Es Verger Winery Visit

“Hidden away in a mountain valley, this precious jewel is worth every second spent searching for it.”

Es Verger Logo
Esporles, Mallorca Spain

The award winning Es Verger is a small, privately owned and run boutique winery. They have 7 hectares of vineyards on this magical mountain property, and all production is done on site.  Originally planted in 1995, the first wines went to market in 2001. They produce approximately 15,000 bottles per year; their wine is certified organic, and sold primarily to an international market and fine local restaurants. They produce 3 reds, a rosé, and a very special sweet white.

Bodega Es Verger Vineyard

So, after we left Celler Son Vives, we called Es Verger to see if they were open, since we had to drive through Esporles anyway to get out of the mountains. Friday night – 5:30 – what are the chances? A man answers the phone “Sure, come on over… I’m here.” And we are off to the next Winery!

Es Verger is situated way up in the Tramuntana hills above Esporles, accessed only by a small, beautiful, and winding road with hidden or invisible street signs. After a few more phone calls – in Spanish of course – we get directions by landmark: “In direction Palma, third right after the plaza, climb, wind, until the big tree in the middle of the road… then…” Unsure if we were on the right road the entire time… looking at the clock and thinking perhaps we don’t have time for this… and then, 4.5km winding through the mountain… there he is – the man on the other end of the phone – waving us down to stop at his gorgeous stone walled vineyard.  It felt like we were in a summer dream…

Bodega Es Verger bodega

Miguel, the owner and vintner, welcomed us onto his property through his stone pillared gate. Lean, tan, white haired and wearing shorts and a loose, pressed white cotton shirt, he walked us past his beautiful vine covered home amidst gentle sounds of young voices and tapping earthen kitchenware, and to the adjoining Bodega. Inside, the cool air greeted us, and the now familiar steel fermenting tanks lined one wall as we passed through to the tasting area. The first thing we notice were all the awards and certificates that are proudly, yet discretely, framed on the wall. For some strange reason, this did not mean anything to us, and we had no expectations before the tasting. Surrounded by maturing bottles, and speaking to us only in Spanish, Miguel brought out 5 bottles of wine, two glasses, and an elegant small bottle of light virgin olive oil.

Bodega Es Verger tasting

Pouring the first taste, Miguel starts telling us about his wine and how he makes it. He started the vineyard out of passion and interest, and only wants to make good wine. Producing around 15,000 bottles per year, they are mostly exported, or sold in high-class restaurants on the island and to private clients. After the first taste we love it! It is clear that this is his passion and that he makes the wine that he wants to drink. While we tasted, his daughters appeared, earnest and beaming, bringing rock salt and sliced rustic bread to frame the home pressed oil that is also for sale. The oil was lovely, light and delicate, a very welcome addition to the tasting and delicious! We tried four of the five bottles of wine; the only one we didn’t try is the Pinot Noir, because of demand it has sold out.

Bodega Es Verger Bottles

Please see our tasting notes for more detail on the wines.

Trying to let Miguel get back to his family, we asked him to show us his vineyards on the way back to our car. We walked along the stunningly healthy vines planted carefully in their lines, all certified and organically tended. Miguel explained that they plant their rows farther apart than standard because of the mountainous terrain, and the sun and air between the rows largely prevents disease. He told us more sun produces thicker skin, thus more flavor and tannins, becoming full bodied in fermentation.  Tannins are textural, and the perfect astringency in the mouth seems to make a wine ‘taste dry.’   8-10 days steeping with the skins creates the flavor; the ripe inside fruit providing the water and sugar for successful fermentation.

All Es Verger wines are produced thoughtfully, with high personal standards, and are ecologically tended and certified organic = subject to the strict regulations of the Island Council’s CBPAE body (Consell Balear Regulador de l’Agricultura Ecològica).  These delicious wines deserve the recognition received, and our tasting visit was characteristic of the quality at Es Verger … a summer dream come true!

Open Sesame
Through the rabbit hole
Finding passion, friendship
A desire for perfection
A jewel of Mallorca

Es Verger MapHow to get there: When you come from Palma to Esporles, you will see a sign for Es Verger on the left. Take that turn and follow the road for 4.5km. It is a long winding road out of town. Keep driving until you get to a tree in the middle of the road. At this fork take the left where it says Es Verger.

See Wines Tasted at Es Verger: Click here

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Celler Son Vives Visit

“Millionaire views paired with artisanal winemaking techniques”

Son Vives logo 1
Banyalbufar, Mallorca, Spain
[Website in Castilian and Catalan only]

Featuring the rare native Malvasia grape, beautiful Celler Son Vives opened in 2003, and Mallorcan proprietor Toni Darder Alorda answers the phone himself, in Spanish – because as of this writing the main number for this Tasting Room is his cell phone!  A small winery, Son Vives produces approximately 15,000. bottles each year, with four labels. They distribute mostly to restaurants on the island, and to select retail stores in the lovely capital city of Palma. The location and views at Son Vives are stunning, and the coastal climate ideal for the rare Malvasia grape which is the signature of all Banyalbufar wineries, and their reason for existing in this unique spot.

