For centuries, the Guelbenzu family of Cascante has been enjoying great acclaim for their innovative, award winning wines. As far back as 1851 and the First Universal Exposition in London (the forerunner of the World’s Fair), Don Miquel Guelbenzu was wowing audiences with his remarkably rich, atypical Navarra wines, at a time when Navarra was hardly a household word. A graduate of the Sorbonne with a degree in Chemistry, Don Miquel went on to great critical and commercial success in Navarra; his wines won gold medals in all of Europe’s most illustrious competitions, including at the time the world’s most prestigious wine fair – the Exposition Universelle Bordeaux. Therefore, it is in the spirit and tradition of Don Miquel that his eight great-grandchildren pooled their resources in 1980 and resurrected their ancestor’s great wine estate, thereby restoring the legacy and the good name of their famous forefather.
In the early 20th century, the Guelbenzu property, like so many Spanish wine estates in the past century (especially those outside of the favored regions of Rioja and Jerez) suffered from the crippling blows of vine diseases, politics, hardship and neglect, which virtually ceased wine production. In order to reverse the family’s wine fortune, the eight Guelbenzu siblings got together and planted 98 acres of choice vineyard plots encircling the ancestral home in Cascante to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo. They subsequently planted Syrah, Graciano and other traditional varietals in nearby Ribera del Queiles, bringing the estate’s vineyard holding to 132 acres. These plots sit at the foot of towering, snow capped Mt. Moncayo, which provides just enough runoff to moisten the Guelbenzu vineyards through Spain’s hot, drought-plagued summers, so that all of the estate’s vineyards can be dry farmed.
Guelbenzu presently offers several wines for sale: Vierlas, a blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Graciano; Azul and Evo (the latter being the estate’s luxury bottling) are made from Cabernet, Merlot, and Tempranillo; and Lautus, a second luxury bottling that blends Garnacha with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Tempranillo. The wines are made at Guelbenzu’s modern winery, which maintains Don Miquel’s original gravity flow design from 1851. Although traditional in its approach to winemaking, stainless steel fermentation tanks are now in use at Guelbenzu, having been inserted through the roof of a nearby building that was formerly used for pressing olive oil. Nonetheless, the best of tradition still lives on at Guelbenzu. In the original wine cellar, large custom-made Allier oak uprights fill the space that Don Miquel made famous. In short, Don Miquel’s progeny have created a living testimony to their forbearer, of which we are sure he would be quite proud.