The gentle, rolling hills of Rueda are the ancestral home of the noble Verdejo grape. Prized for its firm structure, complexity, and ability to transmit the limestone minerality of the Rueda soils, Verdejo produces one of Spain’s most distinctive white wines…as long as it is farmed well and carefully vinified. Unfortunately in the last decade, producers large and small have adopted a very modern vision of Rueda, with the intention of producing white wines geared toward the international market. High yields, machine harvesting, selected yeasts, cold fermentation, heavy filtration, and copious amounts of sulfur have become standard winemaking practices. This monolithic mentality has left many artisanal-minded producers striving to produce authentic, terroir-driven Verdejo wines shut out of the Rueda D.O., working under the broader Castilla y León umbrella. Thankfully, deep respect for the land and non-interventionist winemaking shows in a finished wine regardless of appellation approval. Enter the family Cantalapiedra: Verdejo’s vanguards working in Rueda.
Working organically, with old parcels, and without irrigation, Manuel is able to harvest later than many of his neighbors while retaining vibrant acidity. In the cellar, Manuel utilizes wild yeasts for fermentation, minimal amounts of sulfur, and no other additions.
Alto Las Cuestas is 100% Garnacha, from a single vineyard of ungrafted vines planted in 1909. The sandy limestone soils protected the vines from phylloxera and allowed them to survive. The grapes are hand-harvested, foot-trodden, and fermented in open-top vats without temperature control. After 29 days, the grapes are pressed and racked to 300L and 500L used French oak barrels, where malolactic fermentation takes place. After 22 months, the wine is bottled without fining or filtering.