Bodega Son Vives

Mariona was just locking the gate when we pulled up at 5:00, and although she had a fair drive home to Palma, she readily agreed to reopen the tasting room for us. We walked together along a broad terrace amidst olive trees, lavender bunches, and amazing views of the terraced coast and azure sea, to a small outside counter-style tasting bar where Mariona poured from inside the shady Bodega. Tasting room ambiance just doesn’t get better than this!

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We tried 1 mono variety, 100% Malvasia of course, and 2 blends. Sadly, we were not able to tour the bodega production area because of how late we were. However, the tasting bar is on a lovely veranda, which overlooks the Mediterranean, and the views are exquisitely beautiful! In fact, it overlooks the gorgeous Celler Ca’n Pico estate, and if we didn’t know better, we would have thought those vines belonged to Son Vives. As Mariona poured, we noticed a menu on the wall showing that they can make Pa amb Oli here (bread & olive oil with sliced meats or cheeses) to pair with their wines. We’d highly recommend that, but book in advance. Or bring your own tasting-complementary picnic for the bottle you’ll want to buy here after tasting! The tasting area is right off the ‘main’ road, but you feel like a millionaire enjoying these wines with a view.  Combining a lunchtime tasting here on the veranda with an afternoon tasting at Ca’n Pico would make for a great day!

Banyalbufar View

As we sipped their three tasting wines, we learned their property always had vineyards which were for family consumption. In 2003 the family transitioned to commercial production without losing the artisanal techniques, including hand picking the maturing Malvasia grapes.

Celler Son Vives is part of the Island group Vi de la Terra Serra de Tramuntana which is comprised of 18 municipalities in the protected UNESCO World Heritage Serra de Tramuntana, reaching from Cap de Formentor to Andratx.  It is characterized by the famous stone “bancales” which are agricultural terraces mostly made during the Moorish occupation which lasted approximately 500 years from the 700s to 1200s AD. Built of local stone and rich soil, the terraces prevent soil erosion and allow the Malvasia vine roots to grow deep in well draining guarded soil. The North-facing coast offers maximum sun time with cooler temperatures, but it is more difficult to pick and creates differing ripening times – therefore requiring a lot of individual care!

Bodega Son Vives bottles

While Celler Son Vives grows their Malvasia in this vineyard, they also make two blends, a white and a red, and those grapes are brought here for production from the hotter and dryer central island plain. Please see the tasting notes for more details on that!

Doors closing
Hearts opening
Bottles cracked
Lips smacked

Mariona was very knowledge about the wines, and we would have enjoyed touring the production areas and asking her more questions about their history and blends. However, we were very pleased with the kindness she showed us so late on a Friday evening!

We will have to return again and taste and tour with more time!

BanyalbufarMain Street, Banyalbufar

How to get there:Son Vives Map
As you leave Banyalbufar heading West in direction Estellencs you will see a sign for a parking lot on the right. You can park there and walk up or continue driving 10m and will see the sign of Son Vives from the road with 3 or 4 parking spaces out front. Very easy to find.

See Wines Tasted at Son Vives: Click here

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Cellar Ca’n Pico Visit

“Preserving a rich history and deep passion in a bottle”

logo Can
Banyalbufar, Mallorca, Spain

As we started the day’s adventure – driving to the gorgeous stone-terraced northwest coast of the island and the small town of Banyalbufar – Tawnee described the road we were on as “Literally breathtaking!” A nice double-entendre because it was so narrow and steep that she was actually on edge. There are three wineries in this gorgeous, cliffy coastal village, which seemed odd — but it’s not: Here is where the rare  Malvasia grape is grown to perfection.

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A bit about Malvasia: It grows well with coastal climate and mountain temperatures, and has been planted for centuries in Banyalbufar. A rare variety, it is also grown in Sardinia, Tenerife, and outside Barcelona in Sitges. Dry, it pairs well with fish, and white meats, and if allowed its sugars, makes a nice aperitif. This grape itself is high in sugar and they call it the generous grape, “La Generosa,” because it’s sugars allow a higher level of alcohol than most whites.  It is thought by some have been brought by the Phoenicians centuries BC, and to be the first grape on the island. It is certainly considered one of the few “natives.” Another name for the Malvasia grape variety is Malmsey.

In the mid to late 1800s a nobleman, the Marqués de la Cenia, grew Malvasia grapes and made his wine here in Banyalbufar, and took it to Madrid where it was prized among the wealthy.  He was a contemporary of the Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria who is famous for buying up and preserving wild areas of this terraced northern coast.  No coincidence, Malvasia is also planted miles away in S’Estaca, outside of Valldemossa, one of the Archduke’s notable properties and recently owned by actor Michael Douglas.

