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 Miguel 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 Miguel 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 de Bordeaux. Therefore, it is in the spirit and tradition of Don Miguel 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 last century (especially those outside of the favored regions of Rioja and Jerez) suffered from the crippling blows of vine diseases, war, 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. These plots sit at the foot of towering, snow capped Mt. Moncayo, which provides just enough run-off to moisten the Guelbenzu vineyards throughout Navarra’s hot, drought-plagued summers, so that today all of the estate’s vineyards are dry farmed. To assure quality and avoid the use of young or immature vines, the family waited until 1989 before bottling their first vintage and re-launching their family vineyard estate – such is the family’s attention to detail and quality.
The present production at Guelbenzu averages 250,000 bottles per year, most of which is bottled as Guelbenzu Azul. However, when conditions are ideal Guelbenzu fashions several very special wines, including Evo and Lautus. Evo is a strictly limited production wine that is made only in the finest vintages from some of the very best and oldest of the estate’s vines. Traditionally, it is a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
Today, Guelbenzu combines the best of traditional wine making with modern techniques. The contemporary winery in which Azul, Evo, and Lautus are made maintains Don Miguel’s original gravity flow design from 1851. However, 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. Yet, the best of tradition still lives on at Guelbenzu in the aging process. In the original wine cellar, large custom made Allier oak uprights fill the space that Don Miguel made famous. We are confident that Don Miguel would be proud of the restoration at Guelbenzu and of his progeny for providing living testimony to Navarra’s place in history.