A Visit to Mas Nou, Bodega Señorio de Vilafames.

Mas Nou, is almost a Californian style property set on the slopes overlooking the Pla de Vilafames and the nearby town and with uninterrupted views to  Penyagolosa, one of the highest peaks in the Valencian Community. With its neatly terraced vineyards, all capable of being lit at night, olive groves, some with thousand-year old trees, almonds, lake,  pine groves and palms this is one of the most spectacular looking wine making properties I have visited. Owned by Fernando Diago this dream property is a vineyard based on a dream of making wines which truly express the Mediterranean spirit with its hot sunny days, cool, breeze fed nights and the smells of wild herbs and aromatic plants.

The Mas Nou.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the vineyards date back to times when Castellon was a hugely important exporter of wine to the UK, France and elsewhere …and whilst the Mas itself is old with its own chapel…..the vineyards were only planted in about 1998, producing the first wine in 2002. The estate consists of some 40 hectares in total, 26 down to vineyard with the rest landscaped beautifully and with its own private bull-ring with white sand brought from Seville and even space for domesticated jabali´s!

Of course after phylloxera devastated the vineyards at the beginning of the 20th century, all the vines were grubbed up. When vineyard planting began again later in the century the Controlling body only allowed noble varieties with their disease resistant American rootstocks to be planted and many growers abandoned their vineyards for ever or turned to growing table grapes instead.

Señorio de Vilafames is thus another of the vineyards in Castellon leading the fightback for this once great wine-producing area.

We arrived in Vilafames early so went to buy a sweet wine produced locally before going to the Bodega….only to meet our hosts, Ana and José outside the same bar to which we were heading for coffee! Inside we bumped into Gabriel Mayo Garcia whose bodega we had visited earlier this year.

Once in the Mas Nou´s grounds we walked around the property over its manicured lawns and under the trees to see the different parcels of vines and understand the environment better. The chapel with its cross engraved above the door ( the arms of the Kings of Jerusalem and now one of the catholic orders of Knights, )is available for baptisms and visitors to the bodega can arrange to have meals either in the vineyard or on one of the many terraces.

Some of the terraced vineyard.

Currently they grow Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and there are plans to extend the vineyards down towards the Pla de Vilafames in a couple of years time. Fernando is also a co-owner of a property in Utiel-Requena and it is from here he draws on the winemaking skills of Louis Gil-Orozco at Finca Ardal.

The grounds are almost ecologically managed, the wild plants that grow between the vines being chopped to form a green manure but also as a mulch to retain water. The vines are irrigated and incorporate a management system which allows vitamins or iron to be fed directly to areas where the plants may be showing distress or deficiencies.

After our walk around accompanied by a quartet of dachshunds, we sat down under a pin oak with the sound of the fountain in the lake behind us, to taste some of the wines produced.

It should be said that a lot of the grapes from the vineyard are sold in bulk to Valencia to make wine elsewhere and only the best parcels are retained to make the flagship red, Fernando Diago, of which more later.

A View towards Vilafames.

Through `Dos de Copas´, the bodega has found an innovative and clever marketing ploy to sell four varietals in a box , Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, in bottles containing just two glasses of each wine. This allows purchasers to enjoy the different wines at home, either as a tasting or as wines to accompany different dishes. This strategy has proved very popular and I first encountered it in January at the Castellon wine-fair ( see earlier post). It has not extended into restaurants but clearly there is a huge potential development here.

Part of the purpose of the visit was to taste the two new cavas which will be launched next week, just as soon as permanent  labels arrive!

First wine therefore was a Cava, Rosado, a blend of Garnacha  and Pinot Noir which is 11.5%ABV. Deep strawberry in colour this has fine persistent bubbles, is clean and bright with a good crown initially. On the nose it is creamy, hints of yeast, lots of red fruit, raspberries, fresh and in the mouth an immediate hit of fresh fruits, lovely acidity, fresh, crisp and with a long finish. We tasted this with chorizo, and soft cheese for which it is a perfect accompaniment, as it will be with paella and arroces. The bottle sported its provisional lable…see the picture!

The new Cava Rosado with provisional lable.

The second wine was the Brut Nature, a blend of Chardonnay and Macabeo and also 11.5% ABV. Pale lemon yellow, clean and bright and also with fine persistent bubbles and a good crown. On the nose initially a little wet wool, then white flowers and green apples. In the mouth soft, smooth, initially light, but refreshing, an easy drinker.

Both wines are the sort that invite you back for another sip…even another glass and will prove popular when they hit the market! However there is only a limited amount of initial production…..just a couple of thousand bottles of each!

Finally we tasted the Fernando Diago 2006, the bodegas flagship red. This is a Vino de Autor, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah with a touch of Tempranillo in the blend. This is a lovely bright cherry colour with hints of violet at the edge, medium density, with long glycerinous legs. On the nose red and black fruits, fruits of the forest and cherry. In the mouth very full, fruity and fresh, soft tannins, meaty and with a long fruity finish. This wine proved very popular at May´s Vino-Valencia  presentation.

A visit to the property takes your breath away and you are assured of a friendly welcome as the philosophy is to create long term friends of the bodega. Our thanks go to Ana and José for an informative visit and to Fernando, who sadly could not be there, for allowing us the opportunity.

A Tasting under the Trees!

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