, roasted vegetables, cured pork meats from the mountains, local stews and homemade desserts. The plates are huge, so allow yourself to be guided by the waiters regarding the quantities ordered.
$$ L`atelier (http://www.latelier.restaurant/)
Calle La Alberca, 21, Mecina Fondales · Tel: 0034 958 85 75 01
Run by a French couple, the menu is based on organic and seasonal produce as well as fair trade. They offer a fusion of cuisine from Granada, India, France and Asia. Mediterranean Pastilla, Provencal Tabbouleh, Andalusian gratin, Vietnamese-style quorn with lemon, herbs and coconut sauce, vegetarian rolls or Indian salad are just some of the extremely tasty and intriguing dishes that you can order. Make sure you ask for their house wine, a variety made only in the Alpujarra, which is very surprising, due to its intense flavor that is somehow between being a red wine and a sweet one.
Where to Stay
Real de la Alhambra s/n, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 22 14 40 · email: email@example.com
$$$ Alhambra Palace
Plaza Arquitecto García de Paredes, 1, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 221 468 · Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Calle Mesones 15, 18001 Granada, España · Tel: 0034 958 535 579
Carrera del Darro, 13, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 21 50 40 · Email: email@example.com
Kilómetro 50, carretera A-348, Cádiar · Tel: 0034 958 34 32 21 / 0034 958 34 33 03 · Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cortijo Catifalarga, s/n, 18413 Capileira · Tel: 0034 958 34 33 57 / 0034 639 101 865 · Email: email@example.com.
Where to Eat and Taste Wine
Calle Palacios, 2, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 22 81 28
A traditional tavern in the heart of Realeja serves good tapas and a wide range of Granada wines.
Calle Navas, 29, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 22 95 24
This is an online store with a physical shop in the center of Granada and it is located on Calle Navas—one of the most famous tapas streets of the entire city.
Calle Molinos, 3, Granada · Tel: 0034 958 04 99 24
Located in the charming Calle Molinos street in El Realejo, this is an interesting place where the wines are the main event.
Lugar del Vino
Avenida Peronne, 7, Salobreña · Tel: 0034 958 61 20 31
Cuesta de Gomérez, 13, Granada · Tel: 0034 629 50 47 22
This wine bar has more than 200 wines from all of Spain but they pay special attention to those made in Granada.
Other Regional Sights
Granada is a place worth visiting all year round. Even though it is cold in winter, it is the perfect time to go skiing in the Sierra Nevada or enjoying the flowering almond trees that paint the La Conraviesa Mountains white. The summers are suffocatingly hot, but the beaches are great for cooling down. Fall and spring are probably the best times for visiting the city of Granada as well as La Alpujarra and La Contraviesa: mild temperatures, days with lots of sunlight and a multitude of activities. Las Cruces, the area’s biggest festival, is at the beginning of May. A local curiosity can be seen in the town of Bérchules where New Year’s eve is celebrated in August. In 1994 the town had a problem with the electricity and could not celebrate New Year’s, so they moved the date to summer and, since that day, the first weekend of August is when tourists and residents alike welcome the new year and eat the traditional 12 grapes.
Things to do in Granada
Granada and La Alhambra
Due to La Alhambra, Granada is famous worldwide. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and receives more than two million visitors annually. The palace, citadel and fortress dates back to 9th century, although its period of greatest splendor was the second half of the 14th century. But Granada is much more than La Alhambra. The city is filled with the traditions of Arabic, Jewish and Christian cultures that blended together over the centuries. One great example is the churches with Muslim minarets. You will also want to explore the cathedral and lose yourself in the streets of the fabulous Albaicín neighborhood.
El Realejo is the traditional Jewish quarter of Granada until the Jews were expelled from Spain. Many of the buildings were destroyed and the structure of the neighborhood has changed, but vestiges of that era remain. El Realejo is also home to some of the best tapas bars in Granada; many are located in Campo del Príncipe square and its neighboring streets. These bars have a wide range of gastronomic options to choose from and the square is a great jumping off point for exploring El Realejo.
La Alpujarra lies north of the La Contraviesa region at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It contains many small white villages that were completely isolated until recent years. So they are filled with the essence of past eras and have maintained many ancient traditions. With less than 5000 inhabitants, Órgiva is the main village, but one of the most famous is Lanjarón, whose waters are said to have medicinal properties. The Alpujarra region, however, becomes more and more attractive the further into the mountains you go.
Winding and narrow mountain roads will take you closer to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. This is where you can visit three towns of Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira. They are so close together they are almost considered one. The seemingly impossible urban structure of these three enchanting villages is built into the steep hills. They are full of tiny corners and old fountains, which the older generation still uses to wash clothes. From here, you can travel deeper into the mountains to the town of La Taha, which consists of eight even smaller villages. Pitres, Capilerilla, Mecina, Mecinilla, Fondales, Ferreirola, Atalbéitar and Aylácar each have less than 700 inhabitants and exploring their streets can be one of the best experiences in Andalucía. Even further north is Trevélez, a town famous for its cured ham. This cured meat is said to the best in all of Southern Spain.
Granada also has numerous beaches. This coastline is next to the provinces of Málaga and Almería and is known as La Costa Tropical (the tropical coast). In fact, its climate is very similar to the tropics and you will find fruit like mango and avocado throughout the area. You will also find fantastic towns like Salobreña, Almuñecar or La Herradura, which have some of the most beautiful beaches in Granada. One of the best examples is in Cantarriján, with its crystal waters it is fantastic for scuba diving.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains offer the best ski resorts and slopes in Southern Europe. Numerous other mountain sports are also possible in this rugged part of Spain. The region has a multitude of trails that can be hiked in hours, days, weeks or even months.
How to Get There
Granada has its own airport named after one of its most celebrated poets: Federico García Lorca. It is small and does not offer many connections but it is the most direct way of getting there by plane. From there, the city is less than 10 minutes away by car and the Señorío de Nevada hotel is just a 30-minute drive.
The nearest international airport 90 minutes away is in Málaga. Alternately, from Madrid you can travel to Granada in about four hours.
To visit La Contraviesa and La Alpujarra it is best to rent a car. The tiny villages in this area are poorly connected and public transport is slow and almost nonexistent. In any case, the experience of enjoying a quiet winding drive and leisurely exploring the tiny back roads is part of the experience.