Bodegas Guelbenzu

In 1851, the Guelbenzu family of Cascante presented wine, olive oil and wheat at the First Universal Exposition in London's Prince Albert Pavilion (Paris 1855 being the second such world's fair). Don Miguel Guelbenzu had graduated in chemistry from the Sorbonne in Paris, and he returned home with the latest techniques in contemporary winemaking. Quality was the aim from the inception, and Gold Medals awarded the family's wines at the Exposition Universelle Bordeaux 1882, Navarra Exposition 1882 and Barcelona 1888. After Don Miguel, commercialization of wine under the family name declined. Don Miguel's great-grandchildren, eight siblings pooling their resources at that time, initiated renovation of the vineyards and winery in 1980. 1989 was the first vintage from the re-launched family vineyard estate.

98 acres of vines planted in 1980 to 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 30% Tempranillo, dispersed in numerous small plots encircling Cascante in the Queiles River Valley. The 7,600-foot Sierra del Moncayo rises just 20 miles to the south, its late-melting snows providing adequate moisture in the sub soils to withstand summer droughts. The vineyards lie between 1200 and 1800 feet, ripening the grapes in stages for an unhurried and perfectly timed harvest.

The modern winery maintains Don Miguel's original gravity-flow design from 1851, and is a gem of space utilization. Stainless fermentation tanks were inserted through the roof of building formerly devoted to olive oil production, while custom-made 10,000-litre Aillers oak uprights (for assemblage) fill the original cellar. Barriques are of various French oak types in which Guelbenzu's aged reds spend one full year prior to bottling, racked four times. The enologist, Yoseba Altuna, is a French educated native of Navarra with experience in a top Bordeaux Chateaux.

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