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So, our first stop in Banyalbufar was the Cellar Ca’n Pico winery. This is possibly the most beautiful vineyard in all Mallorca, perched on broad terraces overlooking the sea. It is necessary to make a reservation for two reasons: 1) to schedule a visit (not set up for drop-ins) and 2) to make sure the gates are open so turning around on the narrow road is less stressful!

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It seemed like we were pulling up to a private home, a grand old Mallorcan Estate (Finca). Well we were, and it turns out that all the wine production for Cellar Ca’n Pico takes place there at Finca Ca’n Pico, in a smallish Bodega that might otherwise be a large garage under the house. Our wine guide, the wonderful Juan Tomàs, met us as we parked, and opened the “garage door” to reveal a large stainless grape press and familiar steel tanks in the first room, then a tasting counter, bottles and barrels in the next. Tall and lanky with big brown eyes, Juan has been the “Bodeguero” at Ca’n Pico for 28 years since the current planting. They grow 80% of their Malvasia grapes right there at the terraced estate, buying a small amount more from other local vineyards.

We spent a long time talking with Juan, and we learned so much! Like most others, this tour and tasting were done entirely in Spanish, no challenge for Tawnee!

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First Juan Tomas showed us ‘la prensa,’ a well-crafted Austrian press to carefully break the grape skins amongst whatever stems are present after a hand-picked harvest. Next they move the mash to temperature controlled steel tanks, cool so no fermenting takes place as the sediments and particulates fall. At that temperature yeasts are inactive, and in one month the grape juice is stable and clarified, ready for further production.  The whole process from growing to bottle is done here at the Ca’n Pico estate, “Aqui nos hacemos todo.” Some goes straight from fermenting tank to bottle, a small amount goes to Oak first.

Bodega Ca'n Pico bottles

1988 is the oldest bottle of Malvasia from Cellar Ca’n Pico post phylloxera blight. 150 years ago they had more vineyards. Then for the 30 years of phylloxera they had no vineyards, and sold almonds, olives, carob, and tomatoes. Juan told the story that during phylloxera, one man in the pueblo of Banyalbufar guarded and tended his few failing Malvasia vines and made his family table wine. After phylloxera a friend took a cutting and planted, as did another.  But the product wouldn’t get above 12% alcohol, so it was making low quality wine. They added sulfites to stabilize the wine, and at the same time took cuttings of the vines to the local University of Baleares Islands (UIB)  biology department and learned the vines had 5 viruses. The University worked on them for 10 years and created a strong and resistant strain they could replant, and those are today’s Malvasia vines of Banyalbufar. Ca’n Pico held out and kept some of those vines up until the 1950s when they took them all out.  However, in 1980’s, Mr. Gabriel Canaves Picornell bought the farm and decided that with the help of our Juan Tomàs they would recover the Malvasia wine of the past. Through the advancements of science and passion they succeeded! They only produce about 5000 liters of wine every year, or 5000 bottles, and it is crafted to perfection.

Making only one label and with one grape, 100% Malvasia, they might be the only true mono-grape winery on the island, making them doubly special – the most beautiful and the most specialized.

Can Pico bottlesClick here for details: Wines Tasted

We tasted the Malvasia at the cool summer room-temperature of the Bodega. We’d had the bottle perfectly chilled earlier that day in the local restaurant where we’d had lunch. Better served properly chilled I thought, but excellent at both temperatures. Tawnee loved this bottle enough to buy one there, and has it on her favorites list.

Then Juan Tomas walked over to a far barrel, and lowering a length of hollow cane into a hole in the top of the barrel, he then sealed the top with his thumb to remove a serving of wine and released it into our glasses. It was the Malvasia Crianza Oxidativa, also known as Malvasia Generosa, which is made by the old method of the Marqués: It must be 16 % alcohol or more to bottle, because it is aged with air (allowing a % of air in barrel), and 15% alcohol or less becomes vinegar. It is much like Spanish Jerez, Sherry and Port in method and flavors. It is a sweeter wine. They do not produce it for sale at this time: Much work and little demand, so it is now for family and friends, a labor of love. Ca’n Pico began making it again in 1990 and producing a few in-house bottles in 2000.

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Juan told us that only a few decades ago, most Mallorcan wines were mediocre because they didn’t have the current technology of temperature control. Merie remembers that time!!!   Especially with white, which must be around 10 degrees for first days of particulate separation, then ferment at controlled temperatures of 14-18 degrees. Of course Ca’n Pico used the traditional methods before Phylloxera, then replanted “recently” and instituted modern technology and methods, producing today’s tasty Malvasia label wine.

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After thoroughly enjoying our tasting and talk, Juan Tomas walked us around to see the closest vineyard terraces, and we basked in the beauty of this property, it’s breathtaking terraced seaside terrain and views.

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How to get there: WheMap Can Picon you leave Banyabufar going in directions Estellencs you will see a sign for the Parking on the right. You take the turn directly before that. There is a little sign that says: Ca’n Pico on the stone wall. Yes, the road is narrow and no there are no barriers. It is an adventure worth taking to try their wine.

See Wines Tasted at Can Pico: Click here

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